with Maarten Cox, Co-Founder
MONTHS USING PAYMO
When corporate life is eating you up from the inside, the only way is out. Maarten Cox, Geert Tewissen, and Jonas Verheijden were all working at the same big agency and hated how it operated. Everyone was “hustling” in silos, which massively degraded the quality or at least the potential of the existing projects. As Maarten recalls:
Some projects started as a huge promise to the client that often could not be delivered because the tech guys weren’t involved early enough. Other projects, while they might have been awesome on their own, might not have been the right thing for a specific client, but that was never checked with strategy and so on. Not to mention the huge overhead costs of all the project and account managers. We wanted to do it differently, with processes in place and teams with mixed skills who could support each other better along the way.
That’s how Born Digital was born in 2017 as a service design studio. Over time, they pivoted to a digital design studio, focusing on creating great digital experiences and complex application interfaces for renowned clients such as NATO, Mobile Vikings, and Infrabel (Belgium’s Railroad Infrastructure Management Services).
As a small agency who wanted order above all else, finding the right tools for the task was tougher than expected.
Maarten and his team needed an easy way to create estimates, manage resources in a visual way, track time for all employees, and create several time reports to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Not to mention the ability to create invoices and follow up on them correctly.
Since they couldn’t find a tool that could do most of these, they settled for a range of apps, each doing one thing best. The major problem stemmed from making adjustments to the team scheduling process, which implied changes in 3 different places:
If we needed to shift the planning of one or more projects, we had to lay the puzzle in Toggl Plan, where we had a visual overview of the planning. But making changes also involved checking whether we didn’t book more or fewer days than we provisioned in the estimate, which was in a Google Sheets. And if we made changes, we had to check in Everhour if everything there was still in sync with both Toggl Plan and Google Sheets.
As you can imagine, this prone to error process resulted in both efficiency and financial losses. The search for the perfect project management tool was on, but none of the tested ones came close to Born Digital’s demands. Maarten remembers it like it was yesterday:
We explored over 10 tools and none of them seemed to be made for how we think a digital agency should operate. Either they didn’t have a complete and visual resource management tool like the Team Scheduling Paymo has, or they didn’t allow task billing or they were either incredibly complex or they were focussing on just one aspect of operations.
Eventually, Maarten stumbled upon Paymo after a quick Google search. The most important decision criteria was the usability:
The general workflow in Paymo where you start with creating a project, convert it into an estimate, then add it to the Team Scheduling module in just a matter of seconds or minutes was great to start with. The extra checks that you get with the Remaining Hours window to see if there is budget left is an absolute killer function and solves most of our problems. The fact that time tracking and invoicing and reporting is also incredibly easy and fast turns it into an almost complete package.
Maarten Cox, Co-Founder @Born Digital
Maarten and his team were personally onboarded by one of our dedicated customer success reps, so it was just a matter of putting together project data scattered around different systems.
After the call, I started filling in the open projects from other tools into Paymo. Once we had all the projects in place, we started filling up the Team Scheduling module either via the ghost bookings or the Unscheduled Work task drawer at the bottom of the scheduling view. Once that was done, we onboarded the employees and we’ve never looked back.
Team Scheduler with Unscheduled Work
He goes on to praise project templates, which allow him to create project estimates in a matter of minutes. This is all thanks to the convert to estimate function, that sums up all project budgets and costs, then bundles them under an organized estimate ready to be sent to clients.
As for the team, they love being able to track time in different ways. Their favorite method is the ability to add time in bulk, usually on Fridays, which saves them time when filling their weekly timesheets. The time entries then provide a good overview of the billability of the team.
We manage our agency based on billability, so that’s probably the most important number for us which is now generated automatically via one of Paymo’s reports. We also have reports now for every project, so we can follow-up on how many hours have been spent and how many there are remaining.
Born Digital is still new to Paymo, so they’re still in the process of centralizing their project documentation and merging all their other non-project management related tools (like Slack). So far, the team scheduler and estimates are core to their process, helping them create an agency closer to their dreams.
I wish we had found Paymo earlier because it would have saved us a lot of work. We’ve now cut the time to do sales (estimates & invoices), manage resources, plan projects, and create specific time reports in half.