Challenges of Project Management at a Digital Agency

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 08/05/2022
project management challenges

This article is for project managers of digital agenciesand consultancies, focusing on the issues the job poses amidst its speedy transition into digitalisation. The challenges of project management today are very different from what they were as early as five years ago. To stay on top of things, you need to move along and adapt. 




The ongoing digitalisation of the business world is continuously generating an increase in demand for digital projects. Be it a creation of a new website, a sophisticated marketing campaign, an expansion of the content library or literally anything else - the recognition of the value digital agencies deliver is evergrowing. At the first glance, it would seem the agencies are experiencing their golden age - every business wants more clients, more exciting projects to work on and more revenue to keep the company afloat.  However, the rapid growth in demand actually delivers a new set of challenges.

In fact, the sudden surge in interest and onboarding of more clients tends to throw the agencies into chaos. Many choose to address it by scaling their teams and hiring more specialists to carry the tasks out. However, only a small handful see the correct area to be addressed - project management. Fast-paced digitalisation of the world deems practices that were effective a few years back not equipped for today’s challenges - and that’s our topic of today. 

Digital Project Management

It’s important to draw the line between traditional project management and digital project management - the two are not the same. Although both roles are nearly identical in what they do and the set of soft skills needed, the knowledge and skills required of a digital project manager go way beyond a traditional skillset.

The following are the requirements for top-tier digital project management:

  • Deep knowledge of project management methodologies such as Agile;
  • Experience and decent literacy with project management software such as JIRA, Asana or Basecamp;
  • Practical knowledge and experience using content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress;
  • Understanding everyone’s function and skillset in a diverse team that’s made of, programmers, storytellers, analysts, SEO strategists, and social media professionals;
  • Basic digital marketing skills such as social media, SEO, and analytics;
  • Ability to work with and analyse databases;
  • Writing and content creation skills.

The role of a project manager has always been multi-dimensional. However, now they are expected to be jack-of-all-trades. They need to have a practical understanding of what each person on the digital team does in order to lead them. 

Lack of Suitable Tools

The digitalisation of project management rides heavily on the tools you employ. Since we’ve been in the era of technological breakthroughs for a while, it no longer means moving physical processes into the digital realm - eg starting to calculate project budget in Excel spreadsheets as opposed to on paper. The aim of today’s world is to identify and adopt the tools that meet your unique needs and are capable of scaling with you. 

Project Management Software

The concept of project management software is not new and many agencies have long since adopted it. However, there’s a huge gap between the systems that have surfaced earlier in the day and the modern platforms. With this said, it doesn’t mean the older software is unsuitable for the projects of today - depending on the developer’s approach, it could be well adjusted to today’s requirements and superior to newer solutions due to the experience in the market. However, outdated project management software is a common culprit in making digital project management challenging.

The fault of older solutions is often that they’re not built to handle the workload modern digital agencies are shouldering. Therefore one of the key indicators of whether your software is outdated or not is within its capability to scale with you. Generally speaking, if it has a limited number of projects it allows or becomes slow after a certain capacity is built - you need new solutions for this one is hindering your growth, let alone being inconvenient. 

Expenses and Client Billing

Client billing, invoice creation and expenses claims are three processes many agencies fear and loathe. While they are absolutely vital for the business, they also require a lot of time to carry out, are prone to errors and the said errors result in a plethora of consequences that go as far as losing clients and damaging the agency’s reputation. The truth is it doesn’t have to be like this - the market of tools offering automation of these processes is booming.

In fact, some solutions easily incorporate all three. For example, Timesheet Portal allows you to automate invoice generation and distribution based on timesheets, expenses and pay rate differentiations. It also sends them out to the relevant clients, and you can even automate a reminder when the invoice clearance deadline is nearing. In terms of expenses, our software is equipped to calculate mileage, upload and store receipts, change currency and many more. In other words, not only do we allow to automate all the key processes but we also enable the user to have them work together in the workflows. 

Inefficient Manual Processes

Most traditional project management processes are simply not designed for the modern landscape. With that said, while in theory they still work, they are usually outdated and therefore end up consuming a lot of time - something that is the price of gold for project managers. Having inefficient manual processes has many negative impacts on the agency - from struggling to meet or downright missing deadlines to becoming fully unable to scale due to barely coping with the existing work volumes. 

Approval Workflows Don’t Match the Workload

A manual approval process may make the cut for agencies with a smaller number of projects, where the approvers have the time to wing it manually via email threads. However, scaling urges companies to adopt a customised and dedicated approval workflow process in order to cope with the increasing workload in a timely manner.

Lack of it often results in sending items to the wrong stakeholder at the wrong time, therefore causing confusion and potential delays. Automating a workflow would exclude that as the approval material would move back and forth its stages at the click of the approver, as opposed to having the project manager as a middleman. It also makes the process of giving and receiving feedback easier for it’s attached to the document in question instead of an email that can be easily overlooked. These complications arise even when dealing with lesser volumes of projects - can you imagine the chaos such inefficiency would cause when juggling multiple projects at once?

Limited Collaboration Options

Since we’ve brought feedback up, let’s talk about the overall collaboration across different departments. As digital agencies consist of specialists focusing on different fields, the project manager’s duty is to tie their efforts together for the shared goal. That would simply be impossible if they were all siloed and had no visibility of one another’s work and/or progress, not to mention the importance of sharing insights the other party would otherwise have no access to. In other words, collaboration is a must.

The problem often observed when it comes to getting the departments to work together is that the communication is scattered. Whether they are sending relevant documentation to one another via different channels or through the project manager, not only is this inefficient but also strips the rest of the team from the opportunity of accessing the files and possibly having their input. The solution is easy - adopting a centralised collaboration platform. It should enable file sharing, commentary and tracking of changes as well as be accessible to multiple users simultaneously. Cloud platforms are best equipped for this role as they are web-based and enable team collaborations in real-time. 

Emphasis on Digital

While being a digital agency traditionally means you supply your clients with services in the digital space such as website creation, marketing, etc - that’s not the only possible interpretation of ‘digital’. You could and should approach it from the standpoint of being innovative and tech-savvy as part of your business identity. Digitalising your internal processes and not simply providing digital services is bound to deliver vast benefits - especially if you combine them. You will work quicker and more efficiently, allowing you to scale at rapid speeds.

Lesser Quantity - Better Quality

If after reading this article you’re fired up to adopt all kinds of different solutions to address each of your challenges - hold your horses. While there is a piece of software with literally any need you may have, adopting a bunch of programs you’d need to manually transfer data between is the opposite of the result you’re trying to achieve. It would ultimately mean you are back to having to carry out processes yourself instead of automating them - only now you’ve spent a lot of money too. 

First of all, many of the SaaS solutions usually address several areas of interest as opposed to having a single focus. It’s always a good idea to reach out to the vendor with a question or a demo request to learn if you’d be able to kill two birds with one stone. Secondly, different solutions can also be linked together for automatic data transfer and workflows - through integration. While most providers offer a list of available options, some are willing to create a custom link between the solutions for you. With that said, don’t try to purchase as many digital solutions as you can. Instead, aim for a lesser number of those that work together - this will grant you more features than a bunch of stand-alone software can. 


While scaling and business growth are what most digital agencies pursue, not all of them are ready to embrace success. Lack of process optimisation when growing ends up backfiring as increased workloads can lead to missed deadlines and worse quality of project delivery. In the end, not only will the agency lose the newly acquired clients but also damage its reputation, therefore potentially preventing further growth.

Although many business owners respond to that by increasing their workforce, the area responsible for smooth adjustment and gradual growth in project management. The key is the optimisation of internal processes through automation. It touches on areas such as collaboration, client billing, approval processes and the holistic view of the project progression. After all, no matter how big your team is - if their efforts can’t be put to work towards the same goal, you will fail.

Ready to take your challenges head-on? Let us assist you.

Free trial

See for yourself how you can save time and money. Enter your details below for a free 30 day no-obligation trial.
Cyber Essentials logo Cyber Essentials Plus logo

Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.