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  • phippstastic 3:00 pm on April 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: delegate, infographic, phippstastic, , strategic planning, time management, training   

    Find the Time for Strategic Planning 

    Find the Time for Strategic Planning

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  • phippstastic 4:14 pm on March 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    How Project Management Can Deliver Results In Any Business 

    Project Management principals developed initially in the construction and software industries.  Today, its gaining a foothold in every aspect of business, and for good reason.

    Has your company embraced strategic planning but you consistently miss your goals?  For initiatives large and small, the missing piece may be Project Management.  The following benchmarks come from PM Solution’s 2012 report on the state of the Project Management Office (PMO):

    • 30% decrease in failed projects
    • 25% increase in projects delivered under budget
    • 22% improvement in productivity
    • 31% increase in customer satisfaction
    • 19% increase in projects delivered ahead of schedule
    • 39% improvement in projects aligned with objectives
    • 15% cost savings per project (% of total project cost)

    These are impressive numbers but I should also point out that they are national averages, so your individual results could be even more significant.

    The key is recognizing that Project Management is about changing the culture of the organization to be better structured for success.  It also involves putting an individual, or team, in place to provide monitoring, communication and ongoing training for sustainable success.

    If you’re looking for a real solution to your company’s sluggish growth, reach out and contact Phippstastic today.

    Justin Phipps
    justin@phippstastic.com
    402.943.8769

     
  • phippstastic 1:19 am on January 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: scope creep, scope document   

    Fundamental Elements of a Project Scope Document 

    For project management to be successful, documentation and communication are critical.  With a formal, written Project Request in hand, followed by a hosted requirement review and creative meeting with stakeholders, you’re now ready to lock down the details in a Scope Document.

    I’m not fooling myself to think a Marketing person will enjoy writing out every detail of every project.  What I can promise is the solace of knowing you have documentation if scope creep rears its ugly head.

    In this blog post, I’ll provide you the basic structure of a Scope Document.  The level of detail is up to you since, initially, it’s important that you simply begin the process of documentation.  This format may change over time to meet the unique requirements of your organization and the clients with whom you interact.

    __________________________________________

    • Project Description – Provide a summary of the project, including the problem/opportunity, goals/objectives and any information that will help the team understand the need for the project.  Outline specific requirements in this section.
    • Design Requirements Outline what format(s) will be used in the deliverables (presentation/PDF/video/email/web page/…).  Identify the target audience, their level of sophistication (industry knowledge or technology comfort level), and any parameters — such as dimensions required to fit in an existing packet.
    • Technical and Infrastructure Requirements What process and procedures are required for ongoing maintenance.  Is new hardware or software required to support this project?  Is it a large display or large print quantity that requires storage?  If you’re outsourcing a portion of the project, will this same vendor be need to provide maintenance or can it be built specially for in-house servicing.
    • Functional Requirements – Insert an outline of all the functionality you would like for your project.  For a website, what is the desired activity and actions by the user?  For a technical display, what functionality should be successfully demonstrated?
    • Estimated Project Duration

    Task

    Hours

    Description – broad categories or by resource

    0 hours

    Description

    0 hours

    Description (add more as needed)

    0 hours

     

     

    Total

    0 hours

    • Assumptions and Agreements – Insert a list of any assumptions or agreements the project sponsor must meet to maintain project goals/objectives and timelines.  If this document is reviewed and signed without revisions than these assumptions become facts.
    • For Additional Information or Clarification – Identify the Project Sponsor and provide a list of any additional contacts that may be referenced to clarify specific questions related to the project.  You can include Marketing or contractor contact information for easier reference but you should be the only one using this information.
    • Project Deliverables and Timeline – Document the date materials are due to Marketing, the date Marketing resources will begin working on the project, milestones and completion date.

    The last element is to include an area to capture signatures and signing date.  This serves as verification that all stakeholders have read the Scope Document and agree on its accuracy, completeness, terms and cost.  This includes; 1) the Project Sponsor, 2) the person who’s budget is covering the cost of the project, and 3) the Project Manager or Marketing Director.

    __________________________________________

    The project requirements may change over time but this document should not be edited once it’s signed.  Any modification to the requirements, adjustment in timeline or cost, or change of Project Sponsor or key stakeholders are documented in an amendment to this document.  Another good rule of thumb in all documentation is to use job titles in place of specific names as much as possible.

    Provide copies of the signed Scope Document to stakeholders or make it available on a common drive, Intranet or file server.  Also, bring this document into every meeting where the project will be reviewed or discussed so you can provide immediate clarification if questions arise.

    Every department in your organization should be using similar documentation in their endeavors.  If not, they should, and Marketing can take the lead in making this evolutionary change so your company can enjoy new levels of collaboration and success.

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 11:38 am on December 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Giving Them What They Need, Not Want They Ask For 

    In my blogs, I’ve talked about taking the first steps into Marketing Project Management.  I’ve also talked about migrating marketing teams from a reactive position in the organization to that of a proactive leader.  Ideally, the marketing team drives projects.  In reality though, there will be times when a marketing piece is requested.  In this blog, I’d like to talk about the Interview step in the project request process.

    Although accepting a project request may seem like a reactive activity, there is an opportunity early in the process to take a proactive position.  In the post, “Creating a Simple Project Request Template,” I discussed capturing initial details from the requestor.  To get the project off to a strong start, you’ll need to either interview the requestor to ensure clarity or, for larger projects, organize a Creative Meeting.

    The interview is a small meeting with the Project Manager and requestor.  The interview might also be attended by the Creative Director and/or a key member of the client group if the requestor is not comfortable with their understanding of the content.  This interaction allows you to walk through the Project Request and make sure everyone is crystal clear on the deliverable(s).

    For larger project requests, you will need to host a creative meeting and invite all of the relevant creative and client team members.  The goal here is not necessarily to discuss the points of the Project Request but to build a proactive marketing project:

    1. Put the Project Request in a folder and never open it again — it contains little useful information for this step.
    2. Determine what the requestor is hoping to achieve.
    3. Research everything you can about the circumstances.
    4. Explore every marketing tool – existing or innovative — that might be utilized to best achieve the goal.
    5. Brainstorm key message points and gain buy-in from stakeholders.
    6. Document the outcomes from the meeting to use as the foundation for your scope document.

    If you’re completely confused by the guidelines I’ve just outlined, let’s walk through an example with which you might be familiar:

    The sales team is attending a tradeshow and requests the creation of new fact sheets.  The Project Request contains some relevant details, including the date of the event and initial thoughts on the desired goal.  In the creative meeting — as the experts on presentation, engagement and communication — Marketing now uses finesse to take control of the objectives and deliverables.

    • Your team recognizes that fact sheets represent a traditional form of marketing and sales teams rely too heavily on these pieces to move prospects to the next stage in the funnel.
    • You obtain an attendee contact list from the event coordinator to send a pre-event mailer or emailer to draw attention to your booth.
    • Talking with the event coordinator about areas of thought leadership in your company, you discover they lost a pre-conference speaker and your CFO would be an excellent substitute.
    • You might propose drawing traffic to the booth with a very visual presentation on a large screen TV.
    • Rather than handing out collateral, you suggest a creative way to capture prospect’s information and interests in a database, allowing for easier follow-up immediately after the event.
    • While campaigns might be the domain of the sales team in your organization, it’s an area where marketing can play a vital role in maintaining continuity and creating a call-to-action.  I’ll discuss this more in a future blog.

    Through higher profile engagement, you can break the cycle of the marketing team simply taking orders.  Use these opportunities to establish your expertise and desire to drive innovation.  This also allows you to build the case for becoming more engaged in strategic and budget planning for the organization.  It’s about getting the entire company thinking differently, planning further ahead and in greater detail and communicating those plans across departmental lines.

    Marketing needs to hold a leadership position in the company, but just arguing that point will get you nowhere.  Actions speak louder than words, and this proactive approach will demonstrate your team’s commitment to quality, desire to take initiative and ability to deliver results.  This is your time to shine while also giving your marketing team a much higher level of job satisfaction.

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 12:26 am on December 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Achieving Proper Alignment Between Sales and Marketing 

    I’d like to preface this article by being perfectly clear…sales people are absolutely vital and, without them, any business might as well turn off the lights and lock the doors.  To paraphrase wise words from a hard working sales manager I know, “ There are million$ of reasons to trust in how our wholesalers do their job.”  With that, let’s look at where sales and marketing can get in each other’s way.

    Small companies have to be scrappy in the beginning, everyone playing multiple roles and doing whatever it takes to build a profitable client base.  Sales people often find themselves out on the road during those early days without marketing materials.  Their sales pitch evolves from a yellow pad to some content-bloated Powerpoint slides.  Somewhere along the way a glossy flyer is commissioned to leave behind with prospects.  Sales activity gains traction, appointments start booking weeks out and soon a marketing position is added to pick up requests from the sales team.

    At this stage, the marketing coordinator is more reactive than proactive and may even report to the sales manager.  Let’s move five years into the future — or wherever you are today — with sales and marketing teams both growing in numbers and the sales associates still heavily involved in creating materials.  This may continue running smoothly… until sales activity hits a slump.

    The close alignment of sales and marketing now starts to expose its weaknesses, often manifesting with the creative group suddenly in the crosshairs.  The reality is this:

    • Sales people start lobbing requests at marketing in response to their last bad appointment. Multiply this activity times the number of wholesalers in your company.
    • Marketing starts working on this “miracle brochure”, but every time they present a draft to the group, they’re getting additional feedback based on the bad appointments from this week.
    • The days and weeks roll by and marketing comes under heavy fire because the miracle brochure fails to progress.
    • Revenue is dropping and the sales people are finding it easier to tinker with marketing pieces than pick up the phone and face another difficult call with a prospect.

    Your company may push through this lull. It may, however, require a change in the role of marketing to bounce back, but change is necessary.  Marketing needs to be a proactive part of the organization, and the incoming lines of communication have to be streamlined, structured and filtered.

    Sales people are a critical source of feedback from the ever changing marketplace.  At the same time, company leadership is making strategic decisions on the direction of the company to develop new products or services.  While marketing is performing their own research, the sales manager, service manager, product manager and company president should be filtering what’s coming in from their own listening posts.

    Together, this group determines where to focus the sales message and how to sell your company’s product or service.  Use this direction to build your marketing catalog and then work with the sales manager to train the sales people on using them.

    Did I just over-simplify this whole transition and jump to the fairytale ending?  You caught me.  The reality is that this can be a painful process for most companies.  It often requires the addition of a Marketing Manager or CMO to help shift gears and break marketing off into a separate, proactive department.  I will also warn you that marketing is an addiction the sales manager will not give up easily.

    I’ve never promised this transition would be easy.  What I do maintain is that it’s vital to the success of the creative group and the growth of the company.  This effort will pay dividends, so don’t give up.

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 12:24 am on December 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Intro to Marketing Project Structure 

    You’ve decided to explore project management for your marketing team, and it seems like a huge endeavor.  Let me put you at ease.  Like climbing Mt. Everest, you can ascend in phases and proceed once you and your team feel properly acclimated.

    Project Management involves the entire organization.  Before reading this, you’ll want to review my previous posts, “Marketing Project Management Basics” and “Creating a Simple Project Request Template.”  While you’re laying this new foundation with your team and introducing a new submission process to the rest of the company, you can start building the framework for your projects.

    Every Project has a Start Date and Due Date.  To me the start date is set when you receive the project request form.  The due date is often dictated by a product launch, trade show, sales presentation or other fixed deadline.  For this article, we’re going to skip the Interview and Scope Document steps and talk about project structure.

    You’ll need to divide your project into manageable segments called Tasks.  You can create more specific structure later using a To-do list, but let’s focus on tasks for the moment.  The rule of thumb is that you should have only one person assigned to a task.  If more than one person is required, consider breaking your task structure down even further.  Tasks also have individual start dates and due dates.

    Milestones are used to break a project into phases or segments.  Structure and schedule tasks so they end upon successfully reaching a milestone.  New tasks are then created to reach the next milestone in the project’s timeline.

    Let’s stop and see an example of what’s been presented to this point.  In this example, we’ve received a request for a trade show display, interviewed the requestor to gather specific details and obtained sign off on a scope document.  We’ll even assume that the type of display has been chosen.

    • Project > Begin
      • Create three display design concepts – (assigned to) Designer #1
      • Present concepts to requestor – Creative Director
    • Milestone > Concept approved
      • Design display – Designer #1
      • Present draft to requestor – Creative Director
    • Milestone > Draft approved
      • Revisions – Designer #1
      • Artwork sign off by requestor – Project Manager
    • Milestone > Artwork approved
      • Order display pieces – Marketing Coordinator
      • Display delivered
      • Check display for accuracy and completeness – Marketing Coordinator
      • Train requestor on use of display – Marketing Coordinator
    • Project sign off – Project Manager
    • Milestone > Project completed

    A couple of key points to make about this example:

    1. Always meet with the requestor in person at each milestone.  Either the Creative Director or Project Manager needs to explain and defend the logic behind the work.  This can’t be accomplished properly through email.
    2. Schedule the project so you’re presenting one draft and making one revision.  Even then, the revision should only accommodate factual errors in the language or design elements.  Defend your team’s position as the experts in imagery and language.

    Now that the project tasks are outlined, it’s time to set start dates and due dates.  (I’m going to give you some quick pointers in this blog post, but start exploring project management and Gantt chart tools to refine this process.)  The rule of thumb is to work backward from your deadline.

    In our example, we’re designing a display for a trade show on June 15.

    • Trade show requires displays to arrive at the warehouse by June 8.
    • With five day shipping, the display needs to ship June 4.
    • Allow two weeks between receiving display and shipping, in case there are issues – receive May 21.
    • Vendor requires three weeks to order, print and deliver display to your office – order April 30.
    • Artwork needs final approval by April 27.
    • Give designer two days for revisions – begin April 25.
    • Present draft by April 24.
    • Give designer three days to design display – begin April 19.
    • Present concepts by April 18.
    • Give designer two days to create concepts – begin April 13.
    • Project begins April 13 or earlier.

    You should now have a clear vision of how a structured schedule, with clearly documented and communicated milestones, is critical to the successful completion of a project.  It’s also a good idea to build in buffer time along the way since this is already a tight schedule that doesn’t take into consideration sick days, decision-makers traveling, or other unanticipated delays.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve only scratched the surface on the art of scheduling projects and tasks, but these are the fundamentals. Web-based programs, like ProWorkflow, allow you to not only follow this structure but also see where your team is already allocated, so you can avoid double-booking resources as you input new projects.

    In conclusion, review your current projects and see if this exposes any holes in your current process.  Start putting some of this in practice, even if only for your own benefit.  You can get a better sense of what functionality will help you the most as you explore software tools.  Don’t give up; it will pay dividends in the end.

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 7:34 pm on December 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Marketing Project Management Basics 

    Project Management is a fairly new business discipline that’s gaining traction in more industries and companies every day.  Because of its left brain origins, project management is not a natural fit for marketing departments.  The reality is that project management can revolutionize the role of creative teams within an organization.

    The good news is that project management can be introduced in phases.  Start with the basics of time management, collaboration, documentation and communication.

    1. Have the team document their time.  Although often construed as micromanaging this is actually a powerful time management technique.  It’s an eye-opening exercise when employees can see where their time is being spent.  This also lays the foundation for you to start documenting time allocations for future tasks and projects.

    A couple of key concepts to follow; 1) provide a simple tool for time tracking — there are a number of web-based products, and 2) alleviate stress and avoid inaccurate data by following current research and setting the expectation of five hours of actual project time each day.

    2. Encourage collaboration.  Break the cycle of employees putting on headphones and disappearing into a document or design for days on end.  What’s clear in the mind of one person may be confusing to others and a grammatically correct sentence may lack the flow needed to be easily read and understood.

    Through formal or informal collaboration among team members, these issues are brought to light early in the process.  This eliminates resistance to making changes after many hours of personal investment in a piece and avoids costly delays late in the process.  Bottom line, collaboration improves job satisfaction through the open exchange of ideas.

    3. Create project documentation.  Do you have conversations in passing only to come under attack days later because the other person constituted that as a project request?  Do you frequently run over schedule because of project creep through ever-changing requirements?

    It’s vital that you establish a formal project submission process and create a scope document before work begins.  You can view a simple project submission form in my blog post, “Creating a Simple Project Request Template”.

    The key to a scope document is to provide as much detail as possible.  This ensures everyone involved is clear on their role in the project and outlines exactly what Marketing will deliver upon completion.  The scope document should be read and signed by someone as high up the org chart as possible.  The project criteria can be changed during production but requires review and amendment of the scope document.

    4. Provide consistent communication.  Once a project is started, meet weekly or bi-weekly with key stakeholders and team members to communicate progress and resolve issues.  The “big idea” people in your company will resist these meetings because they don’t like to be bothered by details.  The reality is that these meetings are absolutely critical to keeping projects on schedule.

    This is a deal breaker.  If a client – internal or external – refuses to maintain these progress updates, you need to walk away from the project because you’re being set up to fail.

    Even at its basic level project management can seem overwhelming and intimidating, that’s because you’re changing the culture of the entire organization.  I promise you the effort will pay dividends.

    Marketing needs to be a driving force in the success and growth of any company.  Without the proper documentation and structure, however, marketing becomes an easy target when revenue stagnates or declines.  Project management protects your interests and ensures informed decision making at all levels of the organization.

     

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 7:16 pm on December 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , project request, project submission   

    Creating a Simple Project Request Template 

    Formalizing your project request process has three benefits; 1) making sure you are aware of all project requests, 2) capturing key information needed to determine the scope and priority of a project, and 3) helping the project requestor make sure they have enough details to make a formal request.

    A couple of things to note as you review/use this template:

    • Question #1 is captured only as a suggestion.  Marketing should make the final recommendation on the most effective means in which to achieve the project’s goals.
    • Question #7 is vital.  Too often marketing materials collect dust when the mailing list or distribution strategy fails to materialize.
    • Question #9 identifies the non-marketing project contact.  This person needs to be empowered to answer questions and make decisions to keep the project on schedule.

    Customize as needed for your company and make available in an electronic format on your intranet or pubic drive.  Also, it may not be necessary to require 100% completion during initial implementation.  It’s more important that people recognize you’ve put a process in place – and are prepared to enforce it – than create a barrier that stifles collaboration.


    Please answer the following questions to begin the project proposal process:

    1. Give a short description of the project, the goals and measurable objectives. Use the following sentence to get you started:“Create a [brochure/mailer/email/video/presentation…] addressing [audience] to [inform/educate/persuade/communicate…] [about what].”
    2. Describe the audience this project is targeting and how they will engage with the piece(s).
    3. What is the single most important message you want your audience to get from this piece [Convince… That… Because…]?
    4. Describe the tone of the writing and the imagery. Is it formal, sophisticated, casual, funny or shocking?
    5. Do you need this by a specific date?  If so, provide details on the circumstances around that due date?
    6. Is this project a revision of, or based on, an existing piece?
    7. Do you have a distribution list (include spreadsheet or other instructions.)?
    8. Send any support documents for your project via email to [project manager].
    9. Who is the project sponsor?

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
  • phippstastic 4:14 am on December 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: corporate gift, giveaway, promotional item, trade show, tradeshow   

    Applying Advertising Rules to Promotional Items 

    Purchasing water bottles, pens, and stress toys makes you the envy of the company.  Unfortunately, no one is witness to your agony of flipping through thick catalogs searching for the best end-column pricing.  On top of that, everyone is lobbing their random opinions of what makes a good promo item and suddenly you’re settling on another chip clip or coffee mug.

    Don’t miss the opportunity to apply the same analysis with promo items you use when purchasing advertising.  Reach and frequency are just as relevant with booth trinkets and can help you focus your decision making process.

    A giveaway that finds a home on a client’s desk for at least 30 days should be your goal.  You receive valuable impressions through frequency by having it visible every day and additional reach when noticed by coworkers.

    You don’t have to buy an expensive promotional item, simply consider a unique piece your prospects and clients will find useful in their everyday activities, and make sure it’s branded properly.  A phone number or web address makes your item actionable when they’re ready to act.

    Justin Phipps
    President at Phippstastic Consulting

     
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