Opinion

Beyond timelines and budgets, what does the Head of Delivery actually do?

When I’m asked what I do for a living, or introduced to a new client, I’m guilty of giving a bit of a generic response – something along the lines of “I manage projects” or “I keep timings and budgets on track”. But, each time I hear myself give a default response like this, I cringe!

Beyond timelines and budgets, what does the Head of Delivery actually do?

It’s difficult to explain my role and responsibilities in one sentence. So, if you’re wondering what I or someone else in a similar role will actually be doing when you work with them on your next project, here are around 50 sentences to explain.

I’ve been working on digital and creative projects since late 2015. Fresh out of university and new to this exciting world, I probably did think success was all about hitting deadlines and not going over budget. I now know that whilst these benchmarks are important, they only scratch the surface of what defines a truly successful project and client relationship.

I’m a planner

Each project starts with a planning stage where we closely collaborate with our clients to outline project objectives and understand their business goals. I then work on creating a realistic timeline, establishing achievable milestones, assigning responsibilities, and ensuring everyone understands the scope and requirements.

Throughout the life of a project, my role involves assessing the ideal team members suited for each task, considering their existing commitments, aligning with the client’s availability and determining the most effective collaborations for a smooth process.

I’m nosey

Mastering my role requires a bit of curiosity. Each team member contributes to our collective success, so as the person who oversees the lifecycle of a project, it’s crucial that I’m informed and engaged with the latest.

Actually, it’s a bit more than me just being nosey. My responsibilities extend to guaranteeing that the final delivery aligns with our defined objectives, that we’re working efficiently and that we are providing value with each output.

There is a delicate balance between overseeing and instructing. I need to ensure there’s progress without micromanaging – fostering a working style where autonomy is encouraged whilst keeping an eye on the project’s success factors.

I’m a chatter

I spend a significant amount of my time engaging with both our team and clients. Whilst efficient scheduling is key to successful deliveries, effective communication is even more important. I need to continuously update both the client and team, being careful not to overwhelm, address concerns without creating panic, and manage expectations without creating disappointment.

Often being the link between people, my approach is geared towards transparency, clarity and trust. I try my best to adapt to how people work and interact, encourage other team members to communicate internally, and build and maintain good client relationships.

I’m adaptable

Remaining adaptable and flexible is a necessity. This extends beyond changing schedules; it’s embracing diverse working styles and responding to the evolving needs of each moment. One email can change everything!

As I spoke about in my ‘5 ways I know we’re Beautifully Effective®’ article, uncertainties are unavoidable. Part of my role involves thinking about what the possible risks might be, and what we can do to mitigate them. The earlier I ask the right questions and anticipate potential challenges, the more effectively we can navigate them.

Everyone works differently and so, as Head of Delivery, I need to take the time to understand what approach works best for each client and each member of the team. I believe you get the best out of people when you show them respect and empathy whilst supporting collaboration.

I’m a learner

There’s always something new to learn and, as part of my role, I feel a responsibility to promote continuous improvement by reflecting and learning from failures and successes. The more we work together, and are honest about what’s working, what we need to refine and what we need to stop doing, the better we get.

This isn’t just about accountability and encouraging improvement, it’s also about ideation. Especially in the digital world, things change at a fast pace and there are always new pieces of technology or approaches to improve how we work day to day.

I facilitate retrospective wash-up meetings and regular stand-ups where together we evaluate the above. This helps us to measure success, work effectively and deliver a quality service.

A final observation

Over the past 8 years, I’ve learnt that success in my role extends far beyond the confines of timelines and budgets. It encompasses meticulous planning, seamless communication, and adaptability. Ensuring everyone is equipped with the necessary resources and engaged in their responsibilities. That the overarching success objectives are achievable.

So next time I’m asked what I do for a living, I know I can say more than just “timelines and budgets”.

Nicole Cook
Head of Delivery
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