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Monday, December 8, 2008

Account Managers and Project Managers: Partners?

The relationship between the Account Management and Project Management teams is one that needs constant attention and definition. Like any partnership engaged in complex endeavors, there are complementary areas, supplementary areas and grey areas.

I've seen all points on the map from clear distinctions to planned reinforcement that form the foundation of strong partnerships. These models benefit both clients and agencies. Some agencies have Account Directors only and everyone else is a project manager. Some relegate the ugly, "just-get-the-job-done" details to the project managers and the glory to the Account team (and Creatives). Many agencies either don't understand the project management role or don't have it at all.

I hate (well not really) to put things in a competitive light, but the Account Managers do have an edge in that the role has always existed in the agency world and they benefit from external recognition. Guess which discipline is missing from the Agency Discipline's section on the AAAA's Web site. Project managers have a pretty uphill battle to define and claim their position in agencies. This funny video from Monster , which made the rounds a while ago, almost touches on the role when it mentions producers toward the end. Sadly, project management remains off the radar - even from a company like Monster that earns its keep selling the role to agencies.

This post by Lindsay Cotter on the Hill Holiday blog, HHblog: Rethinking Marketing, is inspiring in that she opines about the value of Account Management in, The Best Job in Advertising? . However, worse than no mention, is when your thunder is stolen. She concludes, with pleasure when describing the AAAA's 2008 Account Management Conference:

"Finally, we did not forget to tell our co-workers that the conference stressed the importance of account managers to an agency, as one peer put it, account management folks 'make sure the trains run on time.'"

Thoughts? Feelings feelings about our "partners"? About elevating Project Management?


  1. I was actually looking for more information on the subject, eg. specific difference between Project Managers and Account Managers.

    AFAIK, Account Managers mainly deal with the client, and make sure that the client is satisfied all the team, they rarely or never deal directly with the resources (contrary to the Project Managers).


    1. Tag: PM201A54. Let me share all of you about #5 Tips for Project Management Success,, I hope you enjoy it

      1. Plan your day using time management techniques

      As a project manager, time management skills are essential because you are dealing with a wide range of tasks that demand a quick turnaround time. Planning your day will go a long way in keeping you organized and increasing your productivity. Assist your task planning by using project management software which helps you track the work of you and your team.

      If you are not very tech savvy, a simple to-do list can also be a great organizational tool. Prioritize your most important tasks by putting them at the top of the list and less important ones at the bottom. Having a visual plan of your daily tasks helps to keep you on track and aware of time.

      Related post: Free ebook 104 secrets to become a great project manager

      2. Include stakeholders in important project conversations

      While you will have plenty of responsibilities regarding the project, don’t neglect your clients.

      Good communication is essential is keeping both parties informed of project progression, curtailing scope creep, and apprised of changing requirements. Some clients may have different expectations when it comes to communication, so make sure to establish the frequency and type of communication (like emails, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations) at the beginning of your project.

      Establishing communication expectations early helps alleviate stakeholder uncertainty about communication frequency and delivery.

      3. Regularly communicate with your team

      Daily team communication helps keep misunderstandings and unclear requirements under control. Keeping your team informed in every step of the project is essential to project management success.

      For example, a study published by Procedia Technology found that good communication skills were the cornerstone of project management. The study examined over 300 “construction project managers, architects, construction managers, engineers and quantity surveyors” and their successes and failures on various construction projects.

      4. Anticipate project setbacks

      Even the best-laid plans often go awry.

      Remember that even with a high amount of planning and attention to detail, your project may still encounter some challenges. Pay attention to complaints from stakeholders or colleagues, and other warning signs, like a missed deadline or cost overrun, that there may be a problem.

      Preventing a crisis will keep your project running smoothly, save you a lot of time, and keep you, your team, and your stakeholders confident in progressing with the project.

      Unfortunately not every complication can be avoided. Crisis management skills are essential for dealing with the unexpected. Project managers need to be flexible and pragmatic. Improvise and make sharp decisions when needed.

      Related post: 92 free project management templates

      5. Stay focused on the details

      A common problem project managers encounter is having the project aims not aligned with the organization’s objectives. A great project manager will strategize a plan for the project to lead back to the overall success of the business.

      Know your project’s scope by heart and avoid wandering outside of the project’s requirements. It’s too easy to get lost in minor details and forget what your focus is, so a well-planned project scope is essential for success.

      And final, you should use KPI to measure effectiveness of the project, here are full list: 76 project management KPIs

  2. Your "mainly" qualifier is appropriate and important. One must be careful not to draw lines that are too rigid. Client/Team interactions are one of the things that I find fall into the gray area of shared responsibilities and make for a strong Account Management / Project Management partnership. One team-oriented interaction that I find is most appropriate in the hands of Account Managers, is briefing - especially as it relates to marketing strategy.

    I have done a fair amount of work with both Account Management and Project Management colleagues at advertising agencies in delineating many of the role/responsibility distinctions during RACI workshops and in supporting documentation. Happy to share.

  3. Sounds really interessting with this RACI that you have done - please share :-)

  4. Happy to. Send your contact info to

  5. The agency I work for has a real problem understanding the PM role. I started the PM group in our interactive practice which has operated differently than the offline side of the agency. Now management wants us to integrate but the offline account managers see us as nothing more than traffic. Would you share your RACI with me as well?

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