Should Digital Marketers be lean? Or agile?

You can only have so many project proposals signed off that don't deliver or go over budget or miss deadlines before people start questioning your ability. It's about good project management, but more than that it's about the right approach to manage each project.

Which solution is best?

That rather depends on the problem. If you are a Digital Project Manager you will know about Waterfall Project Management or PRINCE2. You've probably heard about Agile Project Management and you may be aware of Lean PM. As a Marketer it's just as important to think about the best way to manage your project, it will have a big impact on the likely success and your involvement. And you should be thinking about how to get from idea to completion as part of the concept itself. Let me explain.

First the problem

Is your CEO asking why it takes his organisation 18 months to get from idea to delivery when starts ups are doing it in as many weeks? Is your CFO constantly complaining about cost overruns? Do the people you are working with complain that there needs have changed by the time you deliver? These are symptoms of poor project management, or in some cases a good DPM using a method that doesn't suit your project.

The Digital Project Management methodologies

Let's start with Waterfall. This is a great way to pin things down, it gives you a nice clear schedule, everyone knows what is expected of them and when and there should be no uncertainty. The trouble is things change. You might change your mind about how something should work or external factors may change but Waterfall is not flexible.

Agile is a methodology developed by the software industry to cope with changing requirements. Using mock ups, demos you can begin to see how things work early on in the project and you can make changes if they don't. But it takes a good DPM to ensure scope creep and constant does not derail the project.

The Lean method will seem pretty scary to some DPMs and Marketers alike. You start with the very basic idea and dive straight in to make a working model that may be a bit rough around the edges but is enough to start putting out there in the market to get feedback. It's a great way to get a project going really quickly and you get genuine feedback. If the feedback is very negative then you won't have invested too much - fail fast fail cheap as they say.

None of these methods were developed specifically for managing marketing or digital projects, but they are being used that way. Some Project Managers are adamant that you have to stick to one method, others are mixing and matching. And there are markets and organisations where it's very hard to do anything but follow a strict process and others where time to market is critical.

Know what is possible

If you are a Digital Project Manager you should really know about the methods out there even if you have to work in a particular way because of your clients or your organisation. As a marketer you should know because different methods can not only effect the outcome can be different but the amount of time and input required from you will be very different.

Rik teaches on the IDM's one day course Digital Project Management. Learn how to effectively plan and control large digital projects, setting the criteria for future success.

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