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Making the Case for Project Management

When our leadership team proposed additional growth and modest restructuring of our project management team, we knew we would need to back up our request with supporting data. Although our internal agency captures a lot of metrics, we had not created reporting specific to the PM function. We needed to ask key questions and think creatively to determine what data would best support our case.

Is the team aligned to the business needs? Are the right projects being assigned a PM?

On our team PMs are assigned only to projects that involve new creative, are multifunction, or are high profile. Before asking for additional PMs or a change in the mix of positions on the team, we needed to show that our assignments were being made in alignment with expectations. To do so, we analyzed data from our project management system reports to validate that, with a few exceptions, the highest-tiered jobs all had a PM assigned.

Does the team growth match the complexity and volume of projects?

To answer this question, we plotted the team expansion over time. Over that, we plotted the volume of high-complexity projects across that same timespan. The two trend lines grew in direct positive correlation with each other — as we expected.

Was utilization maintained during growth?

To counter potential concern that growth preceded need, we also looked at utilization (time allocated to billable projects as a percentage of total time), a metric we carefully manage studio-wide. Over the graph that showed team and job growth, we plotted the team’s actual and target utilization, showing that the team remained consistently above target despite rapid growth.

Are we cost effective?

Our project managers track all of their time for jobs, beginning with discovery through closeout, allowing us to report on the cost of project management at a project level. Using this data we benchmarked our studio’s average PM cost per project against the industry by using survey results provided by Cella. We continue to track these costs to identify causes of outliers or projects that require more or less PM time, and learn from these instances.

Do we have the right team in place? Are the most senior PMs managing the most complex projects?

Our goal is to assign the most complex and highest-tiered projects to the most senior PMs. While we believed this was happening, we graphed our projects by both tier and position title to verify that our staffing matches up to the project mix in order to demonstrate an appropriate mix of senior versus non-senior PMs.

What business trends might require position shifts on the team?

By showing the year-over-year change in project complexities and volume growth within a particular functional area (interactive/web development), we were able to demonstrate the need to slightly restructure our PM team to include more digital-focused project managers. It’s not unusual for growth to be challenged – in fact, it should be challenged. In my experience growth within the PM function is challenged more so than in creative functions as there is not a clear, tangible output of a PM in the same way there is a copywriter or designer. Building the business case for growth in this function requires looking at volume trends, work-mix trends, utilization and cost-effectiveness. As we continue to grow, our teams must continue to evolve and change. Our experience will guide our decisions, but I anticipate that we will also need to continue to make the case with data.


Patrice Marturana

Patrice Marturana, PMP, is the Associate Studio Manager at Merck Creative Studios (managed by The BOSS Group & Cella). She manages the design portion of Merck’s in-house creative studio that includes both print design and interactive design & development. She formerly also managed the Project Management team and was instrumental in developing that team that now manages thousands of jobs annually. Patrice’s background in finance and business ownership along with solid collaboration with the leadership team at MCS allows her to work toward continual improvement of processes within project management and creative project delivery.