Tools for a Happy Agency Life Pt 1

Professionals often pride themselves on the tools and workflows they have developed to ensure the quality of their work. These tools and processes can vary wildly from person to person but the outcomes may be quite similar.

Working with a group of people, like in an agency, adds a layer of complexity to any individual’s work. Instead of being the sole determiner or producer in the project, a person might share the responsibility of bringing that project from idea to launch with other professionals. Sometimes these professionals are other designers but other times, they might be writers, developers, photographers, filmmakers or a host of other people involved in the project. On top of the personal tools and workflows a professional might have, another layer of tools must be used to help facilitate the collective process of agency life. In our next two posts, we will outline five regions in this collective process that often need some tools to help projects run smoothly.

Time Tracking
Time tracking is a necessity in an agency setting. It gives us the ability to monitor the wellbeing of a project budget but it also gives us valuable insight that we can use on quoting future projects. Physical time-sheets or rough estimates are not as efficient or accurate as using an online service that can collate hours and generate invoices automatically. They can save an agency (unbillable) hours spent on bookkeeping.

Time tracking tools: Harvest, Timefox, Toggl, RescueTime, FunctionPoint

Email is one of the worst tools for group communication. It only takes one failed or botched cc to derail a project. It can be the repository of outdated files which are mistakenly resurrected into use. Despite email’s best effort, finding what you need or keeping tracks of threads of conversations can be next-to-impossible. To add to this, communication also ends up spread through our other channels such as text messages, or mixed into our other interactions with collaborators on other social networks.

Finding a tool or system to manage this communication is important as your team grows. Some project management tools have the ability to host conversations or chats and you should try to take advantage of this whenever possible. The simple act of keeping conversations collected in a place where the whole team can access them is invaluable.

Communication tools: Slack, Google Chat, Campfire, Skype

As a project and a team grows, it becomes inevitable that files will not only be sequentially handed from person to person but people may begin to work collaboratively on the same files. This can lead to a host of problems including people working on or sharing outdated files or worse, overwriting another person’s work on a group of files. While this can be prevented through labelling files with dates and versions, this approach can easily be undone by a careless moment. 

Developers and programmers have long-used version control systems to manage their code and facilitate collaboration with others. Many of these same systems can be used in an Agency environment with a bit of effort. Recently, there have been some services such as Layer Vault developed which bring version control to design assets. 

Collaboration tools: Github, Layervault

Come back here tomorrow when we talk PART 2 of Tools for a Happy Agency Life!