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Profit & Growth Tips for Digital Agencies

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6 Project Management Tools to Improve Agency Profitability

Posted by Laura Hernalsteen on Mar 15, 2016

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In the early days, your digital agency will probably use a whiteboard or spreadsheets to organise work and manage ongoing projects. But as your agency grows you’ll need a more comprehensive tool to manage your projects.

There are hundreds of different project management (PM) tools out there, ranging from very simple to extremely complex – so how do you choose the best one for your digital agency?

Today I’m looking at 6 popular project management tools, and how each one can benefit your agency.

1)     Trello

Trello is an extremely popular PM tool – and one that we use here at Scale. It’s great for agencies looking for a simple tool; it’s easy to use and understand, with an interface that resembles sticky notes on a whiteboard.

One of Trello’s main selling points is the price-tag: free (or $5/user/month for the Business plan). This means it’s easy for teams to get started using Trello with little or no spending commitment. There’s no barrier to adoption and teams can get up and running with Trello very quickly. It integrates with popular tools like Slack, Github and Dropbox, but some integrations aren’t available on the free plan.

2)     Asana

Asana is another tool that’s popular with digital agencies. It is free for teams up to 15 people, but upgrading to premium provides additional functionality and additional users.

Asana is great for team collaboration: as well as sharing tasks to be done on a project, you can add comments and ‘likes’, reducing the need for additional tools or emails.

It’s not as flexible or easy to customise as Trello, but it is much more powerful – making it quite complex to get up-and-running. As a result, it will take a bit more commitment in terms of time and learning for everyone in your agency team to get to grips with Asana.

3)     Basecamp

Basecamp could be described as the ‘grandfather of project management tools’, and is another tool that we use at Scale – specifically as a central point of contact between us and our customers, instead of emails.

It’s very easy to use, and unlike the other tools on this list, has a fixed monthly price rather than charging per user. This makes it easy for a growing agency to budget for their PM tool, and means that you pay for additional file storage space or functionality, rather than users.

4)     Redmine

Redmine is an open-source, free, downloadable PM tool, rather than a cloud-based service. This makes it the preferred option for agencies who want to run a tool on their own servers and keep all their data in-house.

As it’s open-source, it’s extremely flexible and easy to customise, making it a good compromise for dev teams who might’ve been tempted to code their own PM tool, allowing them to build additional functionality without the commitment of building an entire tool from scratch.

However, it’s not as user-friendly as other options on this list, so is harder to get started with and requires a steep learning curve – making it inaccessible for less technical members of your agency team.

5)     Jira

Jira is another tool that is commonly used by software development teams.

It’s described as “the project management tool for agile teams” - you can organise projects into sprints, with Scrum boards or Kanban boards. It can be used in the cloud or hosted on your own infrastructure, making it a great choice for teams that want or need to keep all their data in-house.

It connects with common developer tools to integrate with your code review process, and is designed to be used as a roadmap alongside software development rather than, for example, planning marketing campaigns or managing design work. For agile software development teams whose main priority is bug and issue tracking, Jira is a fantastic option.

6)     GitHub

While it’s not strictly a project management tool, many digital agencies already use GitHub as a central code repository and management tool for software development projects. GitHub Issues is a bug tracking and management system that is commonly used by development teams to keep track of the work that’s been done, and what’s still outstanding – much like a dedicated PM tool.

GitHub won’t work for your agency if you’re not doing development work, but it integrates with tools like Slack and other PM tools like Trello and Jira, making it a valuable addition to your dev team’s toolkit.

How to Choose the Best Tool for Your Agency

The best way to choose the right tool for your agency is simply to try them out. Most PM tools offer a free trial, which will give you valuable insight as to how easy the tool is to use, and how well it integrates with your way of working.

However, you may realise that a complex, feature-rich PM tool is too much for your agency and opt for a more streamlined solution instead. In this case, a Resource Management (RM) tool can provide you with an overview of your agency’s resources (the time and skills of all your employees), to help you ensure they’re used in the most effective and profitable way.

Instead of an incredibly powerful and complex PM tool, many agencies need the simple solution that RM provides – a tool that balances usability with functionality, and ensures that directors, employees and customers can access all the information they need to complete projects in a fast, efficient and profitable way.

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