During my six plus years at Branded3 (and only my second ever blog post), I’ve seen the company grow from circa 20 people – in an old converted barn on the outskirts of a village I’d never heard of – to over 70 strong; split between the Leeds, London and Bath offices.
Working at B3 has never been better though and it’s great to see the company grow as much as it has. Obviously we’ve had to change and adapt along the way, and never has this been more evident than with the process and systems we’ve implemented during this time.
For anyone who works in the SEO industry, you’ll be aware the search landscape can change in an instant and have major consequences on client requirements.
To combat this, dialogue through the business and across the different sites with the increase in staff has become key with updates and status reports becoming the norm whilst also having in place more fluidity across internal teams in order to deliver the best results possible.
With growth comes great responsibility though, and we were facing some challenges internally with how to manage this in terms of individuals getting real time visibility on projects, equally giving people more context into how a task at one end was making a big impact on results at the other.
Here I’ll talk a little about a new system we’ve added recently, replacing the outgoing 10K FT system which served us well, but didn’t offer much in the way of customisation or integration with day-to-day client activities.
So what is Clarizen?
Put simply, Clarizen is an interactive work planning and project management tool.
Working in a digital agency requires teams to be flexible and adapt to demands on a daily basis, and we needed a system to help facilitate this.
With Branded3’s continued success within the search industry, we have invested heavily in our team structures and it was becoming increasingly apparent that our previous systems and processes simply didn’t have the capacity or functionality we required to deliver outstanding results.
Teams (and project managers specifically) were having to input information into multiple systems to get tasks through the business and tie work in with invoicing and the financial side of the business (hey, it’s nice to get paid!).
With this in mind, we successfully had the whole business set-up on Clarizen within two months, including every client and project we were working with and each team member as a user with their own profile.
Here’s 10 reasons why we love using our new system…
Why Clarizen though?
Reason #1: Sophisticated interface
One of the first things that struck me about Clarizen was the level of detail and information the interface provided to a user or manager.
The home screen, like a Facebook homepage – provides instant access to the latest projects, tasks or messages for your attention, streamlining the process and getting to information you need quicker.
It can be a little overwhelming at first, but in comparison to other project management tools I have worked with, this provided easy access to the data I required without having to drill down multiple navigations or menus and you can tailor views and the information you’re presented with to your own tastes without affecting anyone else – the customisation here is a big plus.
Reason #2: Agile scheduling
Changes to the daily schedule are inevitable. As a Project Manager working in a busy and fast-paced agency, you’ve got to embrace that change comes with the territory.
As suggested above in my introductory paragraph, search is a fickle industry and changes to search engine algorithms can happen multiple times a year, impacting previously set-out roadmaps for clients.
Here’s where Clarizen helps – the resource loader view makes it really easy to consider available capacity at an individual level and make any necessary changes on the fly, plus tasks can be reassigned to another suitable resource at the click of a button.
Reason #3: Collaboration between teams
With a new system comes a new integrated process. We wanted to get away from people ‘just doing their bit’ and moving on to the next task without understanding how their great work had impacted other departments and ultimately delivered quality results to our clients.
Clarizen allows better collaboration between teams and shared ownership of tasks, highlighting that great work leads to more great work… rather than storing files in multiple, different locations such as on internal servers and Google docs, we now have the ability to add briefing guidelines and finalised outputs such as Word files or PSD designs to individual tasks and in one location everyone can access… Clarizen.
Reason #4: Communication
With an integrated ‘Discussion’ system, this point goes hand-in-hand with Reason #3 above – better collaboration between our internal team structures.
With emails and different messaging services used in businesses these days, sometimes it’s easier to use one consolidated system everyone has access to. Whether it’s to ping someone a message asking how they’re getting on with a task or hand over work to the next person so that work can progress.
Clarizen removes the need for endless email threads along with an instant messenger service of your choice. Obviously, we have always prided ourselves on clear communication and transparency when working with clients as well, and whether that be through our honesty at the first initial pitch or a delay in timings throughout the project due to unforeseen circumstances, we need the best tools to help us do this.
This leads nicely into my next point….
Reason #5: Project plans and timings
It’s always useful to be able to provide a client with accurate timings of when work will be completed as it lends to a key cornerstone of the working relationship… trust.
Setting up a project plan in Clarizen is really simple and in-fact comes out of the box as standard with adding and scheduling tasks us Project Managers do on a daily basis anyway.
Using the Gantt chart view enables a breakdown of your project into milestones and tasks, allowing you to assign a budget and resource to each.
With accurate timings and dates, these can be sent for the client’s review with the tap of a few keystrokes straight from the system.
We no longer have to use additional software to create timing plans – something we could have only dreamed of a few months ago…
Reason #6: Integration with other systems/plugins
So I touched on this briefly above with the fact that you don’t need to use a different product to create a timing plan – Clarizen effectively does this for you.
There may be instances however where you might need to use other tools or software to get work done which Clarizen doesn’t quite cover… that’s where a wealth of applications that Clarizen can integrate with comes in handy.
Work with Google docs a lot? Not a problem. Your development team use JIRA – Clarizen has you covered. In fact, there are currently around 100 apps in the marketplace that Clarizen can integrate with; you’ll be hard pressed not to find one that you’ll need.
Reason #7: Reporting
The reports are a powerful feature of Clarizen. You can build almost any variation to get that finer level of detail the system doesn’t present to you with straight away.
At any time within a project, at a glance – you can see the budgeted, incurred and future scheduled time.
In addition, we have an element of control over budgets to quickly identify if work is to run over allocation and allows us to take action as soon as possible.
I have reduced a lot of my time by having a set of reports I frequently use saved within my personal view.
Reason #8: Visibility
We’ve recently integrated Project Managers and Account Managers to be more aligned with one another and Clarizen allows both teams to work together more easily.
To this end, PMs are now able to fully live in the Branded3 world, whilst allowing AMs to fully invest in the client’s world.
In addition, everyone within the wider team has access to Clarizen and can view everything they need, meaning the fluid nature and mix of skills required to deliver something, such as a content writer needing to understand a predecessor task in order to fully understand their work, the project and ultimately the result we’re trying to drive, is perfectly in-line with our open culture.
Reason #9: Time-tracking
In the busy day-to-day agency lifestyle, working on multiple projects at once can mean that it’s difficult to keep track of progress on work you’re doing and identify what is left to be completed.
It’s therefore important for us as a business to accurately log time so that we can track how much resource a project team collectively spends, so that we can keep within the time allocation and budget to ensure we’re servicing all of our clients fairly.
Reason #10: Sense of community
Finally, it’s nice to know that Clarizen share a similar goal of connecting the industry – they regularly host customer meet-ups to offer a forum to share feedback and stories on implementation.
This is also backed up by Clarizen labs, a collective knowledge database of documentation and forums you can tap into for expert advice and collaboration.
So there you have it, after using Clarizen for a little over four months so far, we have seen and experienced some great changes and improvements to the operations at B3 Towers.
Better communication, collaboration and team-work are propositions any company have in order to produce top results and quality work and Clarizen is helping us achieve those goals.
Although in its infancy here, this is only likely to become stronger as we use the system more and more.