Let’s be clear,
every Account Manager has seen this happen. Projects can go wrong, and a variety of factors can cause it. Beyond these individual factors is the overall context of your work environment. Deadlines are looming, clients are calling, scope is changing, your to-do list is growing and there are only 24 hours in a day. We live in a world where everything is responsive, not only our websites. We demand quick agile results, but the work shouldn’t…sorry, WILL NOT… suffer.
Your inbox is growing, the project is getting away from you, the client is starting to get frustrated and your internal team is sweating to make something on time, and on strategy. Well, there are things that can be done to avoid all of this. Frankly, it’s logic and it works extremely well. Everything starts from the beginning. There is a reason why the weeks before a football (soccer) match is spent strategizing, planning, picking the right side and evaluating the competition. Ninety minutes is only a sliver of the process. It’s strong planning that leads to three points. Combined with the right team then you’re destined for glory.
Project planning can seem like a daunting task. To the untrained eye it is, but it isn’t. You can quickly slip into a state of paralysis, thinking, “how on earth can I possibly know all of the answers at the beginning.” As an Account Manager, or Project Manager, it’s not your duty to have all of the answers (at least at the beginning) it’s about knowing the questions and knowing the knowledge authorities suitable to answer them.
The most important part of a project is the deliverable that clearly articulates what the project will entail. It’s a simple philosophy of “pay now, or pay later.” Not unlike a wine or food choice. You make an investment upfront, or you suffer when the cheap stuff backfires.
Then there are the time concerns. Don’t remove time from strategy and project planning. Defend the notion of paying upfront! And to quote Gus (which I’m not sure if he coined the phrase, but he uses it a lot) “you can’t build a ship while at sea!” You will spin your wheels, make a wonderful skid-mark, and spend more time being reactive. Being proactive at the beginning, and preparing a solid platform for which to build upon, will benefit the project in its entirety.
Let’s also be real! First impressions mean everything. Don’t wait for the unveiling of a concept to “wow” the clients. There is nothing more comforting than knowing your agency is heading in the right direction. Then the only surprises are good ones. And that can be attributed to the project plan.
For us at 70kft, the project plan is not defined by the timeline. That is just a calendar for setting deliverable expectations. No, the plan is the strategy. It’s what breathes life into a project, identifies the goals and places the right people on the project to execute these goals. We inherently understand this with our integration model, and this is again why we emphasize the importance of project planning. All Marketing channels, and sales for that matter, must be in sync at the kickoff. They must be working in parallel and by no means in silos. They must be talking the same language, not literally (though that helps), and clear on action items. The only way we can assure this happens is with complete involvement at the beginning and a clear articulation of everyone’s responsibilities. Have a round-table, talk through the goals of the project, identify areas that need clarity, gain clarity and look for ways that you can further the initiative. If everyone knows which way they are walking, then you can avoid tripping over each other and everyone can scout their trails forward.
Finally, attack the nuances! Getting granular is always a good thing, and force this thinking at the beginning while minds are fresh and exhilarated. Embrace the excitement of the project and hone its possibilities into action items. Once these have been defined, ensure they are assigned! Yes, I can rhyme and it’s fun being cheesy.
All-in-all, the project plan will help the client understand the tasks ahead of the agency, defend the dollar value associated to the project, reassure expectations and avoid double-work. It’s a little amount of work and when done right can amount to a smooth and fun project.