Thinking of taking on a Digital Project Manager role? Well it would pay to know exactly what an average day looks like. Not sure than any day could look the same and here Charles Day takes you through what you should be expecting in a day in the life of a Digital Project Manager.If you would like to write for our blog as Charles has done please contact @wearesource on twitter or leave a comment below.
Set your stall out early
I like to get to the office early. Not silly early but early by the standards of Central London Creative Agencies. This means between 8.30 and 9.00am. There are a few reasons for this, London’s tubes are less busy, I can pick up a coffee on the way into the office more easily, it looks good, especially when freelancing and the office is quiet so I can plan the day ahead before everyone else turns up. It usually means I get first dibs on the fruit bowl each morning too.
Plans are useless but planning is essential
Planning the day involves writing a daily ToDo list of tasks. I use an A5 spiral notepad for this. Each day gets a new page. Some tasks may be leftovers from the previous day’s list and are transcribed to today’s page. Urgent items get a star next to them.
Some agencies use overseas partners who are on different timezones so I may need to check any new assets that been supplied overnight. They could be Flash files, screen designs, copy documents, web pages, Facebook content, mobile phone apps, video files, audio files or any number of other formats. If they are totally new assets then they will need to be reviewed by a creative team and often an account team, then pass a quality assurance test before being supplied to client. If they are assets that have been amended they may still need to reviewed by all of the above but often they won’t. This varies from agency to agency but the safest bet is check if who wishes to see the amends and assume nothing.
Resourcing & Production
Once the office starts to fill up and everyone has loaded up on coffee and eaten their toast it’s time to start interacting with people and supporting their needs. Often there is a daily production resources call or meeting with someone in the traffic or resourcing department. This is arguably the most important moment in the day and the relationship with the traffic/resource team is probably the most important one. We’ll discuss progress on work that is underway, the status of work that has been booked but not yet briefed and any new requirements that have emerged overnight and need to be dealt with today. Longer term planning for next week and beyond is usually handled in a weekly meeting where all the PMs have submitted their plans in advance. It pays to be as diligent, co-operative and collaborative as possible when dealing with the people who manage the resource allocation. Theirs is a never-ending and largely thankless task that resembles organising a kids’ tea party where every child is a precious, fickle, allergic, fussy, ADHD-sufferer with pushy parents. Be nice to your resource team and they will be nice to you.
In most agencies the PM doesn’t have much contact with the client so the Account Handler is effectively my client. My relationship with my account handler is the second most important relationship in my job. I have worked with some excellent account handlers and some not so good. The best ones check first before making promises to the client, know the difference between an opinion on the creative and a creative opinion, take some time to explain what they and the client want to achieve, respect the resourcing process, tell you before they escalate a problem and know what they know as well as knowing what they don’t know. The rest don’t.
I have to balance managing the expectations of the account handler who usually wants everything done immediately and the reality of the finite, shared resources pool. I’ll do my best to make the account handler and their client look like superstars and all I ask in return is that they do their best to keep surprises to a minimum. I don’t like surprises. I’ll often have a daily chat with my account handler to catch up on what they expect from me that day and let them know what I need from them and we’ll agree priorities for each of those actions
Managing the production work
That’s the first couple of hours of the day taken care of. The rest of the day consists of making sure that all the production people have what they need to complete their respective tasks. This often means I’m chasing people, things, people for things or things for people. e.g. assets, content, quotes, briefs, approvals. I’ll also spend time planning future projects by working out costs and timings for the account handlers to present to clients.
Depending on the projects I’m working on, each day has the capacity to be different from the last one but part of my job is to ensure it all goes according to plan and as smoothly as possible. This makes the control freak inside me happy but the thing to remember in the creative industries is that we are in the business of opinions so there is always scope for an unexpected change or last minute re-brief. It drives my inner control freak crazy but I do like a challenge and the satisfaction of creating something from nothing at short notice. After all, if I wanted for every day to the same I’d get a job counting paperclips.
If you would like to write for our blog as Charles has done please contact @wearesource on twitter or leave a comment below.