With clients increasingly dependent on their agencies, tools that help keep projects under control are vital, suggests Dennis Kayser, CEO and co-founder at Forecast
The marketing environment is fast-paced. It’s not just about the much-vaunted shift to digital – trends and customer behaviour evolve at a startling rate and companies have to keep up. As a result, there is an ever-growing reliance on agencies to provide support. Whether it’s providing branding or digital services, consultancy or creative execution, agencies literally hold their clients’ futures in their hands.
As a result, agencies can’t afford to have their service excellence fall down as a result of poor project management. Even straightforward campaigns have a broad range of processes running in the background and it’s vital to keep them on course.
There are broadly three challenges that agencies face when it comes to keeping projects on track: resources – making sure you have the right people in place with the right tools and the right amount of time available to complete the tasks. Scope – making sure you understand the length and breadth of the project at the outset and that it doesn’t change over time, placing more demands on finite resources. And finally measurement – not knowing what the goal of the project is and how to make sure you’re on track to meet it with a series of metrics is almost always responsible for substandard projects.
But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a few more hurdles in agencies’ way. Remote working is presenting a unique set of challenges. Not only is it now harder to just pop down the corridor to check on the status of a task (not ideal project management procedure but we all know it happens) but making sure staff are working productively and efficiently is harder without a tool to provide remote visibility.
There is also the worry that they might not be working on the right task altogether. Priorities change and staff end up working on the wrong thing, often finding out the need to switch too late. In today’s environment where many companies are having to react quickly to changing circumstances – travel and health being two notable examples – this is a very real risk.
Then there is the question of profitability. There can be no doubt that the last 18 months or so have presented some significant financial challenges to companies and they need to make sure they’re sweating every possible asset to hit their targets. In the early days of the pandemics, ad budgets were slashed or cut altogether. Many clients are keen that their agencies can do more with less. This leads to the inevitable question of employee safety, sanity and potential eventual burn-out. Only with meticulously managed projects can agencies meet these high expectations while also placing reasonable demands on their staff.
With the first two, pandemic-specific challenges met, then the third difficulty currently facing agencies should be more easily resolved – hiring. It may seem odd after more than a year where conversations have often revolved around furlough – how much and for how long. But we can already see the green shoots of recovery and agencies will want to capitalise on that momentum quickly. Finding and onboarding staff rapidly is going to be the third priority going forward and making sure those new hires can slot seamlessly into a well-oiled agency machine will be key.
With the proper business operations tools and software, agencies and marketers can put themselves in a much better position to meet these challenges head on. Spreadsheets may have been fit for purpose in the past, but with so many moving parts and the literal distribution of resources from a newly remote-working employee base, they are not up to the task.
Process automation is key to bringing everyone together not just to focus on the present, making sure everyone has the visibility they need to meet milestones and keep up to date with priorities, but also the future.
With the world emerging from its coronavirus-enforced slumber, there is a pressing need to scale. Process automation doesn’t just organise tasks, it gives agency leaders the ability to model future capacity and appetite for new business, as well as assess current ways of working and potentially transform them to meet new needs.
Finally, process automation isn’t just essential for a more efficient workforce or managing future client wins. It is increasingly an expected part of the modern workplace. Attracting the next generation of talent means providing the working environment they expect – one where mundane tasks are naturally performed by machines as standard, where interactions are highly digitised, mobile and often remote to meet their needs for a flexible work-life balance.
Agencies are, by their nature, innovators. Even where brands are joining the in-housing trend, they are still taking inspiration and expertise from the agency sector. To be truly innovative, agencies need to make sure their working environment supports that culture, meeting today’s digitised demands.