Project Management for Agencies: The 2023 Ultimate Guide

Efficient management of your team, resources and communication are only a few parts that you must master as an agency owner. Project management for agencies helps you keep all of your stakeholders happy, while also safeguarding your profit margin and growth potential.

It can be tempting to take on more and more projects as you go, since that translates into higher revenue. However, without the proper project management procedures in place, you’ll quickly run out of steam. 

Focusing on business scalability is essential, but you can’t do that when you’re not working right. You must make sure that you’re not missing deadlines, forming huge email threads or experiencing constant and troublesome miscommunication. 

How? By implementing a great project management strategy for your agency. In short, it’ll help you sort out 3 core aspects:

  • Helpful communication between all stakeholders (leadership – managers – team – client).
  • Efficient tracking of tasks, progress, deadlines and results.
  • Constant analysis of the work done so far. This helps streamline processes even further in the future, evolves your project workflows and keeps profitability going.

If you want to simplify your project management actionable steps, start using Alvanda today. Our software covers the needs of both leadership personnel and your in-house team, making all information clear and to the point.

Effective Agency Project Management Phases

Before giving you any advice, let’s get into the steps which make this practice useful. It won’t matter if you’re a digital-only or a boots-on-the-ground agency either. The concepts apply to both.

1. Kickoff Call and Project Brief

All projects are going to begin with a discovery phase. This is when the project manager (PM) has a meeting (or a few meetings) with the client in order to clarify their expectations and objectives. 

One of the most important aspects is getting straight what already works as intended and what doesn’t.

For example, the PM can get into the details of the marketing and development efforts the client has already invested in their website. What results were shown so far, and what the client expects and hopes for the future. 

The goals are set in stone, and agreements are reached about when deliverables will be completed.

After the client’s scope is known to all relevant team members, further research is done. This is in-depth, with the team looking at what plans and work was already done for the client. 

Comprehensive audits are carried out, and all this acquired knowledge is put into what’s known as the “project brief”.

This is a document which can serve as the onboarding of any new team member. It has all the needed knowledge, strategies, plans and established KPIs. After the details are approved by the client, the team can get to work.

2. Beginning Stages

Project management for agencies must be structured as an ongoing process. However, you shouldn’t feel constrained to the same process each and every time. That’s because it might not suit your project workflow

While an A -> B -> C diagram for your project would work fiFe with the Waterfall methodology, it would be less adequate for Agile. Agile has become one of the most used methods, because it allows for flexibility and maneuverability when working.

It is, as implied, agile. The team can work in “sprints”, getting things done as fast as needed, and then apply changes based on client feedback or other factors.

For example, it is common for digital marketing agencies to do design and copy first. Mockups and wireframes are created, which are forwarded to the client and then implemented after approval. 

However, the client could have further requests down the line, or even change their mind.

This is where the benefits of Agile become known. However, make sure you’re not overplaying your hand! Only promise as much as you know can be delivered in a given timeframe. It is worse to be late or to present subpar products than to miss out on a higher payment. 

One costs you your reputation, the other is only a momentary loss of potential profit.

3. The Brunt of The Work

For example, in a full service development agency, this would involve actually writing the code and making the product work. Teams of developers would work towards a common goal, each having their own set of tasks and duties.

Agency project management is more limited in this phase, but is still a must. You need a project manager that’s on top of everything that’s being done; constantly checking on progress, keeping an open flow of communication and assuring that the client is satisfied. 

Once the developed app or website would be considered done, extensive testing would be performed by the QA team. After a bit more back and forth between the quality assurers and developers, the client would then need to sign off on the work. 

The same logic applies if you’re a construction agency, or anything else. Sure, the work itself is different, but the process is the same. 

4. Final Stages

The exact characteristics here can depend quite a lot on what exactly it is that you’re doing. 

If you’ve coached a big team on how to sell better to B2B leads, then the final stages would be that team actually setting into their role that much better. They would start selling more.

If you’re developing an app, then it means that app’s getting launched.

If you did a Black Friday PPC campaign from A to Z, then it means the BF sale has ended, as has your campaign. Time to wrap it up, make a report and have a call with the client about the results and any useful info for future campaigns.

5. Post-Finalization

One of the first things you’ll want to do is document your work. Even the most solid of procedures are prone to having a few issues. If you forgo updating your work process and flow of information, you’re bound to repeat mistakes again.

If you’re providing an ongoing service, it is also usual to come to an agreement with the client (or confirm the initial agreement) about how maintenance or future updates of the product will be done. 

Of course, these types of strategies can be subject to change. 

Project Management for Agencies: Essential Methods

Agency project management can be done in a number of ways. However, you should always use 2 key strategies. These will help you organize your agency (and your clients) better.

Project Roadmap

Planning is one of the core pillars of managing your agency’s projects. The roadmap, or timeline of your project is nothing else than carefully outlining the 5 important stages. Roadmapping the project will then act as a guide while you’re actively engaging in the work particular to each stage.

Each stage will also have a planned length, checkpoints, and intervals when the client should be consulted/contacted. You’ll also have clearly defined deliverables and specific goals in each stage. 

Roadmaps are a great way to manage responsibilities and expectations.

Time Blocking

It’s easy to get lost in the details. Actively blocking time for tasks and concrete actions will help you get things done faster. Only around 3 hours a day will be enough to make sure that you won’t have anything important pending for a long time.

Then, you can go back to general oversight, management and communication. Be careful with blocking time in particular phases of the project though. 

If you’re waiting for client feedback on something that’s time sensitive, it’s not the best idea to delay those things; even if it means checking your inbox every 10 minutes.

How to Keep Projects on Track

Even with the best laid plans, it can be difficult to keep a clear overview on what’s a priority. This is especially true when multiple projects keep popping up. 

It’s a good thing, but it feels like a bad thing. That’s how you know your processes and procedures aren’t up to par.

It’s common for agencies to reach rock bottom with morale when project management isn’t done properly. Everyone feels overwhelmed, with no concise solution in sight. 

So, how do you avoid this?

PMs need to be aware of who’s doing what, and what’s most important. Without specifications, the team has no idea what must be done, or what should tie in with what. This is also a major way in which time is wasted, and 15 minute tasks are done in 3 hours.

By tracking workloads and task allocations, project managers can determine who has the working capacity to handle each set of tasks. This is also how you determine who’s working too much and in danger of burning out!

The Simple Solution

The hero PM that an agency needs has their project checklist at the ready, and carefully follows the best practices of project management

Armed with that knowledge, they’ll be able to take full advantage of Alvanda’s features.

  • Instant insights into multiple projects? Check!
  • Quick summaries of tasks and deadlines? Check!
  • Advanced tools for business scalability? Check!
  • Automated reports? Check!
  • Internal support systems? Check!
  • Improved onboarding processes? Check!
  • Real-time procedure updates agency-wide? Check!
  • Ability to pinpoint productivity problems and information gaps? Check!
  • And more!

That’s not even the full list of benefits. Alvanda is built from the ground up to be the ultimate agency project management tool. 

It fulfills the needs and wants of both agency owners/top management, as well as those of employees, keeping morale up at all times. 

Strategy, planning and task allocation becomes a breeze, with transparency for all system members. This way, no work is left in the backlog, and no one becomes overburdened. Efficiency at its best.

How to Manage Expectations

project management for agencies

Project management for agencies isn’t just about being there for your clients. You need to have your team’s back at all times. This is perhaps the hardest scale to balance. Reacting quickly to both sides is crucial.

Sometimes, delays are inevitable, and you must defend your team from the client. Sometimes, additional requests or better ideas must be done (and fast) for the overall quality of the project. 

This is why a skilled project manager is a master communicator. 

You must understand how conversations should be centralized and documented. Discussions must be kept in one trackable place. Doing so will allow you to quickly reference prior information and decisions. 

Having a simple trail of paperwork to follow will allow you to maneuver around increasing expectations with the same timeline and budget. Remember that you should always sell reality, not a dream.

Streamlining Communication in an Agency

Agency project management is quickly crippled when communication breaks down. If you decide to lean back and await results after allocating tasks, you’ll have an unwelcome surprise. 

Do not let questions pile up and think that you’ll just handle them later. There’s a good chance that the more those questions go unanswered, the more the work is unfinished. Or, the way the work is done takes a turn that wasn’t endorsed by the client.

Additionally, it gets even worse if one task depends on or affects another. Consider this:

The copywriter is unsure what they must write → The designer gets incorrect information and works around it for the graphics → The developer creates a final product that works technologically speaking, but it doesn’t do what it was supposed to.

Imagine the client asking for a status report in the midst of all this.

That’s when a massive headache will start forming. Where is that document with the notes? Who saved it in the cloud…wait, was there a document? Did you actually just have a call about that? Why didn’t the designer know about the client’s feedback? Why isn’t X working on Y?

Information gets lost fast in email threads and group discussions. Then follows the frustration. You’re looking for things half the time, and you’re trying to figure out what you’re even looking for the other half.

When no one knows anything anymore, they’ll turn to you as their project manager. But, you’re not a machine either, so you won’t remember everything, or have all the answers.

Always do This

Document and store all decisions in the same place. Give access to relevant team leads and other members. Task allocation is done easier then, with a list of things that must be done at the ready. 

Everyone can then also log their time, differentiating between billable and non-billable hours. This simplifies resource management and increases progress status and visibility for all team members.

By having clear procedures with how tasks should be created, allocated and monitored, you also eliminate discussions threads and lengthy email chains. All task-specific information and conversations are in one place, and one place only (with links to other resources as needed). 

We also recommend you have a chat with team leads every week. Double check that all statuses and updates available in your Alvanda dashboard are up to date and that everyone is performing their responsibilities without being overworked. 

The Role of an Agency Project Manager

project management for agencies

Project management should be handled by its own specialized expert, the project manager. They handle project management for agencies by overseeing all aspects: from beginning to end.

They’re responsible for client communication, keeping the team informed & on time and making sure deliverables are up to specifications. The PM is also the link between all departments, stakeholders, and other parts of a project. 

Everything we’ve described so far should be focus points for a project manager. They must be on top of all current situations, making sure that the work is done according to the deadlines and phases set in the project’s calendar. 

Above all, PMs manage the project’s scope, budget, updates, communication and information.

The Ultimate Agency Project Management Tool

If you want to do project management for agencies like a pro, you’ll need a specific set of skills. However, whatever knowledge or abilities you’ll possess, you also need the means to get your job done.

Many times, important details are left out of the larger scope. Plans aren’t fulfilled because of a lack of communication and strategy. Workflows are confusing and task allocation seems impossible to sort out.

Take advantage of Alvanda to solve all of these problems. It’s the only project management tool that you’ll ever need. Do you need improved procedures? Done! How about making sure that everyone is also aware of them? No worries!

We built our software to be the answer to the questions and concerns of both a COO and a backend dev. It organizes tasks the same way for designers or PPC experts. 

Alvanda is easy to use, intuitive, and cloud-based.

You can track everyone’s progress, transparency is assured, and no one gets overworked. By the way, did we even mention that reports are automated? Well, they are!

Check out the full list of features today, and bring your agency into the new age of digitally-powered project management. We guarantee that you’ll become a fan instantly.

Project management for agencies done the right way, with a focus on inline support, increased productivity and better morale.