Project Management For Design Agencies

ESBG Design

"With Project Insight I can fully leverage our capabilities. Before we were either under-committing or over-committing. Now we have a very clear picture of what our sweet spot is, and we can basically ride that sweet spot in terms of the project work that we're doing"
- Partner, Director of Strategic Accounts

Main Challenges

ESBG Design is the perfect example of a boutique design firm with a big reach and a global reputation. "We're a graphic design company and we work with lots of different clients in a variety of different industries, but the core of our business and what we're known for worldwide is motor sports livery design," said the founder's brother, one of the two partners at ESBG Design. "We design livery programs for race teams and sponsors all around the world."

  • No centralized, company-wide view of project status
  • Difficulty managing resource allocation, causing under-commitment or over-commitment to projects
  • Manually inputting data into QuickBooks for billing

During its busy season in December and January, ESBG has anywhere from seven to 15 ongoing projects, some of which have many sub-projects contained within them. "Going back seven or eight years when our business exploded and we had more work than we could manage by email and Outlook – which is how we managed projects in the beginning – we were surprised at how difficult it was to find a software solution to do what I would consider pretty basic and fundamental things in terms of project tracking, task tracking, tracking time against tasks, and resource allocation. And we used to get a lot of laughs when we asked about resource allocation, because we're only tracking the work of one or two guys," said the partner.

"The thing is that we've got a lot of balls that one person is juggling when we're taking incoming project requests. We are trying to allocate the limited resources that we have, whether it's one person or 2000 people, it really is in many ways the same problem," he explained. "And none of the really small products that were designed for independent freelancers or SOHO-type products provided any kind of solution like that." With ESBG's two partners separated by several states, "Even using something like Microsoft Project and getting all of the projects in a single space where we could manage them and view them together was not possible. You can't even do that with MS Project, a solution that's probably one of the most popular project tools on the planet," said the partner.

"We tried many platforms on a trial basis and none really satisfied the requirements. We did sign up with another provider and worked with them for a couple of years. We were pretty happy in many ways with their offering, but the solution fell short in a couple of specific areas. For instance, all the information that we were capturing in the software, needed to be manually transferred over to QuickBooks for our billing purposes. It was really a nightmare."

Why Project Insight

The project team needed a solution that would:

  • Provide a centralized location for company-wide project oversight
  • Enable resource allocation for their small, but extremely busy and task oriented team of two
  • Integrate with QuickBooks for a higher degree of automation in billing

In addition to the QuickBooks integration, ESBG Design needed a "mission control" type centralized way to see all projects in a unified view. "As the person who is basically running the back end of the business, I needed some way to see, 'What is my world today? Based on these proposals that I have in queue, what is my world going to be like in two months if I commit to these things?'" he explained. "Because most of the work that we're doing is fixed-price work with defined development timelines and--in particular this time of year--very, very hard deadlines, if it ran two times as long we'd be out of business. We just didn't have a good picture of what we could realistically expect to have in terms of available time, with the whole top-down analysis and knowing in terms of new, incoming requests, what was realistic for us to commit to." Noting that their evaluation was "extensive," he explained, "We had been through the due diligence process several times with a variety of different providers. We had a couple of years of working experience with another solution, so we know what worked for us and exactly what didn't." After a well supported review process, ESBG Design chose Project Insight.

The Results

What they liked about Project Insight:

  • Delivers a centralized, company-wide view of projects
  • Fully integrated with QuickBooks
  • Enables true resource allocation for both busy team members

Now over a year into their implementation of Project Insight, ESBG Design is highly productive with it. "There are really so many things that it's empowered us to do," the partner said. "It gives us a very clear picture of everything that's going on in our business project-wise, and that goes for the oversight management component as well as the actual billable design resources that we have working on projects. My partner knows exactly what he needs to do by when. Likewise, I know exactly where I need to put things and when from a sales standpoint." In terms of resource allocation, he said, "With Project Insight I can fully leverage our capabilities. Before we were either under-committing or over-committing. Now we have a very clear picture of what our sweet spot is, and we can basically ride that sweet spot in terms of the project work that we're doing.

Project Insight was really the first program we had that provided that." ESBG Design had some initial apprehension about leaving their former solution behind. He said, "We were disappointed to be leaving what was really a great company from a customer service standpoint. I was sure we weren't going to be getting that level of support and, honestly, I think we've gotten that and better with the folks at Metafuse. The pre-sales support stuff was second to none and the post-sales support was also second to none. I mean they're really unbelievable, I don't know how they're able to provide that level of support."