What does a project manager even do?
by Margaret Rogers, Lead Project Manager
Margaret oversees the micro and macro management of all work. A liaison between clients and the Cobble Hill team, she is our point of contact, supervising each project both internally and externally.
I will be the first to admit, before I came into my current role as project manager (PM) at Cobble Hill, I also had fleeting thoughts of “What does a project manager even do?” The title is vague, and beyond the obvious “oh, they manage the project–duh,” it does not provide insight into the either the daily or long-term responsibilities of the position.
A project manager plays a vital role in the design and development process of all Cobble Hill’s creative and strategic projects. Without a project manager, there would be no one to oversee the overall workflow, communication, and operations of the project at hand. Let me break it down for you a little further.
Serve as the main point of contact for the client
From kickoff to launch, the project manager serves as the main point of contact for the client. Any and all day to day correspondence is directed to the project manager, who always responds in a timely fashion. Think of them as your #bestie for the duration of the project. You will work side by side to achieve the exact aesthetic and functionality you have in mind, ultimately launching the website, print collateral, or brand that is everything you imagined — and more!
Relay communication between the client and internal strategy, design, and development teams
After sharing your ideas, thoughts, and feedback with the project manager, they distill it into an organized fashion and pass it along to the relevant team members. This involves digesting the information, organizing it so that the design and development teams can quickly grasp the directives, providing any supporting assets or information required to get the job done, answering any questions, and setting a realistic deadline for completion. Depending on the item, this communication may be done solely via Basecamp and/or over Slack, or it may require either a one-on-one or group meeting. Oh, and it always involves a paper trail for future reference!
Provide strategic insight into the overall direction of the project
Since the project manager works very closely and directly with the client from day one, they have an intimate understanding of the client’s brand, thought process, aesthetic, and communicative nature. The PM works hard to fully understand the ins-and-outs of the business, organization, product, or event, going beyond a skim-the-surface grasp of the specific deliverable. Ultimately, this means that the PM is able to relay critical foresight and strategic direction on the project, suggesting additional needs or perspectives that should be considered to successfully achieve the end goal. A good project manager should be able to anticipate a client’s thoughts and feedback before sharing or presenting any deliverables to them. Because of this, the PM works closely with the creative teams on design and/or functionality deliverables before passing anything off for client review.
Manage resource allocation
Another important operational aspect of the project manager’s role is human resource allocation. Especially in a small creative agency such as Cobble Hill, projects must be reviewed from a macro perspective nearly every day to ensure that all hands are on deck when the time comes. As items moves through the creative process, it entails a review of the agency’s workflow and human resource availability. If one project is held up, it could potentially affect the outcome of another project, and therefore it is important that PMs know what is going on at all times. This means the project manager must communicate effectively and frequently with design and development team members about expectations. If it is anticipated that something may not be completed within deadline, it is the duty of the responsible team member to communicate that to the project manager as soon as possible. With such knowledge, the PM can then take a holistic review of that project, and all agency projects, to prioritize as needed.
Ensure projects adhere to both timelines and budget — and communicate changes as needed
One of the less glamorous, but very important, aspects of the project manager’s role is tracking a project’s budget and timeline. Timelines are a two-way street, and it requires that both the client and the agency adhere to agreed upon deliverable and review deadlines. If the project goes over budget or is anticipated to require additional time, it is the responsibility of the PM to quickly and clearly communicate this to the client. Furthermore, if a project begins to creep beyond the agreed upon scope of work (aka “scope creep”), it is the project manager’s responsibility to flag this and bring it to the attention of both the agency and the client. Transparency is a vital part of any business matter, especially when it comes to client relationships.
In a nutshell, that is an overview of a project manager’s role. However, in a small team setting like Cobble Hill, everyone provides a helping hand into other areas of the business as needed. Hopefully this breakdown helps you to gain a quick and dirty grasp of what a project manager actually does within an agency setting. We are currently hiring a Project Manager, see more about applying here.