How to use online project management software at a creative agency

John Reeve | July 28th, 2009 | ,

Researching online project management software for your creative agency can become overwhelming rather quickly. There are so many options available for task tracking software and online project manager programs. Although they may all seem generally similar, there are enough distinctions between them that finding the right fit may take some time. Before starting the search, one thing to ask yourself is “How will my creative agency use online project management software?” This question becomes especially important if you are graduating from paper timesheets or tracking everything in Excel.

As you may know, here at Pelago we have developed our own online project management software named Intervals. The Intervals workflow is based largely on what we have learned in our nine years as a web design and development agency. Below is an example of how we manage our projects using Intervals, to give you an idea of what the workflow of a creative agency may look like using online tools.

  1. Set up your team
    The first thing you will need to do is get your designers, managers, and others set up with accounts. This will allow them to login to the system and set up profiles and get familiar with the new application. Now you have a centralized location for looking up phone numbers, addresses, and other relevant information for each member of your team. You also have a centralized locale for communication and collaboration. And with a system like Intervals, you are not charged by the number of people you create, so add as many as you would like.
  2. Set up your billable rates
    Before you go any further, it is a good idea to enter in all of your billable rates so they are ready to be added to clients and projects. A typical creative agency will have several different billable rates depending on the person doing the work and the type of work they are performing. Be sure to account for them all. Maintaining a central bank of billable work types makes it easy to reference when putting together budgets for future work.
  3. Add your clients and projects
    Begin with setting up all of your clients. Doing so will provide an extra layer of categorizing your projects, which makes it easier to find them by client and run reports on them. Once your client list is established, begin adding projects under each one. Using Intervals as an example, each project will automatically have billable types of work added to it, along with members of your team. From there you can alter your billable rates for the project and control who has access to it.
  4. Assign tasks and get to work
    Now that you have your team, clients, and projects set up, it’s time to get to work. The best way to get creatives to start working is to assign them tasks with loose guidelines and dates. The nature of creativity is that it strikes us at random and unpredictable moments. But, we still need a centralized location to keep our ideas and updates in sync. As tasks are completed they can be closed and kept out of site, reducing the amount of visual and mental clutter required to complete the project.
  5. Track your time
    While working on tasks, and projects in general, it is important to track your time. Small creative agencies live and breathe by the billable hour. The more disciplined you become at time tracking, the more time you will be able to account for and bill. For example, our own web design agency was able to increase billable hours by 30% after incorporating web-based timers into our workflow. It is more difficult for time to slip between the cracks if you are tracking it in real time. Trying to recollect a days worth of work at the end of the day or week results is errant timesheets, which result in less billed to the client.
  6. Run reports
    When running a small agency you are constantly juggling project budgets, deadlines, and client expectations. By running productivity and financial reports on a regular basis you can gauge the health of any project in real-time and update your team and clients. In addition to keeping projects healthy, reports can also help you estimate future potential projects by researching how long similar projects took to complete. Tracking your time alongside tasks and projects is extremely useful when it comes to analyzing your agency through different lenses.
  7. Bill your clients
    At the end of each project comes the most important, and sometimes most difficult, milestone of them all; getting paid. Not only will online project management software, like Intervals, generate invoices for you, it will also provide the detailed reports necessary to backup any disputes made by the client. In the event they should question why they were charged X for Y you can show them a breakdown of the work completed. Being able to bill your clients in the same application you use to track their projects can be a real help for billing and collecting money owed.

The above is a generalized example of a workflow that should work well for creative agencies. There are many variations of such a workflow and plenty of room for more detailed instructions between the steps. Meanwhile, it should be enough to get you started using project management software online at your creative agency.

8 Responses to “How to use online project management software at a creative agency”

  1. Nashat says:

    Planning and tracking my projects was the thing i was looking for. I just love it. It’s helped me become more organized and saved me so many post-its.

  2. Tenrox Project Planning Team says:

    I was looking for a tutorial to plan the projects at a creative center and I think this is my destination. A really nice blog and a very good explanation.

  3. Nash says:

    Project management is very important for places like creative agencies where thinking process is important from step 1 to the last step.

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Intervals Blog

A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

What is Intervals?

Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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