How to Find the Best Project Management Tool for Your Agency

Your agency juggles numerous projects, deliverables, deadlines, and client relationships.

Up to this point, you’ve attempted to keep everything organized in various spreadsheets and email threads but you’ve come to realize that it’s just not working. Important messages get lost in the shuffle, timelines slide, and status updates get buried.

You want to say “goodbye” to all of that chaos and confusion, which means you need a real agency project management tool to keep your communication centralized and your projects on track.

6 things to look for in any agency project management tool

With so many different options out there, how do you know which software to choose? Here’s your checklist of what to look for when evaluating digital project management tools for your creative agency.

  1. Agency project management tools with integrations in existing communication tools
  2. Dynamic request forms for project briefs
  3. Progress monitoring to simplify status updates
  4. Resource management to balance workload
  5. Tools for proofing, approvals, and asset management
  6. Detailed reporting to prove your value 

1. Integrations with existing communication tools

We know you’re sick of the “communication is key” cliché. But, seriously, to be successful, your agency needs to know how to communicate effectively and efficiently with your clients.

Failure to do so is a major complaint of marketers who regularly work with agencies. According to Clutch’s 2016 Enterprise Marketing Survey, marketing professionals cited communication as the top challenge working with an agency.

Here’s the tricky part: You need to streamline things, but you can’t force your clients to use your agency management software and conduct all of their communication there — especially if you’re trying to keep your asks to a minimum.

This is exactly where integrations come into play. By finding a marketing management tool that integrates with popular communication platforms, you can ensure that even the conversations that happen outside of your software are centralized, rather than being siloed in various email threads and chats.

Not only does this mean that your creative team has all of the information they need, it also means they don’t have to dig to find it — or worse, go back to a client to request information you already have.

Did you know?

Wrike integrates with all of the most popular communication tools, including Gmail, Outlook, Hangouts Chat, Slack, and more.

2. Dynamic request forms for project briefs

Your agency clients are constantly sending more requests and projects your way. That’s a good thing — it means more money in the bank.

However, it’s also difficult to keep track of. You feel like you’re constantly grappling with insufficient details and need to go back multiple times to pull more information out of your clients.

What you need is a more detailed creative brief to kickstart the project. Unfortunately, a 2013 survey of 300 agency leaders found that 52% of respondents think creative briefs lack focus. Even further, 27% found them to be incomplete or inconsistent.

What about your clients? They agree. In a separate survey, 82% of agency clients said they see a need for better briefs.

As the agency, it’s up to you to set the expectation and pave the way for better briefs. You should structure and streamline the intake process so that you can ensure you have all of the information you need up front, while still keeping it reasonable and manageable for your clients.

Search for creative agency project management software that offers dynamic request forms, which you can embed on your website. Using these forms, you can put together a questionnaire that your clients need to fill out when requesting a project, so you get all of the necessary details right away.

Did you know?

Wrike offers dynamic request forms that allow you to capture information in a variety of fields — including short answers, paragraphs, checkboxes, dates, dropdowns, numerics, file attachments, and even an “Importance” field. You can also set triggers that will automatically turn those requests into tasks or projects within Wrike, so nothing gets lost in translation.

3. Progress monitoring to simplify status updates

You want to keep your clients in the loop, which means you feel like you’re constantly sending status updates and hosting status meetings. In fact, you feel like you spend more time doing that than creative work.

You need to find an agency project management tool that makes it easy to keep your clients informed about project progress — ideally without them needing to join your platform or you needing to manually copy a bunch of information into an email.

Search for software that makes it easy to share these updates with your clients, even if they aren’t part of your team’s project management tool. Whether that’s through an easily generated report or a shared dashboard, they should be able to gain full visibility into your agency’s progress without you having to jump through a bunch of hoops.

Did you know?

In Wrike, you can use a Gantt Chart Snapshot, which creates a record of your creative project’s timeline. The link is automatically saved in Wrike and can be shared with anyone — whether they’re a Wrike user or not.

4. Resource Management to Balance Workload

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re mapping out a client project. You set a deadline and then begin parsing out the tasks to different team members.

As you get a few weeks in, more unexpected tasks crop up and your team members’ plates are so full that there’s no way you’ll get it all done — which means you need to have the humiliating discussion with your client about extending the deadline.

It happens way too often, and scope creep is easy to blame. In one survey, 67% percent of creative teams said they over-service 50% or more of their clients.

But there’s a much bigger problem at play here: You’re not doing an efficient job of managing your resources. Any project management software for creatives that’s worth its salt should help you do that.

Your tool should give you visibility into your design team's workflow and any task dependencies, as well as the option to establish proven project templates that you can use to easily repeat what works.

You should also be able to set up and customize notifications that help you keep tabs on client projects in real time and check to make sure that no one is being spread too thin.

That amount of visibility into your resources not only helps you ensure that client projects don’t fall behind, but also that you’re optimizing your team performance.

Did you know?

Wrike Resource makes it easy to visualize and balance workloads so that you can effectively prioritize your projects and optimize your schedule, without overworking your team.

5. Tools for proofing, approvals, and asset management

Within your creative agency, the proofing and approval process can become quite lengthy. First, you need to collaborate with your team to get client projects where they need to be. When all of that internal discussion is wrapped up, you need to share the project with your client and start an entirely different round of feedback and revisions.

It’s a lot of back and forth, and it can lead to bloated feedback loops that slow your projects down (and ultimately frustrate your clients). Unsurprisingly, the speed at which projects get completed is one of the main concerns for your clients. It’s one of the reasons that a huge customer like finally decided to stop working with an agency and take their marketing efforts in-house.

The approval process also requires that you hand off a lot of different files, and keeping those organized throughout Google Drive, Dropbox, and email attachments is clunky at best.

Your agency project management tool should have the capability to streamline your proofing and approval process and keep your projects moving forward. Additionally, it should offer adequate file storage to structure all of your creative agency project files in one centralized (and organized!) place.

Did you know?

With Wrike, you can store files locally or integrate with several well-known cloud storage apps so that you can easily add files to tasks or folders. Wrike Proof makes it easy for your team and your clients to visually mark up everything from images and videos to PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations to take all of the confusion out of the editing and approval process.

6. Detailed reporting to prove your value

You’re being paid to deliver results. But oftentimes there’s a disconnect that leaves clients wondering exactly what their agency is producing for them.

As an agency, it feels like every single day is a job interview, and you need to constantly be prepared to prove your value to your clients. Whatever agency project management tool you select should help you do just that.

You should have a quick and easy way to show clients what you’ve completed so far as well as what you’re currently working on. This offers them the peace of mind that what they’re paying for is actually being accomplished.

Did you know?

Wrike’s Report Snapshots are incredibly easy to create and share, and they give your clients the information they need to see what you’re really doing — things like active tasks, projects due this month, even the amount of time you’ve spent.

Choose the best agency project management tool for you

Project management for creative teams can be a challenge. You need to keep your client projects on track, but you’d rather spend more time ideating and creating than overseeing timelines and resources.

This is where your project management tool comes into play. Finding the right software for your agency can take a lot of the burden off your plate (while simultaneously improving your relationships with your clients). What could be better than that?

Still struggling to decide which option is right for you? Check out how creative agencies are using Wrike to improve the way they work. And while you're at it, read up on What to Look for When Evaluating Design Project Management Tools

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