Question: I’m a marketing manager in a medium sized organisation. Last year we increased our marketing output substantially and hired a team of designers and copywriters. Meanwhile, I’ve stepped into a marketing project management role. The problem is my resources are always stretched too thin. Projects usually take longer than they should because stakeholders ask for extra work on top of what has been briefed. If it’s not that, then the briefs I receive from the sales reps are always too BRIEF. As a result, my resources do a lot of extra leg work and their work keeps building up, which makes them really irritable. I also never really know what anyone is working day to day.
What can I do to get a better handle on my projects and resources?
Walking on eggshells PM
Answer: A tetchy team usually means that something’s up. And from what you describe, it sounds like no one really knows what they’re working on from one week to the next when projects are always getting delayed. But don’t be hard on yourself. Try some of these project management hacks to give your resources more time to do the fun stuff they love.
1. Knock the creep out of your scope.
As a project manager, it’s a delicate line between keeping stakeholders happy while keeping projects on deadline. Still it can be done. Firstly, make sure you have a clear understanding of each project’s objective and requirements before commencing any production. This makes it easier to identify and push back when a project is about to get derailed with additional requests. I think it helps to demonstrate to the person requesting extra work how these additional tasks will negatively impact the project in terms of resources and budget. I always like to provide stakeholders with important milestones at the beginning of the approval workflow process, so you can refer back to these timelines if any issues do crop up.
2. Wrangle in your sales reps with a comprehensive brief template.
The briefest brief I’ve ever come across was a straight line drawn on a piece of cardboard which was supposed to be the measurement for a drawer liner. My point is, I understand your pain when it comes to receiving briefs that provide very little details. Details that by the sounds of it your resources are having to follow up on. It’s time to create a brief template that includes mandatory fields so that information can no longer be bypassed. Make sure you include fields for every piece of information you need to get the most comprehensive brief possible. If you have different types of projects where the information varies, then create a few different versions. In addition, make it a policy that incomplete briefs will not be processed.
3. See exactly what your resources are working on and when with resource management tools.
Project management software with integrated resource management has some nifty tools that can help you gain back control of your resources. For one, a brief that follows a template of your choice can be lodged directly into the system where you can allocate tasks quickly and easily to your resources. Both you and your team can also view the tasks that have been allocated on the resource planner any given day or week. The tool also has inbuilt time tracking so you can see exactly how much time is being spent on tasks and projects. Sales reps can also log into the system to see if resources are available for any upcoming projects to eliminate double ups. When a resource is at 100% capacity, you get a notification that his resource is unavailable for more work.