The Dangers of Embedded Project Management

There are real dangers in embedding your project management team throughout the agency. Let’s get in the weeds and explore why. I’ll start by clarifying some important points:

  • All the activity related to account service and project management together totals 28–30% of all the time (not all of the billable time) at your firm. That range accounts for different kinds of firms, and the split between account service and project management varies widely within that 28–30%, based entirely on the degree to which your work skews digital.
  • The distinction between these two roles is best understood by seeing project management (the most important job in the firm, and what I call Resourcing) to include objective pricing, capacity management, coordinating outside resources, quality control, deadline compliance, and budget management. To make it simple, everything else is account service (the most difficult job in the firm).
  • By embedded I actually mean distributed or closely aligned with other functions instead of consolidated or working together as a cohesive group of Resourcing people.

With that background, here are the three reasons why embedded project management fails:

  1. When project managers (as defined above) are distributed, they tend to be subservient to account managers, which will always backfire. Work that is driven by account managers tends to be underpriced and over-serviced. More about that here. In order to counter this pressure, project managers must stick together…and that’s more likely to happen if they are not distributed.
  2. When project managers are distributed, it’s quite a bit more difficult to do integrated work for your clients, keep it on plan, on budget, and on time.
  3. When project managers are distributed, you can’t divide the work up to maximize the various talents of the crew. Objective pricing is the most valuable role of Resourcing and watching deadlines is the most rudimentary, with the other four functions distributed between those two bookends, but when individuals are the project team for individual parts of the agency, they must do all six functions, and you won’t have the luxury of using their skills appropriately.

How are you doing on this front? I’ll give you one question to earn extra credit: “which single role at your agency has individuals aligned by client?”*

Our Total Business Review process spends about 25% of the engagement aligning specific people to a specific role roadmap at your firm. It’s based on research over 21,000 folks from 900+ creative firms. Reply to this email if you’d like to discuss.

*The answer: account people. Without exception, account people play the only role specifically assigned to clients. Everyone else rotates based on assignments and services.

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