Agency Traffic Manager: Key Roles and Responsibilities

The old saying “Nomen est omen” states it simply: (a) name is (a) sign. Like so, the term agency traffic manager pretty much says it all for itself.

Wait, wait—or does it?

For the non-agency crowd, the title may not be all that intuitive.

In a nutshell: because agency work revolves around successfully delivering projects, agency traffic management was coined for the process of keeping the traffic (tasks and project phases) running smoothly. Several teams need to work together to fulfill client requests, and traffic managers are here to keep work flowing.

But that’s just in brief. Take a scroll with us through all the details of an agency traffic manager’s key roles and responsibilities.

What Does a Traffic Manager Do?

We’ve talked about what agency operations managers do. We’ve also covered project manager roles and responsibilities. So, what exactly does a traffic manager do? 

Sometimes titled production manager, an agency traffic manager does a lot of planning, coordinating, and supervising.

Their main goal is to ensure that work coming in from account managers flows to production teams and through to delivery. In other words, traffic managers need to understand and unite client expectations and requests and ensure the smooth production of deliverables from creative teams.

In an ideal world, the traffic manager role is one of the key personas behind the satisfaction of both staff and clients, making sure that projects are bringing profit and that timelines are met.

What Is a Web Traffic Manager?

A traffic manager can also play a specialized role in marketing, media, and advertising agencies. This is often known as a web traffic manager.

This is a subset of the digital marketing role, and their primary responsibilities include setting up, managing, and optimizing ad campaigns to attract as many visits to websites or applications as possible.

In this article, we’ll cover the traffic manager’s more generic managerial and interpersonal roles in the entire agency, but this distinction is handy to remember.

The Difference Between Traffic, Project and Account Managers

In some agencies, project managers, resource managers, operations managers, or account managers take on similar roles and responsibilities that traffic managers have.

Similar to project and account managers, traffic managers need to keep tabs on project deadlines, update all parties involved in each project, and monitor progress in between.

So what’s the difference?

Well, agency traffic managers are more concerned with managing and optimizing processes rather than individuals, teams, and clients.

It mostly involves macro-planning by overseeing the broader picture of each project phase and making sure that the smaller steps are moving forward, too. They facilitate project completion from the perspective of workflow optimization at large.

Beware, though, there’s a difference between macro and micro-planning. While accounts will be servicing clients and pinging creative directors left and right, project managers will be following up on the tiniest of tasks within their teams. Simultaneously, agency traffic managers will be clearing, well, the traffic.

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It’s important to note that this can also vary significantly depending on a company’s size. In a smaller business, a traffic manager can have a hybrid role that combines the responsibilities of project and account managers.

We also have an article on the project analyst job description, if you want to learn more about project-specific roles in companies.

Agency Traffic Manager – Key Responsibilities and Skills

In agencies that have a dedicated traffic manager, the following responsibilities are common:

1. Setting up and monitoring schedules

The biggest part of a traffic manager’s job is making sure that schedule planning is set up and flowing well. Before, Excel was a traffic manager’s main tool to do this. Today, agency traffic managers will balance and move schedules and deadlines around from a higher level—but by using some kind of agency management software.

In collaboration with project and account managers, traffic managers will know whether there’s more work coming in and whether there’s a need to push back deadlines, hire contractors, or plan potential hires. They’ll be making sure that work for creative or production teams is equally distributed.

2. Monitoring project statuses and deadlines

For most complex projects that involve multiple stakeholders and tight deadlines, daily status syncs are a best practice. Traffic managers usually schedule weekly and daily status monitoring meetings to check task projects, budget spending, and track time on services and projects. When needed, traffic managers are responsible for suggesting process improvements.

3. Updating management

Be it agency owners, heads of HR, or creative directors, traffic managers will regularly touch base with managerial staff. Why?

For example, a traffic manager can assist directors in creative agencies in assigning work to the appropriate designers, developers, or copywriters based on previous data, like utilization on similar projects.

When looking into resource schedules for weeks and even months in advance, the traffic manager can speak with the managerial board and the human resources team to ensure who’s next to hire.

Account directors will speak with traffic managers to cross-check on client satisfaction or regarding budget spending. Agency CEOs or managing partners will be interested in the traffic managers’ ability to optimize agency workflows that result in improved agency profitability and overall employee satisfaction.

4. Distributing assignments

In case another manager isn’t directly in charge of distributing all assignments to production teams, depending on availability and priorities, agency traffic managers may be in charge of coordination between teams.

5. Reporting

Having tracked time doesn’t only help with hiring. Real-time data that comes from time regularly tracked time on services, plus having your overhead costs and other expenses calculated into your profitability metrics all help management navigate further on. You’ll know when you need to charge more, increase budgets, or offer discounts to clients and use historical data to improve agency operations management in the future.

Again, depending on the size and type of your company, operations management activities will vary. Similarly, key pain points and challenges are different from agency to agency, but we’ve covered the three common ones, nevertheless.

I do administration for projects and also resource planning. I’m really a fan of lists and having an overview as a planner because you’re really busy with making a puzzle and Productive—it really helps me to make that puzzle. It makes it a joy to plan.

SIGRID VAN ROOSMALEN,
TRAFFIC CONTROLLER AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICER AT HIKE ONE

Most agency traffic managers that work in digital agencies will have a background in business economics, marketing, advertising, or similar communication-related fields. What’s even more important, though, is the skill set that a manager needs to successfully handle project delivery.

The key skills that an agency traffic manager needs to have are:

  • Excellent time management and prioritization skills
  • Great command under pressure and stress
  • A pragmatic approach to problem-solving
  • Adaptability to new situations
  • Confidence in decision-making
  • Expertise in communication and organizational skills
  • Multi-tasking and collaboration skills

The Benefits of Agency Traffic Management

According to research by McKinsey, some of the main causes of organizational inefficiency include:

  • Unclear roles and responsibilities (40%)
  • Redundant activities (25%)
  • Unclear processes (28%)
  • Slow approval mechanisms (23%)
  • Too much time spent on meetings (23%)

Effective workflow management should ideally look to address all of the challenges above. A traffic manager position is at the juncture of the company’s informational pulse, along with the project manager. They’re ideally positioned to help assign responsibilities to the right staff at the right time.

One of the managers’ primary roles is ensuring that all processes and activities are relevant — this means they monitor how they contribute to strategic business goals. For example, a traffic manager has insights into project budgets and expenses and how they impact agency profitability.

Finally, good traffic managers can address even something like feedback and meeting times. For one, they can take the heat off team leaders and other managers and step in to review some parts of the finalized work.

Because they oversee the management agency’s macro level, they can also help keep meetings and business reviews on track.

A Typical Day in the Life of an Agency Traffic Manager

A typical day in the life of an agency traffic manager is very diverse and it can include at least a few, but sometimes most of the following:

  • Going over items, tasks, project phases, and due dates
  • Reviewing timelines and schedule changes with account or project managers
  • Reviewing budget spending with account managers to get client approval
  • Monitoring tracked time and utilization rates
  • Planning and forecasting upcoming projects
  • Holding daily and weekly project status meetings to share progress and updates

Using Software to Support Business Workflows

Nowadays, tools like project management software, time trackers, or professional services automation solutions are a must if you want to get the most out of your resources (time, employees, finances, etc.).

Why?

Because they support your workflows with more reliable data, an open workspace for project visibility, and custom automations for streamlining task management (for example, a task is updated -> a message is sent automatically to Slack).

The upsides of agency management tools are well recorded — for example, a Panorama Consulting survey reports that software implementation results in:

  • Increased productivity and workflow efficiency (74%)
  • Reduced operating and/or labor costs (57%)
  • Improved standardization (46%)
  • Fewer agency silos (14%)

An example of a solution that can help you achieve this is Productive, a comprehensive agency operations management solution. It’s designed specifically for professional services and can provide great support to agency production managers and traffic managers.

Streamlining the Day-to-Day Work of an Agency Traffic Manager

As an agency traffic manager, these are some of the activities that a modern software solution (like Productive) can help you with:

Resource scheduling

Projects

Budgeting

Time tracking

Reports

Now let’s get into more details.


manage the macro and micro levels of your resources with ProductivE’s agency capacity planning template

As an agency traffic manager, you’ll work with project managers or account managers to plan out who will work on which project and when, build teams, and make sure everyone can finish the work assigned to them in due time.

You can get key data about bookings directly in Productive’s Resource Planning module. Project managers will decide on time estimates and evaluate team availability, while you’ll be in charge of shifting resources around from a higher level in Productive.

As a traffic manager, you’re not that interested in which tasks have been completed and all the small TODOs in between. But, because each project has tasks and services, budgets, and time allocated to it, you’ll need to monitor the costs linked to each project to effectively move projects forward on a higher level. In Productive, you’ll be peeking into budget spending per project and making sure the right resources are working towards meeting deadlines.


PRODUCTIVE SUPPORTS THE SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF PROJECTS WITH FINANCIAL FORECASTING

One of the biggest benefits you get as a traffic manager using Productive is tracked time and the ability to monitor time off bookings. With regularly tracked time on each project and integrated time off management in Productive, you get real-time data in Reports. It’s also much easier to move schedules around and collaborate with project managers and HR with that data.

Right now we can have reports and also we can have time off requests and easy edits in the schedule.

SIGRID VAN ROOSMALEN,
TRAFFIC CONTROLLER AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICER AT HIKE ONE

How Agency Traffic Managers Can Get The Most Out of Productive

Excellent planning and leadership skills are half of what a successful agency traffic manager needs—while the other half are strong people management skills.

A real-time overview of schedules, budgets, time tracking, and utilization are also a must.

Book a demo call to find out what Productive can do for you.

Keep Your Agency Running Smoothly

Businesses choose Productive to simplify daily workflows with a full suite of management features, from time tracking to reports.

Book a demo

Marija Kata Vlašić

Content Marketing Specialist

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