Project management

Podcast Project management

Meet Mike, our Operations Director. In this episode Chelsea and Mike discuss the changes Mike has put in place to deliver on projects more efficiently for our clients. 


Hi, in this episode, I’m with Mike and we’re going to be talking about all things agency project management.
Hi, Mike. So do you want to introduce yourself and give us a little bit of an overview about all of the things that you do as our operations director?
Hi. Yeah, my name is Mike Lamy on the Operations Director for CIO marketing. I’ve been here for 12 years now. I was very early on with James and Richard, so very exposed to the agency way of life. Over the recent years, we have noticed, one of the most important factors as an agency is service delivery. Yeah. It’s often the the issues of getting a project through the door and outdoor, the efficiency in that is really where, you know, you have to be strict into the point. So one thing I noticed a couple of years ago, the level of projects we were doing, we’re doing a lot of smaller projects. And they were quick and easy to manage. As we moved into large projects, more retained bass clients, we noticed that some of the timescales were slipping. So obviously, as an agency, we want to make sure that we keep track of them. And I noticed there was a gap in the way we work. And I’ve started to put processes in place for things such as agile project management prints to you know, personally, I’ve been jumping on some courses myself to hone in on those skills. Yeah. But one thing that we’ve been very precise with is setting our team structure. Yeah. And I think you may have noticed over the years as well, that prior to this, we had, you know, we have teams, develop a team and design a team front of house, but they were very sort of individual, they sort of worked in silos. Yeah. And that way, thinking just doesn’t work. Today. Communications key collaboration is key. And one thing we started to do is get people to recognise not just what their role is within the business, but also what their role is with the client, and how that impacts another member of their team.
So yeah, I think what’s different to this agency to other ones that I’ve worked at as clients actually can talk to anyone on the staff roster, they get to talk directly to the expert, which I think is great. Yeah, instead of having like an account manager in the middle of it, that doesn’t actually understand.
Yeah, we did try the account manager route, we had a couple of goals at that. And we quickly realised that actually, the exposure that the team gets to talking with the client, and seeing that real world impact on what they’re doing, we actually realise that they, they, they develop their skills better, because they understood the reasons for that. And so why is we do still try to shield them from the client, we won’t obviously sort of put them straight in front of the client, because some of them, you know, they’re, they don’t always feel comfortable in certain instances, but, but we do like them to see the real world of what they’re working into and what they’re delivering. So for example, a client’s having a website, ecommerce, and the project brief is to really re platform the site and develop new features and new tag, getting the client to actually explain why to them sat in the same room, they can obviously go away and think of that in a little bit of a better way. Yeah. And and it’s that process, again, of this collaboration is that just because you’re in the development team, doesn’t mean you should sit there and wait for the design team to give you a design. So you can start your job is they should be engaged at the start of the project. Yeah, so everyone’s aware. So I brought in something called Gantt. Now, some people do prefer to use Office Systems, but I’ve been pretty good with Gantt lately. And what that does, at the start of a project, we’ll have an agency workshop and an agency kickoff with clients. And then that sets the timeline for all components. So the first thing I will do is look at the stakeholders of a project. So who’s involved whose responsibilities like where and what we need to be getting on with? And at that point, we’ll then start to set timescales for, you know, where the design team needs to start, what design goals, we need to achieve layout structures. With that also, we bring in the development team to look at component functionality. So if someone’s going to do some design function, just needed to develop it to be involved early on, or does is that something that developer can do at that point? Yeah. So yeah, as an agency, we’ve we’ve gone through a lot and we are starting to evolve. And my role really has been to sort of step back, take a holistic view of the processes, remove some elements that aren’t working, like that account manager position, for example, Weiss, we do still have that position here in the business and we do manage our clients. We have account managers, it’s not the accountant his sole responsibility to own that account. It’s a support approach. So it’s to make sure that they do have that dialogue with the team and if, like you say, if the designer needs to talk to the Client, talk to the client. It’s don’t don’t go through me go to the client directly. I’ll support you. I’ll, you know, I’ll make sure that it stays within scope. But we’ve got to make sure that the designers understand what they’re doing
is. Yeah, I think it’s, it’s great to be fair with having people that can, I guess, talk to the experts, because what I’ve noticed in the past with account managers is they’re great at managing accounts. But if they don’t technically know what they’re talking about, then projects can actually go out of scope. And then, yeah,
it’s scope. Yeah, scope creep, something that we use a lot. And I’m sure a lot of people will be aware of what that is, when a project goes outside of the original scope and costs in the agency cost rather than the client. Yeah. It’s a big thing for me to always monitor and keep track of, and one of the processes with Gantt enables me to see the steps that we’re following to then ensure that one, the client’s objectives are being met. But to once we’ve hit that milestone, or once we’ve achieved that it’s analysed, it’s delivered, and we move on to the next one.
Yeah. And it’s not just the one client is it that you’ve got to factor like, I don’t know how many clients you talk to you on a day to day basis. So if one project is going out of scope and takes longer than that pushes back deadlines?
Exactly. I mean, a prime example this week, just given. We had a project to there was commencing on Tuesday, one of the projects from the week prevailing that has gone over by two days, for no fault of our own, it was, you know, deployment issue with the hosting arrangement. And they awaited approval from the client, and the client was slow and getting back that impacts the timescales at the starting for the next project for one of the guys. And I’ve been happy to accommodate that. How can we bring that back? And yeah, I mean, Aaron, we were working here to 11 o’clock on Monday night. So no, yeah, Monday night, it was we were here. And we do that to ensure that we have that timescales met and avoid that scope creep. And it’s, again, perfecting that process, as an agency is just stepping back and analysing each time we have a point to look at and say, could we have done better? Is there a position that we can improve? Is there a role based position that we need to find to support the running of the agency? But ultimately, it all stands with the client engagement is that clients engage with us? Because we’re good at what we do? Yeah. And I’m always a fan. And back in the day, I used to always say, is that the CIO way? Because, yes, that was if we were talking to clients and work was going out the door. That’s what we base ourselves on? And is that something we’re proud to say? We’ve done that? Yeah. And
I think we’re looking at especially with the rebrand and everything going on, we’re having a workshop next week, where we’re, I’ve done some work on the customer journey that I’d like the clients to have, and then you’re gonna be my home and and help me make that happen with the processes that you put in place.
Yeah, it’s, it’s difficult because like you say, the amount of projects and clients I work with, you know, one benefit of this pandemic has been, the wife sees the stresses that I get. So working from home, or she sees when I come home late, or when I come home, yeah. And I may bring some of my work home with me. She sees why now. And she sees why sometimes it’s hard to stop. Because,
yeah, and I think when you are basically like a doer of everything, and to make everything happen, kind of guys actually even hard to put your role into even a scope of a role at times, isn’t it?
Yeah, my hardest thing was back in the day, I used to be a yes, man. I won’t deny that I would say yes. And just it would be a case of how are we going to do this? I’ve had to rethink my whole strategy personally, as well, because obviously, we were winning business, and we were winning awards for that. Yeah, but it’s not sustainable. It was it was going to end some shape badly for client over agency. So step back and realise that we’ve got to rethink how we deliver it in a managed method to make sure that yeah, it’s it’s got scope for growth. So
because we’ve I wanted to ask you actually going from like a web a Website Design and Development Agency predominantly so very project heavy to now the approach that with bringing on the team that you hired me to start up, how has that changed your processes and how much of a headache have I caused you?
That’s somewhat you good headache. I would say. It’s, I would probably put it more in the challenge category. Okay. I don’t like to call things problems. I like to call them challenges. It difficult one, because obviously, a website project can be anything from eight weeks through to, you know, to 24 weeks, even half a year. You know, it’s it really does depend on the scope and some of the projects we’ve had are of that nature and your line of work and your team brings In adhoc, quick turnaround materials to manage that in amongst a project is going on for months with a project that’s going on for a few days, you have to create a sustainable platform for that. So Trello obviously helps with this. Yeah. And we use that to implement requests for work. So obviously, one of the benefits your team now has is that it can put a request into the studio that I can then see, I can then schedule that in around the workload that we have. Because planning for what we don’t see is the hard part in my job, because a lot of what we have is reactive. For example, we’ve got Christmas coming up, and we’ll probably have a few clients drop in that we need to do some Christmas campaigns,
some snow on the website for them, which is Sam’s favourite tasks.
He’s currently doing that at the moment for me for a client. Yes. And so yeah, so to manage sort of the on on unforeseen is also the challenge. So that’s where the Trello process comes in. Because if you’re Rebecca need to get a quick request and put it on Trello. It’ll come across the studio deck, I can then sort of see the availability of the team and see who is best for that. John, creative director would obviously look at that from a design point of view needs creative design. And mostly though the height the headache is around development, because obviously they’re coding they’re coding for the day. Yeah. So so what we have to then schedule in his timeline. So if you’ve got something on a mundane needed on my Wednesday, I have to work out what morning, what hour, what day, that’s to be completed. And again, putting Trello in there has helped manage that because it gives us scope of all the workflow. And again, that does something that wouldn’t fit on Gantz because, you know, the short timeline. It doesn’t. It’s not, it’s not manageable. But again, your team has thrown me a number of headaches in in bringing that into the business, because how do you go from the business? Does ad hoc project work? very lengthy, through to daily changes on the marketing strategy?
Yeah, I think it’s, it’s a challenge that we all face. Because I mean, ideally, no one wants to be changing things like an hour here and an hour there. But when you work on social media, sometimes you have reactive things. And it’s just the nature of the beast.
Yeah. And that’s, I mean, I brought in something called I call it the golden hour. The boys, the boys and girls, they call it something different. And they call it what they like, really. Yeah, yeah. And usually get challenged on that. But the golden hour was something I brought in to enable them to have that flexible approach to that work ethic that day. So I always expect them with a project to schedule in their timescales based on the 60% of that week is going to be based on that project. Yeah. Because the rest of that time needs to be allocated to support issues or ad hoc requirements or marketing requirements that you’ve put on. So I created the golden hour as a, they get to choose if they do it in the morning, lunchtime, or before they go, and they can choose any day of the week. They wish apart from a Friday, on a Friday, because everything goes wrong on a Friday afternoon. Yeah. So yeah, that process is again, so if you’ve got a small social post that needs work or something that’s again for them to do that. And that’s helped them manage their own time because developers have a trait they want to be managed. But they then resist that management. So yeah, they like a false sense of autonomy. Yeah, they like they like to be told what to do. But they also like to resist some of that in terms of the timescales given so because one of the biggest challenges, again, that we had was timescales and deadlines. A client will say to me, we need this completed by November the 22nd, the week commencing, and I will speak to the developer and they won’t be able to translate the full steps because obviously, their their work ethic is that it’s as they develop it, they’ll see the steps. So what I have to sort of somehow manage is what we do this for a living. We know what steps to follow, we know the skills required, I have to pull those skills in the certain points to ensure that well, week one, week two, week three, do we reach these milestones to deliver on that week for deadline? And yeah, a developer, they the development team, they resisted at first with these deadlines, because they didn’t like having deadlines put against them. I don’t call them deadlines. I call them milestones with client and target dates. But now they’ve seen how I use gantt and now we’ve seen why I need Gantt because it gives client better transparency on the timescales. They understand that now so they get they, they they’re they’re coming round to that. So
yeah, I think you’ve probably had a difficult challenge, really taking the team that was used to working in one way and then like kind of trying to implement something to improve that and make those changes. Whereas I’ve been quite lucky to be able to come in, create a team from scratch. It literally started as me, what I do is I process everything that I do because I’m that way inclined and then when I hire someone into that position, it’s like okay, this is how I’ve done it. This is The process that I wanted to follow, if you can add to that then great,
exactly that. And the way I look at it is that when you onboard a new staff member, you’ve got to have a process for your standard. And yeah, and that’s key. So when someone joins a team at you, they may have experienced in other agencies. And it’s always great to see what that experience is, it’s always great to pick their brains about what they’re used to the work methods that work that they saw. But we’ve also got to have our strict processes that this is how we work, because that’s what delivers the work that we can play. And again, my role really, is to facilitate that. And there’s a lot of clients that we do that for.
Yeah, I think gave it to you for hours. Yeah, so some days I’ve come in, and you’ve literally spoke to 30 people, and it’s not even been 11 o’clock.
Yeah. And it’s, again, I have my own management challenges, because I’m pulled around a lot. And I need to make sure that I’m available because I’m a big fan of you’re going to deliver on work, you’ve got to absorb it well. And you’ve got to manage it well. And so part of my own headache is to manage my own time. So
yeah, I think we’ve, we’ve a little one that’s just arrived, and obviously doing your courses as well. And then managing all of this is kind of a given that really you should be good at managing.
You think you think? Yeah, well, then, yes, one of my main problems is actually I don’t think I actually manage my own time. And I think Morgan does that for me. And she does a better job at it. That’s for
sure. It’s because she’s outside objective opinion. Yeah,
yeah. And she knows where it’s going to go. And she knows me better than I know myself. And but yeah, I mean, holistically, looking at the processes as an agency, we’ve changed in the last 24 months, drastically, not for anything over them to deliver on the objective more efficiently, is because again, years have passed, we would deliver it by We’d always get the project done, we’d always get the milestones done. But it would always go into a cloudy area of completion, as in, we’ve completed that project now, whose responsibility is it to pick that up to support the client beyond that point. And that’s obviously where your teams come in, usually. And that really helps me set the end points for the project so that when you’re being engaged, it’s almost like I’m passing it off from the studio deck to the marketing team.
Yeah, I think that’s probably helped you as well, hasn’t it in terms of you basically are like Mr. Say, marketing in many ways, like all the clients knew us. So you’re their go to for it. Because for 12 years, you’ve been there like one constancy, that person that I’ve spoken to the most. Whereas I think now it’s probably better for you, because you can get the project completed, then you know, that they’re being looked after them by another team.
It was always the, again, one of my main philosophies was that people approached us to take on a new website job. Well, we could do that. We know that. What are you going to do with it? Yeah, it’s that philosophy of it’s, oh, you’re going to change your strategies? You know, is there a reason for why you’re changing the website? That’s usually the first question is, what are the issues you’re having this spurred you on to come and reach out? So Mark, and say, We need a new website? It’s to find out what the issues are? So is it marketing? Is it you’re getting a dropout rates? Is it the site’s not not functioning? Right? Or is it you just can’t manage it? Once we’ve identified then we can always package up the end solution for your team to say, well, we’ve solved that problem now with a better functioning better looking better working website. Go and execute the marketing campaign for the client. Yeah. How are people going to find it? Yeah, exactly. And it’s amazing the amount of clients we have that don’t have that strategy, or they do have a strategy, but they just intend to continue with the old one. And yeah, it’s almost like no, that’s it. There’s a whole dynamic out there that needs to be changed in terms of how we do that. And again, bringing your team into so marketing as a new department or new division, is, enables us to not just simply hand the website back to the client to say, we’re done. Yeah, it’s it’s, we would continue with the support and maintenance to make sure the site is healthy and stays online. But for me, customer relationship point enables us to continue that and bring on that retain services aspect. And I That for me is key to the growth of the agency to ensure that not only are we bringing on onboard new clients that have needs, where websites brands and I have various over identity issues. It enables us to apply change for progressive marketing that you can structure.
Yeah, and I think as well just going back to brand sentiment, people can be really happy like obviously they’ll go and look at a brand new website. It works super well. It looks amazing. But then six months later down the line if like they don’t have anyone, any more people going to it they’re gonna think the website is bad, but it’s not the website is literally you don’t have a marketing strategy to get people to your website.
exactly that exactly. And they look back at you and go, Well, that didn’t work. Well, it’s almost like you can take a horse to water. And you know, we we’ve delivered on the website and again, it’s having a bigger picture image of what we do as an agency is what do we turn up each day to do for our clients? And it’s having that passion. And that’s where you say, Mr. So is that I come in every day and some of the team you know, they they do what they do within their positions within the business, I always try and instil that you’re making change for the client for the better. Yeah. And no matter where you are in the business, we’re all a big team. And we’ll support that. And it’s getting that buy in, that they’re making change, whether it’s designers or even like Tiago, all that I call him attack ninja at the moment, but he’s our latest support apprentice. He, he he was talking to a client every day. And again, he’s a process we brought in to speed up the support responses. Yeah. I don’t think he realised the conversation I was watching. He was having a conversation with one of our biggest clients. And you know, he’s been here for six months, he was doing a great job. I just want I had to remind him of just how important that conversation was that he solved that problem. And not only did the client engage with so marketing, they engage with Tiago, yeah. And Tiago needed to recognise that to show that, look, you’ve just solved a client problem. And their only single point of engagement was with you. Yeah. And it’s that acknowledgement that whilst you feel you may just do support. On that one occasion, you’ve just solved our biggest clients problem.
Yeah. And it’s great for his confidence as well,
exactly that and it and that’s where I always come around doesn’t matter what you do, you have an impact on what we do as a business. And we recruit to that basis is that you’ve, you have that ethos, that’s what we’ll try and do. And again, back to this whole onboarding. This is who we are, these are our processes, this is our pride. And these are our steps. And these are our core values. So and if they, you know, if they can carry them through to the client, then I’m happy. I can’t always be here to solve every problem. And yeah, so I mean, as much as I’d love to be but my wife and like you say, the newborn. They need me just as much and but yeah, it’s I’m happy with where things have gone and where we’re going. And I think our clients see that now as well with the efficiency. So I can give a client a complete timescale of a project at the start of a project. And that gives them the security in knowing that we’re going to hit either a their deadline, or B. We’re not just guessing on the timescales.
Brilliant. Well, thank you very much for your time, Mike. I know you don’t have much of it. But if anyone has any questions or you’re interested in working with us, just give us a shout at Hello at so Thank you

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