We consider it our ongoing mission to truly understand our clients’ challenges and proactively identify what help they need to solve these challenges. To this end, we recently worked with Campaign UK to survey 100 agencies. The focus of the research was agency efficiency and productivity – in essence, do agencies have the right processes and systems in place to maximise their creativity? The results show that while this is a clear priority for agencies, most are not satisfied that the tools they are using are the right ones. I’ve selected some of what I found to be the most interesting data points to share with you.
See the full survey results
Let’s start with the problems those surveyed want to solve:
- Managing ever-increasing client expectations for cheaper, better and faster work
- Finding and retaining qualified staff
- Charging clients correctly (in terms of accurate budgeting, timekeeping and managing scope creep)
- Forecasting and planning in an always-changing environment
- Resource management aligned with capacity
These issues aren’t new and there aren’t any that can’t be solved by implementing effective processes to measure productivity and efficiency. So, what’s holding agencies back?
Efficiency: Every Agency’s Holy Grail?
While the vast majority (85%) of survey respondents said that their agencies were measuring operational efficiency in some way, the methods used varied. 42% reported using a mixture of automated and manual systems to keep track of operational efficiency, while 28% said they still tracked efficiency mainly through manual methods, such as spreadsheets. The problem with this tracking approach was summarised by one respondent, the strategy director at an agency; “I have to look at one spreadsheet for our budget, one for time spent, another for costs – and while we use software for pipeline management, those systems aren’t joined up.”
Getting Estimates Right: What’s Going Wrong?
‘69% of agencies report too many guesstimates in their estimates’
However, 29% said they did not have that clear insight and 21% were only “somewhat” convinced by their estimates. More worryingly, one in 10 of those surveyed either did not know if their estimates were correct or were not confident in their accuracy.
So, what is undermining confidence in business estimates? The answer seems to lie in the fact that agencies’ estimates are too often underpinned by a certain amount of guesswork. 69% of those surveyed felt they had some of the information they needed to produce accurate business estimates, but that too many guesstimates were involved in the process.
One strategy director was candid about how easy it is to fall into over-reliance on guesstimates: “What we think we know about our business is massively open to personal bias – too often, we base our thinking on ‘I reckon…’ rather than hard data. We often think we know who our best clients are, but do the numbers bear that out?’’ he asked.
Where Technology Meets Creativity
“Moving to a single system has allowed the team to increase the speed with which they can access data – it allows them to spend more time on creating the work and less on the tracking of it.”
– Mark Jones, We Are Social
The results showed that most agencies felt that better technology would help build a clearer picture of their business, and free up staff to concentrate on creativity. 66% thought that agency management software could help with easier project scheduling and time tracking and a similar number believed it could reduce excessive admin time and unbillable costs. 52% thought software systems could help align resourcing and staffing pipelines, while nearly as many (47%) believed they could increase the accuracy of estimates and invoices.
So, what’s the real problem? It seems that agencies are not actually taking advantage of these technology benefits.
Most agencies (66%) were using multiple systems to manage and monitor their activity and were only “somewhat” happy with the result. Meanwhile, a significant minority (16%) were successfully using one integrated software system across the whole agency. A unified system appears to be the key to success. Mark Jones of We Are Social is convinced of the benefits of a cohesive approach: “Moving to a single system has allowed the team to increase the speed with which they can access data – it allows them to spend more time on creating the work and less on the tracking of it.”
I’ve only been able to touch on a couple of points from what was a truly enlightening research piece in this blog. Please do download the full report here for a more detailed view of the insights and trends we uncovered.