Effective project management is the cornerstone of profitability. For creative agencies, time IS money, so it’s essential that processes and performance are optimized.
Project management software can help creative agencies deliver efficiencies for themselves and their clients. But how do you select the right software? And can one product really do it all?
This article explores the benefits for project management software for agencies, explains how to shortlist solutions to demo, and introduces a range of respected solutions for different agency needs.
- Why is project management important for agencies?
- Project management software: features and benefits for creative agencies
- How should creative agencies choose project management software?
- Can one PM software do everything my agency needs?
- Simple project management software for creative agencies
- 10 ‘all-in-one’ project management software for creative agencies
- Related key software solutions for creative agencies
Creative agencies are alchemists that turn time, effort and imagination into gold. They thrive in the sweet spot between creativity and control. That’s why creative agency project management software isn’t just about GANTT charts and time tracking anymore (though that is an important part of it). It is about:
- Working together for more creative and collaborative projects.
- Freeing creative staff from tedious admin tasks that sap their time and enthusiasm.
- Gaining insights that drive improvements and increase revenue.
- Increasing efficiency to maximize billable hours.
- Delivering faster work, added value and excellent service to clients.
From enhanced outputs and increased income, to satisfied clients and happier staff, effective project management delivers significant economic, strategic and commercial benefits to your agency.
The high cost of low performance
On the flip side, inefficient or inconsistent project delivery can quickly translate into financial losses for creative agencies.
In fact, the Project Management Institute estimates poor project management costs European businesses a total of $131m for every $1b spent on projects, describing it as the ‘high cost of low performance’.
So how do you know if your agency has a project management problem that software could solve? Look out for:
- Discrepancies between estimated and achieved project value, which may be a result of overservicing clients or overrunning projects.
- Peaks and troughs in workload, due to the challenges of manually monitoring and assigning tasks across multiple projects.
- Ineffective collaboration or staff working in silos, resulting in missed opportunities and operational inefficiencies.
- Lost productivity due to excessive admin and manual processes.
Whether you’re a small agency that hasn’t explored software solutions yet, or a larger agency ready to review your software stack, there are a lot of options out there. Software comparison site, Capterra, lists over 800 PM tools.
Below, we’ve picked out some agency-specific software to start your search. But first, what features should you be looking for in agency project management software?
From simple collaborative tools to improve communication between colleagues, to powerful portfolio management solutions for global brands, there is software to suit every creative agency’s needs and budget.
Agency project management software usually offers core functionality that covers some or all of the creative project lifecycle. Typically, two or more of the following areas.
- Estimating: to improve accuracy of estimating, pipeline management and proposal creation
- Project management: scheduling and dynamic rescheduling of projects, monitoring progress and budget
- Customer relationship management: to help convert prospects into leads and customers
- Tasks and workflow management: to help your team keep on top of their responsibilities with personalized task lists and the ability to assign work to others
- Collaboration and communication: to work together effectively in one place, streamlining sign off and providing transparency
- Financial management: for everything from estimates and invoicing, to agency-specific financial metrics
- Asset and file management: to provide ease of access to digital assets, maximizing productivity for creatives
- Time tracking: to plan resource, track productivity and record billable hours
- Reporting and insights: to inform data-driven decision-making and continual improvement
Before committing to a purchase, it is important to think through the exact functionality you need, and balance the benefits against your budget.
Implementing new software takes time and money, so it’s worth researching the right solution for your agency. But with so many PM products on the market, how do you choose the right one for your agency, so you can harness its potential and drive up revenue?
Here are four steps to assessing and selecting software:
What do your users need and how can software help? Aim to gather feedback from all colleagues involved in delivering projects.
Think about what your software solution Must, Should, Could and Won’t need to provide.
Consider questions such as:
- Functionality – which software best meets your stakeholder and MoSCoW analysis?
- Usability – user satisfaction is key to your software’s success. If they don’t use it, you won’t realize the ROI
- Scalability – can it scale to the size you need it to?
- Storage - cloud-based or installed?
- Off-the-shelf or bespoke to your business?
- All-in-one solution or complementary specialist tools?
Only 29% of businesses demo two or more software solutions, despite the investment involved. Aim to engage stakeholders from each area to test and score the system.
‘All-in-one’ agency management software is an attractive prospect for busy agencies with a buoyant budget.
One benefit is real-time insights and reporting. To truly maximize their revenue, agencies need an overview of all areas of their performance, from the accuracy of estimates to the profitability of different clients.
Using multiple software solutions can mean time-consuming manual extraction of data to provide insights. AMS (application management service) streamlines this process, providing real-time insights into project performance.
Another key benefit is having everything in one place, as the AMS becomes the ‘single source of truth’ for all project knowledge. Having a single platform can also – potentially - make it easier for staff to learn, use and leverage the benefits of the system.
However, there’s also an argument for building a bespoke stack of individual - but integrated - software solutions that meet the exact needs of your agency.
Whilst AMS functionality is impressive, they can be expensive and include features you end up paying for but never using. Additional features can also create a steeper learning curve for colleagues and can make onboarding more challenging.
Put simply, all-in-one systems are like a software Swiss Army Knife. They provide tools for every eventuality. Just make sure you need everything you’re paying for. Otherwise you might end up wasting money on a screwdriver and corkscrew, when all you wanted was the pen knife and scissors.