Project Management. For many the term conjures up images of set-in-concrete time lines supported by highly regimented milestones and minutely detailed tasks. A traditional technical project, like an intercontinental ballistic missile, has a well-defined team of highly technical engineers and a formal development process. Managing technical projects for marketers is very different. If you're building a web-based marketing application, having a technically and geographically diverse team spread out across multiple organizations can often be the norm.
Thus, marketing projects, by their very nature, demand a different approach. There is often a significant creative component which must be effectively wrangled, without being strangled. Team members can vary wildly in technical aptitude and understanding. End results are harder to quantify ahead of time and success can sometimes be as much a matter opinion as of record.
Given these challenges, what’s a project manager to do? While there aren’t any silver bullets, there are a number of actions you can take to help ensure the odds of success remain high:
- Tool flexibility is critical. In this regard, I highly recommend lightweight, web-based project management applications such as Basecamp or Central Desktop. Both products provide highly accessible, easy to use and flexible interfaces for keeping track of your team efforts.
Expect an iterative development cycle, and plan accordingly. The creative marketing process can be an organic, and sometimes messy, ordeal. Consider creating a 1-2 page functional specification which focuses more on goals than details and ensures every member of the team understands what needs to happen and when it’s due.
As with any project, communication is extremely important. Work hard to provide as much context as possible so team members will not only understand why things are the way they are, but also what role their output will play in the overall project delivery.
Work with the client closely, and request feedback often. As the project progresses, and objectives crystallize, work directly with the client to refine your efforts. Be responsive to requests and flexible in accommodating change.
Finally, always keep in mind that even the most highly organized, PMBOK-compliant project can be an absolute failure if the customer isn’t satisfied with the results. Keeping your customers informed and being as responsive as possible will help to exponentially increase your chances of success.