Here's the blunt truth: Project management can make or break your agency.
It wields the power to shape every facet of your agency's journey, from client relationships to resource allocation and project timelines. That’s why you need certain strategies and processes in place.
In this article, we’ll discuss agency project management, it's undeniable importance, and ten strategies you can implement to steer you toward a (relatively) chaos-free, successful path! We’ll also introduce you to software that automates many project management tasks to increase your agency’s work capacity and efficiency.
What is agency project management?
Agency project management is project management in general but also how project management is a little different or specific to agencies. It refers to the systems and processes you use to manage all your agency projects from initiation to completion.
Effective agency project management helps you keep an agency’s project operations well-oiled, so your billing clients’ experience is never negatively impacted.
Let’s take a quick peek into the tasks that fall under agency project management:
- Designing workflows that help manage agency projects and tasks
- Managing your project team’s time and billable hours
- Onboarding and communicating with your client
Why is agency project management important?
The most obvious reason? It helps agencies like marketing, creative, and software to complete projects successfully.
But most importantly, agency project management strategies are a project manager’s lifeline. It helps them:
- Set clear timelines and benchmarks for all projects.
- Track how long individual tasks take to maintain quality and professionalism across projects.
- Estimate costs and control the budget necessary for all projects.
- Choose and establish project management systems to complete initiatives.
- Manage project timelines, workloads, risks, and teams to keep things on track.
- Foster smooth communication between the creative team and the client to share information around updates, handoffs, and feedback.
- Work hand-in-hand with operations managers in overseeing utilization, profit, and other KPIs.
- Manage resources. If there’s a resource manager in the mix, work closely with them.
How to successfully manage projects in an agency
You’ll need solid agency project management strategies to consistently churn out successful projects, especially to avoid disappointing your clients. Better yet, to delight them.
1. Pick a suitable project management methodology
To start, adopt a project management methodology that works just right for your agency. You must make the right choice because it can make or break your agency projects’ success.
That’s probably why 58% of respondents in Wellingtone’s State of Project Management 2021 report said they mostly or always apply a defined project methodology.
Let’s say your agency deals with website development. You can go for:
- Waterfall if your agency’s project goals are clearly defined — and aren’t prone to changes. This means your clients must also know exactly what they want.
Moreover, Waterfall makes sense if you need to give your clients the website projects all done in one go.
- Agile methods like Kanban, Scrum, and Lean, if your projects are flexible to change and clients want to be involved at every stage. It’s also ideal if your agency needs visibly quick work progress. Also, go Agile if you need to complete your website project in iterations, like sprints or cycles!
2. Design standard operating procedures (SOPs)
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a collection of step-by-step instructions designed by an organization to help employees do assigned routine activities. It typically contains details like managing scope, budget, quality, and risks.
How is this helpful for agency project management?
You can create SOPs for every type of agency project to reuse them—saving time and effort.
Here’s an example SOP for website content updates:
- Title: Website Content Updates [Updated MM/DD/YYYY]
- Scope: This SOP applies to all authorized personnel responsible for updating and maintaining the content on the organization's website to ensure its relevance, accuracy, and alignment with the brand's latest messaging.
- Purpose: To facilitate timely content revisions on the website so visitors and potential customers view only fresh, relevant, and engaging content.
Step 1: Initiate website content review. Periodically or when needed, inspect the content, especially on high-traffic pages.
Step 2: Document demanded changes from departments or stakeholders.
Step 3: Create or modify the content to align with the brand voice and SEO optimization.
Step 4: Upload and preview new content in a staging environment to confirm it displays correctly.
Step 5: Get approval. Review the content with the necessary stakeholders.
Step 6: Implement updates on the actual website via the CMS (content management system).
Step 7: Review the live website across browsers and devices to check proper display and responsiveness.
Step 8: Later, collect analytics and user feedback on the changes. Adjust if necessary.
Step 9: Log details of the content change, the date, and responsible parties in a centralized website content update tracker.
3. Define the scope of the agency’s projects
Scoping is essential, especially when dealing with multiple projects as an agency. It involves defining important project aspects like objectives, timelines, deliverables, resources, and budget.
But how should an agency project manager go about it?
Here’s a quick guide using the example of a website development agency:
- Defining project objectives could include improving brand visibility, providing valuable information, and increasing user engagement, with specific metrics.
- Setting time estimates provides a detailed timeline for each phase of the web content development process, including research, creation, review, and approval.
- Requirements gathering collects all necessary project information from your clients through stakeholder interviews and surveys. This could include defining preferred programming languages, UI color schemes, and device compatibility.
Once you have an accurate scope ready, everyone involved in the project can easily understand their tasks and how to do them.
An accurate scope is pivotal. Without it, managing resources can seem impossible. Result? Missed deadlines or unnecessary overspending.
As an example, here’s an image showing the scope of a website development project, broken down into a hierarchy of what to deliver:
4. Allocate resources
As a project manager, you need to know who’s best at what for better resource allocation.
For example, John from Design can work on four websites, while the QA team must focus on only one client website at a time. In that case, you want to ensure John isn’t underutilized by assigning only 1 or 2 websites, which can stress the rest of the design team. Also, ensure that the QA team isn’t pressured with more than one website to work on at a time for efficiency.
Wondering who’s best at what? A project management tool can help. It lets you view team workload, project task dependencies, and urgencies so your agency doesn’t suffer a resource shortage.
But that’s not all!
Using project management software for resource allocation can let you:
- Constantly track progress to re-allocate or move resources around as and when needed.
- Promote transparency to spot bottlenecks like resource unavailability instantly.
5. Manage the risks
Risk management in agency projects involves spotting potential risks and brainstorming strategies to prevent them from becoming full-blown disasters.
Let’s discover some risks you may face using the website agency example:
- Scope creep - Adding features not initially requested in the scope is sometimes called “gold plating,” which requires money, human resources, time, and testing. This is usually bad management practice.
- Technical risks - Slow page load and rushed coding, leading to rework.
- Resource constraints - Developers might get sick, go on vacation, or leave in the middle of a project.
- Endless rounds of client feedback - This can delay website development and add to agency costs.
- Changing priorities can disturb the workflow, and resources may need reshuffling.
- Hiring process - It takes time to hire specialists, slowing down the hiring process.
So, how do you manage risks in agency projects?
The best place to start is to define clear project goals and tasks at the very beginning to predict possible agency project risks. To do so, check your project scope and analyze the risks’ impact and severity.
You can also report regularly to identify risks in ongoing agency projects as often as needed because projects often change.
6. Identify stakeholders and ensure clear communication
Who are your internal team members? What are their roles and responsibilities within the projects?
In the case of a website development agency, your internal stakeholders can be the executive owners, previous website developers, subject matter experts, UX designers, developers, and managers.
Identifying these members is essential to learning who needs to be informed about progress. Moreover, since agencies have multiple projects, you want to make sure you provide only relevant project information to the right internal stakeholders. Avoid overburdening your workforce with unnecessarily broadcasted project information.
Now, onto the external stakeholders. They’re typically your clients, vendors, or contractors. Once you’ve identified them, create a clear line of communication about which information needs to be communicated and exchanged, based on their involvement in the project. Clear communication also allows your internal team to meet external stakeholder expectations.
Read more: Creating a strong stakeholder engagement plan.
7. Track project KPIs
Tracking team performance is the only way to know whether your team is doing its best and how well you’re meeting clients’ expectations. How you’re performing against these metrics will also reveal areas for improvement.
Here are some types of KPIs your agency can track:
- Financial metrics: Keep an eye on the budget utilization and profit margins.
- Time KPIs: For the waterfall crew, there's the Schedule Performance Index (SPI), and for the Agile enthusiasts, burndown charts.
- Quality KPIs: Check in on the customer satisfaction score (CSAT), count those change requests, and keep bug tracking on your radar.
Now onto how:
- Automate reporting - Let tools do the reporting heavy lifting while you focus on analyzing them and strategizing solutions as needed.
- Set clear goals - It’s only possible to track performance if your team knows what to do.
- Conduct regular check-ins - Host regular meetings to discuss and compare how far your teams are from meeting client expectations. This allows you to devise strategies to meet the same needs.
- Choose the right tools - Pick the right project or task management tool that’ll help you track your KPIs easily.
8. Hire a project manager
Fact: A project manager is the highest-impact hire an agency can make. And rightly so. They take care of everything, from start to finish.
For example, a project manager in a website development agency is responsible for overseeing the entire project lifecycle, from initiation to completion, and ensuring that the final website meets the client's expectations — while adhering to budget and timeline constraints.
And the project manager needs to know how to manage the creative team members to ensure project progress while enabling freedom to create.
Since an agency project manager has a lot on their plate and holds the keys to project success, your hire must understand your culture and practices. This will allow quick onboarding, and your ongoing projects won’t suffer a delay.
9. Ensure effective and clear team collaboration
Daily communication regarding project status and expectations needs to be crystal clear. That’s the first step to effective collaboration.
Then comes understanding and navigating the team dynamics. Find out each member’s superpowers and weaknesses so you can delegate tasks accordingly. You can expect quality outcomes when each member will perform based on their skills.
Here are some more strategies for effective team collaboration:
- Set clear roles and responsibilities. For example, as a web development agency, ensure all your developers and designers know what they need to work on and which tasks or client to prioritize.
- Encourage open communication. Web design and development involves many moving parts, from coding to design, user experience, and content creation. Each aspect requires a unique skill set, and no one’s a superhero to excel in all of them. That's where teamwork kicks in, which is impossible without communication.
- Promote a culture of trust. The content and design teams need to trust one another to do their bit. Without either one of their contributions, your website won’t exist.
10. Decide on project management software
Building an agency to grow and scale? You want project management software that can grow with you, is easy to use, and works with your existing systems and processes.
For example, a website development agency will prefer a project management tool that supports the agile method. Or one that offers wireframe templates or whiteboards for designs.
Similarly, to find an agency project management tool, dig into its features.
Does the tool have:
- Project progress tracking? The tool may support multiple views, such as Kanban boards, task views, project views, calendar views and Gantt charts.
- Task management? The tool will allow task assignment, dependencies and priorities.
- Automation? The tool will support automatic scheduling, time tracking, dependency adjustments, prioritization, and more.
- Documentation? The tool will enable you to create or attach documents to meetings or tasks.
- Integrations? The tool will allow you to utilize the powers of other tools from one single platform.
- Does it support agencies?
Well, we know a tool that does! Meet Motion, the perfect solution to all your agency project management needs.
Motion’s AI-based scheduling and time-blocking capabilities will assist you in planning your agency projects, no matter the number of new clients you onboard. The AI automatically moves tasks around based on priorities, dependencies, and available work time, so you’ll never have to worry about missing client deadlines. It will plan all that, or tell you when it can’t.
Here are some more Motion features you don’t want to miss:
- Calendar integration to keep all your work, project and non-project, due dates and meetings in one place
- Project management features like task assignment, progress tracking, and deadlines
- Automated meeting scheduling
Ready for an AI-powered edge for successful agency project management?
Agency project management is constantly evolving because it’s shaped by clients’ ever-changing needs, unforeseeable bottlenecks, and the boundless creativity of teams.
You can effectively manage agency projects by staying informed about management strategies such as designing SOPs, correctly choosing and employing a methodology, and tracking KPIs.
And with the right project management tool like Motion on your side, agency project management should be a breeze! With its AI capabilities, you can effortlessly generate optimal team schedules that align with your agency’s priorities. This means projects are seamlessly delivered on time, ensuring maximum productivity and client satisfaction.
Check out Motion’s free trial today!