A good project management system is one of the biggest keys to communication and successful projects. It’s a great way of making sure that everybody knows what their job roles and responsibilities are. As well as who the lead contact is for the overall project or the key stages, and who to keep accountable for all the different stages involved. It also gives an overview of what stage the projects are at, where the bottlenecks are and what needs to be done to progress further towards completion.
Most designers or marketing teams are working on lots of different projects at once. Managing these projects individually and alongside each other can make a big difference in the stress levels of the team as well as the desired outcomes.
Each project management system is different in the way they are set up and how they can be used, but all have the same purpose. To manage projects and your team from start to finish, effectively and successfully.
The impact I see from using project management systems in regards to having a smooth process which results in a successful project is huge. That’s both within my own business, and in other businesses who have much larger teams, for example a marketing department with 20 plus people.
Impact of using a project management system
Being able to plan a project out, with the option of doing this collaboratively is a great benefit. Seeing the flow of work before anything starts, sets up for a successful project. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Setting the scope of the project, the schedule and the budgets associated ahead of time, will allow you to see where any problems might arise at a later date. Such as lack of resources. This can happen quite often when a designer is working on a few projects at a time, they do only have one pair of hands themselves and only so many hours in a day. If you can see where extra resources are needed, you can prepare ahead of time and make sure plans are in place to help your designers out.
People are more productive when there is a project plan and a system in place. People spend less time sat waiting for things to do, being told what the next stage is and much less time in their inbox. Seeing an overview of what stage the project is at, helps to see who’s responsible for the next task in order for the project to flow resulting in the team being much more proactive about getting their tasks done. Each team member has a focus on what they need to do, or who they need to be talking to for information without the distractions of other tasks or other conversations which drain their time.
Less inbox time, and better communication
Keeping people and project queries or tasks out email inboxes has a lot of benefits. Some businesses receive hundreds of emails daily and a lot of the time those people are cc’d in “just so their aware”. As soon as inboxes start getting filled up, people get distracted from the project they’re concentrating on and start to answer emails unrelated. If important project updates or queries are then thrown into the inbox too, it’s easy to start to see how messages get lost or buried under all the other emails. If that email that gets buried as an important task in order to progress the project, the bottlenecks start to appear and the project gets stalled.
When 10 people in a project are also cc’d into one email, there is a lot of chance no one really knows who is responsible for that task and either nothing gets done, or tasks end up getting replicated. I’ve seen it happen so many times. No one, especially designers, likes spending their day in their inbox, unless that’s their primary job they’ve been hired to do.
Having one system, that outlines all the information and is updated with new tasks, changes and or memos means everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. I’ve often come across times when updates to projects have gone out and some of the team haven’t received the information. This only results in an unsuccessful project, projects taking longer and time wasted by the team, which can have big impacts on deadlines and business goals.
Better flow and response
With everyone involved in the project having an overview of how the project is progressing, bottlenecks are much more obvious. Responses to these or any other issues or changes to the project that might crop up can be made much faster too. It becomes much more of a team effort, and doesn’t necessarily rely on one person to control everything. In much smaller teams, problems further along the line can be seen much earlier and missed deadlines can be pre-empted before they’ve flown past which allows you to change tactics or inform the client earlier on, building a much better client relationship too.
Types of project management systems
There are a lot of different project management systems out there, all having their own unique selling points and benefits to suit different teams. I’ve known teams use spreadsheets as a starting point but creating a project management system that can be shared collaboratively is where the magic happens and where I see the biggest impact.
Just do a search for project management systems and you’ll find a lot! There are more complex ones and more simplified versions. Take a look around and see what might work for you. As there are so many, instead of going into all the different ones, I’ll let you know what I use within my own business and what I’ve used within other design teams.
A great system which allows you to adapt the set up to the way you work. It allows you to set up different teams and projects within those, assigning a person to each task. I set up my dashboard for my client projects to match the flow of work, starting from when a proposal has been sent all the way through to invoiced and archived. You can use lists or boards, depending on what suits you and allows you to add in dates per project or subtask which you can then see visually in a calendar. In the higher subscription packages you can plot out the full timeline too.
I also use Teamweek which allows me to see who is at full capacity and when we can next plan a project in. You can set a number of hours per day for each team member. As you add tasks you set how many hours each task will take and it will show you how many hours / how much capacity (if any!) that person has left that day or week.
It’s important to not over commit to work, remembering that admin, lunch and fresh air are also needed at some point in the day! It’s too easy to say someone can take on 5 projects but if that means they’re going to have to work night and day, I’m not sure that would go appreciated. Especially as designers can’t think creatively 24 hours a day.
Teamweek allows me to see where I’ll need to bring in extra resources at peak times and when I can schedule new projects in. I can also set client expectations and let them know when they can realistically receive drafts or the final outcomes.
Other project management systems I’ve used within other design teams:
Trello has similar themes to Asana. You can assign tasks to particular people, set deadlines and track what stage projects are at. Teams I’ve worked with like to use Trello or Asana depending on preference but both work equally well.
Another app is Basecamp which I’ve used within much larger teams though it does work for smaller teams too. Allows for assigning projects, setting deadlines, attaching further information, discussions within the system itself.
If you’re using a system within your design or marketing business let me know what you use. I’m always keen to see what else is out there. If you’re not using one, I hope this might have given a little insight into the benefits of using one. Leave a comment below or get in touch.