I’m a self-admitted:
and the list goes on…
A while ago I wrote an article on How to Run Your PPC Accounts like a Project. Projects have milestones, todo dates, team insight, and most importantly – accountability.
After I wrote the article, I received a lot of feedback and questions about what project management solution I recommend. Today, I’m going to give my current opinions on the systems available. Of course, I will not cover every system a some are not suited to PPC management, some are meant for enterprise projects and large teams, and others have a large development focus.
First, I’ll look at some of the features of PM systems that help in evaluating a system, and then look at a few of the software options available.
Project Management Requirements
Some PM systems allow a task to be recurring. This means you can easily setup tasks such as:
- Change bids on Tuesday
- Change bids on Thursday
- Test ads every other week on Friday
- Test landing pages every other week on Friday
- Add negative keywords on Mondays
When the day of the task arrives, you check off the task and then it will automatically pop-up the next time it is due. That is the ideal situation for running PPC accounts like projects.
Many accounts do not support recurring tasks. That means that you have to either just change the due-date whenever the task is complete, or mark the task as complete and then create a new task. This is not an ideal situation as something is bound to get messed up over time.
A PM template can be a project or a todo list that you create once and then can easily apply to a new project or task list.
There are two main reasons you need templates:
- The project management system you choose does not support recurring tasks. Therefore, you need to apply new todo lists each month (or change the due date every time you complete the task)
- You are an agency and need to create every client as a new project.
If you don’t fit into one of those two situations, then you may not need templates.
Speed & Ease of Use
Project management software is like software: sometimes it is intuitive and easy-to-use and other times its clunky, confusing, or wastes your time.
Even if a system has every bell & whistle you need – if its slow and cumbersome then you will find that your team doesn’t use it as its not helping you get stuff done – its in the way.
While these items are subjective, I’ll try to give my best interpretation for each system what I think about the interface and ease-of-adoption.
I find time tracking is useful beyond just billing. Of course, if you are billing time & materials, then you will want to track time somewhere. Tracking directly in the PM software is nice as you have a consolidated view into the total hours for a client and the work that is done and needs to be done.
However, I find time tracking very useful even for internal teams managing PPC accounts. I was working with one company who finally agreed to track time per task. After just two weeks, we realized that they were spending a ridiculous amount of time blocking placements using Google Analytics data. This company was using GA and AdWords APIs for reporting data, but they weren’t consolidating the view for some data. It took less than a week for a single developer to create a script that would automatically block placements with the same methodology. There was a simple 20 hours per week of time reclaimed because of time tracking.
However, this might not be a deal breaker for many – its one feature I find incredibly useful for both billing and non-billing purposes.
3rd Party Integrations
If you are tracking time inside of your PM for billing purposes, then it makes sense to choose a billing system that will automatically grab your data from your PM system so that you don’t have to re-enter data in a 2nd place.
There are some systems that will automatically sync files between your PM, Google docs, and dropbox accounts. Change the files in one place, and they are changed and synced everywhere.
While 3rd party integrations can be incredibly useful – watch out for ‘feature creep’. You want a system that helps you stay organized and get tasks done. You don’t want to burden yourself with so many features that either you never use them or you feel you must use them and thus give yourself busy work.
Project Management System Reviews
Basecamp is one of the most used project management systems around. It is probably the fastest of every PM software that exist. It also has some of the fewest features. Basecamp puts as much thought into what they do launch as to what they do not launch.
For years, Basecamp has been the best project management system for those new to project management due to the lack of features. However, it does not support recurring tasks. It does have robust templates, and the best 3rd party integration system around; but the lack of recurring tasks can be a dealbreaker for many.
Recently, Basecamp renamed the current project to ‘Basecamp Classic’ and introduced a new interface. It might be that I’m not use to the new interface yet – but personally I can’t stand it. They took out the API, templates, time tracking, etc. If they roll back to the old version (if you have the old version – they will support it; but I don’t think you can signup for the old version) then Basecamp Classic is great overall – if you don’t need recurring tasks.
I’ll always have a special place for deskaway as they were one of the first systems to support recurring tasks, time tracking, and templates. I used them a *lot* for two solid years because of those features. However, the past couple years has seen advances in speed and interface design with HTML 5, AJAX, etc; and Deskaway has never taken advantage of what’s possible. It really needs a UI overhaul.
While Deskaway has as many features as any of the products on the market, several tasks take just too many clicks and screens to complete. There are times it feels like its ‘in the way’ of getting things done and it isn’t always helping you. If you need a full featured system, or if you want a system that will keep both your developers and your team organized – it can be useful. It doesn’t have the capability of release cycle scheduling like JIRA, but it does have bug tracking so it can be used by developers and PPC mangers alike.
Podio is like that kid in class who ‘has potential’ but just can’t seem to get around to getting his homework done.
Podio has features that go well beyond project management. It can be a CRM, project management, advertising management, email task lists, and much more all in one interface.
Podio is the most customizable of any of these PM systems – nothing even comes close. But it has some fatal flaws. For one its slow. It feels like it’s a start-up that hasn’t switched to Rackspace Cloud Hosting or AWS yet (either that or its UI is making way too many non-optimized calls to the database). It also is very non-intuitive calling projects ‘workspaces’ and each workspace only has one task list. There is not a task lists or sub task organization.
Podio is still new; so I’ll give it a break and keep an eye on it – it does have potential; but potential doesn’t help me get work done.
To call Zoho just project management is an injustice. Zoho is a replacement for your CRM, PM, and Google apps all rolled into one.
If you are looking for a non-Google solution to email, docs, etc – then you should consider Zoho.
Four years ago, Zoho was my PM, docs, and many other systems rolled into one – and I really enjoyed it. Then they refreshed their UI and my Zoho fascination was resigned to the trashbin. What use to take five seconds suddenly took 30. What took one click suddenly took 5.
It is a shame – it has a lot of potential. Different potential than Podio. Podio is a PM/CRM/tracking system for anything online. Zoho could also be your email, docs, and more. I check back on it every six months or so and I still don’t find a reason to go back. If you are looking for an all-in-one solution – take a look. If you just want a good project management system – then keep looking.
Teamwork Project Manager (teamworkpm.net)
TeamworkPM.net is a Basecamp rescue site. If you like the concept of basecamp but it just doesn’t quite fit your style; then take a serious look at TeamworkPM.
TeamworkPM supports recurring tasks, copy project (an ad hoc template system), milestones, and customizable dashboards. Its still new that it doesn’t have all the features (such as granular user permission by project) of more seasoned software, but they do have an excellent roadmap.
Where TeamworkPM really falls short is 3rd party integration. If you are looking to integrate the data elsewhere; you won’t find too many options. If that’s not a problem, then take a close look at TeamworkPM.
If you just want to get things done and do not need a lot of features, take a close look at TeamworkPM.
If its just you and you don’t need to show accountability to another person, share files, or have any more work other than getting things done – then create a calendar of all your tasks. We have a free calendar you can subscribe to and instructions how to create your own inside of Certified Knowledge. You only need a free account to access the information.
Project Management Recommendations
If you need lots of 3rd party integrations: Basecamp Classic
If you want the latest cutting edge new software on the market: Podio
If you want a single login for everything business related: Zoho
If you just want to get work done: TeamworkPM.
If you think this is too many options and you just want me to tell you what to pick: Choose TeamworkPM.