14 Must-Have Project Management Tools for Your Digital Agency

14 Must-Have Project Management Tools for Your Digital Agency

You’ve successfully launched your digital marketing agency, business is growing, clients come knocking at your (virtual) door and you work with a handful of great collaborators.

Congratulations.

But that success come hand in hand with organizational challenges that could rapidly bring trouble in paradise if not dealt with properly.  When working on various projects, for various clients and with different collaborators (sometimes remote) involved, things can easily get chaotic.  

Difficulty to focus on each client’s needs, lack of communication in your team, delays, inefficient use of the agency’s resources… These are the main difficulties that could arise.

project-deadlines-clock

Feeling concerned?

Good news is: all these problems can easily be avoided (or fixed). Many tools exist that will help you run your agency smoothly, allow your team to provide the best service to each client and ultimately relieve everybody from a big amount of stress.

We’ve rounded up some of the best tools available for digital agencies. Get ready to scale your business!

Project and Task Management Tools

Teambook (Project Management)

Too often, we tend to forget that our team is our most valuable resource.

A rising quantity of projects, pressure from our clients and personal schedule requests from our team members often lead to head-scratching scheduling challenges. Managing a team efficiently can get quite time consuming and frustrating…

…unless you’re using the right tool.

With Teambook, you can finally say goodbye to spreadsheets to organize your team planning and get more time to focus on what actually matters: growing your business.

Teambook offers a real-time visual solution to resource planning through a user-friendly platform that gives you an overview of your team’s occupation and performance. Within a 4-week time frame you can see in a glance who is working on what and who is available or not.

teambook-laptop-screen

Thereby, when a new project is on the table, you can easily make sure that the required team members are available before booking them to the project. And if you have many employees to manage? You can rely on the hashtag system to make sure you find the best fit for the project.

Teambook makes life easier for everybody. Your team members won’t be overloaded because of guesswork planning, they will be assigned to tasks that fit their skills and they get notified of any booking updates. They also have access to a personal homepage displaying all the info they need to successfully carry out their tasks.

No more overloaded team members, rushed project results and talent waste!

But that’s not it.

Teambook also offers a powerful analysis tool that gives you insight on your team performance, productivity and utilization. It gives you a clear picture of how much time and budget your team spent on a project and allows you to discover planning issues… and solutions.

How much does it cost?

  • Basic plan costs $19/month. Option for smaller businesses, limited to 10 active projets.
  • Pro plan costs $39/month. It extends to 40 active projects, unlimited clients, unlimited users, customer support and daily data backup.
  • Premium plan costs $69/month. Same as Pro plan, but with 100 active projects.
  • Unlimited plan costs $199/month. Unlimited everything!

Availability

Teambook works on all major browsers.
It also integrates with Harvest, Zapier and Calendars at the moment. But that’s only the beginning.

Trello (Task Management)

If you’re reading this post on a screen hidden behind a bunch of multi coloured post-it’s, Trello might be your new best friend.

Trello defines itself as “a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance,Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process”.

Trello is a modern, virtual Kanban system that makes project management as visual and easy as it can get. So easy that you will start using it at home…

trello-board-example

How does it work?

Step1: A project is represented by a board.

Step 2: Each task related to that project is represented by a card

Step3: Cards are assigned to specific team members

Step4: Cards are arranged into stage-lists according to the progress (eg. “To-Do”, “Doing”, Done”)

Did we say how easy is it?

At this point, you may think communication still remains a problem. While Trello doesn’t offer a live chat or an alternative to emails, it does includes some basic communication features that will save you from some unproductive email conversations. Cards are clickable and allow team members to add a description, checklists, comments and even to upload files.

How much does it cost?

  • Free plan is, well, free. It has no limitation on the core features (yay!)
  • Business Class plan costs $9.99/month. It offers some extra features such as app integrations
  • Enterprise plan costs $20.83/month. It targets larger companies and offers extra security

Availability

Another great thing about Trello is its availability. It will works on all your devices and will allow you to check the progress of you projects on-the-go.  

  • Web
  • Desktop (MacOS & Windows)
  • App (IOS & Android)

Asana (Task Management)

Asana is a direct competitor to Trello as they are both leaders in the task management softwares business. We chose to prefer Trello for its straightforward visual Kanban system and ease of use. However, if you generally work on bigger projects with many team members collaborating on various tasks, Trello can get messy really fast and you may be better off with Asana.

Asana offers more features and flexibility than Trello, which makes it a better fit for bigger collaborative projects, but also more complexe to use. When Trello is limited to Kanban boards, Asana offers more project views options to its users (including boards), which allows team members to manage tasks using the view that they prefer.

In a few words: If you’re looking for an extremely easy-to-use and visual tool to manage simple tasks, go for Trello. But if you need to deal with big projects involving many team members, Asana will be the better fit.

Time Management Tools

Toggl (Time Tracker)

Ever wondered where does your time and the one of your workforce go?  

It’s the end of the week and you have that feeling that you could’ve been more productive. Or it’s time to bill your client for a project on a hourly rate but you totally lost track of the exact amount of time your team spent on that project.

Time flies and time is money.  

Tracking it enables you to have a clearer picture on your time management and can considerably improve productivity. See what’s holding your team back and get to know the real value of a project.

Toggl is a cloud based time tracking tool designed for those who just need to track time spent working on various projects. Time tracking should be hassle-free and frictionless, and that’s exactly what Toggl kept in mind when developing their software.  

toggl-time-tracking-banner

It’s incredibly easy to use.

Pick a project from your list and just “push a button to start the timer”. That’s it, Toggl is now tracking your time. Once you’re done for the day with that project, or just have a more urging matter, push the same button to stop the timer.

Toggl’s interface is well-designed and user friendly. They focus on what matters and allow you to see exactly how much time you and your team have spent on different projects.  

How much does it cost?

  • Basic plan is free. The experience is ads-less and complete enough for basic use
  • Starter plan costs $7.2. It offers additional reporting features.
  • Premium plan costs $14.4. It comes with a better client support and extra team management features.
  • Entreprise plan focuses on larger companies. It’s customizable and prices will depends on the features.

Availability

Toggl is available on all platforms and is synchronized between all of them. “Start tracking in your browser, stop the timer on your phone”.

  • Web
  • Desktop (MacOS & Windows)
  • App (IOS & Android)
  • Browser button (Chrome & Firefox)

In addition to that, Toggl integrates with more than 100 tools such as Trello and Slack.

PomoDoneApp (Pomodoro Technique)

Are you familiar with the Pomodoro Technique?

That technique consists in breaking your day up into work sessions (ideally 25 minutes), each one followed by a short break (ideally 5 minutes). A work session is called a Pomodoro and every 4 Pomodoros, you get a longer break (around 30 minutes).

The goal of that technique is to force yourself to focus and to avoid distractions during each work session, knowing that you get a well-deserved short break after the session.

Even though it may sound like a lot of wasted time, the Pomodoro technique has proven to improve productivity and keep your mind fresh throughout the day.

There are some great Pomodoro timers on the market to help you keep track of your time.

One of our favorites is PomoDoneApp as it is developed to offer smooth integration with task management apps like Trello or Asana. You can also sync your Pomodoro sessions with Toggl and set automatic breaks during your Toggl sessions.

pomodoneapp-integrations

We also love the websites blacklist feature offered in the Chrome Extension version of PomoDoneApp as it will keep you from “having a quick look” at your favorite non-work related websites during your Pomodoro sessions.

How much does it cost?

  • Starter plan is free. It limits the integrations available, the amount of projects and log access
  • Lite plan costs $2/month. Adds some integrations and log access
  • Ultimate plan costs $3.5/month. Unlimited integrations and log access
  • Entreprise plan focuses on larger companies. It’s customizable and prices will depends on the features.

Availability

PomoDoneApp currently integrates with 17 apps (including Trello, Asana, Slack, Toggl) but that number should rise to more than 50 apps by the end of 2019.

  • Web
  • Desktop (MacOS, Windows & Linux)
  • App (IOS & Android)
  • Browser button (Chrome & Firefox)
  • Browser Button (Chrome)

Pomodoro.cc (Pomodoro Technique)

Not convinced by the Pomodoro Technique? Have a look at Pomodoro.cc for a trial.

It is a free, basic pomodoro time tracker webpage that you can use without even creating an account. Being very basic, the features are limited as well. Set up a to-do list and choose the length of your Pomodoro session (5, 15 or 25 minutes), then you’re good to go!

CRM & Communication

Slack (Professional Instant Messaging)

How do you usually communicate with your team?

Email? Slow!
Whatsapp? Not very professional
Face-to-face? Amazing, but not always possible or necessary

Meet Slack, a professional-oriented instant messaging software that will make you ditch emails for conversations and considerably improve communication with remote employees or collaborators.

slack-messaging

Slack defines itself as “ a collaboration hub that connects your organization — all the pieces and the people — so you can get things done”.

Yes, like the coffee machine corner, somehow…

In addition to one-to-one conversations, Slacks also offers a system of channels and it’s up to you to decide how to use these. You can create a channel for the marketing team, another one for the organization of a specific event, one to share interesting news… and even one for relaxed conversation.

You get the point.

Slacks is a very complete tool and offers a bunch of interesting features, the main ones being:

  • File transfert
  • Shared channels between multiple workspaces
  • Access for guest members to a channel (clients, partners…)
  • Creation of threads inside a conversation. It avoids group conversations to get messy
  • Video and voice calls
  • Notifications and do not disturb mode

One last thing. We focused on team communication here, but Slack is also a great way to communicate with your clients and provide instant customer support. Or you can take that tool to the next level and create (or join) a public channel around a topic, Telegram style. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet like-minded people or prospects and to enable one-to-one conversations.

How much does it cost?

  • Free plan. Focuses on small teams and limited within the company (no shared channels and guest members)
  • Standard plan is $6.25/user/month. Opens your workspace to external access (shared channels and guest members) and introduces group calls (video or voice)
  • Plus plan is $11.75/user/month. Offers more complex features such as SSO authentication or corporate exports for the messages.

Availability

We expect an instant messaging tool to be available on all our devices. And Slack delivers. Honorable mention for being available on Linux and Windows Phone.

  • Web
  • Desktop (MacOS, Windows & Linux)
  • App (iOS, Android & Windows Phone)

Slack also support integration with a huge quantity of apps and softwares. And as they don’t like to do things halfway, they build an App Directory to feature these.

Spark (email client)

Slack is great for professional instant messaging, but emails are still the way to go in many situations.

As you will notice while reading this article, we love web-based softwares, but email-clients are the exception that proves the rule. When you are a power user and have to deal with multiple email accounts through the day, third-party email clients offer great time-saving features and a clean interface.

And the best third-party email clients are app based.

Let’s stop here. If you don’t own a Macbook, Spark isn’t for you as it’s only available for Apple owners.

But if you do own a Macbook, you will love Spark… and, as they say themselves, “Love your email again”. The software is light and its interface is one of the clearest we’ve seen.  

spark-ipad-screen

As we’d expect from an third-party email client, Spark works with all major service providers and allow multiple email accounts.

Once your email accounts are set up, the first feature that strikes is the smart unified inbox, collecting and categorizing the emails from your different accounts. In that way you get to see top priority emails across your accounts in one shot. That feature also extends to your individual mailboxes, in order to prevent you from skipping an important email lost in between newsletters.

Spark also comes with a bunch of interesting features for better organization. Here is a list of some of the most interesting ones:

  • Email scheduling
  • Email templates with custom placeholders
  • Follow-up reminders when you don’t get a response (also schedulable)
  • Multiple signatures (pick the right one for the right email)
  • Integrated calendar
  • Natural language search to find exactly what you are looking for.
  • Snoozing option to come back to an email at the right time

Finally, Spark also offers real-time team collaboration features. You can create, discuss and share emails with your colleagues. For example, you can discuss an email in a live chat with your team without having to forward it to them.

How much does it cost?

  • Free plan. Very complete! Limited to 5GB team storage, 5 email templates and 2 shared draft collaborators.
  • Premium plan is $6.39/user/month. 10GB per team member, unlimited templates and draft collaborators, administration features
  • Entreprise plan. Custom price for larger teams

Availability

As we said, Spark is only available on the Apple ecosystem (iOS and MacOS)

Collaborative Tools

Mindmeister (Brainstorming & Mind Mapping)

Sitting and brainstorming to develop ideas that lead to solutions is an important step for any digital agency. However, if not treated properly, it can be impossible to control the flow of informations and ideas and turn these into something concrete.  

But again, tools exist to help your team capture ideas and connect them.

You could simply write down your ideas on paper or in a text editor, but mind mapping softwares offer a more visual solution. The concept is simple, you start with a core concept from which you create branches and then sub-branches, in order to visually organize and structure your thoughts.

Mindmeister is a web-based collaborative mind mapping software offering a bunch of customization features for more clarity and flexibility.

mindmeister-mind-mapping-app

Being web-based means that you won’t have to deal with compatibility trouble across your team and the software doesn’t require any download and upgrade.

But it also means that real-time collaboration is easy, even when distance separates various team members. Through a shareable link you can invite team members or clients to contribute to the mind map and they can communicate through an integrated live chat.

In terms of content, Mindmeister goes further than offering the creation of basic mind maps.

You can create a map from scratch or choose between different map layouts and map themes. Then customize your map with background images, colors, styles and formatting. In addition to that design freedom, you also have the possibility to enrich the content of your map with attachments, medias (images and videos), notes and links.

We introduced Mindmeister as a brainstorming tool but thanks to its set of features, it also doubles as a great note taking or presentation tool!  

How much does it cost?

  • Basic plan is free. Perfect to start, as quite complete. But limited to 3 mind maps
  • Personal plan is $4.99/month. Unlimited mind maps, export and file attachment features
  • Pro plan is $8.25/user/month. Multiple team members, more export options and more customization
  • Business plan is $12.49/user/month. Groups within the team, team administration, priority support

Availability

Being a web-based software, Mindmeister is available on any device equipped with a web-browser. You can also download it as an app (iOS and Android)

For free mind mapping alternatives, check:  Bubbl.us or Coggle

Figma (Design made simple)

Figma is a web-based UI and UX design software. Many prefer it to Sketch for its real-time team collaboration features and for being a lag free browser-based tool.

figma-design-tool

In that case, being an online software doesn’t involve any trade off. Figma’s list of features is huge and we won’t dive into a in-depth description of all of them. But it gives you all the tools you need for the design of a project, including drawing, editing, prototyping, wireframing and developer handoff.

Figma is often referred as the Google Docs for designers as its greatest strengths certainly are its collaboration features. Figma lets you create differents projects and invite users to collaborate in real-time.  

Say goodbye to third-party storage platforms, constant system switch and file transfers.

Say hello to real-time editing with other people and live feedbacks from your team or customers.

How much does it cost?

  • Starter plan is free. Limited to 2 editors and 3 projects
  • Professional plan is $12/editor/month. Unlimited editors and projects plus a bunch of additional features
  • Organization plan is $45/editor/month. Offers more complex features and control than the professional plan.

Availability

Being an online software, Figma is available on any device equipped with a web-browser. But it’s also possible to download a native desktop version (MacOS & Windows).

Small tip: Using the desktop version will let you access your local fonts.

Canva (Design & Wireframe)

Figma is awesome, but you don’t always need a complete and powerful design tool. Sometimes, you just want to create a fast and simple picture for your social media, but you still want it to be well-designed and appealing.

That’s where Canva gets really handy.

Canva is a web-based design tool that relies on drag-and-drop elements to create frictionless, good looking visuals. In a few words: It’s a graphic tool for the unskilled user.

canva-printscreen

But even the skilled designer will find it useful when he doesn’t have time to create a visual from scratch, or when he needs some inspiration.

It’s extremely easy to use and Canva does most of the job for you. After choosing the dimensions of the document according to its purpose, everything else is a drag-and-drop and customization job. Pick a layout, add frames, change the font and the colors, upload your own background… Canva offers great freedom and flexibility, even in its free version!

But that’s not it.

Being cloud-based, Canva also lets you invite team members to share your designs with. That feature is very welcomed when an unskilled colleague needs to re-use one of your designs, with updated text for example.  

How much does it cost?

  • Free Forever plan is free. Offers a great amount of features, with limited customization
  • Canva for Work plan is $12.95/team member/month. Grants you access to all the premium templates, elements and customization
  • Canva Entreprise. Offers custom pricing for team of more than 30 members and advanced customer support

Availability

Being an online software, Canva is available on any device equipped with a web-browser.

There is no desktop version to download but Canva is available as an app (iOS and Android devices)

Diigo (Knowledge Management)

Diigo was Initially released as an online bookmarking tool. But they noticed that even though we spend a big part of the day working with online information, our workflow with that information is rather inefficient. Thereby, they rapidly developed to something much more powerful; on a personal level, but also when working with a team.

Diigo now defines itself as a “multi-tool for personal knowledge management that dramatically improves your workflow and productivity”.

diigo-tools

What does this mean?

The team at Diigo wants to help you digest that huge mess of online information, in order to improve your information workflow, from browsing to sharing. To do so, the tool is structured around 4 main features: collect – annotate – organize – share.

Collect. Diigo originally was a bookmarking tool, it’s only logical that they kept that feature as a starter point. You can build a library from the online data you collect (web pages, links, screenshots, pictures…) and its content is automatically archived on the cloud. You can then access it anywhere and anytime, even when the content is down.

Annotate. For more efficiency, you can add notes and highlighters to web pages and PDFs. In that way, you can draw attention to a specific part of the document and share your thoughts directly on that document.   

Organize. When building your library, you will want an easy and fast access to the stored information, whenever you may need it in the future. Diigo aims to ease your life with advanced search capabilities, tagging and lists.   

Share. You may want to keep all that information to yourself, but Diigo’s main added value for a digital agency is its group feature. A group is a shared library that allow its members to browse and add content to that library. But more than that, to make collaboration easier, group members can also interact and add on-the-page annotations.

How much does it cost?

  • Free plan is free. Perfect to give Diigo a shot. It comes with ads and is limited to 500 bookmarks and 100 highlights. (Collaborative features only available in Business plan)
  • Standard plan is $40/year. Ads free, unlimited bookmarks, highlights and images.
  • Professional plan is $59/year. Same as Standard + unlimited PDF storage and outiners.
  • Business plan is $10/user/month. Same as Professional + advanced team features

Availability

Diigo wants to let you access the information anywhere. Hence they are available on almost any device.

  • Chrome extension
  • Bookmark add-on (javascript). Works on any browser
  • App (iOS & Android)

G Suite (Google Business Suite)

A post about organizational tools without G Suite would simply be incomplete.

Everybody knows the different services offered by Google and you are certainly using some of them, on a private and professional level.

But do you know and have you considered G Suite for your business?

That suite is Google’s answer to collaboration problems for businesses. It’s a platform regrouping the cream of the crop of Google’s cloud based collaborative- and productivity-oriented services, such as:

gsuite-apps
  • Gmail
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides
  • Google Calendar
  • Hangouts
  • Keep
  • Sites, App Maker

“ Everything you need in one package

All these tools are free when used individually, but G Suite will cost your business a few dollars a month. Now the question is, why would someone pay for it?

It could be worth it just for the fact that signing up on G Suite will let you and your employees use Gmail’s powerful platform with your own custom domain name (regardless of the pricing plan). Let’s face it, “@gmail.com” isn’t very professional in business.

But the custom domain name isn’t the only advantage offered by G Suite. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Extended storage on Google Drive (by user). $10 for unlimited cloud storage… whait, what?!
  • Admin panel to manage users, groups, apps etc
  • Shared calendars
  • Critical security features
  • 24×7 support

How much does it cost?

  • Basic plan costs $5/user/month. This gets you 30GB of storage
  • Business plan costs $10/user/month. Jump from 30GB to unlimited storage and get additional control features
  • Entreprise plan costs $25/user/month. Targeted to bigger businesses, it offers advanced control and capabilities  

Availability

As G Suite is not a software itself, availability is related to each product in the suite. But as you can expect from Google, most products are available and synchronised cross-platforms.

Billing Tools

Zoho Invoice

Running a relatively small business with a limited amount of customers?

Then Zoho Invoice may be your best option for a billing and invoicing software. And it even gets better if you are also using any of the 30+ online applications from Zoho’s ecosystem.

zoho-invoices-dashboard

What makes Zoho stand out from other invoicing softwares is its free plan. Most softwares (billing softwares included) limit the features available in their free version, but Zoho’s free plan gives you access to all the features, forever. However, it does limit you to 1 user and up to 5 clients.

And when you know that Zoho Invoice is one of the billing softwares that offers the most customizable features, it makes that free plan very attractive for small businesses that still want to issue custom and professionally looking invoices.

But don’t get us wrong.

Zoho is also a great option for businesses with more clients. It’s a very complete tool and its paid plans are still very competitive.

We also expect from a good invoicing software to be easy to use and to save us some time. Indeed, the whole invoicing process should be as fast and automatized as possible.

And Zoho delivers. “Spend more time on growing your business and less time on sending bills”… as they claim.

The interface is simple and easy to use, with a left-sided dashboard that gives you fast access to all you need to send estimates or invoices, register new contacts, track your expenses or even set recurring invoices.  

As far as the proper invoicing process is concerned, it could not get much simpler and faster. Just edit the different variables of the invoice and send it to your client’s email, directly from zoho.

Invoices are also fairly customizable. You can choose from a few templates, edit the font, add a default message and add your company’s logo.

How much does it cost?

  • Free plan. Full features set but limited to 1 user, 5 customers and 5 automated workflows
  • Basic plan costs $9/month. Still limited to 1 user and 5 automated workflows, but up to 50 customers
  • Standard plan costs $19/month. Up to 3 users, 500 customers, 10 automated workflows
  • Professional plan costs $29/month. Up to 10 users, 10 automated workflows, unlimited customers and custom domain

Availability

Zoho Invoice is mainly a web-based software, but there is also a Windows desktop version (beta) available. You can download an app on your smartphone (iOS and Android).

Let us know in the comments if you think we missed some important tool or category, we are always keen to discover new ones.