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Project management can be intimidating at first.
As marketers, we are often more comfortable executing work, rather than managing how it gets done. If that sounds like you, you’ll need to develop new skills to keep our teams and processes organized.
There’s a lot to learn, too. Planning project phases, allocating resources, and overseeing workflows is challenging. It’s worth the effort, though, and developing strong organizational and leadership skills is invaluable.
Think about it like planning a trip. You need to know where you’re going before you start driving, right? Otherwise, you’re liable to get lost and waste time. The same applies to marketing campaigns, too. If your goal is the destination, then you need a guide on how to reach them.
That’s where project management plans come in. They’re your roadmap toward success, helping teams visualize how to achieve success, from start to finish. Best of all, they don’t have to be difficult to document. Follow this guide and learn:
By the time you’re done, you’ll be coordinating projects with the best of ’em.
CoSchedule is the only way to organize all your marketing in one place. It’s a family of agile marketing products that will help you stay focused, deliver projects on time, and make your team happy. See what it can do for your marketing team now.
Table of Contents:
Project plans include a lot of details and moving parts. To keep everything documented and organized, snag this free template. It’ll make putting advice into practice much easier.
Plus, you’ll also get a free project management calendar and checklist template to help plan deadlines and track project progress.
This post will work with the following definition:
Project management plans are simple workflow timelines. They map out what is necessary to complete a project, including tasks, deadlines, and resource requirements. When they’re properly implemented, marketing teams can plan their work, then work their plan.
Time spent planning yields significant benefits. Consider these statistics:
These findings can teach us a few things:
It’s easy to spend a lot of time looking busy.
Lots of marketing teams mistake sheer activity as being successful. To achieve real success, marketers must focus on big-picture things rather than small item tactics.
That said, however, doing work that drives results is much more difficult. Fundamentally, your tactics serve your goals to achieve results. This means any marketing strategy that starts by focusing on tactics first is doomed from the get-go.
To determine if your project is even worth pursuing, answer these questions before moving forward:
Once you have the green light to proceed, continue onward.
It’s easier to visualize success when everyone on your team knows the intended outcome and how they contribute. A simple project brief should include the following:
This doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. Creative briefs should be… well brief.
Great projects always stem from a well-planned workflow and timeline. Workflows allow everyone to know what needs to be done and when – which makes everyone’s (work) life a little easier.
There are three essential elements every project plan should include:
How many phases will the project move through from ideation to execution? That’s what you need to figure out first. For a marketing team, this may look like this:
This is a hypothetical example, of course. But, you get the idea. From start to finish, define every phase of the project.
How can you figure out your own project phases? Start with some simple questions:
By the time you’re done, you should have a clear overview of your project phases.
Each phase will likely require multiple steps to complete. Using the example project phases above, you might have the following tasks under ideation:
This includes all the steps for the first phase of the project. Duplicate the process to create checklists for the following phases, too. Eventually, you’ll have every task for each phase mapped out.
Marketing departments often operate under constraints. This could mean limits on budgets, tools, or team members.
The goal: figure out the best way to complete the project with your available resources.
First, you need to determine who will complete each step, during each phase. In some cases, this may be obvious.
But, if you have multiple team members performing each role, you’ll need to think through their assignments. Follow these steps:
Next, make sure everyone has the resources they need to succeed. This could include:
This step entails creating timelines and setting deadlines. Without effective scope management, projects can expand out of control (this is commonly called scope creep). That leads to missed deadlines, busted budgets, and other un-fun problems.
The best way to accurately estimate time is to track how long work takes. You can do this using a time-tracking tool like Toggl. Their basic plans are free, and it’s easy to use. Have each team member follow this process.
1) Create a Toggl account. Then, create a new Project:
2) Add all your team members:
3) Have each team member time their work using the Toggl web, desktop, or mobile apps:
Over time, this will help team members estimate time more accurately. Start with rough estimates for now, then lean on your data to better assess how long work will take.
Go through every phase in your project and list every single step.
CoSchedule allows users to create reusable project checklists with Task Templates.
Simply create your project workflow once and add it as a reusable template in CoSchedule. You can add custom due dates and assignees to automatically populate every time you start a new project.
Once you know how long each step will take, it’s time to set deadlines. Go back to the earlier example demonstrating how to plan a piece of content. Here are those steps one more time (with time estimates added):
This adds up to sixteen hours of total work. Using a marketing project management tool, add your project on the day it is due.
For the sake of this example, let’s say this project needs to be done in two weeks. That’s a reasonable amount of time, considering the team will have other projects, too. This means that starting from Sept. 10, the deadline would be Sept. 21 to leave enough time for everyone to finish their work:
You can build these checklists any way you like. What matters most is that use checklists at all. Science has proven they’re extremely effective for ensuring even the most complex projects are completed correctly.
In fact, the famous surgeon and author Atul Gawande wrote an entire book on this subject. Titled The Checklist Manifesto, it shows how powerful they can be (and in the operating room, they can literally save lives). He was concerned that advances in medical technology hadn’t made surgery safer. And what helped most? The humble checklist.
If your marketing projects are consistently going off the rails, they may be the magic bullet you need. After all, if they’re good enough for surgery, they’re good enough for marketing.
Once you’ve applied your task template to your project in CoSchedule, members of the project will be notified and can manage their daily schedule based on what is due for the day.
Busy project managers, editors, and supervisors will also appreciate this: As people tick off their project tasks, the status bar indicates project progress status automatically.
Look at this quick example Task Template. Since the first item of four is checked off, CoSchedule displays the project as 25% complete:
This figure also displays on the calendar. The benefit? You can visualize project progress across your entire marketing calendar at a glance:
Next, place each phase onto one contiguous timeline.
Then, add each project on the calendar to the campaign. To do this, click into the project, then click the Marketing Campaign Manager button at the bottom (it looks like a folder):
Next, click the pencil near the top to edit your campaign and add an end date:
When you’re done, the campaign will be visible as a horizontal color bar across the calendar. Each campaign will have its own color bar (determined by your chosen color label):
This is an easy way to keep the entire process organized. You can see every project and campaign, along with their completion status, in one place. The benefits: full transparency, tons of saved time, and less project management stress.
Back to the Top
So far, you’ve set up everything you need to execute the project. Now, it’s time to manage the process from start to finish.
As your team works through the project, make sure they’re hitting their deadlines.
You can do this by scheduling regular check-in or scrum meetings (if you use agile processes).
Set up a recurring meeting (either daily or weekly) using Google Calendar. If you’re a CoSchedule customer, you can also integrate your account with Google Calendar, so your meetings will appear alongside everything else.
In each meeting, ask the following questions:
You can also use the Kanban view in CoSchedule to track how projects are moving forward.
Kanban allows you create a custom project workflow so you can easily see what is currently being worked on, what is pending review, and what is scheduled to go live.
As the team continues its work, make sure everyone is communicating clearly. It helps to have the right tools for this (rather than relying on email. Here are some options:
If your plan is effective, everyone should be hitting their deadlines, and the project should be completed on time. But, it’s important to make sure this is actually the case. Assume nothing!
The consequences of poor project planning and workplace structure are clear. It literally costs companies money.
So, each day, make sure all project deadlines are being met. If they’re not, and no one has volunteered to explain why, seek out the individual falling behind. Then, ask if there’s an issue, or if they simply couldn’t get the work done on time.
The key to keeping these conversations productive is to keep them limited. That means both in time elapsed, and in overall number. Don’t take people’s time unless there’s a real reason to do so.
You can also do this with CoSchedule using Team Performance Reports. Each time an item on a Task Template is checked off, it tracks whether it was done on time, or not. The report then displays each team member’s percentage of tasks completed on time:
To make sure every project is effectively executed, it pays to document your plan. If you haven’t grabbed it yet, be sure to download the project management plan template included in this post (click here to find it). Now, you’re ready to effectively manage every project your team will take on.
Back to the Top
Now you’re ready to master project planning. Have questions or thoughts to add? Leave a comment below.
This blog post was originally published on July 9, 2018. It was updated and republished on March 13, 2019.
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