What is project process? And how can marketers harness the power of project process to be more efficient and competitive? Last month, project management speaker and expert Hala Saleh joined us for a webinar crash course on the basics of project management for marketers. Here's what she had to say about the first phase of any project. Enjoy!
Marketing teams are starting to get more serious about planning, managing, and executing projects in a way that maximizes that value delivery. We start to see a lot of parallels not only in building products, but also in doing marketing activities. Once you map out your workflow, you see a lot of this running around in circles and wasteful processes.
It's a highly dynamic environment. You need to be out there. You have customers that you want to reach. You have potential customers that you want to convert. And some of that manifests in the way we get project requests.
Because that environment is so dynamic, your project requests tend to be really dynamic. How you get those project requests tends to be really dynamic.
So let's talk about some of the problems with intake of project requests in a marketing environment.
Email as a way of receiving project requests is problematic because sometimes somebody will decide that they want to email the director of the group. Or they submit a request and it hasn't gone through the stages of vetting or discussion—stages we want to make sure everything goes through, so that we make sure we're working on the most important things. Email can get really unwieldy, it can get confusing, and it is a great way to ensure that we're not all on the same page.
This is where someone with authority or somebody who has the ability to drive where you go with your work comes by and says, "Hey, can you get this thing done for me?" And unless we make very visible what is on our plate and what things are high priority, then those interruptions will continue happening.
It's not just about sticking a note on somebody's desk and saying, "Get this done." It's more about how we make our work more visible. There is benefit to using sticky notes, but only if you're using a very specific process.
[Hallway conversations are] a start of a conversation, but they don't ensure that you and everybody else on the team are on the same page with regard to priority and the specifics of what the requests are.
Suggestions for Handling These Problems
1. Spread the word
One of the most important things is to spread the word about what the process is—or what the process changes are that you intend to make. You can adopt any process you want, but the only way it's going to work is if you and everybody else on your team are on the same page. You want to make sure to educate your requestors on your process, why you're changing it, and how it works.
And then hold firm, especially when it comes to things like pushing back on requestors and saying, "I'm sorry, I can't work on that unless you go through the process the way that we agreed on it."
And make sure you tell them again and again until it becomes second nature.
2. Streamline requests
You need to work on streamlining your request process. These are suggestions. Some of these might work for your environment and some of them not. Take what works for you—or what you think might work—and give it a shot:
It is easy to set up a shared email. Just make sure, if you do set up an email address where all project requests are received, that you have a really clear process with your team on how that email folder is managed and who's responsible for managing it.
Make sure that it is helping you streamline and not causing additional confusion. Make sure you're going through it and prioritizing what gets worked on next.
The most important point is to have a really strong project request form that gets emailed so that it's not different emails that you're getting from different people.
Assuming you've set up a project request form or some way of standardizing how you're receiving project requests, you might have a shared folder where all requests are submitted before getting reviewed. Instead of having a number of different ways that you're receiving requests, make sure everything is going to that shared folder.
Project or work management software
There's always going to be a time and place for utilizing project management software or task management software. But if you don't have your process nailed down first, then you're just exacerbating the problem by putting a tool in place versus helping to figure it out. So first step, figure out your process. Make sure everybody agrees on how you receive project requests and then put a tool in place that actually serves your needs.
This is one that I see with smaller teams, where you'll have people submit requests into a shared Google Doc. You want to make sure that you also have a lot of the things that I talked about earlier figured out. Who's managing that Google Doc? Who's looking into the prioritization of the list?
Make sure that's agreed upon and expectations are set across everybody in the team, and make sure that people aren't overriding and making updates and changes to the Google Doc.
The last point that I want to talk about is the request form, which really overarches all of the other suggestions. Whatever method you try to implement in order to streamline your requests, make sure that you're using a strong request form that captures the data and the information that you need to execute what you're being asked to do.
Apply the Goldilocks Principle: make sure you're capturing just the right amount of information, not too much and not too little. Just the necessary information to get done, information that helps to supplement your understanding.
It could be text descriptions. If you need a little sketch to go along with it or some kind of attachment, different tools allow you to provide different types of information along with project request forms.
Make sure that you have what you need, based on your environment, to start getting the work done. And depending on the environment, the form and the information that you're putting in, the form might be different.
Think about who's benefitting from this request. Who's your customer? Who's your user? What benefit do you expect to deliver with this request?
And then by looking at some of that information, you start to think through the business justification and giving the people doing the work a sense of purpose of why they're actually working on a task—versus just turning it into a task and asking somebody to execute that.
Giving people context that way helps them understand the value that they're driving.
About the Author
Hala is a speaker, entrepreneur, and technologist who transforms organizations and creates real, tangible business results. She is also the president of 27Sprints and the co-founder of Produktivity Box.Follow on Twitter More Content by Hala Saleh