5 Golden Rules for Streamlining Project Management in a Digital Agency
One of the key challenges many digital agencies face is the rapid pace at which work moves. You need to effectively juggle multiple projects and clients, while constantly being ready for a sudden last minute feature request or change.
To enable your agency to move quickly, it’s important to always know where all the moving parts are, and how prepared your team is to pivot when new briefs, rounds of feedback, or radical shifts in strategy come to you.
To help set your agency up for success, we’ve outlined 5 golden rules to streamline digital project management so you can respond to whatever comes your way.
1. Resource planning
A common mistake amongst small to medium size agencies is resource planning only 1 or 2 weeks in advance (and at worse, just a couple days). In reality you should be resource planning at least 60 days in advance. Why?
- Team capacity – Project and Account Managers need to understand which project teams are available for new work. Are all the best people for a particular project available at the time they’re needed for the deadline?
- Hiring needs – Operations and HR Managers need to know if you have enough people to meet all your commitments, and if not, who needs to be hired and when.
- Skill capacity – You might have enough people in seats, but you also need to ensure they have the right skills for the job.
- Budget management – Project Managers need to know how far through a budget and project they are, and importantly, if there enough hours left to cover the remainder of the work.
- Leave requests – You said yes to 3 people’s leave requests, but didn’t realise that it’s the Project Manager, Senior Designer and Lead Developer on the same project, at a critical project milestone.
- Financial forecasting – Is your production throughput forecast equal to, above or below your financial commitments for the next 3 months?
- Personal job security – You can provide your team members with a sense of job security by showing them they have billable work to do for the next 60 days.
2. Budget review and timesheets
Project Managers should be able to be asked 2 questions at any moment, and have the answer immediately available:
What percentage is the project complete?
How much budget is remaining, in $ and % ?
If timesheets are completed daily, the Project Manager should be doing a 5 minute budget check each morning to ensure they know exactly how much money they have left to spend. Armed with that information, PM’s can update the schedule accordingly, and check that project milestones match with their financial schedule.
3. Create once, Share infinitely
It’s common practice for developers to share and reuse code between teams and projects. It’s a better use of time, means code is consistent and thoroughly tested, and is more financially intelligent. However, it’s not just the development team who should be sharing work; everyone should.
Project timelines, risk registers, process documentation, design rational, creative strategy and contracts should (and likely do) contain reusable information. Creating a resource hub for each department and encouraging cross-use of work will make your teams more efficient and your processes between clients most consistent.
4. Document your conversations
If you’re using Slack, then you’re already 80% of the way to documenting your conversations. However, the best way to ensure everything is captured is to create and set a dedicated channel per project, and insist that all project related conversation is within that channel. Ensure your team utilises the “thread” feature so as to not overload everyone’s notifications, and keep @channel and @here messages to a minimum. Direct Messages should only be used for personal chatter or confidential HR matters.
This ensures any ad hoc decisions that are made throughout the lifecycle of the project are documented (be sure to pin these as well), and new team members can read through the channel and get up to speed quickly.
“Transparency is always the best policy” – ancient IGNITE proverb.
Giving your clients access to your internal systems does very well in reassuring them you have nothing to hide, and that the project team is always working in the client’s best interest. This can include the project Slack channel, Jira board or artwork platform.
It is still the responsibility of the Project Manager to triage all incoming questions or requests, but having the client available to answer Slack questions or Jira comments more frequently can really help to clear project blockages and inefficient downtime.
This may sound like a lot of work to get through, but keeping these rules front of mind when running your agency will help you build a more robust, responsive, and flexible digital agency.