What is project management, and how can it help marketers? While project management is an industry unto itself, it’s also a way of life. That is, project management can be applied to anything that has a beginning, middle and an end that produces a product or service.
Because there are many projects in the marketing industry, marketers could benefit greatly from the practice of project management. A marketing push is a finite campaign, and project management can help marketers plan, execute and track results better. In short, even a mastery of the basics of project management empowers marketers to do more in less time.
The Basics of Project Management
Project management is a popular term to throw around today, but many use it without really knowing what it means. Before you can apply the methodology, you have to understand its basics.
Without getting too deep into the weeds, project management is an umbrella that covers a great many different ways of managing any project. But that’s a discussion for another time. Once you’re comfortable with the traditional method, then you should do some research and see if there’s a style or project management methodology that better fits your organization.
The Five Phases
In terms of the classic form of project management, there are five phases that will address the overall course of your project.
- Initiate: This is when you figure out the scope of your project. At this stage you must determine and document the list of goals, the tasks necessary to meet those goals, the deliverables, the costs involved in getting there and the deadline as to when it must be complete.
- Plan: How will you create the project? This addresses the resources that are needed to meet the goal you set forth for yourself. Resources can be project management tools, equipment, office space and people. For example, if you’re working on a digital campaign that would involve a team of software designers, graphic designers, content providers, etc.
- Execute: Now you’re going to set that plan into motion. You’ve done the due diligence and the project begins in earnest.
- Monitor and Control: But any plan, no matter how well thought-through, should never be written in ink. It is a living document and must respond to changes quickly. That is why it is crucial to have tools to monitor the progress of your project and measure that progress against the baseline of the plan. When an issue comes up, they must be identified and responded to quickly, so that they don’t become problems. That’s where the control part comes in, and using techniques such as risk management.
- Close: Once you’ve produced that great marketing asset, you’re not done. Project management is a process, and closing is the final phase of that process. It is at this time that the manager gets approval from the stakeholders. They must approve all deliverables before you can publish them, or make them go live on a site, or whatever your destination may be. Then it’s time to review and discuss what went well and what didn’t, so the next project can smooth out those bumps.
Project Management Mindset
Project management is a process. But as noted above, it is also a way of life. There are certain attributes that a project manager has, which are a boon to marketing teams. Knowing what makes a good project manager is just as important as knowing the phases of project management.
A project needs a leader. The degree to which that leader is involved in the project can be debated, but there is no doubt that without a person overseeing the day-to-day operation of any project, things will fall through the cracks.
Marketing, be it an email push or a multi-platform campaign, is made up of many moving parts that need direction, supervision and control. That’s where methodology comes in. It takes something complex and breaks it down into simple steps, making it manageable. The leader is the one who is responsible for that.
Related: Top 5 Leadership Theories
But the leader is more than a pencil-pusher. There is an x-factor to leadership. Any project must get buy-in from those involved. A marketer wants their team to feel enthusiasm for the project, not just do the work by rote. Therefore, a team leader must be inspirational, evangelical and motivational.
Attention to Detail
Project management is a process that can foster an attention to detail because large goals are broken down into smaller tasks. This gets to the granular level, were all the steps towards one’s final goal are examined in minutia to make sure they’re not neglecting anything crucial.
That doesn’t mean that everything must be treated equally. Paying attention to detail also means prioritizing those details. A priority list is a great way to understand what you must do, what should be done and what is not necessary to the success of the project.
Marketing often involves boatloads of data. There’s market research, customer profiles, targets to meet and on and on. With great amounts of data, comes great responsibility. Data is, after all, only numbers. It should be a marketer’s objective to put good data in to get good data out.
Related: Using Data to Be a Better Manager
But between those two points there must be a tool that can make sense of those numbers. Project management software has features that allow marketers to manage large sums of data and break them down into digestible bits.
A project dashboard is a tool that collects data and then turns it into graphs and charts. If your software is cloud-based and team members can update instantly online, then that data comes in real time. The reports generated by the dashboard can often be filtered, so the data can target your team, stakeholder or whatever metric you’re measuring.
Marketing is communications, so marketers know how important a communications plan is to success. Project management turns communications into a process, with a plan that details how, when, the frequency and by what method people involved in the project will get information.
There are project management software solutions that have communications tools that keep all those conversations under one roof. This can be helpful than using another communication software, because team members can talk about specific tasks, at the task level, as they’re working on it, while having access to all the related documents attached and easily at hand.
Keeping to Schedule
Every marketer knows that deadlines are real. Marketing campaigns are tagged to one or more events, usually a product release. If the marketing push isn’t coordinated and released in congress with what it is promoting, then it is ineffective and a waste of time and money.
Project management is all about wrangling that schedule so you have time to do what must be done and meet your deadline. It’s about working backwards from the due date of your marketing project and creating milestones, or large phases of the project, which are then broken down further into tasks. These tasks can then be assigned and marked down on a Gantt chart, which is just a timeline that allows managers to see what tasks are related to one another. This keeps the whole schedule visible to the team, so everyone is aware of who’s working on what and when it’s due.
Project Management Tools for Marketers
Project management makes managing any project easier through process. The skills of a project manager are also a great asset to any project, and especially helpful to managers, as we’ve seen. But there’s also project management software for marketing, which was only touched upon above, that adds efficiency to the process.
There is software that can help plan, schedule and report on the progress of a project, but for this post we’ll just focus on one that is especially useful for marketers—the kanban board. Kanban means billboard in Japanese. It’s a scheduling system that comes from lean manufacturing and was developed by an industrial engineer at Toyota. It’s a highly adaptable process that can help marketers, especially those who prefer visual systems.
Kanban is laid out on a board, with columns that can address any part of the project. Under these columns are cards, which are individual tasks. These cards are assigned to team members, who are then responsible for completing them. As they move towards completion, the card is also moved across the board, so everyone can see where that task is in the process. A highly visual and easy to understand system, a kanban board is a valuable tool, and just one of many that project management uses to manage projects, save time and use resources more effectively.
Marketing is a project and marketers are project managers, so project management software is a natural boon to productivity. ProjectManager.com is cloud-based, so data is delivered in real-time, and has Kanban, online Gantt charts, real-time dashboard and other collaborative features that streamline the marketing process. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.