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This post was originally published on February 26, 2016, and was updated with new information on January 2, 2022
There are multiple project management methods that can be used to ensure a project’s specific objectives are delivered on time and on budget. To select the most effective project management strategy for your business, you need to know what each methodology involves and how they differ from one another. In this chapter, we'll explore the qualities and benefits of Integrated Project Management.
What is Integrated Project Management?
Creative agencies have traditionally used a linear style of project management called Waterfall in which a project is planned out in detail and then completed in sequential phases. This step-by-step methodology is easy to envision and enables a project to be managed across multiple departments.
Waterfall’s rigid structure, in which one phase must be fully completed before the next one can begin, makes it difficult to implement changes and can lead to workflow bottlenecks. It can also allow a project to be passed from one department to the next with little communication or collaboration.
As creative projects increased in complexity and outcomes became harder to define, Waterfall's inflexible process fell out of fashion. In its place, creative agencies adopted the Agile Project Management style which incorporates regular testing and feedback from clients and/or end users.
The Agile method takes an iterative approach, breaking projects down into short phases called sprints and creating a version of the finished product which is tested and then improved. This process is then repeated until all goals of the project are met, or no funding remains.
When creative agencies began offering in-house digital capabilities, they started to embrace an integrative approach to project management called Integrated Project Management or IPM. This holistic project management style blends the upfront documenting requirements of the Waterfall method with an Agile workflow approach that includes implementation followed by feedback and iteration.
In IPM, all the components of a project (its objectives, resources, processes, and stakeholders) are identified, incorporated, and then coordinated to ensure each one is working consistently.
What are the hallmarks of Integrated Project Management?
Openness – In IPM, all information relevant to a project's goals, including spending data, reports, and vendors' contact information, is shared, and stored in one easily accessible location. This interconnected framework allows everyone from the project manager to the copywriter to track a project’s status and direction and see how one part of the project impacts and is impacted by the others.
Communication – Ensuring the essential parts of the team are constantly communicating with each other lies at IPM's core. This exchange of information means problems can be shared and potentially solved faster. It also makes it possible to monitor each component of the project as it is executed. By analyzing this data, the project manager can discover where resources are scarce or overflowing, and then use this information to make any necessary reallocations that will maximize efficiency.
Teamwork – Collaboration is actively encouraged in IPM to solve problems and suggest improvements. This methodology requires teams to work together to ensure the success of the project, compromising on competing goals when necessary.
People hired to work on integrated teams often have a skill set that is T-shaped, meaning that while they specialize in one or two key skills, they also have a good understanding of the process as a whole and where they fit into it. This can produce a highly collaborative and empathetic working environment.
What are the key components of IPM?
Project Charter – IPM begins with the creation of a project charter that sets out the project’s scope, objectives, resources, processes, and participants, and delineates the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and the project manager.
Project Scope – Long-term goals of the project (such as ‘increase revenue’) are outlined together with specific objectives that will help those aims to be achieved (such as ‘grow online presence’).
Management Plan – An overall integrated project plan is made that incorporates all the other plans and processes associated with the project such as communication processes and cybersecurity protocols. (For an integrated project plan example, click here [relevant Workamajig link]).
Execution – Each element of the project is directed and executed in line with the project’s key objectives and milestones, and performance is measured.
Monitoring – The performance data is constantly measured against the performance goals set out in the project charter. If performance falls below a certain pre-decided baseline, changes are implemented to raise it to an acceptable level.
Why is Integrated Project Management useful?
Using IPM to manage multiple projects under one integrated program plan is both efficient and productive. There is no need to start from scratch with each new project because you can create an integrated project plan template with a set workflow that can be adjusted as required.
Integrating the various facets of a project and working on them simultaneously streamlines a project, allowing you to reach your goals faster.
Sharing information between teams in a central location means you can capture all the details without losing oversight of the whole project. And, if all the data is digital, changes such as schedule updates can be made in real time.
Because each portion of the project is monitored for performance quality and speed of execution, the project manager can anticipate problems and send people and resources to where they are needed most.
This integrated style of project management makes it easy for the project manager to track what jobs have been assigned to each team member and how each job is progressing. This has become even more useful since the explosion in remote working and the creation of workforces whose members are scattered around the globe.
How does IPM benefit clients/stakeholders?
Clients and stakeholders are involved in every stage of the project from the initial planning, goal setting, and creation of a project charter through to monitoring and completion. It's a project management style that will make them feel valued, appreciated, and reassured.
The transparent nature of IPM builds trust among clients and stakeholders because they witness every constraint, challenge, and milestone as it occurs. This enables them to give feedback and see firsthand how it is implemented, fostering an outcome that is highly personalized to the client and reflective of their goals.
How does IPM benefit creative agencies?
Missed deadlines mean lost earnings for creative agencies. IPM maximizes profitability by optimizing processes and performance.
This methodology’s collaborative style can elevate an agency’s performance by enabling moments of spontaneous problem-solving. Teams that come together to share information become invested in each other’s success and the achievements of the company overall.
Geographically dispersed teams who use integrated project management software are instantly aligned in one collaborative space, helping to create accountability and drive results.
Finally, IPM makes it easy to monitor the status of tasks and give praise where it is due, boosting team morale. With a steady workload, creative staff isn’t left bored or saddled with enthusiasm-crushing admin tasks while they wait to start working on their section of a project.