Essential Project Management Techniques for Medical Communicators

    essential-project-management-techniques-for-medical-communicatorsMedical communicators do more than write. As a project manager, your role can include managing documents, processes, timelines, and people, sometimes across multiple teams. Effective project management is essential for success with complex projects, especially when they involve the drug development cycle. 

    These project management techniques for before, during, and after project kickoff can help.

    Understanding Your Role

    As project manager of a medical writing project, you most likely will need to shepherd the project from the writing phase through a complex series of reviews by subject matter experts, internal staff, and copy editors. These reviews usually are followed by formatting by a graphic designer and additional reviews by quality control and other stakeholders. Throughout this often stressful and difficult process, people will be counting on you to maintain good humor and to ensure that all players work smoothly as a team.

    Success Before Kickoff

    In the AMWA on‑demand video, Effective Project Management: Paving the Path to Successful Regulatory Documents, Lynne Munno, MA, MS, offers these tips for getting and staying organized prior to project launch:

    • Create a folder or system for project documents.
    • Obtain a team roster.
    • Forecast project timelines.
    • Determine and gather resources, including contractor writers.

    Perfecting the Project Kickoff

    Project initiation or kickoff is one of the most crucial information‑gathering points for the project manager. This is the time to call all team members together and get everyone on board.

    At a kickoff meeting, it is important to provide an overview and objectives and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the project. A poorly defined topic or inaccurate specifications can result in disaster. You will need to drill down to core issues until topics and specifications are clearly defined and understood, or you must ensure that they will be understood as soon as information can be made available. As project manager, you can better engage and motivate the team by positioning the clarifying process as a means to producing an outstanding product. 

    The kickoff meeting is also the time to confirm and introduce the members of the project team, review standard operating procedures, and outline and confirm timelines. Creating a slide presentation for this meeting can be helpful. Once the project parameters are understood, the project manager’s mission is to plan, communicate, and control. 

    Ongoing Project Management 

    After the kickoff, ongoing communication is essential, along with diligently following project management strategies. The following action items (also from the Effective Project Management on‑demand video package) can ensure that project managers keep everyone updated and that the project stays on schedule:

    • Immediately send meeting slides to everyone via email. Make sure slides contain updated information and reflect updates that occurred at the kickoff meeting. 
    • Schedule meetings with writers, contributors, and quality control managers according to the timeline. Allow for work conflicts and individual schedules. Getting team members on board early can help prevent further delays.
    • Gather any additional documents, and make sure they are provided to the appropriate people.
    • Manage timelines, and update and renegotiate them as needed. If conflicts arise, look for creative solutions, such as scheduling small meetings for key players if they cannot attend a larger group meeting. 
    • Stay on top of document management. Use an electronic repository, and be very clear in denoting individual edits, presenting time frames for review and changes, and maintaining version control. Use document‑locking mechanisms as needed.

    Medical writers as project managers are the driving force behind content development. Whether they are staff members, freelancers, or consultants, they are responsible for managing the process of turning a concept into a final produced piece. Their challenge is to accomplish this on an often-demanding schedule, delivering high‑quality work while overcoming many obstacles. Meeting this challenge involves effective project management techniques of planning, communicating, and controlling at every stage of the project.


    March 2, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    American Medical Writers Association

    AMWA is the leading resource for medical communicators. The AMWA Blog is developed in partnership with community members who work every day to create clear communications that lead to better health and well-being.