ZenPilot, agency project management and operations experts, recently hosted a webinar about 'How to build company processes—the fun and easy way.' ZenPilot's Content Marketing Manager, Jakub "Kuba" Grajcar, interviewed Client Coach, Hannah Shark, on the ZenPilot Live Show about building processes as task list templates in ClickUp and Teamwork project management systems.
- Why processes are crucial and how to make it fun to build them
- What a complete process looks like
- What kind of documentation you’ll need to build processes
- Importing processes into project management systems from other tools
- The pros and cons of Teamwork.com vs. ClickUp
- Change management
- and more!
This was a helpful event for anyone working in project management tools, who is looking to refresh processes they built. Or people who need to make processes in their tools and are not sure where to start.
(A note I want to start with -- creating these templates in project management tools is a lot easier if you first have written process documentation to follow, also known as standard operating procedures or playbooks. Process maps would also be helpful. Then it's only a matter of translating the business processes into a new format instead of needing to discover how the process is, or should be, performed in your company.)
Watch the video below or continue reading to discover highlights from the event.
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What is your #1 tip for agency operations?
Hannah said that change is inevitable. It's going to happen. As humans, we know this, but we are resistant.
If you want to be a successful agency operator, communication is the biggest implementation to do for any change.
If you're not communicating with the team frequently, at all levels, there will be a lot more resistance to the change.
Have a place to collect feedback and send messaging out often. This will make any change more impactful and you will face less resistance. There will still be resistance, but it will be lessened.
The bottom line: Communication is key. You have to do it.
What are the best practices for communicating changes?
Controlling the message, Hannah said.
- What is the change to implement?
- When to send messaging?
- Where to send messaging?
- Will it be more effective in a Slack channel, email, memo, new meeting, all-hands meeting...?
- Does the team perceive this as a serious change or not as important?
- The intensity level of big vs. small change will control which channel is used to announce it
Ask all levels of the team to provide feedback, perhaps on a weekly cadence.
For example, take 5 minutes at the end of a meeting to discuss the change so they feel heard. This will help the team to be on board with what you're looking to experiment, implement, or test.
- The channel may change from culture to culture
- Never communicate just once
- Remind people of the change in progress
Why should processes be documented? Why is documentation important?
Jakub mentioned that processes are often pushed to the wayside, how do we convince people to handle them sooner rather than later?
Hannah said that on their calls with clients, they say that building processes makes you 'lottery proof.'
If you have an amazing designer, and they win the lottery, if you don't have a process in place of what they did, then the new designer won't know where to go to find things, how to develop anything, who to communicate with...
If you have solid processes in place, it protects the team in the future, so they know what to do.
It gives clarity to the team. It's a roadmap for who needs to do what and when.
You can link standard operating procedure (SOP) documents as part of those processes (templates in the project management system) to give people more context. Then that person doesn't have to ask managers where to find it, how to do it, etc. Solidly built processes reduce the time for asking and answering questions and give you more time to do what you do best, such as designing, coding, whatever your core job function is.
Jakub reiterated that there will be fewer daily interruptions from questions, which will limit context switching.
Why do some companies keep procrastinating building processes and documentation?
Hannah said that for people working directly with clients, they are focusing on delivering quality work, such as 'gotta get the draft done.' We wish we had this done, but we don't think we have time. That is where leadership and subject matter experts need to step up and say, 'We need to all do this work the same way, so we put in the same quality of work, and deliver it on time, and it doesn't cause confusion in the team.'
Get out of working IN the business and work ON the business, so the team can be successful and be supported in the future with quality processes.
Audience question: ClickUp vs. Monday -- what is more customizable for company-specific tasks/processes?
Hannah said to think about how many processes are client-focused.
Make sure that whatever processes you're designing hit the majority of the portfolio of client needs.
Otherwise, there may be too many processes to manage.
They don't work in Monday but ClickUp is customizable for your client and your process.
There can be different steps to involve for different clients, such as some clients use different tools with different steps.
Jakub added that ZenPilot tested 70 project management platforms from the lens of what will serve their main group of clients, which are mainly marketing agencies and other service businesses. The two best bets for flexibility and out-of-box functionality were ClickUp and Teamwork.
What is a full-fledged complete process? What does a finished process look like?
Hannah said that a complete process outlines steps to complete a deliverable. For a blog post, the steps would include everything needed to complete the blog post, such as a brainstorm meeting, draft copy, review copy... All the steps are outlined. (As tasks in the project management system template.)
Additionally, if you have accompanying SOP documentation with more context, link to that within the process (in the project management system).
Leverage checklists where needed, at certain points.
Most importantly: include due dates, time estimates, task types, and DO date (when to do the work).
This is to give you an accurate picture of the workload and capacity of each team member.
Also, leverage dependencies in the project management system, for the order of the business process steps.
- ClickUp has soft dependencies, mainly for rescheduling things, so people can work on things whenever they have time
- Teamwork has hard dependencies, where you cannot complete this step until the previous one has been completed, which stops the team from moving forward (this can be good or bad)
What documentation needs to be gathered to input these processes into the project management system?
Hannah said if you're starting from scratch and there is not a lot of process documentation, start collecting information.
Get the team together, ask them to walk you through the work, such as showing or telling what they do when they write a blog.
If you don't have time to sit one-on-one, leverage tools like Tango (which records videos/gifs of where you are clicking) to create steps and documentation at the same time, then use that to build the process (in the project system).
The process in ClickUp and Teamwork is just bullet points that link to external process documentation.
Guru is another good documentation tool, where you set a timeframe for when that card information needs to be re-verified, to make sure everything is up to date, such as every 3 months.
(Clarifying note: Guru is for storing/sharing documentation while Tango or Scribe is for creating/adding visuals or getting started with your document steps.)
What else should people think about when building processes?
Leverage your team, Hannah said. Most team members have notes documented in some way about how they do their work. Ask for the notes, instead of starting to create the process from scratch from your own head.
The notes may not be consistent because that is what we are trying to establish when building processes, consistency.
Jakub emphasized the importance of not just building processes ourselves, but getting team members to help. You don't have to invest extra time, you can start with a minimum viable product such as using Tango. That could make it easier to get team members on board with helping to build processes.
What mindset will make process building more fun?
Hannah looks at it as a jigsaw puzzle. Find all the pieces to fit together in order to make it one deliverable or project.
Or like an adult coloring book, it's so satisfying to see everything filled in, all the colors there, such as all the time estimates, all due dates...
Or think of the rug cleaning power washing TikTok videos as another example of how it is soothing.
Knowing the team has it intact and will have clarity, knowing I won't forget anything while managing multiple clients and multiple deliverables, that makes it more fun.
When I have assurance it will get done, it is more enjoyable to do the work.
It's soothing to fill in all that work after collecting all the information, filling in those items in the task lists when building the process in the project management tool. It is monotonous work that doesn't take brain power.
It also builds trust amongst the team. Asking for their feedback for the steps, getting more aligned when learning why people do things in different ways, having everyone running the same service, delivering the same quality level of work, understanding where one another are coming from, getting everyone on the same page...
Jakub used an analogy in a kitchen of chefs making the same dish, they were previously each following their own pattern, and then they get together to write a recipe that everyone in the restaurant uses, agreeing on how it's done. Thinking of processes as recipes gives people leeway for nuance.
Following a process also frees up the mental load, being on the rails or in a groove, and velocity happens when running it the same way many times.
It removes the anxiety of wondering if I'm missing a step in the process.
What is a process step that most companies miss?
Hannah said the steps to receive feedback or receive approval from a client.
If you go from 'send draft to client' to 'schedule post,' then nothing holds the team accountable to confirm we received approval from the client. These tasks/steps also hold the client accountable by telling them if we don't receive approval or feedback by this date, we have to push out the project x days based on capacity.
Getting feedback is now a proactive step, not just waiting for it.
Another often-missed step specific to project management systems is that clients resist having individual tasks for meetings for each attendee, when some systems allow multiple people to be assigned one task. But that method doesn’t give an accurate capacity for each team member, since systems split the time allotment if multiple people are assigned to one task.
So you need one task per attendee for meetings.
Jakub explained that you should think of how those subtasks show up in someone's workload or task list for the day, not thinking of how they show up in the process or project task list. People don't know who is supposed to close it, if mutiple people are assigned. Being able to close tasks at the end of the day helps people build positive momentum.
Teamwork vs. ClickUp: Pros and cons
Hannah likes to use an analogy about the key difference, where ClickUp is a blank canvas. You have all the brushes and paints, but you have to develop them on the canvas.
Teamwork is a paint-by-numbers artwork, with some structure and assets built in, such as reporting, workload planner, and dashboards. But there is still flexibility beyond bounds to suit your needs.
Like in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, when Julia Roberts has students all come in with different Van Gogh sunflower painting interpretations.
If you want to build it all yourself - choose ClickUp.
If you want some structure in place - choose Teamwork.
The tools' strengths depend on your preference.
For example, the user interface in Clickup, when navigating across the platform, looks the same to all users unless they are restricted by access/permissions. That can be good, to establish consistency across the team. But if people have access to make changes to the view, they reconfigure everyone’s view, so those permissions need lots of protection. There is also no impersonate user feature, so you may need to ask for screenshots or Looms to see what users are seeing.
Teamwork is more about what individual user wants to see, users can decide individually and it won't impact what others see. If you want the platform to look the same across users, and not have a dissonance, you have to establish guidelines for consistency, though Teamwork is adding shared views as well. There is the impersonate user feature to see what they are seeing, to help them find something.
ZenPilot's methodology has a difference in how it is applied, based on platform, such as relying heavily on custom fields in ClickUp, which translates into leveraging tags on Teamwork.
Gantt view is different in each:
- Teamwork - not good for due date remapping, use bulk edit instead
- ClickUp - good for due dates, can choose moving one subtask or the whole deliverable
How much time should you devote to documenting new processes vs. updating old ones?
Hannah said when building something new, you need to dedicate time to collecting and creating the documentation used to input the process. Depending on how many you create at once and the length of the process, the time will vary, such as the difference between a process for a whole website redesign or a process for creating a blog post.
Allocate at least 2 weeks, as a conservative estimate, if you have an understanding of what information to collect. Allow a longer timeframe if you have no idea where to start.
Devote 2 hours a week to building the new processes. Then leading up to deploying the new templates, devote 3-5 hours a week, depending on your familiarity of the tool for those templates.
When refreshing old processes, leverage reminders to update processes through automation. Have a recurring due date, every quarter or biannually, so you remember to look and see if this process is still how we do things. Take 15 minutes to review, check links, etc., then schedule time for changes.
It's good to dedicate time upfront. Once the process is built, it does not take much time to maintain unless you are completely changing how you do things, then that's more like a net-new process.
Jakub said it only takes a few seconds to update the recipe while cooking the dish.
Thank you, Jakub and Hannah, for sharing this helpful information! They also shared a process-building spreadsheet for importing task list templates into project management systems.