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The 20 minute course in...

project management - The Marketer magazine

Fastlane The 20 minute course in... management


If your project plan is still on the back of an envelope and your minutes from the last meeting are illegible, its time for a fresh start, whether that involves Excel spreadsheets or just a filing cabinet Related Articles
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Dos and donts

Do remember that the planning of any project can always be reduced to three factors: budget, timeline and the scope of the work. Ideally youd like to meet targets you set for all three, but in reality this isnt always possible, so decide which one of the three is the biggest priority and allow for flexibility on the remaining two. Do ensure your team always has its eye on the prize. The overall purpose and strategy is far more important as a motivator than detailed functionality. Do remember the five roles of any good project manager: leader, organiser, communicator, chaser and co-ordinator. Don't accept a working environment where failure is seen as an everyday, accepted occurrence. If you find yourself in that situation, focus on making failure

Picture Bob London

Project management is defined as the process of planning, organising, staffing, directing and controlling the production of a system. Sounds simple enough, but getting it right involves dedication, stamina and foresight. While others will step in and out of a project when their skill is required, the project manager is there for the duration, keeping an eye on both the big picture and the finer detail. In the case of marketing, the project generally equates to a campaign, product launch or event in other words, the lifeblood of the sector. And yet project management still isnt traditionally seen as a marketers role. Youll regularly see project management listed on business training courses, but many marketers are thrown into project management at the deep end. Getting started Marcell Redpath, account director at brand agency Dragon, believes every project should start with a kick-off meeting a discussion between all the parties involved in the project to set the parameters for what is to be achieved. It is imperative to ensure mutual understanding and clarity between everyone right at the start, he says. A successfully managed kick-off meeting will help safeguard against future problems. Ideally, the agenda should focus on three main areas: the brief, roles and responsibilities and admin. The brief refers to anticipated deliverables, outcomes, level of innovation required and measures of success including what success looks like, he explains. Try to get to the heart of what matters most for the brand, the project itself, the business and the personalities involved. As for roles and responsibilities, Redpath suggests establishing a day-to-day core team, outlining their duties, as well as identifying the decision makers and when theyll be involved. Compile the team according to peoples strengths, styles, personalities and their own preferences, he adds. Finally, in terms of administration, Redpath advises agreeing budgets, setting

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The 20 minute course in... project management - The Marketer magazine

timings and formalising the terms of engagement. At an early stage, try to ensure against unwanted surprises, such as an increase in spending. Forward planning and transparency can help secure a great working relationship. Document all agreements notably the brief, financials, timings, status and responsibilities, he adds. People interpret requirements differently, so documenting it encourages clarity. The document will act as a point of reference for the whole team. Assess potential risks Risk management is keeping an eye on the stuff that could destroy the project. Project management textbooks often overcomplicate this, which I think is why it is often done poorly, says Greg Doone, a Project Management Institute accredited professional and managing director of London-based creative agency Collective. In my experience, risk management only works well where there is a simple, honest conversation once a fortnight between the project manager and the project sponsor the most senior person responsible for the outcome. One of Doones favourite tips for project managers is to avoid confusing e-mail with communication. Any number of detailed risk registers or e-mails cannot compensate for a genuine, serious conversation about potentially critical issues identified by the project manager, he says. Keep these conversations short and focused on the main risks, he advises, and make sure you have an agreed approach for dealing with them. I have worked on many projects for high-profile brands where the risk list has been over 200 items long. It is always ignored. The shorter the list, the more effective it is. Elly Sample, director of marketing and communication at Oxford Brookes University, believes no project manager can afford to avoid contingency plans. In marketing, youre at the vanguard of the organisation. The variables are infinite in terms of things that can go wrong. So you do have to be prepared and ready for the worst. She provides an example. We organised an event in Shanghai last week. Everything was booked the speaker, the food, the technology and the clients but when it came to the day, the hotel said they knew nothing about us. Another example is when I was recently supposed to deliver nine marketing activities in Mumbai but because of the terrorist attacks, I had to find alternative ways to deliver my messages. If the project does encounter a failure that is a result of poor project management, always put your hands up and say sorry, says Sample. Its an opportunity to show how much you care about the fact that youve made a mistake. Use it as an opportunity to pull the phoenix out of the flames. Software While software is essential, dont fall into the trap of over-complicating things with a level of IT sophistication beyond your needs. There is a plethora of dedicated software for project management on the market, but Microsoft Project tends to be the most popular option among marketers, says Richard Mayer, Institute trainer and senior lecturer at the University of Derby. But some people have complained that you can get to the moon with it and Im only organising a conference. They find it too complex for a simple project, but others value its flexibility and avoid the features they dont need. They key is trial and error and finding out what works best for you personally. For those who find themselves drawn to the emergence of the super-smart software options that have grown rapidly over the last several years, or who like the idea of bespoke programmes, Ranjit Matharu, head of marketing communications at media intelligence company Cision, has some words of caution: While accepting that the computer can categorise, organise and

unacceptable. Don't let the urgent get in the way of the important. Don't forget to schedule Christmas and summer holidays, when things may slow down or stop altogether, into your project plan.

Tips from the top

Lea Raudsepp is a training consultant who tutors marketers in project management. She is also founder of Fibre Training, which specialises in communication skills A written brief is a vital project tool so be prepared to compile one. Without it your project is open to misunderstanding and Chinese whispers. Marketing is full of subjective language. If your stakeholder wants a campaign that is exciting or an exhibition stand that is dazzling, find out what those words mean to them.

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The 20 minute course in... project management - The Marketer magazine

compare against preset instructions faster than the human, the machine cannot think and adapt. You need to plan for such fallibility or ensure that marketing and monitoring software retains a human editorial touch, he says. Meanwhile, Elly Sample warns: Dont get tied into the detail so much that the completion of the plan somehow becomes more important than delivering the outcome of the project. In other words, dont get so caught up in the software that it stops you achieving what you want. Peter Green, Institute trainer and specialist in project management, agrees. He is a big fan of Excel spreadsheets, even for complex projects. If you can see things at a glance, youre much less likely to get bamboozled. Managing teams Gaining the continued support of the different team heads is vital in any project, says Steve Davis, president of GSI Commerce Europe. One of the best ways to achieve this is to set up a steering committee, involving the team heads, which meets infrequently but is updated regularly. This will ensure there is a clear, uncrowded and scheduled place for each team to be represented. Depending on time constraints, it can also be useful to arrange a shared project room for the team, he adds. Even if all the teams are only together for one day a week, it can make a considerable difference to momentum. The most important consideration is to ensure your team feels a sense of community within the project. Gill Kelley, a learning and development specialist and Institute trainer, says another way to achieve this sense of community is by focusing on team building very early on. Research has shown that making the experience as human as possible counts for a lot. Think about things like, which puts you in a conference room as opposed to just a conference call. So often project leaders are selected because theyre good at meeting goals, and the human aspect gets neglected. Ensure that doesnt happen. Meetings schmeetings At the core of any project failure is lack of communication, says Greg Doone, but, he warns, a crap meeting is a waste of time, while a good one is invaluable. When I was 21 my first job was as trainee project manager for a big electronics firm. It was a lovely place to work and everyone was very nice to each other. But . . . meetings . . . took . . . forever . . . As the young keen buck, Doone decided to remove all the chairs from the meeting room for an intranet project he was running. It was easily the most effective meeting on the project. The next week no-one turned up and the next the chairs were back, but everyone had got the point. Our goal was not just to be there for an hour, we were there to get something done. To run a good meeting you need to take the responsibility of actually running it, says Doone. Have an agenda, he suggests, intervene to stop people rambling (its your project) and learn when to park stuff people cant agree on. William Buist, managing director of team performance and collaboration consultancy Abelard Management Services, believes the acronym POST can come in useful when planning meetings. The P is for purpose. Setting the purpose of the meeting allows those who are invited to see immediately how it is relevant to them. During the meeting you can keep checking that the discussion is on topic. The O is for output. Defining what the meeting will produce is key. Many meetings go on beyond their usefulness

To achieve a deadline you need a timing plan. By all means use popular tools such as Gantt charts, but the main thing is simply to remember that you need a list of dates with corresponding actions to achieve a deadline. Most problems can be avoided with contingency planning. Brainstorm what can go wrong and have a strategy ready to prevent the problem or to deal with it if it does. If you need participation from other departments make sure they understand WIIFM Whats in it for me? Sell them the benefits of participating. Dont let the virtual world screen out the human touch. E-mail is all very well, but we work best with others when there is a human side to our relationships.

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because no end point has been defined. If its a decision, you can start the meeting by asking if people are already decided and, if not, asking what else they need in order to decide. S is for structure. Defining a structure means you can identify who you need at the meeting and helps keep things focused because youve thought things through in advance. Finally, T is for timing. Defining the timing means people can join when their contribution is required and leave when theyre no longer needed, which keeps numbers down.

Are you ready to plan a project?

Your organisation is launching a new product, so you: (a) Are quite happy to be given a brief playing to your individual strengths. (b) Have a natural urge to help organise and co-ordinate, but you take a backseat for fear of treading on toes. (c) Are 100 per cent sure you can lead the project, so you work on demonstrating your key project management skills. Your organisation decides to launch a bespoke piece of project management software. You: (a) Do what youre told. If it keeps the bosses happy, you use it. (b) See it for what it is an over-complicated piece of IT thats slowing everyone down, but its not for you to say so. (c) Take a stand. Good project management doesnt need advanced software and so you suggest a better option. You have spotted that a project may be falling off the rails, so you: (a) Recognise that its not your problem, so you just get on with your individual job. (b) Think about raising it as a risk, but you dont want to look silly if youre wrong. (c) Flag up the potential problem immediately and find ways to address it if your gut feeling is right. Mostly (a)s: Sorry, but you dont have the makings of a project manager. You might be a good marketer, but youre a sheep when it comes to management. Mostly (b)s: You have the potential, but stop being so soft. If youre going to take on a project management role, youll need to be far more assertive and a much better communicator. Mostly (c)s: Get managing. Your bosses would be mad not to give you a leading role.

Kate Hilpern is a freelance journalist for titles including Coaching at Work

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