Review Your Agency’s Workflow in 6 Steps
Agencies are probably one of the most exciting places to work at. It’s no secret: a lot of agency executives come from inside the industry, and they’re very good at the creative aspects of the business. However, restrictive systems and processes that guide the work still apply to agency management, as much as to any other business. A lack of those systems can single-handedly create chaos in the busy agency workflow.
Although the fundamentals of agency management are the same, every agency has developed their specific processes for managing their workflow. The way work is managed is the key to success and growth. If you want to increase your agency’s efficiency, streamline workflows, and take on bigger projects – then the following steps are a very good starting point:
1. Identify and optimise your services 🔍
Agencies are in the service business. Selling a product is much easier than selling a service – each client has a unique problem, and you need to develop a specific solution customised to their needs. It’s hard, if not impossible, for you to standardise your services.
Dive into the projects you’ve worked on in the past 3-6 months. Analyse which categories do most projects fall into, dig into the financials and the nitty-gritty.
- Categorise your services
- Set up task bundles connected to each service
- Estimate the time it takes to finish the project (billable hours)
- Estimate the project budget
- Estimate the project revenue
By identifying and optimising your core activities, you can save hundreds of hours and improve efficiency drastically.
2. Map out the processes 🗺
A good starting point at this stage is to map out exactly how the process works right now, who are the stakeholders and what are their responsibilities, and what are the tools used to keep the work going. You may discover that the current process is not the best one: it worked to a certain degree, but as the agency grows you need a more comprehensive overview of the agency’s workflow.
How do you keep track of your projects’ progress, clients, and your team? Small project management and communication tools like Basecamp, Trello, Slack, and Asana may have done the job before – but maybe it’s time to move on to a more comprehensive solution? Still managing your work between spreadsheets and emails? Then it’s definitely time to move on to a more efficient business tool.
P.S. Having worked with hundreds of creative agencies, we found that it’s critical that you get your team involved in setting up the processes. There’s no point in setting up a process when the people who are involved in running the process don’t follow it.
Engaging with your team and getting them involved in the process allows for multiple points of view, creates buy-in, transparency and keeps everyone involved with an eye on the end goal – to work towards making the agency successful.
“Collective solutions to problems start with individual human beings and individual efforts.” – Leo Burnett
Another way to approach this is to bring the client into your process planning. Find out what frustrates them about working with you. Remember – the way that your agency operates isn’t just an internal issue. It impacts clients as well.
Interesting tool: A Smarter Way to Manage Your Agency: Agency Management Software
3. Gather your data 🗃
So how do you know if any of these processes actually work? How can you determine if they’re helping improve productivity? The best way to measure your team’s success is by having a reliable data management process in place. By collecting data from past and present campaigns (through Google Analytics, heat maps, client surveys, and other tools), your team can analyse this information to look for areas of inefficiency and ways to improve client and business process.
73% of CEOs think creative teams lack business credibility because they can’t prove that they generate business growth. But data doesn’t lie. By tracking the right key metrics, you can make data-backed decisions that can help the agency’s growth enormously.
Look at the previous client data. Once you have the actionable business insights, you’re ready to optimise an existing workflow or set one up from scratch.
P.S. Having numbers, graphs, and charts will give your team cred, but it’s not worth it if you end up wasting a bunch of precious creative time to get the data. The first step in avoiding this is to make sure you’re measuring what really matters. If you’re collecting data just for the sake of having more graphs, then ditch that KPI or trade it out for something that will actually help your team be more cost efficient, more time efficient, or improve the quality of your deliverables.
4. Automate the processes ⚙
Business automation isn’t only for big enterprises. Everyone can benefit from a few simple automation hacks. As the Twitter Officer Michael Coates bluntly put it, “Automate or die.”
We all have those tasks that we’d rather postpone to the future unknown. When tedious and repetitive tasks tend to take the best of your time, your creative work suffers. But it doesn’t have to!
Give your company and employees the tools they need to do the best job they can. Make it as easy as possible for your team to ensure there’s uniformity in your information and methods. Create templates for frequently used processes and tasks, and automate tasks that don’t need a human input.
Automating boring tasks with professional services automation (PSA) can save you countless hours (and nerves!). In fact, according to a survey, a whopping 98% of organisations use some form of PSA, whether it’s for:
- enhancing the customer experience (61%)
- increasing productivity (59%)
- sharing knowledge (52%)
- delivering new products (46%)
5. Encourage system implementation 🎊
Get that vital buy-in from all staff, at all levels of your business. Make it worth your employees’ time to use the right systems to accomplish their tasks. Efficiency and productivity boosts benefit both your employees and your bottom line.
Have one central person or a small team to oversee the entire process – from planning and scoping out the needs of the business to presenting recommendations. They need to understand the process and be able to communicate well, in order to understand the different needs and challenges of every level and department of your business.
“No process can think for us. So we have asked our agency to think of our process as guidelines, as opposed to strict rules, suggestions rather than mandates, double checks versus must-dos. The process provides a rough roadmap for how a type of job should go under ideal circumstances (which never exist), and it is there to help us get an initiative back on track when it inevitably goes a bit off the path.” – Bryan Christian, the president of Proof Advertising
To get maximum buy-in, staff need to feel involved in the process. With any form of change, if people feel that they are being kept in the dark, they will become resistant. Ensure that the employees who will be directly affected by the new workflow understand the reason behind implementing it and how it will benefit both them and the company.
6. Continue optimising the workflow 🔄
If brands can evolve, why can’t workflows and processes? Set up a monthly meeting with the team to review the new workflow. Ask them:
- Has the new workflow made a difference in their day-to-day schedule?
- Do they save huge amounts of time because of the new workflow?
- What do they like about it?
- What do they find challenging?
- How can it be improved further?
Based on the feedback, optimise the process further by getting rid of extra steps that don’t add value. Streamline the process by making sure that all software tools integrate with each other and flow of data is transparent and accurate.
Note: Humans don’t like change. Be prepared to hear a lot of complaints and negatives about the new workflow because that’s just the way it is. We don’t like changes to things we have to do every day because we are used to it. But it doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it.
Successful implementation is a marathon, not a race. Some people will embrace the more efficient way of working and some people will cling to the comfort of the old. However that resistance to change will gradually diminish if your business keeps up a strong engagement strategy in the planning, implementation and follow-up process.
The benefits are clear 🚩
Completing projects – on time and on budget – helps you create a more profitable agency with lower turnover and happier clients. All you need now are the tools to make it happen, and the dedication to build a seamless process to guide you forward.
Keep in mind, that: “The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams and hopes. Its ‘product’ cannot be turned out on an assembly line.” – Leo Burnett, advertising executive and the founder of Leo Burnett Company, Inc., responsible for creating some of advertising’s most well-known campaigns of the 20th century.
What tools do you use to manage the workflow within your agency? Do you have a hybrid model of online and offline processes? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!