Why behind every great project, you’ll likely find a great project manager…
Creatives or strategists have traditionally been those who receive all the plaudits when projects achieve client objectives and are deemed a success. The ‘big idea’, strategy, or creative execution is what tends to be celebrated – you’ve only got to look at all the creative award programs for proof of that.
But much like the age-old saying ‘behind every great man stands a great woman’ –
behind every great project stands great project management.
Now, before we dive in and reveal the reasons that we think make a project manager so important, we’re going to address a question that may come to the forefront when talk of the importance of project management arises:
Are project managers needed for all agencies?
The make-up of each creative agency is different. Talent is the main differentiating factor for agencies, but something else that tends to be unique to each agency are workflows and processes. Yes, the talent can dictate how work is approached, but in addition; the size of an agency, types of work they produce and the kind of clients they have all contribute to the way an agency approaches and managers projects.
Therefore, a small graphic design agency made up of experienced design professionals, with small businesses’ as their clients – where creative production is the main order of work – may well not have any dedicated project managers. Instead, seasoned graphic designers add project management to their role. Many advocate this approach, as it provides a closer working relationship between the client and agency. In fact, we work this way with some of our clients – clients who we have been in a relationship with for many years, who are smaller in size and where the work is production based and consistent in form – it’s an approach that works brilliantly for us.
However, the responsibility of project management resting solely on the graphic designer, for us, is few and far between. This is because the majority of our projects involve:
– More than two people
– A fair amount of detail
– The need for frequent communication
– A number of deadlines
It is almost always best for a project manager to be involved when projects contain the elements described above – elements we’ll now elaborate on further by looking at the reasons for dedicated project managers.
Reasons for dedicated project managers
Project managers help to free up others involved in the project
Creatives can focus on creating rather than being bogged down in constant communications and budgets. Similarly, strategists can spend more of their time on planning and strategising. A good project manager allows people to focus solely on the things that they are good at by taking control of the administrative, organisational details of a project.
They help to keep everyone sweet
Dealing with both the creative and the client is a delicate balance. One side is all about the need for coming up with novel ideas, with a desire to constantly push creative boundaries. Whilst on the other; budget, time and creative constraints are top of mind. It is up to the project manager to act as the peacemaker of sorts, to bring both sides of the project together in order to achieve the best result possible.
Effective collaboration is key to any successful project, and so it is up to the project manager to facilitate this.
Project managers ensure the goals and objectives of the project are met
It is all too easy for clients to be swayed by ‘sexy’ design, but if it is not serving a purpose then the project manager needs to point this out and steer the project back in the right direction. The project manager is responsible for the vision of the project and to ensure everything that is done is done so to ensure the vision is met.
Building on from the reasons for a dedicated project manager, we’ll quickly skim over some of the key attributes that we think all of the best project managers have.
Attributes of a strong project manager
Fortunately, you’ll tend to find that a lot of PM’s began their careers as a graphic designer / creative, before heading into project management. It’s a route that all of our PM’s have taken, and by doing so has given them valuable experience which both they and us, are extremely grateful for.
At the very least, PM’s with a creative background understand what is involved in the creative process and so are equipped with the softer skills needed to guide a creative through a project without them feeling too managed, controlled or restricted – feelings that can seriously hamper and demotivate a creative. They are also able to educate and update the client and answer any of their questions on the development of the project from the creative side.
An understanding of the bigger picture
Strong project managers have a strategic mind-set, and therefore have the ability to relate to, understand, and act on, the needs of the big picture at all times.
Pro-active and reactive
Often, many people think of project managers as operating largely in a reactive manner, by attending to the requests of all the different people involved in a project. Whilst this is in part true, the best project managers can pre-empt individual’s needs, and possible changes/implications that have the potential to derail the project – dealing with possible problems effectively and efficiently often before they are even noticed by others.
Not afraid to look silly
The best project managers put the outcome of the project before themselves. By that we mean, they are not afraid to look silly by asking stupid questions, as they understand that they are the one’s that need to know everything about the project. They know it’s best for others to think of them as being silly at the beginning of the project, rather than the negative outcome of the project proving them to be silly.
Ability to work with all different types of people
The best project managers inspire confidence and motivate you to create your best work. They understand that a bit of friction and conflict can be key ingredients of the creative process, but they also know how best to manage a full array of personality types to ensure that any conflict ultimately gives rise to amazing outcomes.
Strategic, creative and analytical
The key attributes the very best project managers have in equal measures.
There’s no denying the importance of project managers in creative communication agencies. And while admittedly for some smaller projects, dedicated project manager’s may be deemed somewhat unnecessary – project management is always needed in some form or other. We hope this article has illustrated to you how by employing strong dedicated project managers your agencies workflow, quality of work, and overall business, will improve no end.
To finish on, we’ve heard others describing their project managers as the ‘heartbeat’ of their agencies. And that’s certainly true for us too. As we simply couldn’t live without them.
Project managers really are the unsung heroes of the creative world. So don’t take the good one’s for granted, as you’ll certainly notice the difference when they’re gone…
If you do require effective project management for any of your upcoming projects, then please do get in touch. We provide flexible in-house management solutions – of which you can find out more here.
Until next time…