From entrepreneurs to seasoned agencies, more and more people are adopting practical management tools. However, those who are highly motivated to sign up for dozens of tools do not automatically become more productive as a result. Lea from elsch&fink, a WordPress agency from Münster, offers insight into her everyday life and reveals which tools help to keep the business perfectly under control.
Trello, Moco, Basecamp, Asana, Dapulse, ActiveCollab, Wrike, Zapier, Jira, Taskworld, Freedcamp, Slack , Zenkit and Co.: These are neither underground bands nor Pokémon, but apps and management tools that are supposed to simplify our lives.
Organization and management are important in web projects of any size. But tools alone cannot work miracles. Because only those who deal extensively with a new tool and integrate it into the natural workflow can use it profitably, time-savingly and productively.
That's why today I'm going to give you an insight into our daily agency life at elsch&fink and tell you which tools we use to ...
- ...inspiration and input
- ...internal communication
- ...our project management
... efficiently and sensibly.
1. Collect fresh ideas and recognize trends
If you design websites that look like they were created in 1998, customers will leave in droves. Designers and concept developers have to create their designs with their finger on the pulse of time, recognize trends and at the same time stand out from the crowd. Especially people in the digital industry live from constant input to develop unusual and new ideas.
But even if you are responsible for technology, programming or usability, you should be aware of the latest security updates, freshly discovered attack surfaces of WordPress or the latest findings of user research.
A simple and enormously practical tool for collecting interesting articles is Feedly. Even in the free version, you can follow up to 100 publications and blogs and create topic-specific news feeds. This way, you always get all the content from your favorite sources bundled and delivered in real time.
The bottom line is: If you do your job well and stay on the ball, you'll be confronted with tons of content every day. But where do you keep what you find particularly useful?
Get a handle on information overload with note apps
For many entrepreneurs and web professionals, note-taking apps like Evernote or OneNote have proven their worth. With these handy tools, you can organize and directly edit your ideas, notes and content that you come across in newsletters, feeds and the like. By synchronizing across all your devices, you can also capture spontaneous ideas and contacts in one central place while on the go.
To share interesting content in large groups or with specific colleagues, we use our internal communication tool at the agency, which I'll talk about in a moment.
Basically, it doesn't matter if you capture your finds and ideas in an app, your browser's bookmarks, or a good old notebook.
The main thing is that you not only hold on to newly gained knowledge, but also process it and transfer it to your business.
Because if you miss the boat on current trends and developments, you could end up hanging up your business pretty soon.
2. Save time with efficient communication
Especially in digital business, it is important to be able to communicate quickly, flexibly and reliably with your own team and your customers. In many cases, email can no longer do this.
We all know the problem of completely overflowing inboxes in which important mails are hopelessly lost among spam, newsletters and circulars from the internal distribution list.
The solution: A chat tool for internal communication. Especially for short inquiries, spontaneous changes or information for specific teams, a communication tool offers enormous added value.
Slack: Short and fast communication channels
In the agency we use for internal communication exclusively the messaging tool Slack . Also in the WordPress community all arrangements, meetings and projects are handled completely via Slack . Likewise, the messenger has already proven itself with large companies, agencies and freelancers proven.
The advantages of Slack at a glance:
- The inbox remains free for important e-mails from customers and cooperation partners.
- All messages are documented centrally. For example, we have gotten into the habit of posting short minutes after meetings on the corresponding Slack channel.
- Optimally, through topic-specific chat channels, everyone gets only relevant messages and is less distracted from work.
- Silly videos, GIFs and co. are bundled in one place: the "Leisure Channel".
Using a chat tool does not save you from productivity loss
With a messenger like Slack , a team can only be as fast and flexible as the slowest team member allows. For this reason, the introduction of a new tool should be well planned and agreed with the entire team.
Finding the optimal number of Slack channels is another challenge. If there are too many channels, there is a risk that many things will be discussed twice and that communication will not be much more efficient than with e-mails. Too few channels, on the other hand, will lead to you being distracted by many messages that are not relevant to you.
In order to avoid these mistakes, the entire communication structure should be regularly evaluated and adjusted.
3. Project management only requires two tools
We could fill entire books about trying to get a handle on our own project management as a startup agency. Project management is extremely extensive and a field of expertise in its own right.
The purpose of a project management tool is always to centralize the planning and organization of tasks.
For the team to work efficiently, each member needs the overview: Where does the project stand? What needs to be done and who is responsible? Are we still within budget? Especially in projects with several WordPress websites you will quickly reach your limits without a tool.
Finding the right tool for your business takes time
Besides full-featured and highly complex tools like Redbooth and Basecamp there are also leaner alternatives on the market, including Trello, Hygger and the like. These in particular are great if you don't want to mess around with complex features or avoid a steep learning curve.
For very basic requirements, a tool that allows the definition of tasks, the setting of deadlines and the assignment of responsible persons, for example in the form of checklists, is usually sufficient. Furthermore, all team members should be able to access it locally and mobile simultaneously.
We started with the analog note system, got lost in the chaos, tested various tools (Jira too complicated, Asana too simple at that time, Basecamp somehow not our thing, ActiveCollab good, but not good enough) and finally settled on a combination of Trello and Moco ended up.
Moco helps you do acquisition, time tracking and billing
We use Moco as a...
- ... very simple system for CRM to store addresses and link them to projects.
- ... acquisition tool for creating and managing offers. This way we keep track of the progress of our acquisition processes.
- ... tracking tool for our projects: This allows us to always keep an eye on the budget of individual projects.
Using Moco is relatively self-explanatory and requires little training. With Trello, however, it's a bit different.
Trello helps to manage your tasks
Trello is basically a tool for to-do lists, the structure of which is like a collection of large pinboards: Each pinboard (called a "board" in Trello) is a project. On it hang lists with individual cards. On each card is a task that you can assign a deadline and a team member.
The secret of Trello: The Kanban principle
Just like Hygger, Trello is based on the Kanban system, which originated in Japan. "Kanban" means something like "shield, card". The purpose of the whole thing is to keep processes as lean, agile and fast as possible.
The idea behind it is quite simple:
- Maps: A project is broken down into tasks. A map is created for each individual task.
- Lists: Lists are created on the project board, usually called "To Do", "In Progress" and "Done". The system can of course be supplemented, e.g. with a "Waiting for feedback" list.
- Editing: Teams and employees now independently drag cards from "To Do", move them to "In Progress" and after completion of the work package to "Done".
This way of working means that everyone involved always has an overview of the current status of a project. The high level of personal responsibility also keeps the team members motivated.
To avoid congestion in the process, everyone is only allowed to work on a limited number of tasks. Where bottlenecks become apparent, flexible restructuring is required. Regular status meetings support communication within the team.
Trello is also suitable without Kanban
The Kanban system is especially suitable for smaller projects. When we create large and complex WordPress websites, a single board is not enough for us. Here, so many different boards would be necessary that the individual teams would no longer have an overview. And if we had a separate board for each team, no one would be able to keep track of the entire project.
In fact, that's why we don't use Trello according to the Kanban principle, but instead create lists by work area, for example design, information architecture, text, technology and project management. We exchange what is currently being worked on in regular meetings.
No matter how you end up using Trello: Agree with your team on a consistent way to use it. If one colleague in a project creates lists according to the Kanban system and the other cross-pins topic-specific tasks, no one is helped. Trello only has added value if everyone follows the same system.
Conclusion: Decide upon your use cases!
What you shouldn't do now is rush out and sign up for Moco, Trello, Slack just because you read this. Such tools are only useful if you use them wisely. Meaning: A tool has to either help you save time or improve a process significantly to make its use worthwhile.
Some things, like using an internal chat tool, work relatively unambiguously. Other tools require the user to know relevant background processes and methods. You should always weigh this effort against the benefit. Do you have any other tips for using management tools, like Trello and the like? I am looking forward to your comments!