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The Theory Behind Integrated Methodology

Agency’s adapted integrated processes at a point where separating interactive, broadcast and traditional no-longer made sense. It was a way for agency’s to begin to coordinate marketing efforts across these platforms and to plan out how you share production resources between all of these efforts.

In reality, the idea of integrated marketing is nothing new (it’s about communicating across platforms), what was new was agency adoption of Integrated Process Methodologies as a theory for managing projects. When you think about it, adopting integrated process methodologies made sense, since creative organizations already worked in similar ways.

The Stages of a Maturing Creative Team

Treat your peers as grown-ups. There is no such thing as having minions or subservient task people in life. Your team and staff have to be given real responsibility. Help them when they need help, share your knowledge. Have empathy and be human. No one has a monopoly on great ideas. Not your senior people or your creatives. Ideas can come any way, from any one. Encourage it, you need all the ideas you can get.

All teams go through stages of development that are often independent of actual work phases. Teams develop in stages, over time, before they become productive. One of the most commonly used framework for understand the team’s stages of development was developed by Bruce W. Tuckman. (reference) His descriptions of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning provide a useful framework to understand how teams develop and mature in their working relationships.

When to Lead, Manage or Just be a Part of a Creative Team

In today’s creative firm, you are going to work with a range of team members. The size and make up of your team is going to vary from project-to-project, agency to agency. What one person is called versus what they actual do at an agency can also be very different, just as the definition of a project manager varies widely from one agency to the next.

This is pretty natural and normal. When an agency is small, it has to be flexible. People wear a lot of hats and as the agency grows it morphs and expands based on the need for a specific specialization. 

The Mechanics of Managing Creative Projects

Before we get into the mechanics of what a project manager does (like responsibilities and stuff) we should get something clear.  This job can be hard, mind bending and stressful. Even if you are a great “technical player” as my son’s soccer coach puts it, if your interpersonal skills (team skills) aren’t there, you are not going to last long in the position.

Sometimes it can be difficult to work with others. Get to know your team, your client, and your extended co-workers. Get to know as many people in the agency that you can. If you are working in a creative environment (or any environment for that matter) you are probably working with some really interesting people. Get to know them, understand how best to work with them, and your job from a technical standpoint will be a lot easier. The same goes for you as well, let people know who you are, be a real part of the team.

Leading the Project, the Process & the Team

Let’s talk about what it really means to be a creative project manager. 

Look through any job board and the job description for creative project managers, producers, program managers, product managers and the like may seem very different. You may work in small or large teams, manage the client, or just production or projects end-to-end. To be a project manager in the big sense of the word- — and not just a traffic manager, your duties will most likely range a lot more than just the creation and management of scopes, budgets, time-lines, resources (people and objects) and project goals. 

Defining Creative Project Management

A project manager’s role is to apply his or her knowledge, skills, experience, processes and methods to achieve a projects objectives. In creative projects, where the objectives are, well, subjective, they often play the often un-discussed role in shaping the creative. A creative project’s objectives are often very undefined, and the choices you make as a project manager, can directly effect the outcome.

This is a power that can be used for both for good and evil. You can just as easily kill a creative idea or support a whole new avenue of discovery. 

The Difference Between Waterfall, Agile & Integrated Project Management in Creative Firms.

The Difference Between Waterfall, Agile & Integrated Project Management in Creative Firms.

Creative firms use a variety of project management methodologies. 

As project management methods are closely tied into the overall process that exists within an organization, organizations can get pretty creative in how they apply these methodologies. 

Sure, there are standard project management methodologies; and as an organization if you follow the standards, you really don't have to go very far to adapt and design these standards to fit your own way of managing projects.

You can borrow from what's out there already, you'll even find a bunch of process charts on this site that you can use a pretty starting point. 

The reason we adapt these standards or adapt them to be our own is so that we can set the way we work — to best fit our company's culture and the types of projects we create.

Balancing the Soft and Hard Skills Needed to be a Creative Project Manager

Let's talk about the basics of what it means to be a creative project manager.

If you've already cruised this site, I hope you get the idea that how organizations define the role and title of project managers can be very different. 

What your job description entails may also be very different. You may work in small or large teams, manage the client, or just production or projects end-to-end. To be a project manager in the big sense of the word, and not just a traffic manager your duties will most likely range from creation to management of scopes, budgets, timelines, resources (people and objects) and project goals. 

However, no matter where you stand, if you have the title or project manager or not, if you have project management responsibility, then your a project manager.

The Creative Project Manager's Toolbox

I write about process in the creative environment — a lot. However, for all the linear steps that I have diagramed on the different charts I’ve created, what we all have to understand is that the the creative process itself is really a non-linear journey.

The trick to understanding this journey is to make peace with the concept that there is no “one best way” to move through the creative process. We don’t so much as manage the creative process as guide it along and perhaps ride along with it at times...

Integrated Basics - Simple Scope of Work

One of the most important documents in a agency is the agreement between the agency and the client. Most agencies will have a standardize format in the form of a "Scope of Work" this document lays out important information regarding all areas of the agreement. It also acts as an agency estimate and financial agreement.  (As with all legal documents, please have your lawyer review any legalese.)...

The Producer - Job Description (Simple)

The Producer initiates, maintains and manages projects  on an ongoing and project basis. They direct and coordinate the day-to-day agency efforts on assigned accounts. In this role, the Producer insures that the agency provides:

  • Sound and responsible project management and planning.
  • Proper and innovative execution of work in all areas on schedule.
  • A consistently superior creative product.

The role is typically now client facing and requires a mix of project management, account services and producer type skills.

Responsibilities and Duties

The Producer has four areas of responsibility (specific duties of each are explained below)

  1. Planning, Analyzing, Evaluating
  • Develop workable budgets, work plans and realistic timetables.
  • Collaborates with the Account Team on preparation of marketing recommendations, strategies and actions for the client.
  • Reviews, analyzes and evaluates the following, relative to the client’s needs and objectives: all assigned creative projects, internal agency projects and assigned new business projects.
  • Provide client platform / business updates on a regular basis to demonstrate upcoming opportunities and threats to their business
  • Defining project scope, estimate and writing scope of works and technical specifications, works with account team in the creation of project specifications and time plans.
  • Educates account team and clients and manages their needs and expectations.
  • Determines project risk on an ongoing basis, escalates issues as needed.
  • Evaluate best team makeup for assigned projects.
  • Monitors out of scope requests, initiates additional estimates and approvals.
  1. Team Leading, Coordinating, Managing
  • Provides leadership within the agency and monitors work scope against all variables.
  • Monitors all budget and production activity on assigned projects and communicates status of each project to appropriate agency and client personnel in order to meet project deadlines.
  • Act as the team leader on all assigned projects.
  • Maintains communications with appropriate agency and client personnel to ensure positive workflow. Escalating exceptions and issues to Director level as required

Educating clients and managing their needs and expectations.

  • Keeping project status reports up to date
  • Monitoring and enforcing project constraints (schedule / scope / resources)
  • Champion internal systems for higher productivity working
  • Drive projects to final stages of completion by keeping the team both on track and highly motivated.
  1. Project & Product Management
  • Manage assigned projects, involved with client projects from start to finish, ensuring successful project completion against deadlines.
  • Provide and maintain projects status - liaising with development teams, designers and commercial staff to provide accurate updates of project statuses
  • Project quality assurance - testing and review of output, reviewing outputted deliverables against scope
  • Asset Management, sourcing through final delivery
  • Initiates and leads all appropriate project meetings.
  1. Financial & Administrative
  • Monitor all internal and external costs for assigned projects.
  • Creates and maintains all project backup, status reports, PO’s, estimates, schedules, change orders, technical and production specs, preproduction books and any other associated backup.
  • Manage vendors and talent on assigned projects - create purchase orders, monitor actual vs. budgeted costs.
  • Manage the production of new business presentations and materials as assigned
  • Manage agency internal projects and assist in preparing materials for creative presentations and meetings

 

Old Skool Agency Process Manuals

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with agencies to develop various workflow systems. One of the most important steps in creating new workflow and new systems is to distill and identify the basics within the agency. The link below is the result of a very basic workflow analysis. The book called, "How the Agency Works," was meant to be used as an educational tool and a starting point for discussing process within an agency. This version of the workflow book was developed for a small to medium size agency and is just one of the many different versions of the book.

"How The Agency Works."

Here is a version that was done a few years back for a Healthcare Agency. Again, simple print centric workflow.

"How The Agency Works - Healthcare."

Traffic Manager - Generic Job Description

This job description is for a generic traffic manager. Coordinates assigned client's creative and production projects. 

Responsibilities:

  • Keeps track of day-to-day ad releases.
  • Open job number/job file folder, maintains job bag and job histories.
  • Writes up job spec and job order/ request forms.
  • Manages all specs and deliverables and distributes to production and the studio.
  • Contributes to agency master publication spec sheets.
  • Traffics online, offline or broadcast materials. Calls to make sure that materials were received.
  • Routes estimates.
  • Ensures appropriate proofing.
  • Ensures projects are delivered on time.
  • Delivers clean job file folder to billing when job completeness are met.
  • Distributes P.O.s and copies of estimates.
  • Prepares cost analysis sheet, quality control forms
  • Updates production log and project estimates and billing binders.
  • To obtain deadline extensions from media, when needed.