Finding a Work Management System That Works

July 21st, 2017 | Cayla Leeman

Finding a Work Management System That Works

Let’s start out by saying that making the decision to implement a project management tool is not an easy one. If you’re like us here at PRPL, you either already have a tool that manages your daily workflow, or you have multiple tools that do what you need them to…separately.

The Problem: While we’ve always been well-equipped with great tools to help our team do their jobs well, the tools haven’t always been compatible with each other. This absence of singular communication and synchronization between all of our tools created the opportunity for inevitable human error, and we had to fix it.

Another motivation to change management tools was PRPL’s transition from a digital creative agency to a product design company. This shift in focus was the perfect opportunity for us to take a look at how we operated and how we will continue to in the future. We knew that we needed a way to seamlessly work as product teams, keep our clients informed, and stay on top of our numbers, while allocating our resources appropriately.

Full transparency here, in our agency right now we use 17 different programs to help manage our projects and the employees that work on them. That means when a project manager needs to update a project, they have to update at least five different programs by hand. To avoid any room for mistakes, they keep a close eye on every detail of a submission and triple-check their numbers in each program to ensure accuracy.

That’s not how we like to spend our time, and it isn’t the best way to manage our projects. So with a small task team of 4, we set out to change it.

On the Hunt

After speaking with industry partners, gathering opinions of tools they’ve used, and going through at least 100 websites of potential options, we narrowed them down to 15. The vetting process was intense, long, and entirely necessary. A list of requirements was created, including client login access, resource availability, automated time sheets, and everything else you can think of that goes into a project from start to finish.

Finally, our search was narrowed down to five final contenders including Asana, Clarizen, and Workfront. With very specific requirements for the perfect tool, we had a tough ticket for the newest system to fill.


Accelo to the Rescue

The front-runner after our long-lasting search was Accelo, a cloud-based project management system. We had found our answer: a comprehensive tool that checked nearly all of the boxes and could potentially replace the 17 separate ones we were currently using. Before choosing, we were aware that the program was slightly over our budget and lacked user-friendly navigation. The absence of intuitiveness in the UX was something we initially knew could cause some problems, but figured it would just take some getting used to. After many considerations, we decided the good outweighed the bad, bought licenses for our task team, and got to work learning and configuring.

The system offered project plan tracking, time-tracking, client interactions, peer and client collaboration, expenses/invoices, and easy integration with programs we already used. Accelo allowed for our clients to log in to the system and communicate in one centralized place.

The SOWs became one of our favorite features, seamlessly converting contracts into project plans, reviewing resource availability, and offering awesome templates for our project managers to follow. The CRM and sales features of the system made tracking expenses and keeping our clients in the loop easier than ever before. A knowledgeable team at Accelo assisted us along the way, and helped us figure out how to best utilize the tool for our specific needs.

A Few Steps Back

After using the system for a while, we realized that, although it offered many of the features we were looking for, the functionality was just not working for us. That’s not to say Accelo can’t be a great system for other businesses. But it was only through trial and error that we realized some specific needs that we hadn’t taken into consideration before.


Whether it was something as small as a button placement, creating tables within text, or integrating JIRA, our only hope was to make suggestions to the Accelo team via their webform. They kindly took our recommendations into consideration but, understandably, there was little they could do about features they simply did not have within our price range.

So, we canceled our licenses and walked away. Though the system wasn’t the right fit for us, we did learn a lot about ourselves as a company and the tools available to us. We figured out that one comprehensive tool doesn’t yet exist that fits us perfectly and offers everything we are looking for. 

Now What?

We have always strived for efficiency here at PRPL, and the redundancy of our current system just isn’t who we are. We need a tool that will help us remain transparent with our clients and easily connected to each other so we have more time to focus on creating great products.

And so we are making our own; an in-house comprehensive project management tool that will do it all, and then some. JIRA integration? No problem. You want to integrate your instant messaging platforms such as Slack? Got it covered. Need to keep a close eye on billing and profits? Way ahead of you.

The reality is this: with growth comes outgrowth. Our favorite part about building our own system is that when we run across a feature that doesn’t do that one thing we really need now, we can add it ourselves. No more wishing, no more pie-in-the-sky dreams. Instead, we will have ultimate customization, user-friendly interfaces, seamless integration, ease of tracking, streamlined communication, client access, and everything in-between.

The PRPL development team has put their fingers to the keyboards already, setting our timeline for a finished prototype in about three months. After we try it out ourselves, we are looking to whitelist the final product to other agencies like us, who haven’t found the perfect fit for their management style. Stay tuned for the launch of our latest tech child. It might be just what your business needs too. 


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