Generic project management software is good for a wide variety of projects. That is exactly why it falls short for marketing project management. Generic project management software is, well, generic. Marketing project management software should focus on the way marketing teams and marketing projects work. To fully optimize marketing, project management software must focus on the unique needs of marketing, rather than be a one size fit all solution for everyone from building contractors to NASA. Below, we examine 5 key areas where marketing project management software should address the project structures, flow, tracking and sharing needs common in marketing organizations.
“Marketing’s needs go well beyond the lowest common denominator capabilities of generic project management software.”
True for marketers, but even more true for marketing projects. Marketing projects range from a simple blog post to a large product launch. If you’re only tracking tasks for publishing a blog post, generic project management software will easily fit the bill. Marketing project management software has to accommodate the greater depth and complexity of most marketing projects, including something as complex as a product launch.
First, marketing project management software must address an unknown level of projects and sub projects. For instance, a product launch may have sub projects related to advertising, PR, events and so forth. Within those sub projects, say advertising, you may have on-line, print and media advertising. Within media advertising you may create further sub projects for radio and television. And so on, and so on. You may also want to later move sub projects around from one parent project to another, or move them up or down levels. This is simply how marketing projects work, and it’s how marketing project management software should work, too.
In project management speak, marketing project management software must provide an unbounded and flexible hierarchy model. It must accommodate an unlimited level of projects and sub projects, not just a couple of levels or one long list of tasks. It must allow you to move projects around, both horizontally and vertically, at any point in the hierarchy. In general, your marketing project management software hierarchy model must be highly flexible, because marketing projects are not shallow and simple.
There’s no model for how to construct a team for a marketing project. The team could consist of people from within marketing, colleagues from other parts of the company, and outside staff from agencies or contractors. Marketing project management software must handle the array of challenges these varying teams present.
Take our product launch, for example. We may want everyone in marketing to see, collaborate and comment on everything related to the launch. However, we might want colleagues from product or sales to see everything, but only collaborate on select parts of the launch project, say product literature. Then we have outside people, like a design contractor who needs to work with the team on product literature graphics, but shouldn’t see anything else.
Generic project management software handles basic privileges, but stumbles with managing a complex mix. Marketing project management software must mix and match visibility and collaboration privileges (meaning a mix of create, read, and update capability) on a person by person, project by project basis. Otherwise, your marketing team is forced to work around your project management software, or only use it with certain types of projects or people. Clearly, that’s not a good option.
So far, we’ve only talked about projects. Projects are where we typically think of the work happening. But that’s only part of the marketing project work flow. Our marketing project management software should be able to handle the whole project process.
The first part of the marketing project process starts with ideas. After vetting and prioritization, ideas become tomorrow’s projects. How does generic project management software handle ideas? It doesn’t. Unlike marketing, most business operations that need project management software don’t constantly brainstorm and innovate the same way as marketing. So, generic project management software starts (and ends) with the project, and ignores ideas. That’s not bad, it just doesn’t fit marketing.
Marketing project management software must track and manage ideas, because they are a core part of marketing project flow. Let’s look at our product launch again. The activities and content for the launch are not laid out like a blueprint for a building. From deciding what channels to employ to the details of specific messaging, running the launch starts with collecting, grooming and prioritizing ideas. The best ideas, balanced against resources, become active projects. When those projects complete, the process repeats until the launch is done. Most marketing projects follow this flow. Ideas are a crucial part of that flow. We need to track and manage them, as well as share with colleagues what ideas were considered, how they were prioritized, and which are planned for execution. If our marketing project management software does not track and manage ideas, then we fail to optimize an important part of the marketing process.
Just as marketing projects begin with ideas, marketing projects end with results (we hope). Generic project management software manages tasks and schedules, but not results. This is fine for construction, but not for marketing. Some marketing results exist in marketing automation or advertising systems, but they are not tied back to the project details that drove them. Marketing project management software must help track and tie results to projects.
Lets take our product launch again. The high level goal may be leads or sales for the new product. Certainly, its important to track these. Its also important to track results for the launch sub projects. Attendees at events, downloads of product information, email opens, etc., are good examples. Recording these metrics with their projects is the basis for learning. Referring to the details of previous projects and outcomes helps improve future projects. Without the record of project details and results, you are likely to fall prey to your favorite proverb about forgetting history and being doomed to repeat it. Recording results with related project details is a valuable way to continuously improve marketing projects and outcomes.
Lastly, marketers need to keep everyone up to date on their project plans, activities and results. Generic project management software again falls short, as it tends to focus only on the project team. This means that marketing is forced to share information via spreadsheets and presentations (which always seem to be out of date).
Good marketing project management software shouldn’t stop with the project team. With the necessary project data already at hand, it should share information automatically. Roadmaps, project statuses, and project results should be shared with executives, sales and product teams who will always see real-time information. Rather than continuously chasing data and updating spreadsheets, marketing should be freed to spend more cycles driving results.
Generic project management software covers part of marketing’s needs. It leaves other needs unaddressed. This is understandable, because marketing’s needs go well beyond the lowest common denominator capabilities of generic project management software. Marketing project management software has emerged to specifically address the unique combination of requirements required to properly optimize marketing teams and their work. Generic options are better than nothing, but can’t compare to the tailored benefits of true marketing project management software.