Three ways to improve agency operations

Written by David Klein, Director of Marketing, ClickTime

No one ever said running an agency or a consultancy is easy. There’s intense competition, ever-changing customer needs, and a host of differing expectations from employees, management, and clients. Especially now that public relations has expanded to include everything from digital strategy to social media to SEO. The industry is growing, but not as quickly as it’s changing. And old habits remain. We have noticed that some agencies over service and perform out-of-scope work. This reduces employee capacity and limits ability to service additional clients or work on other billable projects.

So, what can firms do to improve how they operate?

Embrace Real-Time Project Visibility

It’s essential that the entire team — management, finance, HR, and account execs — have access to real-time project visibility. This visibility empowers managers with a deeper understanding of employee capacity, and allows more agile and effective project staffing, and even hiring. Similarly, account executives benefit from seeing how many hours or dollars they have left to commit to any project. By surfacing these metrics, it becomes much easier to identify — and reduce — over servicing before it becomes a problem.

Top-performing agencies have visibility into which employees are able to take on additional work. They assess who is under- or over-performing, and are able to easily identify who is spending too much time on non-billable projects.

Reduce Over Servicing

With employees billing hundreds of dollars an hour, the costs of over servicing add up quickly. Between a busy schedule, lack of technology, and a desire to please clients, some team members may not even realize they are over servicing their clients. That’s why it is so important to measure employee utilization (billable hours worked vs. hours planned). It allows agencies to pinpoint exactly where there are operational deficiencies and room for improvement.

But employee utilization can be interpreted in many ways. It can be ranked by customer, project, task, role, or even individual employee. This granular utilization data — month over month or year over year — empowers management to make strategic decisions about what kind of work to take on in the future, and how to best structure their team for operational excellence and continued financial health.

Create Realistic Benchmarks

How long should it take to write a media release? Or to strategize a national media campaign? What about rebranding a company? Or launching a new feature?

While these answers may vary from company to company, they can each be answered with relative ease. Nearly every agency tracks employee time. And this time can (and frankly, should) be associated with a specific task or project. Through Excel, Google Apps, or almost any time tracking technology, reports can be run that analyze the amount of time — and associated cost — of key activities.

Once the management team gains an understanding of how much time employees are spending on various projects, the organization can assess whether or not these numbers align with business objectives and adjust expectations — or processes — accordingly.

ClickTime’s Co-founder and CEO Alex Mann will host a webinar for New Zealand consultancies on ‘Best Practice for Agency and Consultancy Operations’, register here. ClickTime is a PRINZ partner.

Image credit: iStock