Projects don't always go as planned.
You can perfectly outline the tasks, major milestones, and timeline for each project, but in the end, things happen: clients don't send the information you need, a key employee walks out the door, a technical issue pops up that requires you to rethink the approach.
This can spiral out of control when everyone is simply referring to a color-coded spreadsheet and replying to a confusing email thread.
That's why so many agencies invest in project management software. They need an easy-to-use interface to track timelines, tasks, time, and budgets. They need something people will actually want to use on a daily basis.
And every agency is different, which means every agency needs a different type of project management tool.
10 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Project Management Tool
We've put together a list of some of the top platforms that are made with agencies in mind. As you review this list, you should consider:
1) Is scalabililty a key issue?
Is your agency growing fast, and do you want it to grow even faster? Can the tools scale with you?
2) Is it user-friendly?
Will your staff like using the interface to schedule projects, track their time, and stay up-to-date on a client's status?
3) Is it flexible?
How does the tool integrate with other software your agency uses? Do you want the software to work with your billing processes, time tracking software, CRM, or marketing automation tool?
4) Does it provide enough customization?
What reports and features do you absolutely need, and does the software allow you to make those the focus of your experience? Do you need to collaborate with clients from the platform? Do you want your agency's branding to be featured on the client's view?
5) What features really matter?
There are project management tools that come loaded with everything you could ever want to use and there are those that focus on doing just one thing really well. What does your agency really need to make projects easier to manage?
6) How will your clients use the tool?
Will the project management system be easy for clients to navigate? What permission levels can be customized? Are there options to keep some communication private and some public? If your clients are Microsoft users, will the product look just as great in Internet Explorer?
7) Do you need email integration?
Have you tried other project management systems and people still bypass the system? Consider if you need something that employees can use within their email client.
8) Do your employees need to use it on-the-go?
Does the product offer an iPhone or Android app? What remote working functions make it invaluable for a remote working staff or teams in various different offices?
9) Do you need support and training?
A more complex and customizable tool may require setup, training, and ongoing support. What's the customer service reputation of the company? What days of the week and hours are their team members available for help and guidance?
10) What's the goal of using a project management tool?
Do you want to streamline processes? Improve efficiency and profitability? Will the tool give you better insight into the types of clients and projects you want to go after? Will it help you to deliver a higher quality product? Consider the goals and how you can track the return on your investment.
18 Agency Project Management Software Options to Consider
If you are looking for a new project management platform or are looking to implement your first tool, check out these options:
Basecamp is the go-to option for many agencies looking for a simple, easy-to-use task management and communication that just works.
- Assign to-do tasks to one or multiple people
- Message boards for discussing a project or idea
- Chat function for communicating with team members
- Reports for better understanding a team's capacity and projects
- Separate screen for managing projects with a client
Price: $29/month/team, $79/month/team for Basecamp With Clients
Workamajig brings together accounting, client management, new business, creative, media, traffic, and production departments and their tasks into one collaboration software platform.
- Integration with STRATA and SmartPlus for media billing
- Ability to see all prospects in an agency's pipeline with an opportunity widget
- Creates accounts receivable aging reports
- Templates for accurate estimating
- Ability to see overall team availability for resource planning
- Tracks projects per retainers
FunctionPoint provides tools for multiple departments, including new business, accounting, client services, traffic, and creative.
- File sharing and approvals workflows
- Scheduling and assigning tasks and managing individual workloads
- Financial reporting and invoicing
- Project and task dashboard for understanding timelines and profitability of projects
10,000ft is a visually pleasing project management and planning tool with an interactive interface. The company also offers a design collaboration software program that has built-in design thinking tools and a way to gather data and analysis for presenting the design rationale to clients.
- Drap-and-drop interface allowing managers to adjust timelines and projects based on evolving needs
- Dashboard allows managers to see each project's status based on time, fees, and expenses
- Visual reporting for viewing the big picture of how teams, clients, and projects are doing against goals
Price: $10/user/month for Basic, $20/user/month Professional, $45/user/month Enterprise
Teamwork is a project management tool that specializes in bringing together remote workers. (Disclosure: Teamwork is a HubSpot integration partner.)
- Customizable navigation for showing what matters most to teams
- Ganntt chart for visualizing milestones and a drap-and-drop interface for changing project timelines
- Private messaging to individuals or a group and email integration
- Select certain project details to be private
- Team member status updates so remote and flexible teams know each other's schedules
Price: $24/month for 15 projects, $49/month for 40 projects, $99/month for 85 projects
iMeet Central (formerly Central Desktop) is an online-based collaboration tool that helps the entire agency stay on-task and informed of a project's status.
- Online moodboard for sharing inspiration between creatives
- Customizable workflows that will automatically assign tasks
- Meetings feature to schedule events, upload notes, and share documents
- Ability to make certain files and folders viewable to only agency employees
- Centralized feedback system that organizes comments and shows who has reviewed, approved, or ignored the notice
Price: $45/user/month for Marketers + Agencies, $25/user/month for Enterprise
Zoho provides tools for a variety of different business functions, including finance, HR, sales and marketing, and project managements. The Zoho Projects tool provides agency teams with an easy way to manage communication and track progress.
- Employees log billable and non-billable hours
- Ability to see actual versus project time it took to complete specific milestones
- Integration with Google Apps for more efficient collaboration
- Project chat rooms that can be public or private
Price: $25/month for 25 projects, $50/month for 50 projects, $80/month for unlimited projects
WorkflowMax is a full-featured project management tool that provides agencies with the ability to also manage finances and billing, leads and sales, and productivity. (WorkflowMax is a HubSpot integration partner.)
- Reporting to uncover inefficiency and the agency's most profitable projects and clients
- Job costing system to keep track of all expenses per project and actual versus predicted costs to better understand profitability
- Create customized fields to better suit the individual needs of the agency
- Tool for sending accurate quotes to prospects quickly
Price: $49/month for 5 users, $99/month for 10 users, $129/month for 20 users
Brightpod has a Trello-like board interface that allows users to track projects, ideas, and tasks.
- Custom workflows for different types of projects
- An editorial calendar for managers who track social and content plans
- Individual dashboards so team members can track their high-priority items each day
- Log time per task and create recurring tasks
- Ability to add tasks, messages, and files via email
Price: $100/month for Agency (unlimited users), $59/month for Studio, $29/month for Professional
Function Fox provides three different levels of project management software -- from simple project and time tracking to advanced reporting and project management.
- A dedicated account manager who helps agencies set up the software and provides support as the company changes and grows
- Client- and project-based reporting
- Dashboard so leadership can view profitability and productivity
- Custom fields for adding information unique to your agency
- Group and individual calendars
DoInbound provides a framework for agencies sell, service, and deliver inbound marketing services. It breaks down projects into smaller, repeatable tasks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the team.
- Manage projects by campaign, task, and deliverables
- Share files, track time, and keep all communication organized with the associated campaign or task
- Training to help agencies document processes and create templates for more predictable work product
Price: $175/month for Basic, $400/month for Jumpstart, $625/month for Growth
Workfront is a customizable tool that allows agencies to set priorities, assign tasks, manage projects, and keep stakeholders up to date. The company recently acquired ProofHQ, allowing teams to streamline the review and approval of content and creative.
- Built-in approval paths for getting work out the door more quickly
- Visibility of team-wide resources for better managing workloads
- Work backlog feature for organizing and prioritizing creative requests
- Ability to mark teams as Agile to organize work into stories or points
Price: Not available
Podio helps to organize all of a team's communication into one tool that's easy to customize.
- Tons of integrations and extensions, such as SmartGantt, and the option to build a custom integration
- Apps that can be added to the core product to customize the project management system for the way a team works
- Automated workflows triggered by a task completion
- Ability to create custom webforms for collecting information to be sent directly to the tool
Price: $14/month for Plus, $24/month for Premium, Custom Pricing for Enterprise
LiquidPlanner has a different methodology for project management in that it sets timelines based on estimates. It then gives you a realistic due date based on best-case and worst-case scenarios. It also provides a priority-based scheduler, so teams can understand which projects to prioritize to get everything completed and sent to the client on time.
- Time tracking features integrate with a rate sheet
- Resource management screen for viewing who is at capacity and who can take on more projects
- Note features for adding obstacles to getting projects done
- Communication boards that are task-specific
Price: $29/user/month for Standard, $39/user/month for Professional
15) Traffic LIVE
TrafficLIVE works to give account managers, sales professionals, financial managers, and leadership the tools they need to service clients more effectively and be more profitable.
- Integrates with MS Project so account managers can easily import and export project plans
- Visual dashboard shows the breakdown of time spent, money, over-runs, deadlines, deliveries, and more for each project
- Native CRM for business development to track clients and prospects
- Custom rate cards that can be applied to new client projects
- Utilization charts so agency owners can determine staffing needs
Price: Not available
Advantage assigns every account an implementation specialist, so this project management platform is perfect for those who need more in-depth training and support or are looking for individual consulting.
- Preset templates for creating schedules automatically
- Ability to change schedules and tasks for multiple projects at once
- Burn rate charts and a risk analysis summary to discover what projects are at-risk
- Media department support with flow charts, templates, and authorization forms
- Agency owner dashboard with views of cash balance, fees, and forecasting
Price: Not available
Clients & Profits provides four levels of its tool for growing and changing agencies.
- Account management tools, such as creative briefs, change orders, status reports, and a CRM
- Web portal for client access to job status, calendar, and reports
- Asset manager, production reports, and new job checklists
- Time sheets, approval workflows, and productivity report
- Multi-job, retainer, and media billing
Price: $49/month/user for Studio, $99/user/month for Agency
Workbook is a project management platform that allows agencies to customize the software based on what the agency specifically needs. You start with a basic plan and add features, such as invoicing and billing, vendor orders and purchase orders, finance and accounting, customer portal, or CRM and pipeline.
- Adding all costs, including mileage and personal expenses, to a project
- Extensive financial reporting system with 300 built-in reports
- Inter-company transaction capabilities and automatic billing feature
- Weighted pipeline to reveal the potential cash flow of an agency
- Ability to convert a prospect from the CRM into a project
Price: $19/user/month + modular pricing options
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.