To run the perfect project, you’ve got to work closely with your agency’s Project Manager. If you want to know why Project Managers (PMs) are important, try running a project without one. Project Managers are multi-tasking magicians, keeping multiple plates spinning AND reporting back on each one. Co-ordinating multiple teams (known in the trade as ‘herding cats’), Project Managers organise resources to achieve a specific goal. Although they work closely with Client Services, the two have very different responsibilities. Client Services Managers concentrate on meeting the client’s needs, while Project Managers are focused on bringing those needs to fruition. The latter is a science with five distinct steps. We’ve broken them down for you in our handy Maverick Group guide to the 5 phases of Project Management.
The five project management phases
Organisations first started to adopt formal project management methodology in the 1950s and have never looked back. Today, project management is a profession that has its own certifications, standards and best practice that are evolving all the time. But at the heart of every Project Manager’s playbook, you’ll find the same five phases for the project management life cycle: Initiation; Planning; Execution; Monitoring/Control; and Closure. Here’s what they involve.
Phase 1: Initiation
Before any project can start, everyone has to be clear on what’s wanted and whether it’s feasible. If the project gets a green light, the next step is to put together a document (sometimes called a Project Charter or Project Initiation Document) that sets out the project’s aim and requirements. Although there’s no need to go into too much technical detail (as this will be covered in Phase 2), it’s a good idea to specify stakeholders, business needs and business case if relevant. The main thing is that everyone’s in agreement on what’s expected and the goal you’re working towards.
Phase 2: Planning
As you’d expect, the project planning phase is vital to the overall success of the project. It’s at this point that the whole project team will deep dive into the specifics and requirements to agree a project’s scope. Cost, quality, resources, timings – they’ll all be considered. Some Project Managers use the following recognised methods to set well defined goals.
Specific – Set concrete goals by answering the questions who, what, where, when, which, and why.
Measurable – Create criteria to measure the success of the goals.
Attainable – Consider what it will take to achieve the goals.
Realistic – Is everyone willing and able to work towards a particular goal?
Timely – Set a timetable for achieving the goals.
CLEAR is a more recently developed technique for goal-setting that’s suited to a fast-paced business environment.
Collaborative – The goals should foster teamwork.
Limited – They should be specific and manageable.
Emotional – Goals should inspire team members and encourage an emotional response so they feel invested in the work.
Appreciable – Larger goals should be split into more manageable, bite-size tasks that can be swiftly achieved.
Refinable – Goals should be flexible enough to withstand any changes or refinements.
Other documents that may be created at this stage include communication plans, risk management plans and diagrams showing project structure and progress, such as Work Breakdown Schedules (WBS) and Gantt Charts. There’s a huge range of project management software out there to suit every organisation and purpose.
Phase 3: Execution
It may take time to agree the scope, but it’s essential that it’s fully agreed before anything else happens. Once the scope’s been rubber-stamped, the teams can swing into action. They could be Writers, Strategists, Film Producers or a mixture of all the above and more. Each person will work according to the project plan to supply their deliverable. For a Project Manager, the project execution phase is perhaps the busiest, with status meetings, stakeholder updates, performance reports and the co-ordination of resources. A good Project Manager will be conscientious about work management and flexible enough to deal with changes, problems and adjustments.
Phase 4: Project monitoring and control
Although this is labelled as phase 4, monitoring and control actually runs parallel to phase 3. As the team works, the Project Manager keeps close track of progress, making sure it’s in line with the overall project plan. To measure performance accurately, the Project Manager will use a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as budgets, timelines, project goals, quality of deliverables and team performance. By keeping track of these important metrics, Project Managers can spot issues and move to solve them swiftly. For instance, they might identify a bottleneck or need to build in additional time. Diligent monitoring means the Project Manager has the data they need to go back to a stakeholder and justify a request.
Phase 5: Closure
The team has finished and the final product is in the client’s hands. The project’s all done and dusted, right?
Almost. Every project needs to be properly closed down before the next one is considered. The Project Manager will finalise reporting, hold a retrospective meeting and perhaps arrange a little celebration.
After all, the team have worked hard together and their efforts deserve to be recognised. There’s also the valuable exercise of assessing what worked well and what did not – project wins and pain points. This information will be used to make changes (if necessary) to the way projects are run in the future. Continuous improvement is therefore built into the process.
How we do projects at The Maverick Group
So, that’s the big five-step picture. But how do we work here at The Maverick Group? Although we follow the five phases approach, we have a secret weapon up our sleeve. The HUB is a hybrid concierge service, made up of Strategists, Client Services and Project Managers. It sits at the centre of our nine business units and gives clients a single point of contact. This person can quickly call on a host of experts, from film producers to digital gurus, to provide advice, answer queries and get projects moving rapidly. Highly agile and unique to The Maverick Group, the HUB connects the right people simply and swiftly.
Kelly, The Maverick Group’s Project Director, explains:
“Through the HUB, clients can take advantage of the breadth of specialism within each Business Unit at The Maverick Group. We can create a completely tailor-made team for them, depending on what type of client they are, the support they need but also the type of engagement. The HUB isn’t a third party between the client and the team; it represents both sides. We’re there as the client experts, aware of wider portfolio management and able to advise our team. And it’s vice versa for the client – we can give them all the information they need on the team.”
Makes sense, right? Here’s how it works in practice:
“At The Maverick Group, we follow the five stages of project management (although for us they’re a guide not a bible). When a client calls the HUB, we’ll work with them to scope out their requirements and populate a brief. The brief then comes into our internal teams and we assign the right people to deliver it. The next step is a kick-off session, where the internal stakeholders define what the requirements are, what additional information we need from the client and start to map out a rough approach. That’s formulated into a statement of work or contract. And alongside that contract, we set out timings, costs and any assumptions or dependencies that need to be considered. Once that contract’s been agreed, the project starts and the monitoring and control phase begins, alongside delivery. We do a lot of reporting: weekly catch-ups with the client, progress reports and anything that needs to be flagged up or challenged. Once we’ve delivered the project we like to do a retrospective, focusing on the performance of a project but also the cost.”
If you like the sound of that and want to read about the HUB in action, check out how the team brought Pendragon’s Evans Halshaw Sellsational project to life.
In the meantime, here are Kelly’s tips for a successful project.
“Be open and transparent in terms of the information that you’re sharing and the challenges you might face. Make us aware of any pushback or issues that might arise so we can work around them. The best way to work with a Project Manager is to communicate frequently – that’s how trust is built. We can only understand your problems and offer considered solutions when we know what the challenges are.”
Speaking of Project Managers…
“A good Project Manager allows the team – creatives, strategists etc. – to focus on the brief in hand. They will make the whole project management process easier and more efficient, enabling project delivery to happen. The sign of a good Project Manager is someone who can mitigate confusion and complexity and distil everything into a goal to be achieved. If problems occur – which is just part of life – the Project Manager will know where to flex and what can change so delivery isn’t affected.”
Kicking off a big project can be daunting if you’re not experienced, but Kelly’s team are here to hold your hand and make sure everything goes smoothly. For access to a full range of integrated services and the marvellous Maverick Group team, just drop us a line or give us a ring. We’ll make sure your project gets maximum TLC.