Running an agency is not always an easy task. With so many plates spinning and information flying around, keeping on top of what’s happening within your agency can be difficult.
And as you grow, this side of agency management just gets tougher.
Which is where agency management software comes in. Helping you to bring all your processes together, keep all your project data in one place and streamlining your systems.
So you can focus on growth and profitability without the associated concerns of losing control.
We’ve pulled together a list of the best agency management software for creative, marketing, digital and PR agencies in 2023 to help you find the best software for your agency.
Agency management software is designed to help creative agencies manage projects, clients, resources, and financials all in one integrated system. Ultimately, it will help you to run your agency with maximum efficiency and profitability.
Where project management software only manages projects and workflows, agency management software manages everything from job costing, project planning, resource scheduling, timesheets, purchasing, and task management, to billing, CRM, forecasting and reporting.
Because all your data is in one central place, you get a complete and comprehensive view of what’s happening across your agency in real time. Agency management software can help you keep all your plates spinning so you spend less time reporting and more time making informed decisions.
Read more on Project management vs agency management software
Usually, agency managers start looking for a new system when they realise that something’s got to give in the way they’re working. So they start their research and then get sidetracked by the fun and fluffy features that software companies use to tempt them in.
But this can be a big distraction from what you actually need.
Agency Management consultants Agency Works offer three top tips for choosing the right agency management system. They’ve worked with agencies for over 20 years and know what good (and bad) looks like for agencies. They suggest:
Top tip #1. Finding out what’s working and what’s not
Start by analysing what systems and processes you have in place. What are they used for? What do your team like? What don’t they like? What would make their lives easier? What could be improved on or automated?
Top tip #2. Pinpointing your top ‘pains’
Next, write down what your pains are. For example, are your projects regularly over budget? Do you find you’ve got too much work for one team and not enough for another? Are you spending hours/days creating management reports? What you’re looking for will make a big difference to your everyday operations. You’re never going to solve every issue for every person. So sweep away all the debris and detail and look clearly at the big issues you want to resolve.
Top tip #3. Identifying your long-term goals
Often, agencies want to tackle the here and now. But how about two years, five years, or ten years later? If, in the next year, your agency has doubled in size, you’ll be facing completely different pains and will probably need to start the whole process again from scratch. Save yourself the time and hassle of doing it all again, and look clearly at what you need to smooth the path for the future.
Investing the time to find the best possible software for your business can help to avoid these headaches and save you money in the long run.
Here, we’re talking about all-in-one agency management systems designed for creative, marketing, digital and PR agencies. Not tools that do just one or two functions like project management, resource scheduling or time tracking. (Read more on Multiple software apps vs one integrated management system: which is best for your agency?)
Here are our top six:
Founded in 2003 in Cheshire, UK.
Are we biased putting this at the top of the list? No, it’s there for good reason. For the past 20 years, we’ve been crafting our best-in-class agency management software into one which has helped to drive over 1,000 of the UK’s leading agencies forward.
Synergist software has been designed specifically for agencies. But we know that each is highly unique, which is why the software is highly customisable. The system comes with hundreds of features that can be tailored exactly to your agency and give you the functionality you need as you grow.
Plus, agency experts set up your system to make sure you’re getting the business intelligence you need.
If you’d like to learn more about our product and see its power for yourself, book a demo today.
Founded in 1982, in Kent, UK.
With a global user base of creative agencies and capabilities in six languages, Paprika incorporates a powerful accounting system with multi-company and multi-currency capabilities.
Their purpose is to flawlessly integrate every agency function, from client and contact management and job-costing and quoting to project and resource management, invoicing, and accounting.
Founded in 2014, in Zagreb, Croatia.
Productive is relatively new compared to the others in this list, which means you might not find the same level of functionality as you would with a more established system.
Productive describes itself as ‘a one-stop shop for agencies of all types and sizes.’ Their tool’s main objective is to provide agencies and service providers with a complete and real-time overview of their business. They offer a number of packages, but agencies that want to use all the features will need to move to the 'premium' tier.
Founded in 1997, in Vancouver, Canada.
Function Point started as a platform for automated pricing calculations, transforming into an all-in-one web project management solution used by over 500 small and mid-sized creative agencies.
Recent acquisition by Volaris Group means they’re looking to expand internationally and support creative agencies, internal marketing teams and professional service firms.
Founded in 2012, in Cape Town, South Africa.
Magnetic Software is an all-in-one workflow management platform designed to help agencies manage projects smarter, delivering on time and within budget. It combines all essential project management capabilities into an easy-to-use system.
Founded in 1983 in Virginia, US.
Deltek Workbook provides best practice solutions to help agencies grow. It streamlines projects, people and finance in a single cloud-based solution, giving real-time control, insights and visibility.
It offers complete project and resource management, plus additional features to support new business and finance.
Agency management software is typically priced per user. While some have a flat fee per user, Synergist has one fee for full system users and a lower fee for timesheet-only users. Some companies reduce the user price the more people you add. Most have a minimum number of users, so there’s a minimum subscription.
It’s important to do your due diligence when you’re looking at pricing. Some systems can appear quite cheap upfront, as they offer limited-functionality packages with a low user fee. But if you need to add more features – which you very likely will – the price can suddenly rocket.
Top tip: Make sure you can add and remove user subscriptions whenever you need. Some providers offer discounts for paying a year in advance. But beware... you could end up paying for more subscriptions than you need, eroding any discount. Plus, these annual contracts usually only allow you to cancel around the annual renewal point.
Implementing software isn’t about plugging it in and switching it on. The best agency management systems are perfectly configured for your agency’s needs. Your teams need to be properly trained; not only on how to use the system but how to get the most out of it. And you're continually supported as your business and the software features evolve.
Onboarding services range from free online articles to bespoke change management, implementation, training and ongoing support.
The general rule of thumb is that successful software onboarding will equal your subscription costs in year one. However, the price of onboarding will depend upon a number of factors:
When you understand these points, you can get the true cost of software implementation.
“Having your own consultant to lean on and shape the software step-by-step makes it feel even more bespoke. It’s also someone to run things by to make sure I’m looking at things in the right way.”
There are hundreds if not thousands of software applications out there for agency management, encompassing everything from project management, time tracking and billing, Gantt charts and Kanbans to resource management and agency reporting - you name it, there’s an app for it. (Read more on One agency management system vs separate tools).
Other project management software creative agencies use:
Other software tools agencies use:
But the big question is... what’s the best agency management software for your business?
Agencies are all unique places. It’s what makes them so great. There isn’t an off-the-shelf solution which will work across them all. What works for one agency doesn't necessarily work for another.
Choosing the best agency management software can feel like a minefield. Setting out upfront exactly what you’re looking for and what you want the outcomes to be from your system can help you stay focused.
While it can be tempting to trial each and every system that you find, a word of caution. A trial won’t really show you just how the software will work within your agency, as this is such a unique and bespoke function. Read more on Why trialling a system isn’t a good use of your time
Is Synergist the best agency management software for your agency?
Synergist is an ideal system for medium-sized agencies. The customisable features mean we can help you build a tailor-made system that works with you and for you, growing and evolving alongside your agency.
If you’d like to learn more, book a demo to see why thousands of design, digital, marketing and PR agencies - from 10 to 500 people - choose Synergist to manage their projects more intelligently and profitably.