Account Services Calculus: How Many AMs and PMs Do You Need?

Our Cella team has been asked this question time and time again—and the answer to that question is highly dependent on many factors including company size, agency size and type and tier of output. But thanks to the many of you who responded to our recent AM/PM Pulse Survey, we now have a clearer picture of the norm…and the findings are surprisingly consistent across teams!

In that survey we asked questions such as:

  • How large is your team?
  • How many team members are AM and/or PM roles?
  • Are these roles a hybrid or distinct?
  • On average, how many projects does your PM manage at any one time?
  • On average, how many client groups do your AM’s manage?

Interestingly, the responses to this survey skewed to a larger group of teams than is usually represented in our In-House Creative Industry Report (“IHCIR”). Perhaps many smaller teams self-selected out of the survey due a lack of account service roles. In our broader IHCIR survey 51% of all respondents have these roles, 87% of teams larger than 50 and 36% of teams with 10 or less team members. In the AM/PM Pulse Survey 87% of all respondents had these roles, 92% of teams larger than 50 and 76% of teams with 10 or less team members.

For purposes of this survey, we combined the roles of AM and PM because these roles are often not consistently defined. Some define the role of account manager and project manager interchangeably and to get a clearer picture of the resource investment in these roles across teams we combined them. In Cella’s experience larger, more mature organizations typically have both roles and their responsibilities are very distinct and in smaller organizations the AM and PM roles are often combined into a hybrid role. Overall in this survey we found that 62% of teams have hybrid roles and 38% have distinct roles. Simply put, Cella believes that the AM role should be responsible for the client relationship while the PM should own the project. However, in smaller creative teams (20 or less people) we support a hybrid approach in most cases.

Teams that reported they had AM and or PM roles were analyzed in the latest survey….and drum roll please…on average, teams have 14%-28% of their headcount allocated to AMs and/or PMs. The largest determining factor seems to be team size.

Team Size Average # of AMs/PMs % of Total Team Size
≤10 2.3 28%
11-20 3.8 25%
21-30 5.4 21%
31-50 7.4 18%
51+ 15.8 14%

While small teams (≤ 10) are significantly less likely to have account services roles, these teams have the largest percentage of resources allocated to these roles. This is likely an example of economies of scale. The larger you are the more resources you will need, but you can deploy them more efficiently.

Like overall team size, the number of annual projects was also a factor on the number and percentage of AM/PM roles. In general, the more projects you do the more AM/PM roles you need but your efficiency increases.

# of Annual Projects Average # of AMs/PMs % of Total Team Size
≤1000 2.7 23%
1000-3000 7.0 17%
3000-6000 10.3 19%
6000+ 13.0 15%

We also analyzed if there were differences between AM, PM and hybrid roles within organizations. If you are 50+ you are far more likely to split your AM and PM roles; 64% of “mega” teams do this. Few groups have an AM role, only 2%. Most teams of 50 and under have a hybrid role.

Team Size Both AM/PM AM Only PM Only Hybrid
Overall 18% 2% 18% 62%
≤10 12% 4% 20% 64%
11-20 6% 3% 23% 68%
21-30 6% 0% 25% 69%
31-50 24% 0% 12% 65%
51+ 64% 9% 0% 27%

Finally, we also asked about the number of average projects a PM can handle at one time. Overall, 52% of respondents indicated 6 to 20 projects, however the data was quite evenly distributed. Interestingly, the mode (the answer most selected) was 30+ at 22%.

We found no trends looking at the data by industry. We also found few trends by company revenue band except in teams at $30B+ companies. These teams are more likely to have headcounts of 50+ and most often follow the aforementioned data patterns for teams of that size.

So, how many AMs and PMs do you need? It’s hard to say due the large variation we have in project types and differences in the way we define our roles. But for the first time we have some clear, benchmarked data to show where others your size have landed.

dm04r 2Cella Senior Consultant Dan Mucha brings more than two decades of results-oriented thinking and a record of success to bear on every challenge. His background includes co-founding and guidance of a vanguard marketing services firm to 13 consecutive profitable years—with record performance in productivity and increased shareholder value. As a consultant Dan helps organizations with business unit strategy and planning; process evaluation and re-engineering; and financial/workflow system evaluation, design and implementation.

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