As a project manager, you already know that even talented teams need some direction.
You might have a great group of designers, marketers, and strategists working on projects with you. But as a project manager, part of your job is to hold them accountable to important deadlines and ensure your project remains profitable.
Because here’s the truth:
Despite the fact that project success rates are on the rise, there are still far too many projects that fall short of expectations.
In fact, according to PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession report, as much as 24 percent of completed projects are deemed failures.
And even for those projects completed, barely half were completed by the originally scheduled time:
As a result, many agencies turn to project management and collaboration software to hold their teams accountable for their work and try to avoid missed deadlines with clients.
In fact, 85 percent of teams use collaboration tools on a weekly basis.
That’s exactly what I’m going to show you here.
This post outlines the best ways you can use a collaboration platform like Zapty to effectively manage agency projects and ensure your team hits their deadlines every time.
And to kick things off, let’s first talk about what exactly makes an effective project management tool:
The Most In-Demand Features for Project Collaboration Software
We’ll be the first to admit — there are a lot of project management tools on the market to choose from.
Agencies want the right blend of features that align with their existing project workflow. But, the reality is that many teams do not select the right platform their first time around.
A 2016 study from Software Advice found a startling trend:
56 percent of teams using collaboration software are actively seeking to replace their current project management solution.
As if that’s not crazy enough, 66 percent were open to the idea of switching to a different solution in the coming year. And a whopping 91 percent of project managers are willing to increase their budget for the right tool that includes the features they need.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering:
What are the most in-demand software features for project managers?
That same study from Software Advice tackled this exact question. They found the top two “must-have” features for any tool were:
- Task management. The ability to delegate, track, and report on project tasks in a simple, efficient way.
- Collaboration. An effective solution for bringing the team together to share ideas, provide feedback, and answer each other’s questions.
For project managers, these two features play an important role in managing your team and helping you hit deadlines. How?
Let’s get into it:
#1. Use tasks to divide up project work among your team.
Delegating work is a critical step in the success of any project. And as you probably know, project managers working at digital agencies need to be particularly smart (and careful) with task assignments.
Because you’re often working with contractors or freelancers to help get the job done in addition to your team, it’s important you have a simple system in place to understand:
- Who is responsible for what tasks
- The timeline for team members to have those tasks completed
- The next step in the project flow after the completion of each task
- A view of any missed deadlines
So, say you’re responsible for designing and launching a “spring sale” email campaign for a client. After getting approval on your project proposal, you’re ready to kick-off work. And the first step is to assign out all the little tasks needed to hit your deadline.
Here’s an example of what task management looks like in Zapty:
You can quickly create your project and then define the stages of task completion. These stages might change project-by-project (maybe you’re working with a particularly demanding client who wants to approve every piece of the process). But, they’re key to tracking your project progress and holding your team accountable.
And once those stages are defined, you can build out all of the individual tasks for assignment.
One of the best parts about Zapty is that agencies working with contractors can assign tasks to people outside their organization.
Take a look:
Doing so means you can hold everyone working on the project accountable in the same platform.
Zapty offers a number of other key features for task management, including:
- The ability to get granular by creating subtasks within the larger assignment.
- A checklist feature for each individual task, giving you the ability to lay out task requirements for easy accountability.
- File sharing via attachment or directly through Google Drive for easy collaboration.
It’s the combination of all these features that help keep your team accountable and your projects on track.
But, that’s not the only way a good collaboration tool like Zapty can contribute to team accountability:
#2. A team calendar gives project managers an overview of upcoming deadlines.
It’s one thing to assign tasks to your team. And something else entirely to keep track of their progress and ensure you’re on track to hit a deadline.
According to Capterra, keeping track of time and budget across projects is the biggest pain point felt by project managers.
Zapty helps fight that problem and increase team accountability with a shared project calendar:
Project managers can use this calendar to get a comprehensive view of where a particular project stands in relation to your deadline. The color coding aligns with the stages you created when initially assigning tasks, letting you know when tasks have been started and if they are on-pace for completion.
The calendar gives you full project oversight at a glance. And that means if a member of your team isn’t keeping up with deadlines, you can easily know who it is and what’s being held up.
And the best part? You can communicate with them directly through the Zapty platform.
#3. Use team chat to keep the conversation going.
It’s a simple fact: project managers prefer tools with built-in collaboration features.
That’s because it’s tedious to use different platforms to communicate with your team and manage your project flow.
Unfortunately though, a recent study showed 95 percent of teams use two or more tools to manage their project flow.
Just 5 percent of organizations have found a single platform to handle both the collaborative and organizational aspects of project management.
Zapty is looking to change that for digital agencies. Our platform brings together project management and collaboration into a single tool for your team.
Your team can communicate within individual tasks, or chat as part of the larger project.
You can also set up polls, assign new tasks, and get approvals directly through the chat function.
That real-time communication can be the difference between successful project completion and falling short on budget or time.
But collaboration means more than just chat. It’s also how your team works together on shared documents:
#4. Real-time document annotation saves you from multiple drafts.
In a recent post here on the Zapty blog, we detailed exactly why email is ineffective for project collaboration (both with clients and internally with your team).
And one of the big reasons was draft approval and adding comments to mockups becomes disjointed and confusing when using email.
Which is why we’ve built real-time document annotation directly into Zapty.
A designer can share a mockup with the entire project team and anyone can leave comments or annotations.
That means you and your team have a single source for drafts, helping ensure everyone is working with the most up-to-date information. Which is important considering 35 percent of project managers claim a lack of centralized information is their biggest business challenge.
#5. A shared, searchable history gives you the documentation needed for a successful project post-mortem.
Look, even with a best-in-class project management tool, here’s the truth:
You’ll probably still have some projects fail.
Only 2.5 percent of teams have a perfect success rate with their project completion.
But, that doesn’t mean you don’t strive to get better. If you want to be able to hold your team accountable in the future, you need to know what went wrong in the past.
Which is why conducting a project post-mortem is so important for project managers at digital agencies.
Zapty helps facilitate successful post-mortem meetings with a shared, searchable project history that can help pinpoint exactly where the project got derailed.
Ready to try it yourself?
Find out everything Zapty has to offer and see how the tool fits with your agency’s project management flow.