On Top of Your Projects? 5 Steps to Tracking Jobs in Creative Agencies

Managing a creative project from end-to-end can be a pretty daunting responsibility. Not keeping track of your jobs, resources and schedule, could potentially seriously undermine your operations and put place you in your client’s bad books. To keep your head above water, stay accountable and on track, here are a couple of useful tips to help point you in the right direction.

1. Define the Aim, Budget & Timeline

When commencing work on a brand new project, it’s important to stay focused and keep track of the entire process; from start to finish, from concept to finished piece.

Detailed planning, communication and collaboration with your team and the client will ensure your success. Establish the aim of the creative project upon receiving a request for work as well as the client-approved budget for the project.

Using the creative brief process is a tried-and-true method for determining the creative plan and if you that firm uses briefs, you’ll find they are good for referring back to the project also. The direction of the project and its completion date are best established early on in this stage, and doing so will allow you to determine the timeline.

If you have set up your clients’ with access to an agency/client Portal through which they can submit requests for work or briefs, you will be empowering your clients with the ability to define the aim of the job or project in much greater detail. Don’t forget to ask for any supporting documents or reference material they may have to assist in establishing the deliverables.

2. Establish the Scope of Work

The design process and/or phases of your project will be made up of a series of deliverables, or services if you will. For example, research, sketching, digital compositing (comps), are all services you perform, and deliverables clients expect. Usually, these items will have internal and external expenses.

The scope of work is a blueprint for what lies ahead and what work needs to be completed to get the job done. Often you would have submitted an estimate/quote to your client for approval — outlining the scope of work involved to achieve the end goal — within the specified budget the client outlined initially.

Of course, it is important to ensure that your client has given formal approval to proceed before you commence work on a job or project. In many firms this approval would be in the form of a signed contract, or a signed/approved estimate or quotation.

3. Select your Team & Schedule Tasks

Having a schedule will provide you and your team the visibility required to ensure things are on track. It also gives you the ability to define a schedule and allocate tasks to team members in specific roles with the relevant skills to be able to carry out the tasks. Clear tasks allow your teams to focus on to-do’s that drive the project ahead.

Depending upon what agency software solution you are using to manage your creative projects and resources, you should be able to generate up-to-date job status reports and see where your projects and resources are at.
Scheduling your projects helps a lot with the forecasting side of things. If you need to reallocate tasks to other staff and spread the workload, having a schedule will definitely help. Should there be a need to adjust dates  — push them back or forward  — choose a scheduling tool that will let you do this easily.

4. Keep Track of the Progress
If you are the traffic or project manager, you’ll likely be wanting to do daily checks as to where your team is at with each of their tasks, correctly gauge if you’re heading for a budget overrun, or re-shuffle resources if required.
Communication also plays a key part here. Besides generating various reports, encouraging staff to fill out their timesheets, carrying out job and task searches, meet with your team on a regular basis to give you a clearer picture of how things are travelling. A daily huddle is a great way to check-in quickly every day and continue monitoring your projects.
If the project management tool you are currently using has the ability to generate client-facing project status reports, take advantage of those and keep your client up to speed with the progress.

5. Have Fun!!

Whilst it’s important to instill accountability in your team and be on top of any project you’re spearheading, NEVER EVER forget to have FUN!! Remember to work hard and play just as hard. Reward your team with treats on a regular basis.  There are some very innovative ways to reward your teams, such as this.
Perhaps even encourage and facilitate ad hoc activities such as team mini golf, watch a movie, place enticing beverages in the office fridge, and/or hit your local Pub (no time tracking or scheduling required)! Just remember to get the job done and keep your client happy!

This article was contributed by former Function Point employee, Daniel Pantic.

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