Having a well-oiled project management function at a digital marketing agency is rarer than you might think.
After sitting in on countless interview panels with folks who either currently work at an agency or have in the past, I noticed how frequently they spoke to their frustration about not having access to a project management team. Instead, in addition to working on client deliverables, they had to manage strategy, client communication, and prioritization of their work.
Working with clients requires you to be agile. The more you have to focus on how you’re getting the work done, the less time you can spend doing actual client work. And to meet changing client priorities and ensure that you help your clients hit their goals and KPIs, you need a strong plan, clear deadlines, and a smooth workflow.
Without a solid project management function, all of that becomes increasingly difficult. That’s why we built a project management process at Portent that meets our agency’s unique needs.
Creating a project management team when you don’t have one can be difficult, but once you do, I’m willing to bet that you won’t want to imagine a time when you didn’t. If you’re not already convinced, here are four reasons why you should consider building out a project management team to support your client services.
1. It Creates More Seamless Communication Between Teams
One of the main factors of client-agency engagement success is communication. When everyone is familiar with the scope of work and the roadmap, it sets the team up for success both at the beginning of and throughout a project’s lifetime.
At Portent, we use Teamwork, a project management tool, as a single source of truth. After each client meeting, our client partners are responsible for delegating all tasks to strategists based on due dates and prioritization. Each task is carefully assigned to create collaboration, efficiency, and organization without overlapping efforts. Meaningful conversations between team members happen within the tool, so we can reference those conversations later if necessary.
If a strategist needs additional information or involvement from another team member, our project management tool allows them to ask questions directly in the comments and give one another feedback.
Having a central location for our conversations also makes cross-team collaboration easier, which eases the burden of working remotely. Instead of setting up meetings and calls, people can easily discuss project details within the tool, creating more efficiency.
Ultimately, having clear communications within one tool will give your entire team visibility over their work and keep the conversation moving forward.
2. It Helps Create Greater Individual Accountability
It’s difficult to hold people accountable when expectations aren’t clear. Having a project manager to check in with your teams will help spark conversations that clarify expectations.
At Portent, we plan our work every two weeks by holding sprint planning meetings with every strategist. In these meetings, the project manager goes through every task assigned to the strategist and confirms their work. Our project managers have check-in times built into their schedules, which allows them to follow up with individuals and make sure their tasks are completed on time.
If a project is complex, relies on dependencies, or the strategist has upcoming time off, we can develop a plan to ensure that we can still hit client deadlines.
As Chad Kearns details in his post, “How to Set and Maintain Meaningful Marketing Goals,” client-agency relationships fail when partners on either end of the engagement aren’t setting a realistic timeline for deliverables. For each party to get the most from each other, timelines should be mutually agreed to, not dictated by a singular party.
Sprint planning meetings create space for the strategist to be honest with both the project manager and themselves about their workload and ability to get everything completed on time.
This system not only enhances team, agency, and individual accountability, it ensures that each strategist can produce the best quality work possible while having full knowledge of their workload.
Having this conversation two weeks in advance is much better than waiting until the work is due to ask deeper questions. The more visibility your project management team has, the likelier it will be that your team hits internal and external deadlines and ultimately produces positive results for each client.
3. It Places a Higher Emphasis on Prioritization
Throughout a client engagement, factors often change. From budgets to timelines to buy-in from key stakeholders, you must continually work to stay aligned on the client’s goals and outcomes.
One way you can work to stay on track to hit the client’s goals and KPIs is to have continual conversations about prioritization.
We create 30-60-90 day plans with our client engagements and translate those into actionable roadmaps with a prioritized list of tasks. By getting client approval and prioritizing the work in collaboration with the strategists on the account, we ensure that the right work is getting done at the right time.
Our client partners make sure future work is forecasted and put into a backlog. The project managers can then take the items from those backlogs and prioritize them further during our sprint planning meetings.
If you have a project manager, they can act as the liaison between the account owner and the strategists. Additionally, they can provide a second pair of eyes on deadlines and workflow to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what work needs to be done.
4. It Puts a Greater Focus on Our Craft
Your marketing strategists should spend as much of their time as possible on their craft. However, it can be easy for your team to get bogged down with how the work will get done if you don’t have processes in place, which wastes limited time and energy.
How often does your content team spend time figuring out how to delegate their work? Are your PPC and SEO teams struggling to determine how to hand off their insights to one another?
These are areas where a project manager can step in and help, ultimately freeing up your team’s time.
As we have learned from our strong project management system at Portent, if you have a team dedicated to the details and handoff points, your strategists can focus on client work and growing their skill set.
When a strategist trusts in the project manager to help create structure and clarity, remove any impediments to getting their work done, and protect their time, it will result in less burnout and better work for your clients. And the better work you do for your clients, the happier they will be!