← Back to Blog

The 2024 Complete Guide for Agency Project Management

minute read
Updated on:
February 1, 2024
Table of contents

Project management in an agency setting isn’t simple.

This is highlighted by Zippia, which says that the average project wastes 11.4% of its resources due to poor processes. Expand to the global level, and the picture gets worse – 70% of global projects fail before they get out of the door.

The reasons for these failures are varied.

In many agencies, project management isn’t a cultural priority. Zippia points out that 54% fail to make effective project management part of their culture. There’s also a distinct lack of agency project management software – only 23% of companies use any software at all to help oversee projects.

But perhaps the biggest reason that projects fail is simple:

Agencies simply don’t know enough about how to manage complex undertakings.

Enter this complete guide to agency project management. Read on to discover the key aspects of a project over which you need to gain control in order to succeed.

Introduction to Project Management in an Agency Setting

Project management is hardly a new concept. Every business has projects, with every one of those projects having somebody to oversee them. That person may not have a formal role. But they’re still the person who ties everything together by ensuring the right people are working on the right tasks at the right times.

These fundamentals don’t change in an agency setting.

Imagine that you’re designing a website for a client. It seems like a fairly simple project. You’ve met the client and outlined the project’s scope, meaning you know who needs to work on what. You’ll likely have a designer handling how the site looks and feels, with a programmer tinkering behind the scenes. Perhaps the graphic designer is also responsible for logo design. Plus, there’s a writer involved for content, perhaps overseen by an SEO head to ensure optimization.

The project’s ready to go.

But as you move forward, the client starts making requests. They may not approve the original design, or they’ve come up with new ideas for pages that you need to implement. Suddenly, scope creep becomes a problem – the project balloons up from its initial scope into something much larger. Add to that potential breaks in communication. You may not be checking in with your client regularly, possibly leading to lots of work being done that ultimately isn’t approved.

The result can be a project that’s extremely difficult to manage simply because its creative roots mean that changes occur at a moment’s notice.

It’s not an uncommon problem. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 52% of projects experience some form of scope creep. Still, it’s a problem that’s more prevalent in agencies, which is why agency project management is such an essential topic.

Key Project Management Principles

There are some key principles designed to help with agency project management. The following is an overview of the most crucial:

Principle 1 – Define the Project in the Context of Your Agency

Any agency can claim to “do it all,” but that opens the floodgates to projects you’d prefer not to take on. So, the first principle of agency project management is simple – figure out if it’s right for your agency.

This principle is all about asking questions. How does your agency benefit from the project? What problem do you solve for the client, and are you capable of solving that dilemma? Should the project happen at all?

Project management usually involves selling the agency on the idea of the project in the first place. If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps the project isn’t right after all.

Principle 2 – Create the Project Scope

Figure 1 - Freepik

In 1990, Denver International Airport (DIA) started a project to create an automated baggage handling system. The project naturally included creative agencies, though scope creep plagued it from its inception. Sadly, the project was delivered over time and budget – DIA spent $569 million more than intended on their new system.

According to Forbes, this happened because the project leads ignored the information provided to them by key stakeholders. In other words – they didn’t understand the full project scope.

That brings us to a crucial principle – you need to know the scope before you plow ahead. What’s the project’s goal? What are its deliverables? What – if any – project management tools will help you deliver on the goal?

Defining scope from the outset doesn’t guarantee a project won’t run over budget. But from an agency perspective, it ensures you’re not stuck doing unpaid work if the client requests more.

Principle 3 – Communicate Roles and Responsibilities

Most agency-based project managers see communication through the agency lens. They receive the project, divide the work, and assign it to the relevant internal people. What many miss out on is that clients often have responsibilities, too. They may need to deliver graphics for a website, for instance, or statistics to inform pieces of copy.

Clear communication of roles and responsibilities – external and internal – prevents delays. Everybody knows what they need to do and when, with the understanding that failure leads to issues within the project.

Principle 4 – Monitor and Adapt

In a perfect world, the initial plan goes off without a hitch. Everybody delivers on time, no roadblocks exist, and the client provides what’s needed as it’s required.

But that rarely happens. An illness in your team could set part of the project back substantially. A client’s failure to deliver materials could do the same, forcing you to adapt on the fly while you wait for them.

There may be other projects at play – that you’re also managing – that could impact another project. After all, the average agency has between 10 and 20 projects or clients at any one time. All of these variables need to be monitored constantly to ensure they don’t cause delays. Or, if they do, that the client is aware of the problem ahead of time.

Principle 5 – The Final Checklist

Rushing a project to a client immediately after completing it may lead to some level of satisfaction.

But it can also result in errors. What if you’ve missed something? Running the project’s deliverables against its initial scope – along with any changes made along the way – serves as a checklist. Use it to ensure you’re delivering what you’re supposed to deliver to the client.

The Importance of Project Management in an Agency Context

Some of the reasons that project managers are so important in an agency context have already been touched on. Project managers are communicators. They’re not just the link between an agency and its clients but also the talent inside an agency working on a single project. A good project manager keeps work on track and understands how to adapt when things don’t go right.

They’re the fixers.

They understand their digital team and – crucially – what each member can and can’t do. These integral team members handle schedules and champion the client, with the latter job also involving ensuring scope creep doesn’t cause issues.

Without a manager as a figurehead, an agency’s projects descend into anarchy. There’s no lynchpin in place to keep everybody else grounded, leading to missed deadlines and consternation within a team. Ultimately, that costs an agency money – 59% of projects experience cost overruns.

Should You Get Project Managers in Your Agency?

The answer is short and simple – yes!

Agency project managers are conduits between their teams and both their clients and agency stakeholders. They also relieve the burdens of administrative tasks from their teams’ shoulders. Take project management proposals as an example. Without a manager in place, every member of the team has to work together to create a proposal. There’s no cohesive vision. No clarity in scope. If the project is accepted, the team then has to deal with a fractured relationship with no figurehead to deal with a client.

The importance of a good manager is emphasized once you start working on larger projects. According to Project Management Networks, only 10% of large projects – those valued at over $10 million – are successful. Poor project management is the likely culprit. If your agency wishes to scale to the point where it’s working with major brands, it simply can’t do it without project managers.

Client Management for Agencies

Figure 2 - Freepik

With the importance (and general role) of a project manager defined, it’s time to dig deeper:

The nine aspects of project management on which all agencies need to get a handle.

This starts with client management. Almost three-quarters of companies (73%) that offer an above-average customer experience benefit financially. With these steps, you can start delivering that experience before the project even starts.

Step 1 – Defining Project Scope and Objectives

It all begins with your initial meetings with a client. In those meetings, you discuss what the client wants to achieve and how much – ideally all – of the project you can handle. It’s here that you dig into specifics. Does the client want a website? How many pages should it be? Do they need you to create images and content, or will they supply their own?

Every task identified is one that’s built into the project’s scope. And before you get started, that scope needs to be distilled into objectives. These are the goals you’ll hit – and when you’ll hit them – as agreed with the client.

Step 2 – Stakeholder Identification and Management

Anybody who has an interest in a project’s outcome is a stakeholder. Typically, that includes the following:

  • Clients
  • Project teams
  • Project managers
  • Executives in the agency
  • Relevant project sponsors (not always applicable)
  • The completed project’s end users

Each needs to be identified, defined, and managed for successful project completion. Sticking with the website example, your client may have heads of several departments cooperating on the project. Each needs to be acknowledged, as do the individual requirements that are brought to the table. Furthermore, this identification process ensures your project leads always know who to talk to when they need information.

Step 3 – Developing a Project Charter and Getting Approvals

TechTarget defines a project charter as a document that says the project and that the project manager has permission to start work. Within that charter will be the information you’ve gathered so far – the project’s goals and its stakeholders. It may also include information about the constraints and requirements of the project, in addition to milestones, costs, and deliverables.

Think of it like an itemized invoice or project contract wherein the agency’s top brass signs off, as do all key stakeholders at your client’s company. Once they’re all happy with the information presented, you sign, too, and commit yourself to the project.

Step 4 – Using an Agency Client Portal for Client Management

Not all agencies have a client portal. They may assume it’s not needed because they’ve handled projects without one before. But as a project grows in scope, a portal can be a great place to store resources and ensure deliverables are presented on time.

So, what is a client portal?

It’s similar to a customer relationship management (CRM) system, though clients typically have access, too. Within the portal, you can create specific sections – with access rights granted to relevant stakeholders – particular to the project and client. With access rights defined, you then use the portal to share key documents. For instance, a web design project may see you sharing wireframes and logo designs, with the client being responsible for signing off.

Bonsai offers a great example of a client portal. Its features allow you to set tasks, build timelines, and share critical documents with relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, these portals exist for one reason – streamlining how your project team works with your client.

Resource Management for Agencies

Figure 3 – Freepik

With the project defined and approved, you move on to the next stage – managing your project’s resources. In other words, how will you use the resources at your disposal to provide a deliverable to your client?

It’s a crucial question because mismanagement of the resources you have can lead to a project collapsing. So, to identify and assign resources, you need to follow three steps.

Step 1 – Identifying and Allocating Resources

You can break resource identification down into three categories:

  • Human
  • Financial
  • Technological

The human side appears simple, at first. How many people do you have available, and where do they need to be assigned? However, the Resource Management Institute says that 35% of companies fail to track the project or delivery interests of their personnel. To put it another way:

Many project managers don’t take their team members’ desires into account when assigning roles.

So, the human aspect of identification and allocation goes beyond simply filling roles based on who’s available. You have to encourage your people to update their skills, giving you a broader picture of their capabilities. From there, you can match skills to tasks, ideally leading to a project in which each person contributes to their maximum ability.

Financial and technological are often intertwined. On the financial side, you identify how much money is assigned to the project, allowing you to divvy up the cash based on tasks. That links to tech – each piece of tech you use costs money. Some platforms may already be available. Others may require an investment.

You have to decide which tech is relevant within your budgetary constraints.

Step 2 – Managing Team Dynamics and Roles

Let’s dig a little deeper into the human aspect of resource management.

Assigning people to tasks based on their skills is a good start. But to ensure a strong dynamic within the team, you must confirm all involved are not just aware of their roles, but of others, too. Transparency is key. Each team member should know who’s doing what – and why – so they understand who to communicate with as part of their role.

Ensuring effective communication is also critical. So many issues you’ll experience during a project arise because people aren’t talking to one another. Develop a fair conflict resolution process and set up meetings – ideally weekly – to discuss the project’s process.

Plus, take advantage of your client portal. It’s a great way to ensure your people are sharing within the project, as well as a means of keeping track of deliverables.

Step 3 – Budgeting and Financial Planning

The amount you’ll earn from your client for the project isn’t the project’s budget. You need to build a margin into that figure, or else your agency isn’t going to make a profit. How big that margin is varies – SBO says about 30% is ideal – but it needs to be there before you get started.

For instance, let’s say you’ll earn $5,000 for a project. With the above percentage, $1,500 of that is your margin, meaning you have $3,500 for the project itself. From there, your budgeting has to factor in several considerations:

  • Billable hours for each member of the team
  • Cost of any technology used
  • Monitoring of the budget to ensure it doesn’t spill over

Time Management and Scheduling for Agencies

Figure 4 – Freepik

Time management is often underappreciated in the agency setting. It shouldn’t be. If you’re not tracking time, a project manager can’t know if their project is on track for completion. And yet, only 12% of people say that their company uses time-tracking software. Something has to change, starting with these four steps:

Step 1 – The Basic Techniques for Effective Time Management

Let’s start with the basics – some simple techniques for time management. These apply both to the project managers themselves and each member of their team:

  • Create a Daily Schedule – The overall project schedule is a handy guide to how much time you have. However, a project may take months to complete. Having a daily schedule helps you block out time for meetings, specific tasks, and dealing with admin.
  • Prioritize – Got your daily schedule? Great – now figure out which of the tasks in it are most important. Those get done at the start of the day, ensuring you finish the work you need to finish.
  • Be Reasonable With Time – Giving a content writer an hour to write a 2,000-word piece of web copy isn’t reasonable. At the same time, allowing three hours for a 500-word piece is a waste of time. Set time limits to all of your tasks, with the caveat being that they’re reasonable to the task at hand.
  • Say No When Relevant – Has the client come back with a new ask? Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Not “no” altogether, but “no, we’ll need to discuss this at the next meeting and work it into the project’s scope.”

Step 2 – Developing and Maintaining Project Schedules

You have your project goals and a final deadline for the work. To create a project schedule, break the goals down into smaller tasks to which you assign relevant team members. Ideally, you should organize the schedule in a single tool, allowing all of the project team to see it. Crucially, this schedule also helps your people see how their work affects other work.

Step 3 – Utilizing Project Management Tools and Software

It’s a good idea to build meetings – with your team and client – into that schedule. Bonsai’s scheduling app can help there. You can use it to sync your calendar and set appointment reminders so you’re never scrambling for meetings.

As for other tools and software, you’ll need an agency project management software that enables communication and document sharing. Again, Bonsai delivers – its CRM software lets you set tasks, share documents, and build a project timeline.

Step 4 – Use a Time Tracking App for Your Project

How much time are your people spending on their tasks?

You know how much time you’ve assigned, but you need some form of time tracking to ensure those assignments are accurate. Time tracking helps you to catch potential delays before they occur. Plus, you’ll ensure you don’t end up overservicing your client.

And yet, only 17% of employees actively track their time.

That low percentage leads to inaccurate timesheets and overruns on projects. Avoid both scenarios with Bonsai’s time tracking and timesheet software for agencies.

Risk Management for Agencies

Figure 5 – Freepik

Risk is a part of business. So much so that 41% of companies say they’ve experienced at least three “critical risk events” over the last year. In agency project management, failure to identify a risk places your entire project in jeopardy.

So, don’t let that happen. Follow these steps to identify and mitigate risks to your projects.

Step 1 – Identify Potential Risks and Uncertainties

In project management, a “risk” is anything that could delay or negatively impact the project’s timeline or budget. Communication is critical to identifying these risks.

Start with the key project stakeholders, such as the executives in your agency. Interview them – especially if they’ve worked on similar projects before – to get an idea of the types of risks they faced. If you’ve worked on similar projects, you can add your own experiences to the mix here.

Next up – a team brainstorm.

Get together with your team and ask what they see as potential risks to the project’s success. Often, the people working day-to-day on the project have different insights into what the project’s leadership can provide.

With discussions concluded, document every potential risk you’ve encountered.

Step 2 – Assess and Prioritize Risks

You may have a pretty long list of risks associated with your project. That looks intimidating, right? The good news is that not all risks are made equal – some have a far lower chance of occurring than others.

So, this step is all about categorizing the risks you’ve identified based on their potential impact on the project. A Risk Matrix is the best idea. Create a five-by-five grid, with one side of the grid covering risk severity:

  1. Negligible – If this risk occurs, it’ll be of very little consequence to the project.
  2. Minor – You’ll feel the impact of this risk, but it’ll be straightforward to manage.
  3. Moderate – This is a risk that you believe will take some time to mitigate if it occurs.
  4. Major – Long-term damage is the result of this risk, with the project likely to experience severe delays.
  5. Catastrophic – A risk so severe that it could end the whole project.

The other side of the grid covers the likelihood of a risk occurring:

  1. Very Unlikely – Almost no chance that the risk would occur.
  2. Not Likely –There’s a good chance you don’t have to worry about the risk.
  3. Possible – The possibility of the risk arising is 50/50. It might happen, or it might not.
  4. Probable – The risk is more likely to occur than not.
  5. Very Likely – You’re nearly certain you’ll face the risk at some time.

From here, you can categorize your risks based on their likelihood and the damage they could cause. A “Major” risk that’s “Very Likely,” for instance, is a risk that you need to plan for immediately.

Step 3 – Develop Risk Mitigation and Contingency Plans

Figure 6 - Freepik

The business software you use for your agency project management can go some way to mitigating risk. It can streamline your processes so that most of the risks you might face fall in the “Negligible” or “Minor” categories. But for anything you’d identified as a possibility, you need a plan of action.

Some of these plans will be simple. For instance, a substitute if one of your team members is sick. Others may require more thought, such as a client failing to deliver the materials you need on time. In those instances, your plan must cover how to broach the topic with the client and communicate the impact the issue has on the project.

The point is simple – make sure you have a backup plan to cover every risk, and your project will run smoothly.

Quality Management for Agencies

Figure 7 - Freepik

Quickly delivering a project means little if the project arrives to the client in such shoddy quality that they reject it. In an agency setting, a quality management system (QTS) is a set of processes and procedures you use to generate great results.

Let’s create one.

Step 1 – Set and Maintain Quality Standards

Your first step in the quality aspect of agency project management is simple:

Define what quality means to you.

Though the concept is simple, the execution can often be more complex. Your definition may differ from the client’s, for example. What’s key is that you get to a point where you can say, “This is the minimum we must achieve, and nothing less will do.”

With the definition in place, you can use your agency software to create the processes that lead to the level of quality required.

Step 2 – Quality Assurance and Quality Control Methods

Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are two sides of the same coin. However, they are different concepts.

QA involves creating standard processes intended to deliver a consistent outcome every time. Planning, testing, and monitoring those processes are musts, with the goal being to ensure your people stick to the defined processes.

With QC, you’re focused on testing the end product. Is it ready to go? Are there any issues that QA didn’t catch? If you identify anything, the project has to go back to the team to rectify the problem.

Ideally, you’ll create a proactive QA process that catches most – if not all – issues before they arise. That allows your QC team to be reactive, meaning they pick up on anything the QA people missed.

Step 3 – Implementing Continuous Improvement Practices

No matter how good your agency project management may be, there’ll always be room for improvement. The Project Management Institute outlines 10 steps for implementing continuous improvement practices:

  1. Identify potential improvements
  2. Analyze the root causes of failed processes
  3. Share improvement ideas
  4. Capture improvements through documentation
  5. Manage improvements to ensure implementation
  6. Create support teams to ensure improvement spread
  7. Build teams to support and share improvements
  8. Develop a “Center of Excellence” focused on improvements in your business
  9. Govern and track the effects
  10. Measure your outcomes per improvement

Build those steps into your project and your team will adapt to a culture of continuous improvement.

Communication and Stakeholder Engagement for Agencies

Figure 8 - Freepik

Communication in agency project management is often a challenge because so many agencies still rely on email. McKinsey says that the average worker spends 13 hours per week dealing with emails and their response.

You need to cut that time down so your people can focus on billable work.

Step 1 – Develop Effective Communication Strategies

Before anything else, you must choose a system that enables effective communication between all project members and stakeholders. Project management apps, such as Bonsai’s CRM, are good choices because they put everything in one place. Everybody with access to the project can also access documents, as well as use the app to communicate with one another.

With a platform established, follow these best practices for effective communication:

  • Be clear and transparent with everyone
  • Always communicate with a purpose – no wasted messages
  • Establish a culture of listening rather than simply ordering
  • Encourage one-to-one communication using meetings
  • Be sincere in all communications

The last point is key. Sincerity may seem like a “hokey” concept, but most have worked in teams where what needs to be said goes unsaid. Effective communication can only happen when everybody feels safe to discuss issues.

Step 2 – Manage Client Expectations and Relationships

Some of your client expectation management takes place during the project scope definition phase. You’ll use that phase to communicate deliverables and get everybody on board. But this isn’t a set-and-forget thing – you must nurture the relationship you have with clients.

Again, using agency project management software can help with this aspect. The client has access rights and can see what’s happening with the project as it happens, assuaging many of their concerns. But don’t neglect the importance of speaking to the client directly. About 80% of executives prefer in-person communication and may be involved in the project.

Finally, set the rules for governing a client’s expectations.

If the client requires more work, that should trigger a process for communicating what that extra work means for the project. How much time will be added? How much extra will they have to pay? You need a process in place else you may end up doing unbilled work to keep the client happy. Set the expectation that anything outside the project’s initial scope requires payment and schedule adaptation.

Step 3 – Internal and External Stakeholder Management

Your internal and external stakeholders are those who are directly invested in the project. They may not necessarily be part of your project team, or even the client’s project team. But they have an influence. And that influence could cause delays – or even present a risk – to the project’s success.

Start by listing the stakeholders you’ve identified in order of importance and influence. Focus on those at the top of the list – communicate project risks and intended outcomes to foster cooperation. Of course, that doesn’t mean you neglect those with less influence. But managing them should be easier, likely because they’ll be reporting to the top stakeholders in the project.

Project Execution and Monitoring for Agencies

Figure 9 – Freepik

The larger a project becomes, the higher the likelihood that it’s going to fail. It’s just the problem that comes with scale – large projects are more complex and have more risk attached. Your agency project management strategy needs to incorporate techniques for project execution and monitoring to prevent that failure.

Step 1 – Techniques for Effective Project Execution

Entire articles are dedicated to the various techniques that enable project management execution. This one will cover the basics of two of them:

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A project is a massive task. Overwhelming, even. WBS breaks down the massive job of “complete a project” into the smaller tasks you must finish to reach that completion point. Think of it like building a house – you create a blueprint and then assign tasks accordingly. The foundation goes first, followed by walls, and so on, until you have a complete structure.

Kanban

As one of the simplest project management methods, it starts with creating a table with three columns:

  1. To-Do
  2. Doing
  3. Done

Tasks move between the columns based on their completion status, giving you a visual way to track project progress.

Of course, there are several other methods for effective project execution. But they generally boil down to the same concept – identify the tasks required and track completion. Speaking of which…

Step 2 – Monitor Project Progress and Performance

You’ve already handled the first part of monitoring by setting project goals and assigning tasks. Those goals and tasks should have deadlines attached to them, ensuring all relevant parties know when to complete their work.

Monitoring is all about ensuring your people stay on track.

Conducting weekly meetings with your project team is a good start. You can use these sessions to quiz your people on the status of their work, thus getting a regular check that they’re on track. Using smart tools to track the status of tasks is also a good idea – Bonsai’s CRM comes into its own here.

Step 3 – Managing Changes and Addressing Challenges

A project that runs perfectly is a project that likely comes out of a fantasy story. The simple fact is that you’ll face challenges – and likely have to address changes – during the project’s runtime.

The risk assessments you conducted as part of your agency project management plan come to the fore here. You’ve developed strategies for every possibility you, your team, and your client could come up with. Use those plans when challenges arise.

As for changes, that all comes back to communication – talk to your team and your client. When the client requests a change, make sure they know the impact that change has on the project and their schedule.

Step 4 – Use an Invoice and Budgeting App for Your Agency

Speaking of changes, any that come from the client must be incorporated into the budget. If they’re not, your people end up working far more than they should.

That’s where invoicing and budgeting apps come in.

Take Bonsai as an example. The budgeting aspect of the app comes with templates for contracts and forms. It also has financial tools – invoicing and expense tracking included – so you can adjust your budget on the fly. Use it (or a similar tool) to track where the money’s going and where it needs to come from in your project.

Team Leadership and Conflict Resolution for Agencies

Figure 10 - Freepik

According to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, managers spend up to 42% of their time managing conflicts. The message is simple – no project goes off without a hitch. Conflicts can arise for many reasons. A team member may miss a deadline. Somebody might disagree with the way you’ve asked them to complete a task.

What the case may be, agency project management leaders need to be ready to step in.

Step 1- Understand Leadership Skills in a Project Management Context

The Project Management Institute steps up again to highlight the key leadership skills a project manager must have:

  • Motivation – You are the driving force behind the project because you’re overseeing everything. So, a good project manager has to be a motivator – how you act tells your people how you feel. Bring enthusiasm to the table, and you’ll be able to motivate your team.
  • Communication Skills – A project manager who does nothing but bark orders is one who won’t get anything done. Communication is as much about listening to your people as it is about telling them what to do. Who knows? They might even have ideas that benefit the project.
  • Team Building – Burnout can be a problem in long projects. Your people get tired, and that fatigue creates irritability that can lead to conflict. A good project manager can spot the signs and will build breaks and variety into schedules to avoid burnout.

Step 2 – Techniques for Resolving Conflicts Within the Team

Communication, communication, communication.

That’s repeated so many times because it’s so vital. All of the best techniques for conflict resolution within your team revolve around communicating rather than avoiding. For instance, weekly meetings provide people with a chance to express their views. If a conflict arises, the project manager steps in as the mediator.

The people involved in the conflict are called into a separate meeting designed for the airing of grievances. Management’s role here is simple – maintain neutrality while pushing all conversations toward a resolution.

Step 3 – Motivating and Managing a Diverse Team

You can rely on your project management software alone to motivate your team. Yes, it’ll show your people what tasks they need to complete and when. But having a task list and actually completing the tasks are two very different things.

So, you need some motivational techniques:

Focus on Motivating Yourself First

The energy you bring to the table is the energy that will spread throughout the project. Focus on finding something that ignites your own passions first – an enthusiastic project lead is one who can inspire their people.

Reward Your People

About two-thirds (63%) of employees feel their employer underappreciates their efforts. Don’t let your people fall into that category. Implement incentives for on-time task completion. But don’t forget the power of intangible motivation – providing opportunities to learn can be as powerful as monetary rewards.

Trust Your Team

A micromanager can drain a team’s motivation, as well as take up unnecessary time with constant interruptions. Recognize that the people in your agency are skilled enough to know what they’re doing. That’s why they were hired. Guide them when needed, but don’t try to tell them how to do every little aspect of their jobs.

Project Closure and Evaluation for Agencies

Figure 11 - Freepik

Finally – the finish line.

Your team has worked hard to deliver a project to your clients. But agency project management isn’t done yet. You still have to evaluate that project to ensure it’s ready to go and extract any learning you can get from it.

Step 1 - Closing a Project

Think of project closure as running a checklist of tasks to ensure your deliverable is everything the client expects. The steps for this include the following:

  • Wrap-Up the Loose Ends – Some tasks are directly related to completion, such as creating documentation and delivering training to the client. Others are related to payment – sending invoices, as an example – or admin. Wrap them before you deliver.
  • Refer to the Task Checklist – You’ll have checklists in your project charter, and likely built into your client management system. Check them. Is everything on those checklists fully implemented into the project?
  • Handover and Client Debrief – Present the project and debrief the client. The latter part is essential – it gives you a chance to communicate any issues that may have led to budgetary or time problems.
  • Hold an Internal Learning Meeting – A successful project isn’t necessarily a perfect one. Internal learning meetings help you identify issues and their causes, allowing you to avoid similar problems in future projects.

Step 2 – Conduct Post-Project Evaluations

Post-project evaluations are fairly rare – only one in five projects receive a review.

Your project must fall in the 20% that do get evaluated. This evaluation may take the form of a meeting – drawing your project team and stakeholders together – to get an overview of the project’s success.

What went right?

Use the answers to inform your continuous agency project management improvements.

What went wrong?

There may be risks you didn’t recognize or issues with the scope that led to the project going over budget or over time. Don’t hide away from those problems. Use your evaluation to identify them so you can start working on processes that ensure they don’t happen again.

Step 3 – Reporting and Documentation for Future Reference

Your evaluation can’t conclude with everybody nodding their heads and moving on to the next project. Every ounce of learning extracted from the project experience needs to be documented so what works is kept and mistakes aren’t made again.

A lesson report is a good way to document what you’ve learned. That report usually involves the following:

  • Executive Summary – A general roundup of the project and what it entailed.
  • Summary of Findings – Another roundup, this time of the general lessons learned from the project.
  • Lessons Learned Surveys – Ideally, this will be a collection of surveys handed out to each team member. What did they learn? What do they think could be done better? That’s all valuable information for a lesson report.
  • Recommendations – A detailed list of recommendations covering processes to change or implement in your agency.

Of course, this report is useless if it’s not put into practice. Once you have your list of recommendations, start building the new (or improved processes) into your agency, ready for future projects.

Related Articles