4 steps to find the best agency project management software

When looking for a management software for your agency, you might ask yourself, “Which solution will help me achieve my business goals?”. An essential follow-up to that should be, “Who else from the team might use the software and how?”. The reason is simple- an agency management software is meant to ease the pains of an entire agency and not just an individual!

Unfortunately, many software solutions cater to fulfilling a very specific team’s needs without considering the impact to other departments. The needs of agencies, however, can be diverse and plenty and so what you might need is an all-in-one solution that is still specialized in its insights but can help your creatives, strategists, project managers, and finance team.

If your agency’s goals warrant insights into diverse aspects of the business to make informed decisions, then we recommend you follow these 4 steps to find a management software that works for the entire agency:

STEP 1: Know the problems you want to solve

Start by clearly outlining why you need a project management tool to begin with. This would require you to identify the primary pain points or challenges faced by your business as a whole and by individual teams. Once categorized by business function, these challenges can then be prioritized based on cost- time inefficiencies, opportunity costs, loss of billable hours, etc.

This type of prioritization matrix will help you identify the most pressing problems that you should aim to solve with a new solution.

STEP 2: Create a list of software features that will solve these issues

Now that you’ve identified the bleeding areas of your business that need your attention, you can move onto building a list of product features that you believe will solve your challenges. Your list should detail individual features and check for whether independent solution providers offer those features as part of their project management system. Product features may be put in larger buckets/modules, which can range from Time Tracking to Project Mapping, Invoicing, CRM, and Reporting capabilities.

Here is our Features Checklist Tool to get you started. This tool perfectly captures the prioritization matrix you built in Step 1 by including a distinction between ‘Must Have’ features and ‘Nice to Have’ features. Remember, you want to find a solution that captures the needs of all your business functions and the stakeholders within them.

STEP 3: Involve your team during the search

Before making the crucial decision to purchase, be sure to hear from your team. Like we said previously, a new agency management software will affect multiple stakeholders; getting their buy-in, and early, will save you possible trouble later.

A new software program can sometimes pose a steep learning and adoption curve for teams, and often warrants significant change management. It will be valuable to use this planning phase to help your team understand why there is a need for a change. This will help dispel any concerns or doubts around investing in a management software.
Furthermore, including them in Steps 1 and 2 can result in your team helping you better identify issues vs. non-issues, clearly articulate the team’s individual problems, and perhaps even offer a new perspective to your business’s primary challenges.

At the end of the day, the return on your investment in a project management solution will wholly depend on how and how much your team leverage the new software. So, you want to ensure that your team’s on-board before you decide to purchase.

STEP 4: Determine potential workflow changes & ROI

By this point you likely have a list of contenders and their product features to make your final decision. Before you do, a key question that every business needs to answer is, “What’s the ROI for this solution?”.
An ROI Calculator will help you achieve exactly that. What you should be looking for at this stage is the annual net incremental benefit of employing a new workflow management software, to your overall business.

A final and possibly one of the most important considerations is to see if a new solution means changing the way your teams currently operate. A software solution is only as good as those who facilitate its usage. If your team’s workflow is not conducive to the solution doing what it’s meant to, then you will likely never see the ROI you’re hoping for. The final step is to find out what the software needs from you and your team as inputs to be able to give you a desired output. And if these means altering your current workflow, you need to decide if and how you can achieve that change.

Customization is the key to finding a project management system that is right for your agency. This 4-step process should help you customize and narrow down your search by incorporating deciding factors that are most important to your business.

Others exploring agency management software also looked at FP’s Product Factsheet and Agency Project Management Checklist.

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