Learn more about my project management skills, processes, approach and experience.
Project management is key to the success of any project and I have learned over many years processes, tactics and approaches to project management. I hope that you can learn something from this that you can apply to your own work (& to some extent your life).
Plan, plan, and plan again!
There are some basics steps to project management which I feel are essential to any substantial project. I have set these out below, I have expanded on these points and my general approach to project management.
Process & Planning are Paramount
Managing a project is intrinsically tied to effective stakeholder management, which I cover tactics and approach for in more detail in the following section. The process is below is the template for approaching most projects; I say most and the typically project I manage is to drive performance or Crete and deploy new offerings hence the language deployed.
Most steps to this process should be adhered to or adapted to reflect the specific nature of the project.
- Step 1: Conception & Initiation: Identify & Meet with Stakeholders
- Step 2: Definition of goals: Set & Prioritize Goals & Define Deliverables
- Step 3: Tracking & measuring: Identify measurement technique, and defined metrics of success of scale thereof, also control variables (identify those that cannot be controlled)
- Step 4: Assess risks: Identify Issues and Complete a Risk Assessment
- Step 5: Planning & Strategy: Create the Project Schedule
- Step 6: Approval: Present the Project Plan to Stakeholders
- Step 7: Launch / Execute: Begin to implement the plan
- Step 8: Performance & Control: Measuring the progress in alignment with project and tactical milestones or unmoveable deadlines.
To learn more about my project management skills and approach, please follow the link.
Step 1: Conception & Initiation
Although a basic step to mention it is vital to understanding who has an investment in the outcome and to what extent. What are deadlines are anticipated or required, budgets, resources, etc. What is the desired outcome/s
Step 2: Definition of goals
What are the project goals and what are deadlines are anticipated or required, for these more strategic goals? What needs to be done by when!?
Step 3: Tracking & measuring
Defining a clear, transparent and unambiguous set of metrics for success for both strategic goals and tactical goals. What can be measured, how reliable is that data, what can be done to mitigate false readings?
You especially need to be aware of statistical factors such as ‘statistical significance‘ and sample size when looking at datasets. 1 conversions or 1 sale is not enough in most cases to make a decision.
Consider micro and Macro trends in weeks, days, months and so forth as well as world or local events that could create false conclusions.
Step 4: Risk Assessment
This is in many cases a standard part of the process… what are the costs, opportunity costs, cost of not doing it or on time. In many cases, risks are calculable costs that need to be weighed against the potential outcome and its likelihood of success. Mitigate risks wherever possible.
Step 5: Planning & Strategy
Once all the pieces of the puzzle have been counted, sorted and defined, the real task of mapping this out in a Gantt chart, timeline or project management tool is the biggest task. The dependability of the team, the micromanagement that might be needed (in areas such as with external suppliers) should all be factored in.
Ensure enough time is left for approval from stakeholders, lawyers, and clients to ensure a manageable timeline. Milestones should lead the way and be the gravity that draws your attention when they are either not met or not going to be. A project manager needs to be flexible with their ability to delegate resources.
Step 6: Stakeholder Approval (Sign-Off)
This should be easy if everything that was agreed has been done. Regular meetups to ensure everyone is happy with the progress of the project should have no issue hitting the big GO button. But those hypothetical concerns should be addressed.
Step 7: Launch to Project!
The project is set into motion… it is alive! (Then move immediately to step 8 after a quick high five!)
Step 8: Performance Monitor & Control
Closely managing this and meeting regularly with key employees & stakeholders is key to ensuring success. Projects almost always have a problem, deal with this and the stakeholders if the millstones are to consequently be changed. Until project completion there should be regular checks and balances in place that ensure the project cannot veer off track.
A once per week check when a 3 day cycle could ruin everything for a month will not work if things go wrong.
There are basically infinite projects and they all require a unique element of structural strategic initiatives. The image below for which I cannot find a credit sums this up really well:
Based on the agreed measures of success you can either congratulate yourselves or figure out what went wrong. Using the data and measurements, the definition of the goals and objectives should determine the scale of success. Reporting is a often a vital component in the process and the determining of it’s success.
If the project was to build an effective team and they are both there and effective, good job! If the aim was a 300% increase in sales through a cross channel Digital Marketing Strategy over 3 months and you only hit 150%, there will need to be some investigation as to why the target was missed by (assumingly) an unacceptable amount.
Many projects are testbeds for which to to determine success so that they can be role out to other areas or products. When this occurs, the second phase is to roll out this process to other areas, perhaps split testing and adjusting it in measurable ways to drive improvement.
Could You Do Better Next Time?
Its always good to evaluate the process and project once it is finished, specifically looking for areas which caused problems. Especially areas which could be improved with hindsight!
Sometimes a project can work out, but it may be due to luck or simply not one weakness being attacked. Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better, safer, and more profitable.
Project Management Tools
As I am sure many people do, we hate admin and project managing tools are administration in admin-shells, flavoured with the gentle aroma of, you guessed it, pure granulised admin flakes!
That said, project management tools are great and the alternative is chaos or error prone nonsense.
I have used Excel, Google Sheets, Calendars, Jira, Basecamp, Asana and Monday.com among other in-house systems, and each have their own advantages. Visualising projects in different ways is great. The whole thing only works if everyone involved uses it properly. As soon as tools fall by the wayside, they are rendered useless as you need to email someone like a chump for the 90s to see if they did that thing yet!
Effective use of project management tools when used for purpose can greatly improve project management efficiency.
Using Dropbox or Google drive is also essential to file version control and management especially on large projects. I would always advise the use of the Google Office suite of tools as they are better for versions control and personal accountability.
A Big Complex Biggest Project
All numbers and proprietary acronyms in this have be altered to protect the data of Mozo.
When I worked at Mozo (the largest Australian financial comparison site) we had a system where we earned money per click we sent to a client (financial institution or broker).
Payment was based on two factors, the first; is what the lead is worth to the client… Selling mortgages is worth more than a credit card application. We got paid more for the some leads than others, a lead for one product might be around *$3 another might be around *$15.
*Lets call these RPC (Revenue Per Click).
The only levers we have control over are ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’. and this was a mathematical model:
100 leads worth *$3 each is the same revenue as 300 leads worth *$1. The aim was always for quality but as with most products you can cut the clicks with a mix of traffic to maximise revenue.
Multiple channels (Google Search, Display, Remarketing, RSLA, Native, traditional, TV and SEO) all feed into each other. The attribution model could imply a drop in profit if we cut off the mobile search. For example, and *80% of top of funnel research is done on the mobile phone but only *10% of clicks were performed on them.
*numbers are adjusted to avoid revealing proprietary data and serve as an example.
The System As It Was
As it was I had an ROI target, which for sake of argument is 145%, meaning that on a product with an RPC of $10 my CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) needed to be $6.90. The specifics of the best ROI was a different project that I not disuses here.
Each week or month I was given the RPCs for each product and adjusted the CPCs or bidding strategies of each product line campaigns. If we had done well last month, then the RPCs would be higher, higher RPCs mean I get to increase my CPCs to get more traffic (among a million other tricks to drive performance).
However the problem comes when you don’t know which channel, or if several in working in conjunction, delivered the result.
The aim of the project was to drive up the RPC inline with ROI targets and hence increase revenue. I put together and lead a team of people to achieve this goal:
- Sale Director
- Analytics (guy)
- Marketing Director
- Commercial Director
- Content Director
We convened once per week to go through the results of the test from the previous week. Adjustments that I had made to the marketing mix for the product we correlated against RPC, Clicks and revenue (RPC x Clicks = Revenue). Based on hypothesis and testing we incrementally brought the RPC up.
We had tremendous success with this strategy but in some more complex areas we were fighting for pennies. Overall we had gown revenue and the project was being well received. However there were intrinsic diminishing returns die to the level of accuracy we had access to.
Once a user leaves our site and enters another we lose tracking on them, so we aggregate the results into the most top level they could be. We convinced enough institutions to parse tracking data back to us through an API that connected to Tableau.
Although initially this represented say 20% of the data, it meant we could start modelling based on this. Once we rolled this out to more banks and other financial clients (where possible); we were capable of much higher accuracy.
Using a data aggregation tool and a lot of brain frying discussions, we were able to build dashboards which (although still only part approximation) lead to overwhelming success. We grew profits by 367% in 9-months.
As the project lead and primary instigator, it was my role to understand enough of everyone’s job and part to ensure that it could work. But ultimately solid teamwork and a great collaborative effort is what gave us that win.
I could give many examples of projects that I have successfully managed, but in terms of the process driven collaborative nature of high-level busy people, this was worth mentioning.