3 Tools Every Agency Needs
Agencies are complex. Different types of agencies require different types of tools. However, there are 3 software tools that should be used by every agency, regardless of size.
Project Management Software
Project management software is arguably the most important piece of productivity software for agencies. This should go without saying, but surprisingly, it still needs to be said. Many agencies incorrectly assume that software such as Asana and Trello are project management tools. Wrong—these are task managers. Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying — they are nice apps, they’re just not for project management (contrary to how they may be marketed).
Task management is only one component of project management software. Robust project management solutions also provide the following functionality:
- Cost estimates
- Expense tracking
- Kanban boards
- Project reporting
- Team reporting
- Sprint management
One thing I’ve noticed about many of the popular task managers is that they will have “Boards”, but they are usually bound to projects. The problem with this approach is that agency teams often work on multiple projects at the same time. Users shouldn’t have to navigate to 5 different project boards to see all of those tasks. Ideally, they would have one board with everything they are working on. Additionally, it’s common to have multiple teams working on the same project, each with their own unique workflows. Boards (Kanban or Scrum) should not live inside of projects. Task managers such as Asana won’t help you out much here and will likely make it more difficult to see the big picture.
Resource Planning Software
Agencies are notorious for miscalculating when to hire new employees. This is largely related to not having proper visibility into the utilization of their employees. Too many people are hired, some of whom have to be laid off later when there is not enough client work.
It’s important to have a bird’s-eye view of how your resources are allocated. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I know if my employees are over or under utilized?
- Do I know when we can take on more work?
Sadly many agencies are unable to accurately answer these two questions.
Resource planning software makes it easy to provide answers to these questions. Margins can sometimes be thin in the agency world, and it’s imperative that agencies optimize their operations as much as possible. A solid resource planning tool can add a tremendous amount of value to agencies, especially those with more than just a few employees.
Time Tracking Software
I’m fascinated by how many agencies don’t ask their employees to keep track of time. Here are some of the common excuses for why they don’t track time:
- “We don’t bill by the hour.”
- “Our employees hate logging time.”
Tracking time is really the only way agencies can know if they’ve made money on a given project. In fact, proper time tracking can allow an agency see if individual tasks are profitable. Additionally, time tracking coupled with time estimates make it easier to make better decisions in the future regarding how much clients should be billed.
If employees don’t like logging time, then too bad. It usually takes less than 15 seconds to create a time log with most time tracking software. That 15 seconds is well spent and will provide a wealth of data for making better decisions.
Most successful agencies make use of robust project management, resource planning, and time tracking software. It’s never too early to start making use of the right tools. In fact, it’s much harder to implement these solutions when an agency has grown beyond a certain size (say, 2 employees). Best practices combined with the right tools can dramatically increase the chances for success.
About the Author
Davidson Wicker is the Founder & CEO of Ravetree (www.ravetree.com), a work management software platform for project-driven organizations. Prior to starting Ravetree, Davidson worked as a software engineer where he built enterprise applications for Fortune 500 companies. He has spoken several times on the topic of “Agile Beyond Software,” and is a strong advocate for the adoption of Agile principles in digital agencies and elsewhere. Davidson holds a Masters Degree in Applied Physics and is a former college physics instructor.