About the photo: Shocking? Yes. Click bait? Yep, you caught me there. An accurate reflection of who I feel I’m talking to when a marketing team says they don’t use project management software? Absolutely.
One of my degrees is an MS in project management and I have a PMP. Throughout the years I’ve used LeanKit, Trello, Jira, and Smartsheet for project management software. I’ve also used project trackers made in XLS and MS Project, too (in my opinion over 90% of the time MS Project is complete overkill for marketing, and the same goes for Primavera). And, if anyone cares, I wrote a thesis on mitigating project-based risk in 2012, which is as boring as boring can be. What I’m trying to get at is that I’m a marketer who does marketing and has been in marketing for years, but I also understand and believe in project management, especially for marketing.
The simple fact is, marketing departments are more effective with project management. I understand and fully appreciate the you can do project management without project management software, but it is MUCH more difficult to manage communication, workflows, and have an accurate understanding of the current status of every project/task. Sure, there are thousands upon thousands of marketing teams that don’t use any type of marketing project management software. I don’t argue with that. I also don’t argue with the fact that some of these teams are quite effective, have won awards, and are very innovative. You can be REALLY good at one thing and not good at others. However, if these marketing teams were more accountable and actively used project management software on a daily basis, wow, they would deliver more, do it faster, and be more predictable (fewer missed deadlines and if deadlines are going to be missed you know before they are missed). And though I don’t have data on this, realistically, the top reason I believe they’re not using project management software is because they don’t know any better and have never used it before.
When we work with a company, one of the first things we recommend is a baseline project management approach along with the enabling software (usually Trello or LeanKit). When don’t we do this? Simple – when it’s already being done (and that’s a HUGE green checkmark in my book).
Why does project management software need to be in every marketing department? It comes down to:
Time savings. Depending on your role and the degree to which project management software is actively used in your organization, it can bring hours back into your work week; even in the short term there is no way it’s going to take additional time. It helps reduce the back and forth emails and calls that you have asking for and giving status updates. And those team meetings where everyone is there to only give 5-minute updates on their tasks? Well, that’s terrible project management plain and simple. If that’s a bad habit you’re currently in, project management software helps decrease the “need” for these meetings and when they do happen, it helps make them more efficient. Lastly, when everyone can update individual task progress, there is no one person who must spend large swaths of time updating project plans.
Visibility. When a marketing team actively uses project management software it increases the visibility of what is and isn’t getting done with a current status for each task. It also helps to display to the entire team the relative productivity of each co-worker. This is a personal favorite feature for me as it makes it very clear to the team who the high performers are, and clarifies for low producing employees that they are in fact low producing, which makes it easier to broach this issue with them.
Accountability. It clarifies the EXACT tasks and deliverables that a person is responsible for and their relative priority. There is no guessing about what a member of your team is working on or where they are spending their time AND it helps reinforce WHO is responsible for making sure a task or deliverable is completed so there is less of “I thought [insert name] was responsible for it.” I’m also an ardent user of the comment capabilities and urge that all short form requests (e.g. please review, need you to sign off on, etc.) are done within the tool so there is a clear audit path on what the next step is (versus having it scatted in email chains).
Focus. Actively using project management software (especially KanBan Boards) helps drive home what IS important and what is a distraction. Keeping emphasis on important tasks helps keep the marketing department focused on its actual priorities and not what individual contributors (or other departments) think those priorities should be.
Remembering. As someone that manages a team or a project, the simple truth is that there tends to be a lot of requests for which you quickly dash off an email, text, call, or catch someone in the hallway for and then assume it will be done. Frequently there isn’t a feedback loop that says yes in fact it was actually done. By sending these requests out via project management software there is now a running list of what was requested, when it was requested, of whom it was requested (and by whom), and if it’s been actioned. This also helps quite a bit when doing employee reviews, too, as you can quickly call up all tasks a person worked on in the past year.
Reporting. If your marketing team is actively using project management software you can use the tool dashboards to report on who is doing what, what was recently addressed, and the types of tasks being requested of the marketing team. The metrics are also pretty compelling too, like the ratio of planned work versus actual, the amount of time marketing is spending on particular tasks (e.g. content creation), the type of tasks that tend to take longer than estimated, or WHO is always late. It’s all in one place and you’re not having to hack it together by looking though emails, entering it into XLS, and then making a PPT deck (like many marketing teams do).
Does simply installing a software get you there? Nope. And having a tool that you know how to use, but a tool no one uses won’t get you there either. But if you set it up right (make it minimally invasive at first), train your team on how (and why) to use it, actively drive the adoption, and give it three months you’ll never go back. You’ll look back in amazement that you ever lead a marketing team without project management software. And before you ask, I don’t have an ownership stake in any project management software (wish I did), I don’t work for one in any capacity, nor do I have a personal relationship with anyone that does. I just think every marketing department should have project management software. That and baseline martech: CRM, marketing automation, web content management, email (preferably Gmail), and Microsoft Excel (as Google Sheets still has a far way to go).
Prior to co-founding Capstone Insights, Jay led SiriusDecisions’ Technology and Services practice, where he oversaw SiriusDecisions’marketing and sales technology and service coverage. He also launched and chaired the SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange (TechX). He is a widely regarded expert on marketing automation technologies, and how to rationalize an ever-growing martech stack into a competitive differentiator.