Kiddie Soccer or Project Management: What’s Your Approach?

Getting the ball to the right player

How does your group respond when a fastball project/request comes in and needs to be dealt with immediately? Do you take the kiddie soccer approach of everyone swarming the ball, or do you have someone on point whose role is to grab the ball (project), move it forward and get it to the right people?

Ideally it’s the latter, but an often overlooked function within ad ops that is worthy of discussion is Project Management. Full disclosure, my background is in project management and running large scale projects, but I’ll try to keep my bias out of the discussion.  

Working within lots of different ad ops organizations and running major projects, we know firsthand how difficult it is to connect all of the pieces and have a fully integrated technology stack. Even with unlimited resources, complex technology and multiple vendors in the mix can make it nearly impossible to create a seamless architecture. Then there are the constant fire drills, where most often it’s all about survival and things tend to get resolved by grabbing everyone that’s needed (and then some) to put out the fire.

Sure, there are the big projects (ad server migrations, order management/workflow implementations, etc.) that merit a dedicated Project Manager that knows Ad Ops to make sure they are delivered smoothly and as quickly as possible, but what about everything else? How are the smaller, but anticipated projects delivered? How are the fastballs handled? Is it your entire team that needs to be tapped to get it delivered, or is there an owner of the project that pulls in the right people at the right time to deliver the project?  

The Person to Pass to

Hopefully, it’s the latter and there is a dedicated Project Management function within your organization. Project management and delivery is all about efficient use of resources, and having that knowledgeable person (or group) that understands how all of the pieces come together is invaluable.  

For instance, say a fastball heads your way where the big-dog exec has come across a new technology that must be implemented ASAP. Rather than grab someone from every single team to swarm the project, your PM should be able to grab the right people initially to understand the project and figure out what needs to happen and when, then execute and get the project delivered. This insures the right people are engaged at the right time such that the integration takes place as efficiently as possible, and folks aren’t involved unnecessarily.  

The other, often overlooked, advantage to a dedicated PM function is that they will have an idea of everything in flight and can know what that fastball is going to impact. Ideally, there’s someone in your organization watching the portfolio of projects (maybe a PMO group) and managing to that portfolio, but even if there’s not, your Project Management team is working horizontally across the org and should have a good pulse of what’s in flight and how projects intersect with each other.  

For instance, the project that requires updating your ad tags for better targeting may have a natural intersection with a behavioral targeting solution you are about to implement, so having visibility across the projects can go a long way to reducing conflicts and increasing efficiencies.

What it all boils down to is execution and getting things done! What has made you successful in your career and what will continue to make you successful is delivering and executing. Having resources dedicated to project management will help you continue that strong track record of delivery, and allow you to do it in the most efficient manner possible.


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