Project schedule delays cause a ripple effect that have hidden impacts on your project, sometimes even forcing your agencies to have to rearrange the freelancers and other resources on your project.

For many years, I have worked in an interesting in-between zone between the corporate marketing and agency worlds. The bulk of my work was in acting as matchmaker, resource-hunter, liaison, program manager, and minutia-herder for corporate marketing folks who needed to work with agencies. These folks know what they want to do (usually), and my job is to manage the project to get it done. This frees them from the day-to-day details of the project so they can launch more projects and thus get a lot more done.

Most of you probably know this, but for those who don’t: the corporate marketing and agency worlds are very, very different.

Employees or freelancers

In a corporate setting you work with employees who are all generally marching to the same orders and have the same priorities. In some agencies it’s the same thing, but for many agencies there may be just a core group of employees and  the resource work is provided by sub-contractors, whether they call themselves contractors, freelancers, consultants, or mercenaries.

Is this a good thing, you may ask? I think it is. I know many extremely gifted designers and programmers who would never consider being an employee. Instead, they work for themselves and provide their services to a handful of different agencies. This means they retain a bit more control over their lives while getting to work on a wide variety of types of projects and staying on the leading edge of innovation. They benefit, the agencies benefit, and the agencies’ customers benefit.

Why does this matter? Or rather, why am I telling you this? Because of schedules.

Schedules are key

Contractors (and freelancers and mercenaries) have to always look ahead. They have to make sure their schedule has work coming up so they can keep busy and  they can keep food on their table.

When agency and their contractors commit to your project, they often do so by putting off or turning down other opportunities, and then blocking time off on their schedule to match the amount of time that is estimated for your project. If x months are planned for your project, then they plan on it taking about x months, and then they schedule their next gig to start after those x months are up.

If your project ends up taking x + y months, this will conflict with the other projects on the contractors’ schedules. And this creates a problem. I know from personal experience how difficult it is when a project lingers on and “leaks” into my next project.

In some cases, contractors have some padding and can afford for your project to take a week or so extra before their other project begins. In other cases, they are able to put in extra hours to finish up your project while they are getting started on their next one–often by working very long days. In still other cases, a contractor may be able to find a substitute for the other project and get out of it in order to stay on your project.

However, sometimes schedule problems mean that a contractor cannot delay and must stop work on your overrun project in order to start on his next commitment. This means a new resource must be brought in to finish your project, which may mean added cost and delays.

Or at the other extreme: if your project is delayed, these freelancers are now in a situation where they’ve reserved their time to work on your project, but now that work isn’t happening. This has a direct affect on their bottom line!

Moral of the story

Everyone knows that project slips are sometimes unavoidable so agencies have contingency plans for this. But significant schedule delays can be caused by client behaviors like missing meetings, disappearing for long periods, adding in last-minute changes of direction, or taking extra long time for reviews. These delays sabotage a project schedule and can add cost to the project, lose resources off your project, and even affect the agency’s other clients.



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