Monthly Archives: December 2008

When is a project a project?

Many pieces of work carried out in a typical marketing dept can be classified as projects.

  • A new product launch
  • A sales promotion
  • A new ad campaign
  • A brand extension
  • A packaging update
Managing Marketing projects

Managing Marketing projects

All are discrete pieces of work which could be defined as ‘projects’. Except that in a typical marketing department, they aren’t classified as projects. They are pieces of work which need to be done as part of the marketing manager’s job description – it’s just the day job.

That’s fine, but perhaps this leads to a less rigorous approach to the piece of work than would be the case if it was managed as a formal project.

One view that is commonly held by marketers is that ‘a project management approach will stifle my creativity and spontaneity’. That may or may not be true, depending on your definition of project management. A ‘project’ is a piece of work with a discrete start and a discrete end and this can obviously vary in size. At one end of the scale, a project might be ‘build a new Football Stadium’. At the other end a small project might consist of a departmental reorganisation. Both have beginnings and ends, so are both projects but the approach to each will be markedly different. There is much that marketers can learn from the world of project management, without stifling their creative juices.

  • Write a Project Plan – this doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, an excel spreadsheet is fine with tasks and responsibilities down the side and a timeline along the top. This gives a view of the tasks which need to be done, who is responsible for doing them and by when.
    • TOP TIP 1: Share the plan with everyone who is involved with the project tasks. Sounds obvious, but doesn’t always happen.
    • TOP TIP 2: Keep the plan up to date. When something changes, update the plan and re-circulate it. You don’t need to become a slave to the plan, just spend a few minutes every week reviewing it to keep it current
  • Understand the Risks involved in running the project. What changes will it involve? Who will be affected? How likely is it that the identified risks will actually occur? How serious is each risk? Have a proactive plan to deal with each risk (even if the plan says ‘we see x as a risk but will take the chance that it doesn’t happen’. This is an acceptable risk response, providing everyone involved understands that this is the decision that has been made).
  • Monitor the budget. Keep on top of cost, particularly costs incurred by third parties.
  • When the project reaches its end, have a ‘wrap up’ review. What went well, what lessons were learned?
    • TOP TIP 1: Document these learnings and save them in a central repository which is accessible to anyone who may run a similar project in the future.

None of this is rocket science but much of it is ignored by marketing execs who are keen ‘to get things moving’. Time spent thinking about the piece of work up front, planning and anticipating the potential issues, will free up time later on – guaranteed!


Thought of the day:

Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day he drove up and said, Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.’
Chuck replied,
‘Well, then just give me my money back.’
The farmer said,
‘Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.’
Chuck said,
‘Ok, then, just bring me the dead donkey.’
The farmer asked,
‘What ya gonna do with him?’
Chuck said,
‘I’m going to raffle him off.’
The farmer said,
‘You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!’
Chuck said,
‘Sure I can Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.’
A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked,
‘What happened with that dead donkey?’
Chuck said,
‘I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998.00.’
The farmer said,
‘Didn’t anyone complain?’
Chuck said,
‘Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.’



Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes and manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see or email:

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