Project Mgt for a creative business

One key lesson learnt from working in this creative industry is the need for companies, agencies, and anyone leading a client or project to operate with a greater level of due diligence, governance and compliance. What I mean by that is ‘transparency’ ‘accountable’ and open to scrutiny on every minute level of financial and operational detail.

Whilst we work in this unique creative industry that requires all of the flexibility and agility to create magic, make changes at the last minute and even pull a few things out of thin air we must remember that we are a business first and that we are doing this with somebody else’s money. We, as project managers, producers, project directors, must think beyond the P&L of the project, bad project and financial management can have long lasting effects on the company, its future and its client relationships.

As a company/ agency we must remember to protect the margin, manage staff time and resources and operate in a way that does not undermine the roof over our heads. A tough game for anyone running projects with a client that is made up of brand managers, marketing teams and a procurement dept all watching over you and making more and more demands against a project that probably does not reflect what was sold, cost for or expected.

Over the last 10yrs or more the event industry has developed unique management reporting tools to help not only budget the project in line with time and resource but also new tools that connect directly into the companies financial reporting systems, making these tools instrumental to the monthly, quarterly and annual forecasts. And I am not talking about Excel.

My call out to all project directors, project managers, and producers, in fact to anyone wishing to move up the management chain in this industry is to start learning these systems. Unfortunately they are designed to be used from within the company and not easy to apply as a freelancer but that should not stop you from learning through all of the publicly available material and even training courses put out by the software owners.

Let’s take a quick look at the three most common systems that I have seen and used;

Deltek Maconomy: In theory, it’s a great tool and a great way to centralise time keeping, budgeting, expenses, and project planning. The two agencies I have seen use it, love it and drive everything through it. Unfortunately my experience is that it is not very user-friendly and overtly difficult to use. Probably a great tool for the CFO and finance team but not so from a project management basis. The bigger global ad agencies love it, particularly those with deep client integration.

Deltek Workbook: One easy-to-use system – started life as a finance tool but developed over years with creative agency input. Handles the full end to end project management, scheduling, time, resource, vendor audits & finances in your agency. Very good for global agencies needing to keep an eye on the spend.

Procim: much like Deltek Workbook but totally designed and developed over the years by event industry people. An excellent tool which communicates both with clients and project/ operational staff. I would say it has been the benchmark for the industry for many many years and hard to beat, especially allowing a project or group of offices to connect and standardise it working practices across the company on one system.

All three systems above, and others like them, are likely to be found in a global agency everywhere. As agencies and the industry reflects on how they are going to change and adapt with future working practices I would suggest to all freelancers handling budgets to get their head around such systems in order to be better prepared to serve the agencies. They, the agencies, will need us and our management skills even more than they realise.

Give me a call if you wish to discuss any aspect of my experience in using these tools. You can find me on all of the usual social media channels.

This article was first published on by Ajay Parekh.