What Digital Agencies need in Online Project Management Software

Over the course of my workday, I speak to end-users of the Binfire online project management software at digital agencies.   In other words, I don’t talk with “Project Managers.”

Our software is used in multiple industries ranging from construction and engineering to software development and digital agencies.  Typically, Binfire is the project management software of choice for an experienced Project Manager who appreciates a specific feature (Project Dashboard, Interactive Gantt Chart, etc.)

However, when it comes to Digital Agencies, we usually generate interest from folks with titles such as Creative Operations Manager, Traffic Manager, and Client Services Director.    These people have no official PMI certification or project management training and to be honest, are not well-versed in project management methodologies like traditional or Agile.

Digital marketing and agencies that survive and thrive, use a different playbook where many of the rules are still being written.    Whereas the traditional agency has institutional knowledge and specialized disciplines, the digital agency operates in a rapidly changing environment with overlapping disciplines.

From my experience, here what it means to manage workflows in a Digital Agency:

#1 Chaos is the only constant, but there is no excuse for poor planning

If you are still reading this article, then chances are I don’t need to explain the dynamic nature and fast-changing pace of digital advertising.

From a practical perspective, everyone engaged in a project need full visibility into your planning process and development progress so that you can build predictability for both the internal team and the client.  This goes beyond mitigating against risk because if you still have the “mitigation” mindset, then you may be missing something.

For instance, a trending negative social media story about your client requires immediate action.   Although the specific details will vary, with careful upfront planning in place you will be able to address the issue in a calm manner.

From the perspective of a project management tool, this means you need pre-populated templates for what-if scenarios before they occur.  Just as important, the Project Plan is not a theoretical document monitored by one individual but is made available in real time to all team members.  At Binfire, anyone with task responsibility updates his or her task list and the rest of team is notified in real time.

#2 Collaboration is a way of life, not a nice-to-have

As obvious as it sounds, collaboration and project management functions are joined at the hip.   Not everyone is using an online project management tool (and excel does not count), but everyone is on social media chat, Skype, and a dozen other online collaboration tools.

Many project management software packages do not integrate collaboration functionalities and many collaboration tools do not enable Project Management.   The overuse of email is not efficient, and people need to crowdsource ideas from the wider team.

At Binfire, we recognize that you are working with a distributed team and that your clients often want to collaborate in real time and not via email alone.

Rather than force team members to communicate via social media chat which may result in an unproductive use of time or data safety issues, at Binfire we provide real-time chat, interactive whiteboards and message board for the whole team to access.

#3 Clients expect full transparency and to be part of the creative process

Love them or hate them, clients are the ones that pay the bills.     Gone are the days where clients were satisfied with weekly or monthly status reports.  Today, your client wants an up-to-date report of each campaign.

With Binfire, we provide the client with real-time information about any change in the project and we do it in a way that is not disruptive.

Let’s say that your client is in the process of updating their branding guidelines during the creative process.  This issue is assigned to the Account Manager, Janet, who is responsible for coordinating with both the client and the design team.   If Janet adjusts the duration of Task or attaches the new branding guideline document to a Task, the team will be notified in real time.

Most importantly, the client monitors the overall project success and then can drill down into the specific task, issue or discussion.

#4 Scalability is more important than scale

Let’s not confuse Scalability and Scale.   Digital agencies need the flexibility to grow with their clients or bring on-board new clients at any given time. A three-person team can grow to 30 in a short period and would waste valuable time (and harm growth) by playing catchup.

The old paradigm of Microsoft Project for big companies and second tier solutions for everyone else has been flipped.  Today, you can get the power of Microsoft Project and the flexibility of SaaS technology with online project management software.

Binfire is as useful for a small number of users as it is for the large and complex organization.   Once you have created the template and incorporated typical agency workflows into your project plan, there is no difference in performance of functionality whether 3 or 300 people access the tool.

#5 Doing good work is not the same thing as making good money

If you are hoping to join a golf club in Greenwich, Connecticut, mostly like the fees will not come from selling 60-second commercials.   Instead, clients expect creative and interactive content with a short shelf life.  Did somebody say viral?

The challenge of the exponential growth in media channels and greater expectation of accountability and campaign-based ROI means that you need to manage your creative team so that they are producing high-quality work without burning out.

At Binfire, we understand the resource drain from managing the creative feedback and revision process so we incorporated an interactive whiteboard directly into the online project management software.   Everyone on the project can access the creative concept or design and provide real-time feedback, comments or modifications.    There is no limit to the number of comments and modifications and we maintain a full file history for record keeping.

In addition to the points above, I’ve included some other nice-to-haves in online project management software for digital agencies:

  • Easy to use interface
  • Project burndowns
  • Resource loading
  • Access for remote workers
  • Storyboard mockups
  • Provide Kanban boards for Agile project management
  • Historic backups of all files
  • Document collaboration
  • Mobile phone enabled
  • Gantt chart integration with Task Management
  • Integration with Google Docs and Dropbox
  • Adaptable to both traditional and Agile methodologies

I hope you have found this article useful.  If you are a digital agency and would like to try out Binfire, please click on this link for a free 30-day trial.



David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

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