February 4, 2020
Why Good Project Management Matters When Partnering with an Agency
There’s a lot of mystery around project management. “What is digital project management, exactly?” is the question I get from my friends; “Why do I need a project manager?” some clients inevitably ask.
Whether you knew it already or not, good project management is vital to the success of your agency partnership and can even mean ending up with a better finished project.
So what do project managers do, and why does it matter to you? Let’s start with the first question.
The 4 Key Roles of Digital Project Management
No two days are the same for project managers. But in general, here’s what you can expect.
Organization and prioritization
Perhaps it’s a little cliche, but a project manager is nothing if not an organizer. Much of a project manager’s day could be summarized by a continuous stream organizing – files, emails, Slack chains, tasks, you name it. Alongside organizing this long list of tools, a project manager also works to communicate priorities to their respective teams, both internally and externally. That’s what keeps projects moving forward and meeting your expectations.
Strategic thinking and planning
Whether it be setting up a unique project with a large scope and short timeline, and/or quickly reviewing next steps with the team, a project manager steers the project vessel and stays at the forefront of each phase, guiding the way for all parties.
Testing, reviewing, and revising
Good project managers dot i’s and cross t’s. They have to. They have an eye for detail and are intimate with projects front to back. Therefore, much of our time is spent reviewing, analyzing, testing, and revising project deliverables alongside the team, so when the project finally reaches you, it’s clean, polished, and something you can be proud to tie to your organization.
Acting as a support system
Project managers have seen it all before – deliverables that didn’t meet expectations, delayed projects, confusing feedback, and stressful timelines. A good project manager will listen and provide assurance. It’s a team effort to produce awesome work, and keeping that team humming together is one of project managers’ most important and unsung jobs.
Why does good project management matter to the success of your project?
Organizations that invest in sound project management practices on average waste 28x less money, according to the Project Management Institute. Translated into a client-agency relationship, good project management means agencies can do more and better work in a shorter amount of time.
That’s the crux of the why good project management matters. Still, there are several other reasons why you should care about the PM from your partner agency.
Good project managers are your advocate.
Project managers are more than scheduling and task management addicts. They provide a unique perspective during the brainstorming process – that of the client.
The much sought-after sweet spot of brainstorms can be found at the crossroads of a PM’s mind for process and feasibility, your expectations, and the production team’s pie-in-the-sky ideas.
When a project manager is involved in the brainstorming process, you are more likely to receive a holistic idea that is not only exceptionally creative, but also practical, answering your needs, timeline, and budget.
Good project managers save you time and frustration on miscommunications.
Feedback and revisions are part of every creative project. However, when feedback is misinterpreted, it can cause all sorts of catastrophic outfalls like delays, bad blood, and a feeling of confusion or creative stifling.
A project manager is more than a middle man who hands off client emails verbatim with no context alongside a wish and prayer to team members. Project managers take information, synthesize, restructure, seek answers to questions before the team ever sees the feedback, and then work with the team to ensure all is understood and completed as discussed.
The old adage “seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a mantra close to all high performing project managers, especially when it comes to feedback and revisions.
Good project managers make your complex website project look simple.
A project manager is intimately involved in the web design and development process from day one. Testing a site for functionality and consistency with the project roadmap, specifications, and scope is a unique function to PMs.
Here, a PM ensures not only that the internal development team has built the approved designs, but also makes sure that from the client’s perspective, the CMS is intuitive and easy-to-understand.
A project manager not only ensures that the developer has everything they need to fix an issue (you had better believe all of our reported bugs have a screenshot attached), but is taking special notes for the client training and anticipating questions in advance.
So if you’re in the process of planning your next website, project management can’t be ignored. PMs are the glue that holds everything together.
Good project managers add the human element to your project.
To be a project manager is to be an empath and a champion: for clients, for teammates, and also for the project overall.
As the connective tissue between you and the agency team, project managers are relationship builders as much as they are problem solvers. Yes, occasionally they are there to course correct a project gone awry. But just as often, they’re serving as mentors, coaches, and true partners with you and your organization.
In my own experience, I recommend weekly sync calls between you and your agency PM to provide a space for conversations around confusion, frustration, discouragement, or stress. Beyond that, I’ve found it’s equally important to use this time to form a relationship, maybe talk about what you’re doing this upcoming weekend, or if you saw that new drama on Netflix.
After all, good project managers never forget that they’re working with people. These are the same people who have the potential to turn a nugget of an idea into something that could really make an impact on your organization.
In my daily juggling of tools, emails, timelines, and projects, the best part of my day will always be the one-to-one interactions I have with my clients. Forget everything that makes a project manager “good” for your project if you don’t feel this same level of connection and support. Your project will be better for it, I promise.