Once upon a time from a place called Disney World, wait…. no— south of that, on the coast of Florida— lived a fairytale princess who slayed projects every day and every night, we will call her… Princess Project Manager.
This role may seem simple to most, however there are hundreds of moving pieces she must juggle. She keeps all these pieces rolling for her kingdom to stay efficient and ultimately profitable, so all members of the agency can succeed. That means success for your brand, too.
How does she do it, you may ask?
Continue reading to find out 10 ways she uses strategic magic to help her agency finish their projects faster:
1. Create a Timeline with Achievable Milestones
Set up a timeline for your team and define which team member will be doing what, and when.
At Impulse Creative, we use tools like Asana and Harvest Forecast so we can easily see what needs to be done to continue the path of the project. They also visually show what batons need to be handed off and at what point of the race.
For most websites, a Project Manager is tasked with creating hard milestones, which need to be met to finish the project on time. These include completing the Hi-Fi Comp Approval, Content Approval, Implementation, Development Completion, QC and Launch.
If any of these milestones do not get completed on time, this causes the entire project to be risk. At this point, the client needs to be notified and the entire timeline may need to be shifted.
2. Foresee Possible Roadblocks
It could be helpful for a Project Manager to add a pre-mortem summary to their project plans. This explains to the team any areas where they may run into issues with completing the project on time.
Roadblocks could be anything from the client’s availability to meetings, legal reviews or an approval process that takes a long time, or it could simply be that the stakeholders on the project have too many cooks in the kitchen.
If we define these from the beginning you have a higher probability at overcoming them.
3. Navigate Through Bottlenecks
As hard as we try, bottlenecks do happen. We get stuck on a project because the client gets too busy, the marketer has appendicitis (true story), or because the client has a question you have never heard before and you need assistance from the busy CEO (who may need a day to reply).
Whatever the reason, sometimes we are just stuck! Project Managers might find it helpful to create a spreadsheet for these bottlenecks and how to help the team overcome them.
Try to avoid getting caught playing hot potato with projects, but if someone else on the team can help, then certainly ask instead of waiting.
Don’t be afraid to come together with other members of your team to tackle these roadblocks quickly so they do not affect the project’s timeline.
4. Schedule Meetings Ahead of Time with the Client
Schedule your ongoing meetings with the client before you have any kickoff/discovery meeting, this way they are set in stone and prepared for it.
This also shows the client that your agency is organized and on the ball!
Not only do we recommend scheduling your meetings ahead of time, but your Project Manager should also set the first phase meetings for every milestone. This way, all decision makers can be involved, without the stress of managing everyone’s calendars two weeks before the meeting.
These meetings are needed for approvals so the project does not slow down, or push the timeline.
5. Prioritize Weekly Recaps with the Client
Touching base with clients in a weekly “stand-up” (AKA collective) meeting is another way to keep the ball rolling. You can discuss action items on each side and discuss progress.
This is also a great time to lend a helping hand. Not all clients are used to using the technology that your agency uses. That’s okay, you are the experts, here to help them out.
Sometimes these meeting even bring up other items that the client may need. At this time, don’t be afraid to tag others involved in the process to help the client map out these new projects.
These meetings are also the time to bring in any person on the team that may need more clarification from the client, so they get that face-to-face time as well.
6. Organize Bi-Weekly Project Stand-Ups with the Team
At any given time, you may have anywhere from 10+ projects going on, and multiple members working on multiple projects. Things can get confusing and it’s easy for the ball to roll from one person to the next.
Hold a project stand-up meeting with my team every other week. This way, every team member can discuss where they are and what the next steps look like for them.
You may also need to discuss an issue out during this time. Team collaboration is so important in the creative process!
The meeting is also beneficial for getting a general idea of how the project is going and when it’s time to do a lovely check-in call with the client.
7. Keep Track of Your Team’s Tracked Time
No one likes Big Brother, checking up on teammates and making sure they are clocking enough time or not going over. On second thought, no one likes clocking time— period! It has a bad stigma around it.
However, it is important to know when a project is going over, and that the entire team is aware.
It’s our job as Project Managers to figure out why this is happening and to fix it. Is it a process problem, a people problem or a sales problem?
It’s also valuable to know if a task isn’t budgeted with enough time to complete the task. Then, you can fix the issue so projects run more efficiently.
8. Be a Boss at Your Project Management System
Be prepared to train employees, help answer questions and basically be the resident platform expert.
You can’t expect your team to use a project management system that the Project Manager doesn’t know how to use. No one will use it and projects will get off track.
Take certifications, watch tutorials and practice! Here at Impulse Creative, we also have a designated Asana representative (what’s up, Kristen?) and when we have questions, we ask the team to write it down for later discussion. After we’ve collected a few questions, we send an email. The representative is more than willing to help— it’s their job!
Utilizing the project management system will better align your team with their tasks on the project. Setting up these tasks and due dates give the team structure and let them know what to prioritize during their day.
9. Create Weekly Project Status Reports
At Impulse Creative, weekly reports get sent to everyone on the team on Friday afternoon. They communicate where the project is, and also let everyone know the open hours on the project and what the client status is through color.
Green means everything is going great and the client is happy, yellow means the project is at risk with an exclamation for why and red means the project is off track.
Status reports are great for leadership to see at a glance and valuable if any person gets a rouge call from the client. They can easily look up the status and carry on the communication that way. It also points out ways for the team to get the project back in line the following week.
10. Create Magic
Project management doesn’t always have a simple solution. The mind of a project manager has to be a problem-solving driven.
We all deserve this shirt:
Now back to the story….
Princess Project Manager’s voyage is not an easy one, but with these ten tactics for keeping a project on track, she will be sure to live happily ever after.
If you have any project management questions, please comment below!