Why Resource Management is Better from a Dedicated PM
I can't say that there is a magic formula to being a creative project manager. I’m not saying that project managers are awesome individuals with skills no one else possesses. There are some key criteria, I believe, that go along with being a solid project manager. But not all are critical and many organizations are ok with using roaming resources to lead one-off creative projects from time to time like possibly a lead designer or top marketing individual in the company – especially in smaller creative industry organizations.
What I’m going to do is present a case for the role of dedicated project manager as a better alternative to the “sometimes a PM, sometimes not a PM” individual who periodically leads projects as they come up. If that works for your organization, more power to you. And I realize that budget dictates what you can and can’t do in this area. However, if you have the budget, I think a dedicated creative project manager PM is a huge asset to the organization. Why? Mainly because of the following areas of expertise that an experienced, successful PM can bring to the table in an organization of any size…
Resource management. Come on…we all know that this can sometimes be our least favorite “leadership” activity. Resource management involves performance reviews, reward systems, conflict resolution, task assignments, hiring, firing, and dealing with personal issues that come up with the resources we manage. Not fun…and not easy. Now, imagine dealing with most of those (pretty much all except the performance reviews, though input from the PM is still asked for in most organizations) even though they don’t report directly to you. In a sense, you have a little less control and they are a little less accountable to you. But still, PMs must be skilled resource managers and must be good at resource forecasting as well…planning out all tasks for short and long term projects with resources they are given, but often didn’t choose.
Financial management. Most of us – unless we are department managers or C-level leaders (and then they have “someone” to do it) – don’t have to deal with detailed financial planning, analysis and profit responsibilities. Project managers do. And all of these tie back into the resource management aspect mentioned above. So, next time you want to “PM” something, keep that in mind…because eventually you’ll be having monthly meetings with your organization’s controller or CFO if your project is of a significant size or financial impact.
Client engagement. This one is really just another subset of resource management. clients aren’t necessarily the easiest to manage. Not that they want to be difficult. It’s just that when we are running projects for them, they have their regular jobs to get back to. Keeping them engaged and available when you need them for key feedback and decision input can be difficult. Again, we love our clients, but they have a mind of their own and a job to do. Their priorities are not our priorities on a daily basis. The client engagement aspect of project management does actually take some creative skills and experience.
Project management involves a lot of organization, communication, and thoughtful planning. Yes, most of us can pull it off or at least fake it till we make it and rely on luck along the way. However, dedicated PM resources with project management experience can bring leadership, quick decision-making under duress, solid resource management skills and gracious client interfacing soft tools that can take pressure off the rest of the creative team allowing them to continue to be…well…creative. Don’t underestimate the importance and value of real project management experience in your organization.