Growth in Agencies: Project or Process Management?

Pipefy

Picture this: you’ve been through a long negotiation with that prospect you never quite believed you’d snatch. Probably a brand you’ve always admired, or a business that is significantly bigger than the marketing agency you work for. Apprehension creeps in and even though you’re afraid you’ll lose this opportunity, what’s even more frightening is the possibility of actually getting this right.

But the point is—you’re finally there. It has happened. The quote has been paid. You have successfully identified the value you provide best and people are willing to pay for it… And this is just the beginning.

If you want to keep on growing, you must create the necessary structure to sustain that growth and scale-up.

Implementing a project management solution before stepping out of your routine and taking the time to understand how tasks, activities or routines naturally flow in your creative or marketing agency can undermine your whole future. 

And rather than investing in a tool that will help you excel and teach you how to improve, you’ll find yourself agonizing and rebelling against this (and this is normally why it’s so daunting to implement new solutions—that project-first-and-processes-later mentality, but we’ll get there soon). Let’s prevent this.

STARTING WITH PROJECT MANAGEMENT MIGHT BE TEMPTING. DON’T DO IT.

After conducting benchmarks with other agencies, you’ll start to see that a lot of them are trying to get their businesses in order by using project management tools right away. You’ve heard a lot about those tools and even though “structure” is yet to become a word you can appreciate, you’re getting curious now.

And rightfully so. In order to grow, you’ll have to learn how to be both creative and organized. Efficient and effective. Inspiring and structured. All at the same time. 

Pipefy

And why would project management make sense “right away?” The existence of a need for order implies chaos is already lurking around. Growth pains can make people desperate for a solution – the more it hurts, the faster we want a remedy to put us out of our misery! Some of those pains are:

  1. Disappearing Quality: when someone sees things getting out of hand or that tasks are piling up, some will try to help… or will be “obligated” to. But what ends up happening is that they probably aren’t the most qualified person, so the delivery will suffer. Urgent matters tend to get in the way of priorities and nothing really moves forward.
  2. Lack of focus and accountability: since everyone is just doing what they feel works best, nobody has time to just sit back and reflect on it. Nobody has a way – or time – to prove that any of what they’re doing is actually working, so when profitability tanks and tempers rise, there’s no one to blame. But more importantly, there’s no one to point to the right direction either because nobody knows who’s supposed to do what.
  3. Burnout or employee turnover: as a consequence of your team spending a lot of time “putting out fires” and stressing about what is what and not focusing on what they are passionate about, your employees start to feel tired and lost. They are doing “whatever it takes,” so their talents are not being put to best use. Suddenly all the reasons you wanted to stay become the reasons you want to go.

And projects are limited and temporary – a one-time thing. It might seem easy enough to tell yourself that implementing something that’s a one-size-fits-all approach will work. It’s all you’ve been dreaming of, really. 

But your agency is bigger than a single – or a couple – of projects. It’s everything surrounding it, too, and the mindset of guaranteeing future opportunities considering people and clients’ unique demands, as well as resources that need to be understood. 

People will execute those projects—not the other way around. And they will be executed for other people. So before thinking about what tools your team should be using to do their work, you should define: what is the work they need to be doing? What is the hierarchy of tasks and how can I prioritize them? Does this client need different treatment than a project-based, one-off client? 

This is thinking of processes, not projects. Solving those pains needs to be a long-term commitment, not a one-time thing.

THIS IS WHY PROCESS MANAGEMENT SHOULD BE FIRST

According to Parker Short, co-founder of Jaxzen Marketing Strategies, in an interview,

If you want to successfully implement a project management tool at your agency, you need to start with your processes. If you have strong processes for how assignments are structured, organized, and communicated on, then you’re well-positioned to adopt most modern project management systems. Otherwise, you’re likely going to be influenced by how the project management system is set up, which is the wrong order. Can you imagine having the design of a house being influenced by the type of drill you have? You start with a plan and evaluate the tools against that. Once you have strong processes, even some basics, you’ll be in a better position to implement a project management tool, regardless of what you adopt.

Processes are unlimited and continuous – they happen again, and again and again. As a series of activities that must be followed in order to achieve a specified result, they can take up every aspect of the day-to-day activities of your agency: from the way your team likes coffee to be brewed to the way people build a website and all the necessary steps it entails to get a successful result, according to the value proposition your brand best delivers

Pipefy

So to remedy the reason why all those pains are being felt and not their consequences, you’ll need to document how things are done in order to guarantee the optimal flow is being followed so everyone is delivering similar value to your clients. 

Those pains we’ve just tackled are just the start if you don’t take action. Can you imagine the chaos that would be unleashed if something that is only known and done by just one person is suddenly no more? Should your whole operation stop? Shouldn’t the entire process be so well-documented that things can continue running without that key person?

Having standardized processes is necessary in order to make sure the whole team is on the same page: everyone knows who needs to do what and what to expect from the next person participating in said process. And everyone is held accountable. 

If you choose a project tool without first taking the time to carefully observe how your team works organically, instead of finding the tool that best fits how you work and execute, you’ll end with frustration in the air as your whole team will feel obligated to adjust themselves to that project management tool. 

Once you can par an execution-driven team to a process that flows organically thanks to a documented flow that is available to the whole team, therefore granting transparency and trusting internal squads, you’ll be able to choose a project management tool that will complement your team instead of getting in the way.

By implementing a process management tool before finding a project management tool, you’ll be able to…

  1. Get a better grasp on how your operation is running with accurate metrics on execution while discovering where to improve to get the best results;
  2. Gain visibility of everyone’s work to ensure deadlines are met and that your managers will be able to quickly notice where your process bottlenecks are ;
  3. Enhance employee satisfaction with standards of execution that are clear to everyone so it’s easier to congratulate those who are exceeding and set examples to be followed ;
  4. Establish transparency across different departments to foment insights coming from different points of view: now that people are better organized and stress levels are under control, you actually have the time to willingly take a look at their own side and ask, “how  can I help my colleagues do better?”

AND THIS IS WHAT PROCESS MANAGEMENT LOOKS LIKE

Now the process management tool is up and running: people know what, when, how, to whom and why they do everything they do. Those people are also getting really good at what they are doing because things are naturally coming together as everyone knows how to provide true value to their clients. 

Nobody is lost, nothing is forgotten and clients are getting happier by the minute. Communication is easier than ever before, mainly because you were able to do the following:

  1. Save time, effort and money – as all people will know not only what to do, but also how much of the resources available they should explore to achieve said goal;
  2. Decrease the learning curve of new team members – because everything is documented, new hires will have an easier time going through  core processes and coming up with better insights by themselves instead of having someone from the team spending longer than necessary to onboard them;
  3. Reduce variability and uncertainty – all of the team will be performing the same steps at the same stage once they have a clear view of what is expected;
  4. Increase productivity and quality – when people have  clear guidelines as to what is expected of them, work  gets done faster since they don’t have to wonder about the specifics and are only worried about turning over their best work;
  5. Improve communication with all parties involved – by keeping everyone aware of their responsibilities, it becomes easier to communicate when something needs to change or needs assistance in any way.
Pipefy

LET’S ACHIEVE GREATNESS TOGETHER

With all of this in mind, you’re all set to select both the best process management tool for your marketing processes and even satellites processes (like your Human Resources team and the Financial one) and to get your agency up and running, ready to choose the right project management tool. No longer fall subject to word of mouth, but rather, adopt tools that make sense for your team. 

Pipefy is here to help you through this journey! As the Lean Management Platform for Marketing and Creative Teams, all of those pains previously described are our enemies. From process standardization to process automation, we firmly believe that when do-ers have all the resources they need to promote change, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. 

Start using Pipefy Now!

Recommend this article

Profile photo for Daniely Gomes

Written By

Daniely Gomes

is a Product Marketing Analyst at Pipefy. A Business School graduate and a writer as a way to let go; she doesn't quite know how to stay quiet. Thus, is eagerly learning how to translate endless trains of thoughts into meaningful content.