5 PM methodologies for agencies

Agency project management methodologies

Today we’re digging into agency PM methodologies, to help you figure out which approach is the best fit for your projects and your agency culture.

Now, if you’re new to managing agency projects or want to improve your processes, PM methodologies are a great jumping-off point.

Here, we’re going to take a look at the most common agency PM methodologies, with example use cases. 

PM styles vs. methodologies

Project management styles and methodologies are similar but not the same. 

Let’s dive a bit deeper into each.

Project management styles: Project management styles refer to the overarching approach, mindset, or philosophy that project managers adopt in their work. Styles can be influenced by company culture, project requirements, and even personal preferences.

For example, some project managers may have a more authoritative style, while others may adopt a more collaborative style. Styles in this case refers to how project managers lead, communicate, make decisions, and interact with project team members and other key stakeholders.

Project management methodologies: Project management methodologies, on the other hand, are structured frameworks that provide specific guidelines, processes, and techniques for managing projects. They offer standardized practices for project planning, project execution, and project monitoring.

Examples of project management methodologies (some of which we’ll take a closer look at later in this article) include Waterfall, Agile (Scrum, Kanban), Lean, PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments), and PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). Each methodology has its own set of principles, phases, tools, and deliverables, allowing them to offer a strategic and proven approach to managing projects.

Project managers can choose a methodology that suits the project’s unique needs as well as the agency’s culture.

Now, let’s take a look at five different project management methodologies that agencies typically use.

Project management methodologies for agencies: From Agile to Waterfall

In the dynamic world of project management, the selection of the right PM methodology can be the key to delivering successful outcomes, enhancing client satisfaction, and driving business growth.

With a myriad of methodologies available, understanding their nuances and aligning them with agency needs is crucial.

1. Agile: Enable teams to quickly respond to changes and increase client collaboration

Agile is a flexible approach to project management that focuses on creating small improvements over time. 

Agile PMs achieve gradual improvements through repetition. Repeating processes and instructions, and improving slightly with each iteration, for example.

Because agile emphasizes collaboration, adaptability, and continuous improvement, it caters to the dynamism needed in an agency setting. 

What type of agency should use the Agile methodology?

Agile methodology is often beneficial for agencies working on projects with dynamic and evolving requirements that require frequent client collaboration and feedback.

This approach typically works well for digital agencies, software development agencies, marketing agencies, and any agency that operates in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment, such as advertising or creative agencies.

The Agile project management model split into three phases of Plan, Deliver, and Collaborate.

An example of the Agile project management methodology.

Agile use case:

An agency might adopt agile project management for projects with high levels of uncertainty or volatility. This could be a project where the requirements or priorities (and, within reason, the project scope) need flexibility.

Here’s how creative and marketing agencies may benefit from Agile:

  • Collaboration is built into the approach
    You require cross-functionality between multiple specialists across projects. You may have even put together a makeshift/hybrid team for a specific client. Agile facilitates this need for collaboration between people and departments.
  • Project needs to evolve over time and sometimes at speed across multiple client campaigns
    Agile’s iterative approach leaves space for flexibility. The trick is that you don’t move six steps forward too soon in a project. That means you don’t need to move seven steps back to be responsive to changes.
  • You need to create value early to get client buy-in
    Agile’s iterative and collaborative approach helps you deliver value to the client early and often. Because they act as proof of concept, early wins build client trust. That client trust generates a level of buy-in that takes your project from good to great.

2. Scrum: Better cross-team collaboration and improved project visibility

Scrum is an agile methodology that focuses on collaboration between departments and individuals. The result is often cross-functional or hybrid teams. 

The benefit of Scrum is its ability to promote iterative progress, enhanced team collaboration, and improved project visibility, resulting in increased productivity, adaptability, and timely delivery of high-quality outcomes.

Using Scrum, you’ll work in short sprints that produce incremental results. Sprints leave room for you to adapt to changing project needs. 

What type of agency should use the Scrum methodology?

The Scrum methodology typically works well for agencies that work on complex projects requiring frequent collaboration and adaptability, such as software development agencies, creative agencies, and marketing agencies.

An example of what the Scrum approach looks like in practice, planning, executing, and reviewing work in sprints.

An example of the Scrum project management methodology.

Scrum use case:

Scrum is also ideal for agencies that deliver complex projects requiring multiple specialists. For example, there might be many unknowns or potential changes and a need for highly collaborative teams. 

Here’s how agencies may benefit from Scrum:

  • An incremental approach leaves room to react to change
    You’ve gathered new data from executing the first sprint of an SEO or digital strategy campaign. You now need the flexibility to use the data within your next sprint.
  • Frequent feedback, adaptation, and collaboration keep teams aligned
    As you gain new insights, your project approach may need to adapt. You need to realign your team and stakeholders to ensure project success.
  • Daily stand-up meetings
    Daily quick-fire meetings can help you redirect team efforts (and welcome feedback) sooner rather than later. That increases your chances of delivering a high-quality product that meets evolving client needs.

3. Kanban: Provide visual clarity and optimize workflows

Kanban project management sits under the agile banner. The difference? It’s highly visual. Kanban places emphasis on visual management to catch bottlenecks early and keep work progressing. 

The benefit of the Kanban methodology is its ability to provide visual clarity, optimize workflows, and enhance productivity by visualizing tasks, limiting work in progress, and facilitating a smooth and efficient project flow.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You divide the Kanban board into three columns: “To-do,” “Doing,” and “Done”
  2. Work to limit the number of tasks in the middle “Doing” column and place focus on progressing tasks into the “Done” column
The Kanban methodology visualizing its three stages: To-do, Doing, and Done.

An example of a Kanban board divided into “To-do,” “Doing,” and “Done” cards. 

What type of agency should use the Kanban methodology?

The Kanban methodology is well-suited for any type of smaller agency that has a steady stream of incoming work, values visual management, and prioritizes workflow optimization. Kanban will help them improve project visibility, manage work in progress, and maintain a smooth project workflow.

Kanban use case:

Kanban keeps things simple. Its main aim is to improve efficiency by keeping work in progress at a minimum. Kanban is a great approach for smaller agency teams. Particularly those working on multiple projects simultaneously, with varying degrees of urgency and priority.

Here’s how agencies may benefit from Kanban:

  • Make small teams feel mighty
    Your agency project team is small, talented, and potentially wearing many hats—hopefully not too many. Because you have fewer resources at your disposal, any delay can quickly lead to project failure. Kanban gives your small but mighty team clear priorities and catches those dastardly bottlenecks early.
  • Team time is limited and spread between projects
    You may not have the budget to recruit right now, so you must use your resources wisely. Kanban helps you manage the project team (and helps them manage themselves) in line with task priority. Everyone knows what their highest-priority tasks are at any given time and can aim to complete those tasks first.

4. Lean: Streamline processes and optimize resource utilization 

In project management, the Lean methodology aims to streamline processes, reduce inefficiencies, and optimize resource utilization. It emphasizes the identification and elimination of waste, such as overproduction, waiting time, and defects.

Plus, Lean methodologies promote a culture of continuous improvement, teamwork, and data-driven decision-making. What’s not to like?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify value: Start by understanding what the client or end-user perceives as value in the context of the project. Define what specific outcomes or deliverables are most important to them.
  2. Map the value stream: Map out the entire project lifecycle, from initiation to delivery, identifying the steps and activities involved in creating and delivering the value. This includes understanding the flow of information, resources, and work processes.
  3. Create flow: Establish a smooth and continuous flow of work by minimizing bottlenecks and delays. Ensure that work moves seamlessly from one step to another, eliminating waiting time and optimizing resource utilization.
  4. Establish pull-based systems: Adopt a pull-based system where work is initiated based on demand. This means starting new tasks only when previous tasks are completed or when there is a specific need identified by the client or end-user.
  5. Seek perfection: Establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and identify areas for improvement. Use data-driven insights to monitor project performance, track value delivery, and make informed decisions to deliver the best possible outcome for your clients.
The five principles of Lean, Identify value, map the value stream, create flow, establish pull, and seek perfection.

An example of the Lean project management methodology workflow.

What type of agency should use the Lean methodology?

Lean methodologies can be applied to different agency types, including software development agencies, marketing agencies, consulting firms, and any agency that aims to streamline operations, eliminate waste, and create value for their clients.

Lean methodology use case:

By adopting Lean principles, agencies can enhance productivity, increase project output, and improve the overall quality of deliverables. Lean methodologies encourage a focus on value creation, customer-centricity, and efficient use of resources, resulting in improved project outcomes and increased client satisfaction.

Here’s how agencies may benefit from using the Lean methodology: 

  • If clients are looking for a collaborative project approach
    Clients who value a collaborative approach, rapid iterations, and data-driven decision-making would benefit from a lean methodology as it emphasizes customer-centricity and a focus on delivering measurable results.
  • If clients are waste-aware and extremely value-driven
    A lean project management methodology can be suitable for marketing agencies working with clients who prioritize efficiency, value-driven outcomes, and continuous improvement. It is especially beneficial for clients who seek to optimize marketing processes, eliminate waste, and enhance overall campaign performance.

5. Waterfall: Establish well-defined deliverables and monitor linear progression

Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach to project management. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, where each phase is completed before moving on to the next.

The benefit of the waterfall methodology is its structured and sequential approach, providing clear project milestones, well-defined deliverables, and rigorous documentation, making it suitable for projects with stable requirements and a linear progression.

A waterfall system will make sure:

  • Each phase of the project is completed before moving on to the next
  • The final deliverable meets the client’s precise specifications

What type of agency should use the Waterfall methodology?

The waterfall methodology is often favored by agencies working on projects with well-defined requirements, strict regulatory compliance, and a linear progression. So in this particular case, it depends on the client, rather than the type of agency. For example, working with clients in healthcare or government bodies, where stability and thorough documentation are essential throughout the project life cycle, may benefit from a Waterfall approach.

The waterfall model and its workflow consisting of requirements, design, development, delivery, and maintenance.

The linear and predictive Waterfall methodology.

Waterfall use case:

We’ll level with you. Given what we know (and have experienced) about agency life, client projects are—changeable

That said, the waterfall methodology may benefit your agency if you have a client with: 

  • A very clear and specific vision for their project from the outset
    You could be working with a specialist who doesn’t have time to apply their specialism to their own business. Say, an expert copywriter who doesn’t have time to write their website homepage. Chances are, they know exactly what they want and how they want it done—they just need someone else to do it.
  • No need for significant changes or iterations throughout the project life cycle
    Maybe the client project is a quick tweak. For example, they could have an existing leaflet that only needs a slight revamp. Chances are, significant changes will be limited to the number of revisions you include in your service offer. In that case, a straightforward, linear, and sequential PM approach like Waterfall is your best bet.

Building a culture of continuous improvement

Regardless of which methodology is the best fit for your agency and clients, the goal should always be to foster a culture of continuous improvement. By encouraging teams to regularly reflect on their workflows and identify areas for improvement, you’ll not only empower your team, but you’ll unlock increased productivity, adaptability, and innovation.

In the end, all these will contribute to your agency’s bottom line, and ultimately, its growth.

Check out the other parts of our agency PM series here:

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