If you’re looking for a better solution to managing your agency, you may be starting to get confused by the plethora of options available. In this guide, we highlight the difference between project management and agency management software, encouraging you to clarify your thoughts on what you want to achieve with your system so you can make a decision on what is right for your agency.
Project management software focuses on getting projects completed with features such as task lists, Gantt Charts, Kanban Boards and sometimes team collaboration aids and time tracking features. They help you break projects down into individual tasks and keep track of what’s been done and what’s to-do, providing an indication of project progress to help keep projects on schedule.
Popular systems like Monday.com and Asana really focus on these project workflows, making them highly visual and easy to set up. They offer you the opportunity to use their best practise project workflows, of which there are many to choose from, or input your own custom workflows.
Using a system to track project work in this way aids collaboration because the whole team has visibility of shared project information. Some project management systems such as basecamp, go even further to aid collaboration with a project message board, group chat functionality, a shared team Calander for key project dates and a shared document storage space.
In summary, features do vary system-to-system, but a complete project management system such as the ones mentioned above, will bring visibility of task and workflows to everyone in the team. With live data everyone can see what each other are working on, when tasks should be complete and when a project deadline is slipping. It will also help make sure no tasks slip through the net. It would be a step forwards in terms of clarity, organisation and collaboration for any agency that is currently using spreadsheets to run their projects or relying on word-of-mouth communication.
Before we move on to discuss agency management software, it’s worth noting that you can also get project management tools. There’s a difference between a project management system and a project management tool. A ‘tool’ will deal with one element of project management, for example Trello fantastic Kanban boards, and Harvest Harvest and Toggl track time. But these tools won’t help you manage an entire project or indeed multiple projects, which is what agencies do every day. We won’t dwell on individual tools because if you’ve found an article about ‘project management software vs agency management software’ you’re probably already sold on something more complete. It could be you’re already using multiple tools and are looking to consolidate these into one system, this is a very common scenario as agencies grow.
An agency management system offers an all-in-one solution to managing your pipeline, projects, clients, resources and financials. It will integrate all your agency’s data, operational and financial, to help you not just manage a project workflow but to manage your agency overall with maximum efficiency and profitability.
Like project management software, an agency management system has everything you need to run projects. But on top of this, it has all your new business opportunities, project financial, resourcing and capacity management, and agency performance metrics. It's a complete solution for managing an agency and gives you full visibility of what's happening in your agency, and what's going to happen.
Integrating financial and workflow data in one system brings everyone closer to the financial aspects of running a project and heightens commercial awareness. Helping people see what they need to see, to make the right commercial decisions.
Specific features and capabilities differ system-to-system, but here are some of the major capabilities you’ll gain on top of managing project workflows, with Synergist.
Live dashboard views give agency leaders immediate visibility on what is happening in the areas that matter to them such as forecasted profit, billing, pipeline and chargeability by role or individual. These dashboards are only possible because all agency data from project workflows and timesheets to financials, is within one integrated system.
You can see the true cost vs estimated for each project phase or task, so you know exactly where you’re overserving a project. If a project is running over, you’ll be able to see it as it’s happening so you can nip it in the bud. You’ll also see the impact of this overrun on your wider resource capacity.
You’ll be able to see the actual costs and profit of each project, project type, resource and client. This helps you produce more accurate quotes in future, but it also means you can channel your energies towards your most profitable project and client types.
Synergist also helps you manage resource effectively by looking at what you need to deliver your current work alongside what’s coming up and how likely new business is to land. You’ll see if you have a specific skill set that’s continually over or under-utilised. You’ll also see which skills are more chargeable. This can inform your recruitment needs and stop you using expensive freelancers. It can also guide your agency’s proposition and the type of work you want.
Hopefully, this piece has shown you that there are fundamental differences between project and agency management software. Project management software will help you run a project, but it won’t necessarily help you to run your agency, which is a complex cumulation of multiple projects running simultaneously, with a focus on operations and associated financials. But it will help you visualise workflows and manage tasks, collaborate and gain an indication on project progress.
The complexity of what you need will depend on what you want to see within your agency, your current set up, your size and your ambitions. But when considering your requirements, we urge you to think about your future as the right system could help you grow quicker than you may anticipate. Maybe right now you just need to monitor workflows and track time, but as you grow, you’re likely to get a great deal of value out of something more complete.
The right agency management system is an investment that should pay you back in spades. If you want to learn more about investing in Synergist, and what you can expect in return, you may enjoy our article ‘why invest in Synergist.’