Sarah Flaherty, PMP, is an account manager
for the in-house creative agency at Cigna,
a health insurance and services company in
Bloomfield, Connecticut, USA.
Like in any project, I start the initiation phase by relaying the
project’s specific goals and objectives to team members, who
then help me shape how we will reach that goal.
Now is the time to be creative. If my team of designers, writers, developers and print-production specialists doesn’t voice
possibilities early, I risk wasting time and money on a project
with an unimpressive end product.
For example, we recently completed a project to create ad
materials for our company to stand out at a college recruitment fair. Our outline started with the tried-and-true method of
career-fair advertising: Put a bold banner above our booth and
beautiful brochures in front of it.
Yet I knew the team could add value by brainstorming within
scope—but without creative boundaries.
Just like I do on all projects, I scheduled brainstorming sessions early for team members to make creative suggestions—and
I encouraged them to not hold back. Once we had enough ideas
on the table, we discussed the value and limitations of each.
The consensus was to add quick-response (QR) codes to the
brochures. These funky-looking squares can be scanned with
smartphones, allowing students to access our company’s social
media posts and microsites—and interact with us long after the
career fair was over.
FIGHTING FOR YOUR IDEA
Given the project’s limited resources, creating QR codes and
microsites could have blown our budget and deadline.
That’s when the creative project manager, armed with technical details provided by the team, should schedule a meeting with
the sponsor—and fight for the changes.
To ensure buy-in, I focused on two points: Our additions
were better aligned with the project’s original goal, and the added
benefits outweighed the additional costs.
It’s up to the sponsor to grant a larger budget for the changes,
of course, but generating excitement for proposed modifications
is easier when project managers can show that creative measures
expand a company’s reach.
GROUNDED IN STRATEGY
Once the project’s defined, its execution commences just as it
would on any other project: Milestones are met based on timelines, schedules and budgets. Work goes through scheduled
reviews for approval by various stakeholders.
When it comes to aesthetics, though, a difference of opinion
can eat away at the schedule.
As the deadline nears, the project manager’s focus must
change from encouraging imaginative possibilities to being the
authority on whether revisions are grounded in strategy, not