6 Steps to Ending Common Project Management Issues
Stephen Covey famously said, “Accountability breeds response-ability.” This holds especially true when it comes to managing projects in an environment as hectic as a creative agency. It can be easy to blame people when a project goes off the rails. Instead, what we should be doing is creating and assessing accountability through well-thought-out processes that address common project management issues.
After 20 years of onboarding new customers to our project management solution, FP has seen many agencies make the same project management mistakes. Here’s a succinct look at some of these issues and best practices for addressing them:
1. Not Dedicating Enough Time to Refining the Scope
Firms struggling to add additional hours, inundated by revisions and tension with clients, can be traced back to not having a solid scope of work from the start. Prevent problems from occurring in the first place by being diligent about your research. Following the completion of a project, do a debrief to better understand the breakdown of your team’s time. This will help you better forecast your time for similar projects in the future.
2. Being Too Lenient With Your Offerings
Blame it on the competitive landscape of agency work – with so many firms to choose from, clients often end up dictating the scope of work to be completed and the timeline in which it sits, leading to unanticipated scope creep. Open communication with your client is key here, as is projecting your confidence in what you can do and the time you can do it in. Often jobs are accepted with the hope that it might lead to more work in the future—and that’s fine, but know which projects are making you money and which ones are costing you money.
3. Being Hesitant to Communicate Blockers
Additional hours and unforeseen roadblocks happen, but make sure you’re tracking and communicating anything that comes up and bringing it up with your client as it happens. If you wait, you’re missing an opportunity to be open, as well as potential financial gains from increased hours. This comes back to doing your research up front and ensuring there are no disconnects between estimated workload and billable hours.
4. Lacking Discipline Regarding Time Tracking
Inconsistent and unclear time tracking can impede your ability to properly resource. Plus, if you don’t have an accurate history of past projects, you’re already one step behind on future ones. At the root of it all, poor in-house practices lead to poor project management. Fix this by finding a tool that is an easy fit for your team and getting buy-in from higher-ups; this will create a top-down approach to implementing time tracking and underscores the importance of team tracking discipline.
5. Not Having a Single Source of Truth
While having a combination of tools works for some (separate Excel, accounting, CRM and Gantt tools, for example), it can be hard to keep track of what is happening where, and in the end, leads to an increase in admin work and data entry. Remember this: the most expensive software is the one you don’t use. Having a consolidated system not only makes it easier to collaborate and ensure continuity across teams, but it encourages people to make use of your tools as well. Find a tool that provides one central information hub, whether it’s through integrations or an all-in-one software solution.
6. Lacking Understanding Around Internal Costs
Well before a project is underway, there are a lot of monetary considerations: what does it cost the agency to perform the work? What does it cost to hire and onboard someone to do it? What about the cost of freelancers? Many firms struggle with knowing when to hire or outsource, and in some cases when to pass on the project completely. Understanding cost and profitability go hand in hand with resource utilization.
In the end, it all comes down to what is most efficient and effective. For example, why pay to onboard and hire a salaried employee if your forecast only needs an extra 200 hours of support? In that instance, hiring a freelancer makes much more sense. Make sure you truly take the time to determine costs to your agency and the breadth of options available to you.
Your workflows are only as good as the pain points you can identify and ultimately address. Most of these problems can be solved with diligence and a centralized tool for traffic and project management, financials, and insights. Often times the difference between a profitable agency and one struggling to get by has little to do with the level of in-house talent and more to do with how projects are scoped, communicated and refined.
Natasha Carter is a Communications Manager at Function Point with a background in market research and strategic communications. She enjoys building high-value experiences for customers along their path to purchase.