Creative marketing teams, which typically include writers, editors, artists, designers and web developers, don't always have a project management (PM) tool in place to manage their projects—much to the dismay of marketing managers. It's no wonder that inefficiencies creep in and projects suffer.
Project management systems offer many benefits, one of the chief among them, improved team communication, which results in better project quality. However, not all PM tools are suitable for creative teams in a small business setup.
Small teams should consider factors such as ease of use and relevant functionalities when purchasing such a tool. For instance, project portfolio management is essential for large companies with multiple concurrent projects but is unnecessary for small teams.
Similarly, niche tools such as application life cycle management solutions or bug tracking software work well for software development teams, but contain many features that are irrelevant for a creative team.
In this Buyer's Guide, we'll look at the essential features for creative teams, as well as the main benefits and use cases for creative project management tools. We'll also look at the top considerations for both first-time software buyers and those looking to replace their existing solutions.
Here's what we'll cover:
Creative project management software is project management software specifically designed for the needs of creative teams.
Key features include visual task dashboards, file sharing, team communication channels, budget management and other essential functionalities for managing creative team projects.
Small businesses can use these tools to manage the workflow and scope of creative projects such as a website redesign or advertising campaigns, as well as improve team and client communication, boost employee productivity and enhance project quality.
Task management in Asana
Creative project management tools offer functionality that allows businesses to handle various aspects of a creative project, from managing the triple constraints (scope, budget and timeline) to tracking team member availability.
Here are the core features provided by creative project management tools:
|Project planning||Build a work breakdown structure, identify task inter-dependencies and manage project risks.|
|Task tracking||Create to-do-lists for team members and track progress on visual dashboards.|
|Note taking||Jot down ideas, notes and team discussions digitally and share them with the team.|
|Communication channels||Allow teams to communicate via in-line commenting on tasks, centralized team workspaces and even one-on-one chat with colleagues.|
|Document management||Share files, videos and project documentation with clients and team members.|
|Reporting||View team performance on charts and graphs, and get in-app project status notifications.|
|Budget management||Estimate project budget and share invoices with clients and stakeholders.|
|Time tracking||Track the time spent by team members on a task or project and create billable hour reports.|
The right creative project management tool for you depends primarily on the size and budget of your business. Here are two common buyer types for these tools and some of their key concerns.
Small business buyers. Price and ease-of-use are the two factors that small businesses will be most concerned about when buying creative project management software.
When it comes to pricing, cloud-based tools are more suitable for small teams than on-premise solutions, as they often offer a free version and/or a starter subscription plan at low monthly payments. However, these buyers need to be aware of caps; most vendors increase pricing as you add users or additional projects.
Another focus area for these buyers is usability. Users on creative teams may be more drawn toward—and thus, more likely to grasp and use—a tool with an intuitive user experience and workflow, as well as those with visual components. Tools with design conventions such as drag-and-drop functionality are more suitable for such users.
Enterprise buyers. Large businesses will be more concerned about reporting capabilities and third-party integrations. Enterprises have geographically dispersed teams that need detailed reports on project status and employee performance. For these buyers, resource management functionality is important for effectively managing employee workloads.
Also, since enterprises use a collection of business tools, from customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to marketing software, they need a tool that has built-in integrations for seamless data transfer between the different solutions.
We've seen that, to purchase the right creative project management tool, you need to carefully analyze the tool's functionalities, usability and pricing.
However, there are other considerations as well. For example, consider that not every project needs project management software. In certain cases, your team might be better served with a different type of software, such as a collaboration tool.
Here are some other top considerations for buying creative project management solutions:
Kanban vs. to-do-lists: Creative project management tools typically offer one of two types of interfaces for task management. First is the Kanban board, as seen in tools such as Trello, where tasks are organized like sticky notes on a whiteboard. The other organizes tasks into to-do-lists, e.g., Basecamp. You should choose the option that best suits the existing workflows in your business. Take advantage of free trials to determine which works best for your team.
Functionality: Small businesses must choose a creative project management tool that comes with the specific functionalities that meet their needs. For instance, if team communication is more of a priority than task management, then evaluate tools with social collaboration features. Similarly, if you have a team of freelancers and collaborators, then look for time tracking functionality to track billable hours.
Native mobile applications: Most cloud-based creative project management tools offer a mobile version, but be sure to check for native Android and iOS applications. The key reason is that a native app has an interface specifically designed for mobile devices. The key benefit of mobile apps is that creative teams can jot down ideas and inspiration, even when they're away from their workstations. They can also receive in-app notifications and chat with colleagues while out of the office.
Hidden costs: There are several costs to consider, besides the monthly fee, when you purchase a creative project management tool. One of them is priority support, which may include a dedicated support representative as well as extended support hours and channels, that often comes at an additional charge. You should also ask about third-party integration costs and data migration fees (in case you need to transfer data from an existing project management tool).
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