How to Choose a Project Management System

Apr 24, 2015


Article ImageContent is at the heart of every business. We spend a lot of time talking about content strategy, but very little talking about the reality of creating and managing it. When you have content being created by different people, at multiple locations chaos can ensue. Throw freelancers into the mix, and the picture gets even more confusing. A solid strategy must be in place for tracking assignments, billings, draft work, hours, and final product. You can use something free and basic like Google documents but even that will require creating systems and folders.

If organization is not your strong suit, or you just see the benefit in a more streamlined way to get creative content from start to finish, you may need to consider a project management system (PMS). There are many systems to choose from, including big names like Clarizen, and niche products like Freshdesk, which focuses just on customer encounters. What you decide will depend on both your needs and your budget. For an overview of available systems, take a look at Capterra's roundup.

For A7D, a design firm in San Diego, California, training materials were a big part of choosing a new PMS. Anna Gamboa, partner and creative manager at A7D, says "Before (2015) we were using Harvest for time tracking and Asana for project tracking. At the end of the month or project it became really time consuming for me to close out the projects from our eight designers. With that we decided to start researching different platforms. Mavenlink is more expensive than I'd like to spend but so far I have found it to be a very useful tool for our business."

Not only does Mavenlink offer training videos and live service, it also links up with Quickbooks for reporting billable time. For A7D, that means smoother integration with how they already do things. Tracking time, billing for it, and seeing how employees are utilizing their time, are key features A7D wanted from a PMS. Mavenlink made the most sense for them.

For an international business, a PMS like Basecamp has minimal offerings-mostly collaboration and file sharing-but is available in multiple languages. Something like Redbooth doesn't get into finances but has tons of project assignment features to keep lots of tasks clearly organized in one place.

Editorial content creation is the focus of several project management systems, such as Contently and Skyword. Most businesses need words, whether for a blog, social media, advertising, or other purpose. Partnering with a PMS that already has a stable of freelancers approved can be a boon for quickly finding high quality talent. The software system, plus access to vetted content producers, can be too costly for smaller businesses; HubSpot reports that Contently fees start at $3,000 a month.

Antonio Cuevas with Tribune Brand Publishing says they had very specific needs for a PMS: primarily, dealing with a large number of freelance submissions. Ebyline is their choice for two reasons.

"One, communicating workflow and content strategy with our extensive pool of freelance writers for a variety of branded campaigns with varying objectives and scope. Two, streamlining the volume of invoices to approve and track through Tribune's accounting system. For instance, we get one weekly Ebyline invoice that combines payments for a week's worth of freelance work vs. getting a handful or more of invoices it would otherwise require us to pay each freelancer individually."

Streamlining is the goal of essentially all project management systems, making it possible for you to do your core work efficiently while still handling the logistical details of running a business.  Those details can threaten to overrun time and resources if not managed carefully. Selecting the right PMS for your business may seem overwhelming, so don't rush into it. Enumerate the tasks you want a PMS to be used for. Then walk through a number of options to find what feels comfortable to you. 

If you go into the PMS selection process with a clear vision of how the software will serve you, you can be sure to find the best fit for your business needs.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)