Does this sound like you?
A friend of mine recently complained that because her clients were so often late in paying, she was having difficulty carrying the costs of projects between sending out the invoice and receiving payment. She was even finding it challenging to pay her personnel on time. Worse, the constant stress was beginning to carry over into her personal life. She said she hates tackling administrative tasks, and that she might be guilty of missing the full picture of projects.
We began by talking about the workflows in her small agency: who was dealing with what, and what solutions were being used; it was immediately clear that the lack of project management and effective administration was causing most of her problems. I told her that there was one solution that would not only put a stop to her problems but also leave her with more money and time. Good project management software.
Any small agency owner who is currently using some kind of project management software knows very well that it saves time and money. Having been through many of the same situations as my friend, any small agency owner would recognise that the right software could protect them from similar problems.
Gone are the days of lengthy administration of project activities. These days, you don't need to:
- estimate the hours spent on a client in a blank paper timesheet.
- separately add the hourly rates charged for team members.
- wait for written approval.
- calculate the costs of projects separately or
- add everything together and file a paper report.
A nightmare! There is not a person on Earth who would like to do this, even once a month. Am I right?
Where is the money?
We began to talk about my friend's biggest problem — money. Where was it going, and why was it so difficult to have the money she needed — when she needed it. Where does it go? The answer is simple. The money is there — in every little careless mistake or omission we make. Some of those include:
- Not knowing who is working flat out or who has time on their hands.
- Not keeping track of project budgets or costs in real time.
- Failing to count and record every billable minute and all billable costs.
- Forgetting project milestones and deadlines.
All project activities must be recorded, and there are several types of software available to achieve this. Small agency owners should choose software that is tailored to them, easy to use, and cost-effective.
OK, but what is the right solution?
When it comes to project and management software, some people like to use traditional tools, swearing by paper and pencil. The only problem is that because nothing is automated, everything must be reviewed and checked by a project manager — increasing the possibility of error. If anything must be changed in the plans, it must be crossed out on paper or covered, which is neither easy nor efficient.
However, there are better solutions than paper and pencil in the project management software industry. As a small agency owner, you need to choose something:
Simple: Among the many possible solutions, there are some very impressive and feature-rich tools. Watch out, though. Opting for one of these more complex programs may cause more trouble than it's worth.
User friendly: Many software vendors say their products are simple and user-friendly, but in practice, they turn out to be frustrating and time-consuming. During a trial, test several solutions to see what works for you.
Tailored: Forget software designed for other industries — you need something that is built specifically to small agencies like yours. In general, the market does not offer all the features a small agency owner needs in one software package. And the more software we talk about having to use, the more expensive and cumbersome it becomes.
Experienced: Look for a program that has been on the market a long time (at least 10 years). Software vendors come and go and there are many new start-ups that cannot tell how long they will stay on the market. I prefer a player in the market that has been around for a long time. A stable and proven customer base makes it less likely that you will need to start over.
Supportive: When you need help, you need to talk to someone friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. There's nothing I hate more than when support sends automatic, pre-written messages via chat or email. 90% of these messages are so generic, they have nothing to do with what I asked. It's priceless if I can get contextual help right on the page - or better yet, through a live, knowledgeable, person answering my specific questions.
Cost Efficient: Look for software that is cost-efficient. For project management software, it's important to consider the pricing side, especially in terms of how much it will cost for the number of people who will be using it. Usually, adding to the price for more users is an expensive solution. Look for software where the price is cheaper for additional users.
To save time and money from now on, you'll also need effective on-boarding process, where a live person will help you learn how to use the software. If you can find a solution that gives lots of videos, useful articles, and guides, that's just a bonus.
Relax, stop stressing, and make more money every month
If you are like my friend: certain that you're losing, but unsure how to stop, it may be time to hit the Internet and do a little research. There are solutions out there that give you power over your projects. Use the guidelines above to find the one that suits you, give it a trial run, set it to work, and before you know it, your software will be doing the heavy lifting, while you sit back and enjoy.
In summary: Don't leave project management to your memory. You could be losing a lot of time and money when a cost-effective solution is actually just around the corner.