Is there a lack of efficiency and transparency in your agency? Are people having redundant conversations? Do individuals miss deadlines simply because they don’t have what they need to get a job done? If the answer is “yes” to these questions and possibly even more, you need to reassess how you handle project management. Project management (PM) is a powerful component for most companies, especially agencies. In fact, it’s so important that 77 percent of high-performing companies understand the value of it; in contrast, only 40 percent of low-performing companies do. Unfortunately, finding a PM solution is no easy task; the landscape is growing and crowded. To seamlessly navigate all the options out there, it’s best to have a plan. Here are four key steps/stages to finding the best PM tool for your small to mid-sized agency.
1. Identify key needs/features
First, create a list of your must-have and nice-to-have features in a PM tool. Identify at least three of each. Besides features, two other important aspects to consider are pricing and terms. Reach out to the decision-maker and get a range that works in pricing, whether it’s per user or a flat monthly or yearly rate. As for setup and contracts, ask if either will sway the decision significantly (a lot of tools have one-year contracts).
2. Research & demo
Begin your search! To start, look at digital publications from reputable sites that identify the top PM tools they recommend. There are a lot of articles that even list out features and compare pricing for you! As initial research, watch the overview/explainer videos of the tools you’re looking into first to get a feel for the interface and key features they present at the beginning. Once you’ve identified your top three to five, schedule demo calls with each. Don’t include any decision-makers in these calls if possible; it’s probably too early in the process for that.
“Based on experience, if a project management tool doesn’t have any sort of demo account, you may want to cross them off your list. It makes it incredibly difficult to get a legitimate experience without one.”
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After the calls, if all tools are still viable, create demo accounts in each if possible. If there’s not an option to create a demo, ask about using a sandbox to play in. Tip: Based on experience, if they don’t have any sort of demo account, you may want to cross them off your list. It makes it incredibly difficult to get a legitimate experience without one.
3. Document & compare
At this stage, hopefully you’ve narrowed down to your top one or two tools. In order to get buy-in from key decision-makers, it’s imperative to present your research. Illustrate that you’ve done your due diligence through exhaustive research and documentation. One of the best ways to do this is with a comparison chart/spreadsheet. List out all the tools you researched, even if you didn’t have a demo. Create separate columns with must-have features, nice-to-have features, pricing, terms, and contact information. Tip: Create an overall rating column that gives a standardized rating based on all the factors. Highlight the top one to two tools you recommend based on your findings.
4. Present your findings
At this point, the ball is in the decision-maker(s) court. Offer to schedule another demo/overview call with the tool(s) you recommend. Note: There may be instances where you need buy-in from others prior to showing to the key decision-makers; be sure to loop them in and schedule additional calls if necessary beforehand. Once you get approval, you’re now ready to plan and coordinate implementation and training! This process can be long and sometimes complicated; try to plan ahead as much as possible and remember that messaging is key.
Change can be hard, and being that advocate for change is even harder. Remember that there’s no perfect PM tool out there. There will always be features that are missing or functionality that’s less-than-ideal. Additionally, by nature, people don’t like change. We’re creatures of habit and getting us to change that habit isn’t easy. To reiterate, it’s all about messaging and tone. Find those key individuals that are natural cheerleaders for improving the business or even the tool itself and have them help you spread the positive energy. Reiterate how this change will ultimately make everyone’s jobs more efficient and ultimately better. Good luck!