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If you ask, "Who is most responsible for driving value at an agency?" the initial answers almost always refer to the corner-office executives. And for good reason: those in the C-suite and on the executive team are visionary leaders, responsible for providing strategic, financial, and operational leadership for the company.

However, although senior leaders often have a good understanding of what's happening across the entire client portfolio, it just isn't feasible (or smart) to expect them to maintain that understanding at the individual project and client level.

Companies in the advertising and marketing industries who realize the full value (and potential) of their project managers (PMs) know that although executive leadership has an important role, those who are thoroughly entrenched in day-to-day operations can have the most direct impact on clients and on the business.

Here are three specific and meaningful ways you can elevate and empower your PMs to provide more business value.

1. Drive visibility by giving PMs access to the right data

Many PMs are praised for hiding in the background and flying under the radar, especially when things are going well. However, that undercuts the meaningful value they can bring to your clients and business: visibility into the day-to-day inner workings of every project.

When that access is used effectively, it can add significant value to client projects. PMs can spot project roadblocks and solve them before they affect the budget or timeline. The best solution to a problem is solving it before it even presents itself.

To best drive visibility, your PMs need access to the right data and tools. To do that, it's essential that you...

  • Combine all of your project data into one system and give access to everyone who needs it
  • Choose a system that generates real-time insights and reports
  • Allow (and expect) project managers to have strategic client discussions

Doing so allows your PM to move from a silent cog in the background to a value-driving partner who has a leading role in helping the agency and clients make more informed, data-backed decisions. That saves money and resources while building a stronger sense of trust with the client.

2. Tap into flexibility with a dynamic approach

Working at a client services organization means managing a variety of projects for various industries and service offerings. The morning might involve bringing a new app to life, whereas the afternoon can be spent designing a website or consulting on a new service offering with a client.

Being successful in a rapidly shifting landscape requires flexibility and adaptability. And that's exactly what PMs specialize in. When you empower your PMs, they will know how and when to tap into those skills to provide more value to their projects, teams, and clients.

In practice, tapping into that skillset and adopting a dynamic approach means PMs can...

  • Recognize no two clients or projects are the same
  • Create scopes and project plans using a particular methodology or specific tools that support their client's organizational needs
  • Adjust timelines, budgets, and teams along the way to adapt to changes or get a project back on track

Using a dynamic approach allows PMs to further build client trust and empowers them to become strategic advisors to clients.

And as you continue to build more client trust, you increase the likelihood of client retention and eventually broaden the nature of work that your agency can take on, opening roads to new business opportunities.

Align on accuracy

Most projects are under enormous pressure to be completed. That pressure, that need to get to the end can often be what drives decisions. But that's never a good way to put your best work into the world.

Avoiding reactive decisions requires a thorough and complete understanding of all the project parameters. And who at the agency has the greatest ability to give an accurate assessment? You guessed it: project managers.

Let's say your forecasts had a project netting your agency $100K. However, at project completion, you're left with just $80K. What happened? Were people on paid time off? Did the project change?

Project managers are the only ones who would know. They have the granular level of insight to know whether something is a one-off situation or a trend you should be worried about. But for them to be able to readily identify any issue, you need to arm them with the tools, data, and insights needed to deliver on accuracy efficiently.

To maximize your accuracy, you need to ensure you are...

  • Providing your PMs with real-time data so they can provide accurate insights, reporting, and forecasting
  • Using tools to maintain the accuracy of project plans as they continue to shift throughout the span of a project
  • Empowering your PMs to have full and complete accountability across all external-facing elements

A strong project manager with access to real-time data and inputs ensures a relentless commitment to accuracy and quality throughout the entire process. When you give your PMs the right tools to lead with accuracy, your whole organization will improve budget forecasts and tighten schedules.

* * *

Most people associate an agency's success with senior leadership. Executives provide the vision and set the tone, after all.

However, once you consider the essential role project managers play, it's clear they drive real business value. Their unique level of access allows for visibility into all the essential functions. They bring the flexibility needed to respond when projects evolve. And they're responsible for delivering an accurate assessment of everything that happens at a macro and micro level.

When viewed through that lens, it's easy to see how PMs deserve a little more credit and a lot more empowerment to help your agency reach its goals.

More Resources on Project Management

Effective Marketing Project Management, Even If You Have No Experience

Top Hacks for Becoming a Project Management Master: Nathan Ellering on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

How Agile Project Management Saved My Marketing Team

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The Biggest Driver of Your Business Value (Hint: It's Not Top Management)

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image of Dave Annis

Dave Annis is a co-founder and the COO of Parallax, a professional services software company. He spent 14 years working at digital agencies such as Fallon, Zeus Jones, and Frebella Inc.

LinkedIn: David Annis