Silversoft hosted a webinar earlier this quarter to discuss how agencies can make more strategic scheduling decisions with Deltek WorkBook. The vital component of creating a real-time project schedule within your agency is often over-looked, and we chatted through how to easily create a project schedule to reach your campaign goals.
If you didn’t attend Silversoft’s webinar this month, you missed out! A candid chat about the impact that the “COVID-era” has had, and will continue to have on consumers, clients and advertising industries for the foreseeable future. Moderated by Mike Stopforth, with a panel of industry heavy-hitters; Andrew Brand (CEO, 99Cents), Pepe Marais (CEO, Job Public), Monalisa Zwambila (CEO, The Riverbed) and Lynn Madeley (CEO, Havas South Africa), we wanted to highlight some key thoughts and insights from some of the best minds in the industry.
Stopforth rightly points out that “COVID” has become a catch-all phrase that encompasses a few things; Lock-down, behavioural change and overall business challenges, and something that has affected all South Africans in different ways. The “new normal” has also become a popular phrase for many businesses during this era, but as Monalisa Zwambila rightly points out, it is difficult to define a “new normal”. This is still being established for many which will take time, and, will vary from business to business.
What is the new normal?
Agencies, now more than ever, need to ensure that their clients remain relevant. Briefs need to be interrogated and agencies need to ensure that client laggards are being challenged to market to a consumer with a new mindset. Brands need to show up in a way that is meaningful and agencies need to ensure that they are aligning more strategically with their clients to ensure that these new consumer needs are met through executing on effective campaigns that still benefit the client’s bottom line.
Shift in consumer mindset
It is undeniable that there has been a rise of a much more discerning consumer, one that demands of a brand to be more purpose-lead. South African consumers are very dynamic, and have been affected in many different ways. This is something that advertisers must keep in mind during the COVID era.
Andrew Brand, CEO of 99Cents, started his business during a global financial crisis and believes that agencies and brands need to now – more than ever – demonstrate their value to consumers. No “fluff” with a greater drive to be as lean and transparent as possible. This has been the secret behind 99Cent’s success.
Branding is purpose. A sentiment that Pepe Marais strongly believes. The only way to move forward is for brands to not only ensure that they have a purpose, but also that they take true action to build all campaigns and messaging around this purpose. Lip-service is not going “cut” it anymore. “Perhaps COVID has come to raise the consciousness of business – to move into a higher order of doing business. Consumers buy into what they believe in, not what you are selling”, says Marais.
Technology and automation
One aspect of “new normal” that is undeniable, is the increased use of technology for many. Informal meetings around the water cooler have been replaced with online meetings. WhatsApp has become the follow ups on emails and new tools for remote collaboration have been implemented.
Technology has the ability to transform a lot of what we do. Andrew Brand points out that a lot of what we do is not a science, it is an art. Technological advances in agencies is not about replacing humans, but rather ensuring that they can perform their tasks efficiently. Reducing mundane tasks is key, not replacing the creative thinker or the creative process.
Working from home as a new normal
A poll conducted during the webinar revealed that 60% of the audience felt that working from home had not been a deterrent to their day-to-day jobs. Employees are being more efficient, are responding to client needs effectively and most are adapting to this way of working. But, humans need interaction. Madeley and Marais both believe that moving forward, the “work-from-home” vs “office based” models will be blended. Office space will not be as necessary as before and could be the perfect way to balance productivity with interaction.
Another COVID-era trend that has been accelerated, is the availability of talented freelance workers due to many retrenchments and agency downsizing. South Africa has been behind the curb until now when it comes to the willingness to utilize a freelance/contract workforce – which is likely to change. With a shift in focus, agencies are slowing starting to realise that if you have the right people working for you, it doesn’t matter if they are permanent or freelance staff. A lot of agencies have had to downsize, therefore increasing the talent pool of skilled people on the job market. Freelancing provides huge value to a client. There will always be a need for full time staff – a way to ensure quality work is produced as well as continuity and culture. The gig economy has been around for a while, perhaps now it is being fast-tracked.
How have agency processes changed?
Lynn Madeley doesn’t believe that agency processes have changed per se. What has changed are the roles that certain people play within the agency. “The COO has become the most important person in our business” Lynn adds. Zwambila adds that instead of retrenching staff in her business within portfolios like eventing, she has utilized these employees in different roles such as client service. Of course the way in which agencies are working has changed; having to quickly adapt to an online world, but core business processes have remained largely the same.
Is now the time to advertise more or less?
Pepe Marais believes that now is the time to advertise better! We are in the business of advertising, not process. We have become admin people rather than Ad-men or Ad-women. Whether budgets are shrinking or not, agencies need to do better work. In this digital world that we live in, we need to be cognisant of the fact that advertising is not about impressions, but rather engagement. Marais hopes that COVID will bring us back to creativity. “Maybe now is the time to bring art back to advertising?” Marais says.
Final remarks and advice for surviving COVID
“A lot of change is still to come, but more will stay the same. People are slow to change, but there are a number of valuable lessons coming out from the COVID and BLM movements. It’s the ultimate reset button, and many agencies and employees will survive this storm.”
“The more you go into service, the more naturally you make money. Human beings and agencies need to go back to adding value and authentic purpose to their lives, and the brands that they work with.”
“Exercise, eat well, talk to people and find structure in your day. I am a huge believer in health and wellness during stressful times.”
“Humans are resilient. We will probably see that we are all stronger than we thought we were and use this strength as a pivot to do the things that we thought we were incapable of.”
On Demand Webinar: Find out how to overcome your Knowledge Management Challenges…
Watch this on demand webinar hosted by Deltek’s Robert Price as he demonstrates how Deltek PIM can save you time & effort and reduce your firm’s risk through:
- Organising your firm’s information in a central system
- Storage of all project information, including; document, drawings and emails – allowing for easy search
- Create documents from templates and automatically save to associated projects
- Add-in to Outlook allowing for accurate, up-to-date record keeping
- Version controlled Drawing Management tools
How do Consulting Engineers, or any other Professional Services firms for that matter, approach “Digital Transformation”? Strategically, firms have understood the importance of technology for eons, but rapid tech advancement over the last twenty years (think Cloud, Big Data, Mobility, AI etc.) have delivered a remarkable toolset for completely transforming the way in which we work and grow. There is also a very strong school of thought that such technologies should in affect enhance individuals & firms capabilities rather than replace them (no the robots are not taking all of our jobs, just yet). But where do we start? How do you equip your firm to take advantage of this new world? How does a people and project-centric business use technology to rise above its competitors?
CKR, a 140-man Engineering Consultancy Practice, out of South Africa, are a prime example of how to go about this change, continually investing in their own digital transformation and reaping the benefits daily. In working closely with the firm over a period of almost ten years, rolling out Deltek solutions in various areas of their technology strategy, we have determined that the following four key ‘pillars’ to their approach has driven success in both technological advancement and market leadership.
1. Technology as the Backbone: Ensure you have integration of your projects, accounting, reporting & workflow. Go with ‘best of suite’.
You still need to get the basics right. Good ol’ Excel has its purpose, but it is not a management platform. In the Professional Services environment, how you win and deliver on key projects drives the success and profitability of your firm. If you do not have the right tools in place to manage your business workflow, then inefficiencies will drive down your capability to sustain your business. CKR has implemented industry-focused technology for the bid to win process, and all of the gears in the background: project management, accounting, billing, reporting and so forth, to ensure they have real-time management information for decision making and serve their clients better.
Best-of-suite solutions offer full integration and visibility into your project lifecycle and it is key that your firm has the right management system in place. Also ensure sure that your technology partner is on top of digital trends and investing in the future-friendliness of this core component of your business. Implement an industry-proven financial and project management platform, but that’s just the beginning…
2. Technology as an Enabler: Attract, retain and develop the best talent
In South Africa in particular, Consulting Engineering is near the top of the scarce skills list and other key factors such as political instability tend to drive such skills to search for opportunities offshore, or in other industries. It is therefore critical to ensure you have the capability to reach the right talent, using the right channels and to be able to respond to them digitally and meaningfully. Of course, once you have attracted the best talent, you then need to ensure that you develop and retain them over time. CKR has driven success in Talent Management through:
- Implementing an integrated recruitment platform and automated careers page, drastically reducing the time and cost involved in traditional recruitment
- Digitized performance management and continuous feedback, driving more frequent communication
- Understanding the entire employee lifecycle and their growth with the firm over time through improved reporting and integrated Talent Management
- Introduced 9 Box Planning to help map out and identify employees who are ready for advancement, need development, or should be transitioned out
Through both a thorough focus on best practice in Talent Management and investment in best of breed technologies to support the process, like CKR, your firm can acquire and retain the very best of their most valuable asset base – your people.
3. Technology for Service Optimization: Digitize your assets, streamline your communication & documentation flow
In the professional space, particularly Consulting Engineering, documentation and communication are a key asset and often the product of your work. It is therefore critical to control and own your information, documentation and data and all interactions thereof with clients, staff and third parties. CKR has embraced technology to drive success in engineering service delivery through optimising its Project Information Management in the following key areas:
- Consolidating all documentation and emails into a single, searchable and auditable digital workspace, with a single source of the truth
- Providing mobile capability to access key documentation, client information and communications at all times, such as being able draw up a snag list on site
- Integration of production tools such as drawing applications into the overall document management flow of the firm to ensure seamless cost management
- Having a single overview of all communications on all projects and clients at all times
Utilizing technology to significantly enhance prior manual legacy process such as filing, sharing & collaborating, ensures your firm manages and protects its knowledge, saves time and delivers consistently excellent service to your clients.
4. Technology means change: Understand this and embrace it
Working closely with the key executive team at CKR, you quickly realise the importance they place on the role of ownership and change management in any internal initiatives they undergo. Throughout such initiatives, their executive committee is thoroughly involved in communicating to the business on the ‘why’ behind the business changes, and the reason for adoption new technologies.
It is natural that change of systems and processes will face resistance, but the leaders of the business maintained, with clarity, the purpose of the investment and intended outcomes. Throughout technology implementations, whether it is enabling time tracking on a mobile device or enhancing your entire management reporting function, it’s how you engage with the people driving such process that determines success. If you in turn then select the right technology partner, change can drive efficiency, profitability and business success.
To find out more about CKR’s exciting journey with Silversoft & Deltek watch the video here.
See how a growing, Minnesota-based CPA firm integrated all of its client-centric information with Deltek Maconomy.
Watch On Demand: Measuring Project Success with Project-Based Performance Management
Performance management is crucial to the success of any organization, but can play an even greater role in project-based businesses. Employees want to know their hard work is being recognized, not just once a year, but for every project they are a part of.
With employee retention remaining a top concern, performance management is just one piece of the talent management puzzle, but an important one. It’s the first step in showing your employees the importance of their role within the organization. It demonstrates your dedication to their future by acknowledging how well they’re doing in some areas, or even areas where they may need further development.
Join Deltek’s Judy Fort for this free demonstration of Deltek’s Talent Performance solution. Deltek’s talent management expert will offer insights on the importance of performance management in a project-based environment, while showing how Deltek’s solution can provide the consistency and visibility you need.
- Building a consistent process to set and measure employee goals
- Providing ongoing, interactive feedback coupled with clear development and coaching plans
- Enabling peer feedback to help coach and recognize the great work people are doing across the company.
It’s a strange time to be entering adland; with the industry constantly transforming and restructuring to meet consumer demands. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure an agency’s success in this period of change and instability. Or, so it seems anyway.
The Drum has teamed up with Deltek, to host a webinar that discusses what a successful agency looks like today, citing purpose, creativity and profitability as some of the key drivers behind adding value to a business.
While brilliant campaigns and creative ideas are an effective currency, they can’t be activated in isolation. Establishing the above key factors with brilliant creativity will elevate an agency further and help to make them stand out from the crowd.
Speakers on the webinar include representatives from creative consultancy firm Radley Yeldar, who will share their company’s journey of harnessing technology to drive innovation. Other conversation points will centre on the importance of cultivating a balance between creativity and transparency to ensure results can be met and understood meaningfully.
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