In the ten years that they’ve been around, they’ve grown their team to 50 people, worked with some incredible companies, and learned a few things about the specific challenges of managing projects within an agency.
We were joined by Jodie Robinson, Group Account Director at Velocity Partners, to find out more in our on-demand webinar. Here are four key takeaways we learned:
1. Match the methodology to the project
At Velocity, they don’t have a single “one size fits all” project management methodology. Instead, they let the type of project dictate their approach.
For example, for projects with more standard deliverables, the team will use a classic Waterfall method.
“For static things like ebooks, we’ll fully plan the project upfront and execute through set phases,” Jodie told us. That means that they start with a copy outline → copy version one → copy version two, then go into design concept → design version one, and so on.
When it comes to things like digital projects, however, they prefer to take a more agile approach. This means that they can be a bit more flexible and iterative during the creation process, which is so important because everything’s got to work together.
“In these cases, design and development can influence the copy requirements, so we can’t just have a writer go off in a silo and write in isolation,” Jodie told us. “So in those instances, we’ll often cut it into sprints and do the copy, design and development in tandem.”
But working in tandem isn’t without its challenges.
“Often, you’re working from unapproved copy or design because it’s more incremental,” Jodie said. “So when we use this approach, it’s really important to make sure that there are regular check-ins with the client and that they understand what they’re reviewing at each stage.”
2. Being a great project manager is about more than qualifications
“This might be a controversial thing to say but we don’t really focus on qualifications when looking for project managers,” Jodie said. “Obviously it’s a bonus, but it’s not just about that — it’s about their characteristics as individuals.”
So what are those characteristics?
“I think the top three are patience, flexibility, and a problem-solving attitude,” Jodie told us.
Particularly in an agency, where things are changing every day (or even every hour), project managers need to keep a level head and be able to make good judgement calls under pressure.
Not only that, but a great agency project manager needs to be able to cut through the noise and focus on what’s important (and what’s right for their clients), while still remaining diplomatic.
“For us, project managers aren’t just the people sat on the sidelines organizing tasks and timings,” Jodie said. “They have a real understanding of our clients, and they’re embedded in the creative process. So when it comes down to it, it’s much more about their personality than their qualifications.”
3. Communication is fundamental to your project’s success — so structure it well
Jodie’s number one tip for running projects in an agency? Communication is essential.
“If your project managers, account managers, and clients aren’t communicating effectively, then honestly? You can’t function properly.”
And to do that, everyone needs to be clear on what the expectations around communication are.
“As much as possible, plan who needs to talk to who, and when,” Jodie said. “For example, at Velocity we have full account team meetings every Thursday at 3pm, so the project managers know that they need to catch up with the relevant people on Thursday morning so they’re prepared.”
Also important? Knowing which medium to use. Setting ground rules about whether to use emails, task comments, or instant messages — and when you should use each type — helps you to ensure that the right information goes to the right people, without over- or under-communicating.
4. Understanding each client in depth is the key to better relationships
For Velocity, having a dedicated project management function has been instrumental. Not only has it improved the day-to-day running of their agency and helped them to get the best out of their people, but it’s also given them the tools to develop long-term, mutually beneficial client relationships.
That’s because when Velocity was developing their project management function, they structured it in a way that would allow them to focus on growing those relationships.
“We have dedicated project managers for each client, and that’s been really valuable,” Jodie explained. “It means that they can really know the clients and understand their individual nuances and ways of working — which inevitably varies between clients.”
“We’ve found that our project managers can do the best job when they’ve got that full picture of the client and their needs,” she said. “It means they can add more value, make stronger cases for action and decide how best to prioritize.”
We’re so grateful that Jodie took the time to share her expertise with us (thanks Jodie!). If you want to hear more of her insights, you can check out our webinar here.