Project management turn-around lifts agency out of decline and into excellence
Targetbase, a leading direct marketing agency that applies data analytics to client campaigns, found itself nearly buried by success. As the agency took on more projects, the increasing load strained their informal project management processes. Unable to accurately define project requirements up front, the agency initiated projects without sufficient resources or tools for completion. Multiple projects competed for a limited number of shared resources. As digital technologies evolved, clients added new objectives to current projects; incapable of making time and cost adjustments, the agency lost profits. Worse, not a single project was being completed on time.
Faced with declining profits and market share, Targetbase recognized the need for formal project management skills. To identify better practices and inculcate them throughout the agency, Targetbase decided to create a project management center of excellence (PM COE) and asked Pinnacle Strategies to help design and launch it.
Right away, they recognized that the Targetbase team would benefit most, not from a conventional project management office (PMO), but a practical one, based on execution principles, that could be launched without disrupting the current client projects during implementation.
To produce immediate results and build momentum, the team concentrated on simple tools and techniques that would be easy to learn and teach. To help with project planning, for example, Pinnacle consultants showed Targetbase how to map plans that accounted for all the linkages – what has to be accomplished in X in order for Y to proceed – among the project tasks.
Using Microsoft Project as a base, they developed project templates that placed execution process steps in a logical sequence. These templates not only reduced planning times, but helped managers ensure they had accounted for all the necessary steps to deliver results for their clients.
In addition to teaching Targetbase project managers how to use the templates, Pinnacle led training sessions on estimating project costs, determining resource needs, and de-conflicting projects and plans.
To make meetings both shorter and more productive, Pinnacle set up a ViewPoint Visual Board that exposed the status of work in progress – and made it easy to see where the delays were and what caused them.
Within weeks, previously chaotic projects became productively controllable. For the first time, managers could quickly identify the obstacles that were hampering progress, then address them without creating additional delays. Projects that had been stuck were now moving forward to meet completion deadlines. And what had been perceived as a “resource utilization” problem (resources were allegedly only 40% utilized) was revealed to be both a metrics and allocation problem: during the collaboration process, it became clear that resources were committing a large amount of their time to previously unmeasured “unbillable” projects. Once the problem was exposed, they were able to shift more resources to billable work, resulting in happier customers and of course, more revenue.