One of the most pressing challenges for any HubSpot Partner agency lies in staying organized. As in any service business, delivering quality work on time, while staying within the project scope and getting the client results for their investment in your company is a daily struggle that spans all levels of the business. In today's world, adopting the right project management software is a critical step in fostering growth.
Before we get to the helpful stuff, it's important to set some context for the insights and learnings we'll share below.
At the time this page was produced, NR Media Group had just crossed it's 3rd year in business and was comprised of a team of 6 full-time employees, which positions us a small, early stage business. The business was supported by a mix of 12 retainer clients, occasional strategic projects and a full scale conference hosted each December. All clients of NR Media Group were new or existing HubSpot customers in the process of executing programs that included Inbound Marketing, Inbound Sales and Growth-Driven Design service fulfillment.
Like many early-stage HubSpot Partner agency's, our small team was constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our technology stack. While our marketing and sales activities were centralized on a license of HubSpot Professional that included Websites, Reporting, Ads, HubSpot CRM and Sales, we were faced with having to adopt, and in some cases integrate other software suites to be able to adequately run our operations. Our full agency technology stack included:
During the infancy of the agency, our team conducted multiple experimental periods or "mis-adventures" in project management software suites. Our first experiment was using Basecamp 2 agency-wide to manage all service delivery for a year-long stint in 2014. While clean, easy and dependable, we noticed that the rules that governed this system didn't fit neatly into the ongoing nature of the inbound approach. Tasks became easily outdated, causing delays and some late night hack-a-thons to meet deadlines.
Through some connections made at INBOUND 2014, NR Media Group moved to adopt DoInbound, a software developed by HubSpot Gold Partner, Guavabox. This fresh take on project management specifically focused features and pre-built templates on the type of work HubSpot Partner Agency's deliver on a day to day basis. While the system was flexible, it was early on in the history of software and our team simply did not see the pace of feature development and bug fixes that permitted us to see it through to a more mature system.
Our next move was to revert to back to Basecamp, but move to the newly released version of Basecamp3. This November 2015 update was the first major redesign of the 37 Signals software platform since 2012. BC3 boasted many new, collaborative features and marked the return of Campfire, a classic chat environment that was present in the initial version of Basecamp and was likely brought back with the advent of Slack and the software's rise to popularity.
While BC3 did allow for project communications to be housed just about anywhere in the system, this turned out to be the largest issue we would face in successfully using the software to manage our clients. In short, having too many places to communicate created unnecessary complexity which, in turn, slowed production.
One of the side benefits of experimenting the different project management systems was that it forced our team to review and deconstruct our internal processes and procedures. Simply setting up customized templates in a new system puts you in a an optimal position to find the path of least resistance for any project or task.
Our final move was to adopt and roll out Trello, a much more flexible system that allowed us to customize our processes based on the previous two years of learning. While not customized to the inbound process, Trello allows us to have a single system to organize all monthly client scopes while also organizing agency operations, special events like Ohio Inbound Marketing Day, and human resources processes and procedures.
Early in 2016, tiered HubSpot Partners were offered an opportunity to experiment with the BETA release of HubSpot Projects. This very early version of the system was clean and showed features that resembled the simplicity of Google Tasks, but with unique features that saved time specifically for HubSpot Agency Partners who would be working to execute inbound marketing and sales activities inside their client's portals.
While HubSpot Projects does not really have the gusto to fully replace an agency's project management software (nor is it intended to), HubSpot Partners should absolutely invest some time and effort to learn how to use the system to streamline certain client execution work.
Projects has also been designed to serve in an agency setting as a teaching that, through the use of customize able project templates, can be used to guide, monitor and provide feedback on the work produced by junior-level agency employees.At NR Media Group, we found this new feature particularly useful in helping to onboard a new client to HubSpot's system. We'll give you that complete playbook in the sections below.
Seriously think through whether HubSpot Projects would work right for your organization as your entire Project Management system before you quit your current one. When we switched to HubSpot Projects, it simply didn't do everything we needed it to do at the time, which meant that we didn't have complete adoption by all team members. If you do decide to try to go all-in with HubSpot Projects, run it parallel with your current PM software for a month or two to give your people plenty of time to adopt.
After you've run the two systems parallel to each other for a month, ask your team what their thoughts are. At times, many of us don't realize that different project management formats work better for different types of people.
Obviously, you don't want to get too customized, as some level of consistency is necessary for a PM system that will be used by your entire organization (and you should all be using the same PM system, obvs). However, visual people, for example, may find HubSpot Projects' list format visually overwhelming.
HubSpot Projects was designed with templates in mind, and templates allow the highest level of efficiency for this PM system.
If you find yourself creating the same lists month after month for a particular project or task, make it a template.
Obviously, if you're going to be creating projects from templates, you don't want to be super specific with anything. This will also help keep your tasks from getting too complex. Any specifications can be added in the descriptions on a task level in individual projects.
Success depends on communication and focus on the goal. Good communication with the team identifies deviations in a timely manner. Good communication with customers can quickly identify changes in scope.
Make sure to be transparent within your core and your extended project team, as well towards your managers, owner, sponsor. Communicate roadblocks, challenges, and risks clearly and in advance for everyone to see. Know and accept: no one cares for, or is as committed to your project as much, as you are/must be.
Following the PM process and keeping up with all the communication tools like the risk log, issue log, schedule, and deliverables should all take a back seat to leading a team. Documentation shouldn't be the core focus of a project manager. The most important skill a project manager must master is leadership.
Once your project has been completed, it’s time to reflect and see how you can optimize the next projects for success. Holding a wrap-up meeting is a perfect opportunity to get all of the project members together for discussion. Go over lessons learned and ways to improve for next time. Following a similar or the exact same flawed process over and over won’t help you succeed. Continuously optimizing your work management will go a long way in saving you time and money.
The project management procedures outline the resources that will be used to manage the project. This will include sections on how the team will manage issues, scope change, risk, quality, communication, and so on. It is important to be able to manage the project rigorously and proactively and to ensure that the project team and all stakeholders have a common understanding of how the project will be managed. If common procedures have already been established for your organization, utilize them on your project.
Issues are big problems. For instance, in an Exchange migration, the Exchange servers you ordered aren't ready and configured on time. Or perhaps the Windows forest isn't set up correctly and needs to be redesigned. The project manager should manage open issues diligently to ensure that they are being resolved. If there is no urgency to resolve the issue or if the issue has been active for some time, it may not really be an issue. It may be a potential problem (risk), or it may be an action item that needs to be resolved at some later point. Real issues, by their nature, must be resolved with a sense of urgency.