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Budget Estimating and Time Management platforms for marketing agencies

Author's avatar By Mark Kelly 21 Aug, 2013
Essential Essential topic

Recommendations on time management platforms for marketing agencies or in-house marketing teams

In another post I reviewed alternative agency costing models and suggested how simple budgets and quotes for marketing projects can be prepared using a spreadsheet. Larger agencies will require more features to manage multiple quotes and to relate proposals back to live projects. I’m often asked about the project proposal and time recording systems I recommend, so in this post I give some of the main contenders that are most widely used.

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider cost (and job management) platforms. Spreadsheets are useful (especially when starting out), but job management platforms are worth investigating for cross-­agency collaboration on both estimate creation and ongoing time / resource management. Supporting the agency’s profitability endeavours by providing easily accessed and accurate reporting.

Time-recording features

Time recording is seen as a huge pain for most agency staff. But are most definitely a “necessary evil”, without timesheets you can’t monitor project progress, you can’t see if your estimates are accurate or not and you can’t (re)negotiate with clients on project fees. There isn’t one solution to timesheet completion though, I’ve used and managed the use of them for twenty plus years and ongoing ‘carrot and stick’ or ‘hearts and minds’ sums it up.

Rather than simply using a time recording system, a better option is usually a project management platform with great UX / functionality that includes a timesheet module will help though. Making time recording as frictionless as possible will help you get meaningful, accurate reconciliation reports at the back­end.

Typically these platforms include estimating templates / routines tied to a job number or project code as part of their suite of functionality. There are a lot on the market but I thought it might be useful to signpost some here. Some are all­-encompassing, providing the full gamut of process / functionality from initial estimate through to time and resource tracking, cost reconciliation, invoicing and reporting. Others specialise in one function (e.g proposal generation) but integrate with other platforms. There are no real typical costs but some of the cloud-­based platforms will be c. £15/30 per user per month (or sometimes that amount for a bundle of up to 5 users).

Recommendations on time management platforms for marketing agencies or in-house marketing teams

I’m not affiliated in any way to any of the platforms cited below.

An example of niche platforms that integrate together would be Nifty Quoter (Proposal preparation) and Harvest (time sheet management platform) which itself has a large ecosystem of other apps / platforms it works with. An example of an enterprise-­level platform i.e. it caters for network / late­scale agencies would be BrandOcean.

Other platforms you might consider if you’re preparing a short list include Apptivo , Concept, Paprika, Function Point, Clarizen, LiquidPlanner and Workamajig.

There are various best ­buy / league table guides available for cloud project management services, (e.g. http://online­project­management­ which aren't necessarily tailored for agency use, so you should start with your peers and ask colleagues at other agencies for their experiences of particular platforms or ask for recommendations via Smart Insights Answers.


Do let us know any services you would recommend for different sizes of consultancy, agency or in-house.

Author's avatar

By Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly is a digital marketing and agency growth consultant working with agencies and their client brands. He can be found at Mark Kelly Consultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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