This blog post was originally published as an article on LinkedIn. It’s about projects that are completed within an agency, for corporate clients. But many of the principles still work for other businesses that manage communications projects – just that some of the key metrics may be different.
I was a project director in an agency (medical communications and public affairs) for a number of years, and one of the things I did in that role was ensure that once a client project was completed it was reviewed by the team.
All that was needed was a project team meeting and someone to write up the notes and actions. There was already a template with suggested questions, so we didn’t have to create that each time. But it was something that often got missed in a busy whirlwind of new and ongoing projects.
I think that reviewing completed projects (and proposals/pitches) is critical in improving internal processes and client relationships (and ultimately agency profitability!). Below are some of my reasons why.
Provides information for review with the client
As an agency, you’re in business to provide solutions to your clients for their communications needs. So I think it should be standard practice to review a completed project with the client to understand whether you met their needs. This allows the project to be refined further the next time it is done, whether that’s another series of advisory board meetings later that year, or an awards programme or symposium run annually. It also enables you to find out what other challenges the client has for which you could provide a solution.
But like any client meeting, you’ll need to prepare for the discussion – and having an internal project review is the ideal way to start this preparation.
Identifies key internal challenges
A project review should include consideration of the budget and therefore the hours spent on the project. It can help identify how accurate the initial cost estimate was, and whether the project was resourced appropriately. Reviewing the data might also identify a data gap that needs to be improved. In addition, team members might comment that they were unable to do part of the project as effectively as they would have liked, and this could lead to a new insight that benefits the whole agency – for example purchasing new equipment, outsourcing a specific type of task, providing more training for team members.
Prevents repetition of the same mistakes
Within an agency there will be multiple project teams working on similar types of projects for different clients over the course of a year – but there may not be opportunities to talk about the projects with other colleagues. Mistakes made on one project will (hopefully!) be lessons learned for the project team that made them; but these learnings would also be valuable to share more widely. Ensuring that all projects are reviewed after completion allows these mistakes to be documented and potentially prevented in future.
Creates information to use for case studies
When pitching for new projects, whether to existing or new clients, it’s important to include examples of similar successful projects. It can be difficult to remember details when you’re busy creating a slide deck for a pitch, so having a database to go back to can be really helpful. It’s also challenging to create interesting case studies that retain client confidentiality, so having a collection of past projects provides more choice of examples to use.
Improves client – agency relationships
By reviewing a project internally, the team can also discuss their relationship with the client. Each client will have different needs and preferences, and reviewing projects provides a good platform to identify these. For example preferences such as regularity of calls, detail required in status updates and key project metrics could be noted. In looking at the way the project was run, you might identify personality clashes or skills gaps that can be addressed, as well as acknowledging where there is a really strong relationship with the client that can be nurtured.
Acts as a reminder of the need to track progress against key metrics
Each type of project will have different measures of success. Reviewing a completed project allows you to document successes in a quantifiable way, as well as noting qualitative client feedback. These could also be compared with results from previous projects. For example, key metrics might be number of attendees at a symposium, responses to an email or survey, signups to a website or email list, satisfaction ratings on meeting evaluation forms.
Provides an overview of client projects past and present
If every project completed by an agency was documented in a database, this would be a valuable resource for business development. You could look at one particular client to see what types of projects you typically do for them, to see whether this could be expanded. You could identify whether there is a type of project that you would like to do more often. You could compare the profitability of different types of projects, and drill down to see some of the reasons for this.
I believe that reviewing completed projects is a valuable activity, even though it requires an extra hour or so of a project team’s time.
You’ll also note that I mention proposals/pitches in the introduction, but don’t refer to them further. I’d be interested to know whether any agencies do review completed proposals/pitches in a similar way. Often the success of a proposal is seen as whether it wins the business. But I suspect that there are also plenty of learnings to be gained from reviewing business development activities!