From Chaos to Control: How Agency Project Management Tools Can Transform Your Workflow

SUMMARY
Discover how project management tools designed for agencies can transform your workflow from mayhem to mastery.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Finding the right tools can make a measurable difference.

Welcome to the agency life — where the pace is blistering, the stakes are sky-high, and the projects? As diverse as the instruments in an orchestra. A sometimes out-of-tune orchestra . . .

In the high-speed, high-expectation arena of project management, delivering quality work isn’t just about surviving and (hopefully) thriving in the mayhem. There’s a better way to do things, orchestrating it all into a perfectly in-tune, beautiful symphony.

With how fast-paced the world has become, it’s no surprise that we have to change our businesses to keep up with the times and eventually come out on top as one of the best in our niche.

When managing a digital marketing agency, you face a dual challenge — maintaining the progress of client projects while managing your own team. To prevent burnout or chaos, balancing multiple client projects and ensuring effective resource management is less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

Thankfully, there is such a thing as agency project management software.

Buckle up, because we’re about to turbo-charge your project management toolkit!

Scale up to move up with agency management tools

So, what exactly are project management tools?

Project management tools provide a centralized platform for (surprise!) project management. And the big draw here is they allow agencies to track progress, implement adequate resource management, and collaborate effectively with their creative teams and clients.

So if you’re a project manager and you’re not using these tools, you’re really missing out and playing life on hard mode.

Some of the key features of the most effective project management tools include:

  • Time tracking and reporting
  • Task management
  • Budget management
  • Custom workflows

The bottom line is that agency project management software transforms workflows and levels up your project management game. Keep on scrolling to get your one-stop guide to project management tools for agencies and how they can help your digital marketing agency overcome project management challenges.

Time to hop off the struggle bus and onto the ScaleTime train for a joyride on easy street!

What is Agency Project Management?

Creative agencies have unique project management needs

Before getting into the details, you’ve got to know what agency project management is before you can fully understand, and therefore, appreciate, how useful it is.

Simply put, it’s the type of project management that focuses solely on managing projects for:

  • Marketing agencies
  • Advertising agencies
  • Creative agencies

The fact that it focuses on these highly specific segments of the agency market completely changes its trajectory from your typical project management efforts. For example, construction project management software and methods would look very different from ad agency project management.

Common Challenges in Agency Project Management

Overcome challenges with the right technology and the right team

We’ve already established that your project progress depends on your ability as a digital marketing agency to implement advanced project management. What, then, can hinder our best efforts?

We’ve outlined some of those issues that your agency might be familiar with below. And if so, our sincerest condolences. These problems are the pits.

Managing client expectations

Aside from the all-too-common fact that client expectations can be as far from what is realistically possible as the sun is from the earth, we also know that clients can sometimes be unsure of their expectations. You can see this at play in the number of times the direction of work changes in a project.

It’s a head-spinning disaster.

To better manage your client expectations, the first thing you want to do is define these expectations and goals. Then, establish a protocol for evaluating possible changes to these goals throughout the project cycle. This will help you avoid losing track of the purpose of the project as iteration occurs.

Scope creep

Similar to what we identified in the previous paragraph, the scope of a project tends to get lost without proper management as a project proceeds, especially for large projects. This can result in longer project completion times and cause a decline in team productivity.

Communication and team collaboration

In most cases, agency projects will span many teams and stakeholders, so miscommunication is bound to occur. This can lead to duplication of efforts, missed deadlines, and just plain chaos in the agency.

Lack of visibility

It is one thing to know a project’s goals and quite another to successfully track progress toward completing them.

As agencies often deal with complex projects that typically equate to a ton of people working on one or more projects at a time, it’s even harder to track how much progress has been made on each specific task.

You can overcome these challenges and resolve them with these tactics:

  • Define the project’s goal and scope
  • Outline task dependencies
  • Assign tasks to teammates
  • Monitor the team’s progress towards achieving the goal in the timeline allotted
  • Analyze project data and identify areas for improvement in subsequent iterations

Unsurprisingly, the right project management software can make these solutions possible for the typical challenges of agency project management.

The Role of Agency Project Management Software

An agency’s clientele varies a lot, and so do the services it offers those clients. These services range from social media management to branding campaigns, web development, and other creative projects. This often begets the need for collaboration between the marketing teams, creative team, dedicated account manager, and other project team members.

A good agency project management software package offers features that simplify collaboration, project planning and tracking, and other typical needs throughout the entire project lifecycle.

So, after an agency has determined the steps it needs to take to improve its processes, it can use the project management software of choice to create a structure that supports its efforts.

Well that sounds fantastic, ScaleTime! So why do I even need a project manager?

For the following reasons.

There’s no replacement for an experienced project manager

An agency with project management software that meets its needs will still require its project managers to guide the use of the work management platform.

Because a tool, any tool for that matter, is only as good as the hands that wield it.

With project management software, a competent project manager can better plan, execute, and close projects with the help of the creative professionals on the team.

While your project management tool doest create a better structure for handling client projects, your project manager oversees everything else in between — including communicating progress to the client and stakeholders and implementing resourceful use of the software system.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Agency Project Management Software Package

The right tools will help you to see the big picture without missing important details

Choosing the right software package for your agency can be a long and tiring process with many swipes before you finally find your match. So to help with that, we-re gonna reduce workload with a top-notch curation of the most important factors to consider when researching project management software.

Feel free to thank us later.

Project and team type

The type of projects your agency takes on and the type of team you run should affect your choice, as the needs of one class of projects differs from the next.

For example, creative agencies have unique needs. Creative projects tend to live with both your external and in-house creative teams. As such, you’ll need a tool that allows you to share useful information across both teams without having the entire project open to the external team.

If your agency is a master of all profitable projects, then you need a tool that can cater to all the project and team types your agency takes on.

Scalability

Whatever your agency’s current size, we know you expect and plan for it to grow even bigger. This makes it imperative that the project management software you introduce to the agency should be one you can scale to perform effectively as your agency grows and you take on more clients, projects, and employees.

Flexibility

A typical business requires other tools aside from its agency project management tools to function effectively. In most cases, you also need to think about how to integrate these other tools with your project management app or tool.

The project management software of your choice should integrate seamlessly with other tools like Slack, email apps, Google services, Dropbox, GitHub, Outlook, Salesforce, etc.

Customizability

A typical project management tool can provide you with many great features. But sometimes, you might need to customize those features to work more effectively across multiple projects.

For example, an advertising agency might want to view a campaign through the eyes of their target audience. So, their project management tool must have the capability to customize views via audience segment. And this is just one example of what we mean by customizability.

So, YMMV.

Customer support

Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never needed to contact customer support for any services or software you use. However, if your agency is big or you’re planning to get big, then you most likely require a somewhat complex project management app or software.

As you’re getting the hang of these tools, your team might require guidance from customer support. So while you research and test project management tools, it’s a good idea to ensure the tool offers an onboarding guide and fast customer support responses.

Pricing

Most agency management tools offer a variety of paid plans, each with diverse features and capabilities tailored to suit customers of different sizes. The plans tend to vary in scalability and customizability of the project management tool to meet the needs of multiple projects.

Many also offer free trial periods so you can test the premium features and see if they’ll meet your agency’s needs. Others offer free plans for smaller agencies whose needs are yet to evolve past the key features available in their free plan.

Available features

While popular project management systems generally offer key features like Kanban boards, to-do lists, time tracking, and Gantt charts, some unique capabilities may vary depending on the tool you choose.

You’ll want to select the one that best aligns with your agency’s needs and offers the most beneficial features.

Must-Have Features in Agency Project Management Tools

Take the time to look into the features of each potential tool.

We can’t create an exhaustive list of features for you to look for in your agency project management tool, as features are sometimes like shoes — there’s no one-size fits-all.

Thank your lucky stars, because the technological luxuries now commonplace in project management tools far exceed what was available just a few years ago. Here are some of the must-have features to look for when shopping for an agency project management tool.

Workflow automation

A handful of simple recurring tasks exist in creative teams’ daily, weekly, or monthly work cycles. So why waste time recreating them from scratch, every time? You can reduce recurring workloads with automated project workflows.

Workflow automation as a feature in a project management app allows the team to improve efficiency, boost productivity, and save time.

Project templates

Features like Gantt charts and Kanban boards are used similarly within an agency. Project management software with the feature to create templates of reusable components like Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and roadmaps also removes some recurring tasks from your to-do list.

Time-tracking

Your preferred project management system should track time effectively. It’s critical for budgeting and client satisfaction.

Digital agency project management software with time-tracking features gives insight into the time spent on a project. With this, you can determine if you met your time management goal and the areas where you didn’t meet them, and that data allows you to gain insight into the changes necessary to improve efficiency.

While this feature might not seem to help with the actual work, you’ll find its analytics incredibly useful for project post-mortem team meetings.

Chat function

Even if you don’t run a remote office, a chat function in your project management tool saves time, as teammates don’t need to pick up the phone, send an email, or physically find the next person to answer a quick question or make a comment.

Project tracking

Given that tracking outlined tasks to monitor project progress is a major challenge for agencies, effective project management software should offer a solution for this issue. Typical tracking features of creative project management software include to-do lists and roadmaps.

Roadmap features vary per application. But you should be able to customize them so they prioritize tasks and track project milestones based on a specific set of deliverables.

Integrations

A good project management tool should allow seamless integration with tools like Zapier, Slack, Mailchimp, and others for even better time management. If the tool lacks certain features, integrating it with another tool can provide these helpful capabilities.

Best Agency Project Management Tools

We’ve compiled a list of the best project management tools on the market

Asana

Asana is one of the best free project management tools for small or large teams. The free version accommodates up to 15 team members. The paid plans cost is between $10.99-$13.49 per user.

Features

  • Kanban boards
  • Gantt charts
  • Notifications and reminders
  • Real-time updates

Wrike

Wrike is a powerful yet simple project management software tool with a free plan for teams just getting started. Larger teams pay $9.80 or more per user.

Features

  • Gantt charts
  • Time tracking
  • Workflow automation
  • Collaboration on calendars
  • Notifications

Jira

Jira is another of the best project management tools, free for up to 10 users, with paid plans starting from $7.75 per user.

Features

  • Roadmaps
  • Project boards
  • Real-time reports and insight
  • Community and customer support

GitHub

GitHub is a free project-tracking software package designed for software developers. You can use it alongside your primary project management software for your digital media agency since the software team mostly uses it.

Features

  • Workflow automation
  • Integration with Email, Slack, and other free project management tools
  • Projects board with a list, Kanban board, and timeline view

Trello

If your team is small and close-knit, Trello is a simple tool that will allow you to track progress on project tasks easily.

Features

  • File, picture, and link attachment
  • Task management cards
  • Prioritization by date
  • Chat functionality in cards

Hive

Hive is a free team management software for teams of up to 10 people. The pricing for its other plans, which have added features, starts from $12 per user and up.

Features

  • Chat function for team collaboration
  • Email, Slack, Zoom, and cloud storage integration
  • Customized external access
  • Collaborative notes
  • Gantt chart, Kanban board, calendar and table views​

Basecamp

This is a digital agency project management tool without a free plan. However, users have a 30-day free trial of any plan. It’s user-friendly and its comprehensive features can effectively replace a multitude of other tools.

Features

  • Time tracking
  • Interactive Gantt charts
  • Chat function for team collaboration
  • Task management (assign tasks to team members)
  • Template creation
  • 24/7 support

Monday

This project management software offers different tools for your project. Plans start at $10 per user and can go for up to $12 per user, with each plan requiring a minimum of three users.

Monday also recently introduced a free version for up to two users for the Basic plan and a 14-day free trial version for the Pro version.

Features

  • Time tracking
  • Customizable templates
  • Custom automation
  • Data-sharing tools with internal and external collaborators
  • Integration with tools you are already using

ClickUp

This cloud-based project management software package offers different plans for every project team. Plans start at $9 per member and can go as high as $29 per member.

ClickUp also has a free version, which is suitable for personal use.

Features

  • Customizable dashboards for task management
  • Time tracking
  • Email and chat function for team collaboration
  • Interactive Gantt charts
  • Increased automation and API

Case Studies | Agency Project Management Tools Examples

After all the talk about project management tools being the next big thing for your agency, we expect that you want the numbers to do the talking! After all, George Bernard Shaw said, “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.”

Here are some case studies of agencies that have implemented project management tools in their agency.

Gannett | Asana

Gannett marketing operations use Asana to grow their digital subscriber base. They boast of

  • Reduced costs
  • 389 saved workdays
  • Increased capacity (up to 2.4 times)
  • Workload report

Instinct Dog Training | Trello

  • Time management between 10-40 hours across 3 teams
  • Resource management
  • Easy scalability

Fileroom | Hive

  • Time management (up to 30% decrease in busywork)

MATE | Asana

  • Reduced meeting rate (up to 90%)
  • 40% increase in productivity
  • Cost efficiency
  • Time management of project timelines by 2 weeks

Motorola | Monday

  • 346% increase in return on investment (ROI)
  • Increased productivity among creative teams
  • Meeting and reporting times greatly reduced from 5 hours per week to an hour
  • Cost savings

Mindshare Digital | ClickUp

Midshare Digital’s switch to ClickUp helped them in marketing their client’s unique perspectives to their niche audience. The tool helped them to:

  • Provide a great customer experience
  • Increase productivity among team members
  • Reduce operating costs

Control: The Sweet Bliss of Project Management Tools for Agencies

One of the best project management tips we can give you in this ever-progressing world is to invest in a good project management tool. It’ll help you level up your workflows, team productivity, and scale your business to new heights.

When heading off on your project management software shopping spree, don’t forget these top tips and action steps:

  • The right software can help manage all the challenges encountered during your agency’s project execution. Research, choose wisely, test test test!
  • Before selecting a project management software package, perform an objective assessment of your agency, its challenges, and the solutions needed, as these factors will influence your choice.
  • The goal of integrating project management tools into your agency is to instill order and structure in your workflow. So, your selected software should progressively enhance your project workflow, not detract from it. If it is, it’s back to the drawing board and another shopping trip is in order.
  • Some of the best project management tools include Asana, Jira, Trello, GitHub, Wrike, Basecamp, Monday, and ClickUp. Start with these and go from there.

But you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve got you covered.

Uncover the secrets of optimized workflows, seamless coordination, and peak productivity. Become the maestro conducting a perfectly in-tune orchestra of efficient processes. With our checklist at your fingertips, the journey from chaos to clarity has never been easier.

Don’t let your agency’s potential gather dust. Download the one and only ScaleTime Project Management Checklist today, and step into the blindingly bright future of organized success.

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.