I’m a big fan of project management methodology. However, applying formal project management to marketing companies can be difficult. One of the challenges marketing firms have in adopting project management methodologies as described in the PMBOK Guide (The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 4th Edition) is that they aren’t often described in terms of the types of projects marketing companies or art departments do every day. Nor is the order of events generally the way marketing companies work.
One example of this is the classic approach to time and schedule development. In the PMBOK Guide, a project’s schedule is determined by the number of resources applied to the project and the types of resources applied to a project. This seems to be a hold-over from manufacturing or engineering (or other projects where the degree of uncertainty is much higher). But it doesn’t apply to a marketing department. For most marketing companies, a project’s schedule is determined by the client. The client has a specific due date where things have to be ready by to coincide with a holiday season or product launch, event, sales presentation or trade show.
The due date is the same, regardless of the number of resources applied to the project or task. It needs to be done by the due date.
This gap often drives creative groups to look at Agile project management processes since it sounds faster and looser. The problem with Agile for marketing companies is that the work doesn’t easily fit into the length of a sprint. The deadlines for a marketing company need to remain determined by a client’s needs or a strategic decision on timing.
For most marketing departments or agencies, neither process nor resourcing decisions drive deadlines. Clients drive deadlines.
That being said, not even the PMI would argue that every step of every project management knowledge area needs to be used on every project. The PMBOK Guide is a collection of different best practices held together by one model, one conceptual set of guidelines, rope on how they can all fit together. But there are many ways of applying the techniques and ideas to different practice areas. And specific practice areas, like marketing, should piece together what works best for them, balancing the benefits of proven and tested processes with the need to meet clients’ needs and to operate as efficiently as possible.