Talented Project Managers are hard to come by and they're not all in Project Management right now. Some of the most capable PMs are toiling away as Account Managers, Strategists or Creatives. Some haven't accepted that their calling is actually Project Management and many lack the involvement from agency leadership to recognize their strengths and do something about them. If you or someone you know has the following skills and abilities, chances are they would make an excellent Project Manager.
One of the most important tasks for a Project Manager is pricing the agency's deliverables. If they price a job too high, the agency might lose the project. if they price it too low, the agency loses money. The solution lies in the data. A good PM knows how to use the agency's management system to research similar projects, evaluate the associated costs and identify ways to improve on the process, the price or both.
Some of this data can be automated (like the Advantage system's ability to recommend resources based on availability, background, etc.) but there will always be unique elements of projects that require more data to price accurately whether that data is gathered first-hand in discussions with competency leaders or gathered online through research. The best PMs are those who can back up their estimates with data, not opinions.
Project Managers put together schedules for every project they handle, which requires thinking through every step involved - including potential impacts from parallel-path projects - in order to produce a schedule that everyone can live with and achieve. Once the schedule is approved, it becomes very problematic to change it, since chances are the client has made promises and set expectations on their side based on what's in the schedule, and other workflows are impacted (usually negatively) by changes to the schedule. The best PMs are those who check and pressure-test a schedule multiple times before releasing it to the organization.
Empathetic and Persuasive
Tensions run high in agencies, especially after hours, and Project Managers are often in the line of fire. Successful PMs have a high degree of empathy that enables them to identify with the circumstances their team is experiencing and provide help - even if it's just listening to them vent. Much of what frustrates team members has nothing to do with the agency or the project itself. An empathetic PM can help them get back on track and get everyone out of the office as quickly as possible.
Then there are the days when the work isn't done, but everyone's leaving anyway... This is where the PM's persuasive skills come in handy. They lack the ability to fire anyone, so they have to leverage relationships, team dynamics and other levers to get (and keep) everyone on schedule. After all, if the project is running late, it's the PM who winds up answering for it. The best PMs are so persuasive because they know their team members both personally and professionally and have earned their respect and admiration. It's no small feat.
In the Agency Model, the PM's role is to represent the agency's interests when evaluating a campaign or project. Agency work can be really exciting and it's easy to get caught up in the idealistic (and often unrealistic) conjecture that can occur during internal reviews and creative brainstormings. The PM's job is to be the "voice of reason" in these discussions, making sure that what gets decided upon is something the agency can actually execute. That's not to say that the PM is the party-pooper in the room. Instead, it's the talented PM who helps the team achieve the desired outcome but within the parameters of what the agency has available in both personnel and budget. The best Project Managers have a natural penchant for problem-solving and a firm grip on reality.
There are easily a hundred more characteristics that define a good Project Manager, but these few should give you an idea of the type of personality it requires to be successful in that role.
Some agencies try to combine the Project Management role with Client Service which we don't recommend, but we do recommend combining your Project Management system with your Accounting and Media systems in order to get the most comprehensive data for your PMs to use (as well as others). Very few agency management systems offer such a comprehensive approach, but Advantage software does. If you haven't experienced what an integrated system can do for your agency, you should schedule a free online demo and see it firsthand. You'll be pleasantly surprised.