“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” – Douglas Adams
Unfortunately, your agency can’t take such an irreverent approach to deadlines – if you keep missing your client’s deadlines, chances are you won’t have that client for much longer. So to keep your clients happy and your agency on track, here are nine ways to help you meet your digital agency’s deadlines.
1) Be Visual
Out of sight, out of mind. If your project deadline is tucked away in the body of one email in one person’s inbox, of course it’s going to be forgotten. Share deadlines with your whole team – on a whiteboard in the office, or if you have multiple premises, in calendars or project management tools.
2) Set Expectations
Your deadline arrives and you think you’ve done a great job, only for your customer to turn round and ask: “But what about X?”
“Done” will mean different things to different people depending on their involvement in the project. For example, if you’re producing a piece of content, is it completed when it’s been approved internally, approved by the client, or when it’s been published?
To avoid the unexpected add-on at the end of the project you need to agree in advance with your client what “completed” will look like and make sure your whole team is aware.
3) Improve Project Visibility
It’s vital that you maintain an overview of your projects so you can identify what still needs to be done, and any potential roadblocks. Share these insights with your agency team to improve awareness of your projects’ progress and to help keep your team on-track.
4) Allocate Tasks to the Right People
Different employees excel in different areas, so effective resource management will help you pinpoint the tasks and projects each member of your team will complete most efficiently, minimising hold-ups or downtime.
5) Identify Key Milestones
If you’ve got a big project on the go, the final deadline can seem a really long way away, meaning that it’s easy to lose focus or fall behind on progress. In this case, identify smaller milestones: when will you know you’ve completed a quarter of your project? Half? This will help you avoid a last-minute rush.
6) Make a Risk List
During the project planning stage, take some time to list potential risks that could go wrong during the project. Then work out what you could do to mitigate that risk, and how to remedy those problems if things go wrong. Planning for problems mean you won’t be hit as hard if they do affect your project, because you’ll already have a solution in mind.
7) Hold Back Some ‘Emergency Time’
It may feel counter-intuitive to keep back some unallocated time across your team because that’s all time they could spend on other billable work. But by doing so, as deadlines approach you will be able to identify whether or not you need to call in help from other team members to meet those deadlines, or whether you can release them from your project to work on something else.
Keeping back some unallocated time gives yourself a staffing cushion – you can’t create more time by moving the deadline, but you can create more working hours by involving more staff.
8) Encourage Knowledge-Sharing
If there’s only one person on your team that’s been working on a specific part of a project, what will happen if they’re off sick or on holiday for a week? All progress on that part of the project will cease.
Encourage your team to work in pairs, so there’s always at least two people in the agency with the same level of knowledge and understanding about each part of your project. This means that in cases of unexpected absences, work can continue as normal.
9) Remember the Customer
When you’re planning projects you can estimate how long work will take you and your team, but often you forget to allow time for customer feedback. This is an unanticipated time drain, with projects grinding to a halt while you wait for sign-off from your client so you can continue with the next stage of the project.
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