Project management for a digital agency is easily 100x more challenging than for a single business.
For a single business, standalone project management tools like Trello or Asana make a ton of sense. You can build boards for each team or function, and use them for years.
But when you’re running a digital agency, the job to be done is always changing:
The list goes on.
If setup properly, Google Sheets can perfectly match this fluidity, and be the project management tool.
Let’s walk through how we built a custom Sheets project management system to manage a 7 figure digital agency.
This short video walks you through the solution we built – watch it in action!
Trying to manage dozens of clients, hundreds of deliverables and client communications are a few problems every digital agency can relate to.
As Ryan Stewart (of WEBRIS) puts it:
Tools like Asana are great for task management, but they’re not built for the intricacies of a scaling agency. We needed a solution that could bend with our ever changing processes and systems.
Tired of client tasks falling through the cracks, Ryan turned to us to help build a custom project management system in the Google Suite.
Working with WEBRIS is always a pleasure, they meticulously document processes (this making our job easier).
They had an entire suite of templates built to run their agency – templates for project management, content creation, outreach campaigns, and client reporting.
We decided build it into a fully-connected platform.
It wasn’t easy or simple – we built Sheets just to trash them a week later, and went through dozens of iterations on the templates.
But at the end of the day, we landed on four simple rules for project management in Sheets.
It’s tempting to build one master project management Sheet, that has *all* your data packed into it.
That Sheet inevitably ends up like a junk drawer – a wasteland where tasks and projects go to be forever ignored.
Instead, we designed a suite of Sheets, that each perform one specific job.
For WEBRIS’s SEO project management suite, we split Sheets into their separate functions:
Splitting up the Sheets files helped keep internal teams aligned and focuses. The content team didn’t have to waste time wading through tasks that didn’t concern them, they could focus explicitly on what the needed to do each day.
A screenshot of the “Tasks” tab in the Central tracker
Though you’ll need a village of Sheets, only one can be mayor.
This is critical for two reasons:
You’ll need one master Sheet to hold on to all of your settings – important agency-level info like your list of clients. Using the importrange function, you can then push those options out to all of the other Sheets in your project management suite.
This let’s you do critical stuff like populating consistent dropdown menus everywhere – keeping your data nice and clean.
Looking at agency-wide stats requires pulling all your data together *somewhere*. Say you have 2 Sheets for separate workflows – content production and outreach, in the case of the WEBRIS project management process. To automate reporting, you can use that same importrange function to pull data back *into* your hub.
As one example, this ‘Pulse’ tab from the WEBRIS project management hub reports on link building campaign data from a separate workflow Sheet:
Any project management process is, er, a process. Your team’s work is never done in isolation – there’s always a next step, and someone who needs to know about it.
Within Sheets, this often means populating a different tab on certain triggers – like when an article or deliverable is ready for review by an editor.
Google Apps script can be used to build out these triggers (called onEdit triggers) – and we used them heavily in the WEBRIS SEO project management suite.
You might think that you can build the perfect, beautifully-automated project management suite for your agency.
There’s no such thing. Even WEBRIS, who worked for years to perfect their approach, still leans on work that happens outside of Sheets.
This might mean doing keyword research manually, by digging into reports from Ahrefs or SEMrush. This might mean using BigQuery instead of Sheets to store analytics data (as we do for the Agency Data Pipeline).
Not every process that *can* be automated, *must* be automated by Sheets.
It’s tough to measure something tangible when it comes to increasing your company’s productivity.
However, 2 key things come to mind:
Not bad for Google Sheets.
Interested in more?
Or, we can collaborate to build you something custom. Set up a time to chat with me here.