How to choose the right agency management system

Image for Kate Vincent By Kate Vincent

While all agencies are unique, they are generally supported by the same principles of people, projects, clients and finances. The right agency management system will help you manage all of these aspects and keep everything running smoothly. But what’s right for one agency won’t work for another. There are lots of considerations to take into account before you commit. Get the right system, and it’ll be like a breath of fresh air running through your agency.

Where to start? First, I’d recommend taking a deep dive into where you’re currently at. What systems and processes do you have in place and what are they for? You really need to be honest here. It can sometimes be alarming to discover how piecemeal your systems are, how much duplication you have or even systems and processes that just aren’t being used. You might also notice that different teams are using different systems – a surefire route to a headache.

Talk to individuals and teams

Find out what they use, what they like, what they don’t like and what the end outcomes are. You know the saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’? I’m going to upend that here. Things can often be improved, and just because you’ve always done things a certain way that doesn’t have to be the way they’re always done in the future.

A quick aside, users probably won’t like doing timesheets because no one does. But this isn’t about being a people-pleaser and getting rid of important processes. It’s about finding how to make every process smoother and less time consuming. Time is your biggest commodity, and if people are spending hours putting off the necessary admin and fighting with unfriendly systems they’re not working on chargeable projects.

Identify your pains

This type of analysis can sometimes be brutal. Nobody wants to focus on what’s not right. But, by acknowledging where your areas of weakness lie, you can make sure your chosen system is strong to tackle reporting visibility in these areas. For example, are your projects regularly over budget? Do you find you’ve got too much work for one team and not enough for another?

Move on to your goals

There’s a reason you’re looking for a new system, because the way you’re currently working isn’t fit for purpose. But why isn’t it? Perhaps it’s because your current methods won’t support growth. It could be you’re using old systems which are missing key features. The size of your agency will probably be a factor here. If you’re smaller then you probably want a system that will grow with you. Larger agencies need to harmonise more teams and people and will have more complex requirements.

Look to your strategic objectives

What do you want to achieve in the next year, five years, ten years. Whether it’s growth aspiration, planning for sale or reducing your agency lead’s day-to-day involvement, your objectives will impact decisions you make about the platform you choose.

Separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves

There will be some non-negotiable features that you’re not willing to compromise on. And there will be some things that you think would be a nice added extra but aren’t a deal breaker. Again, talk to your colleagues, your teams will have different priorities and processes and it’s important you understand these.

Look to your teams’ engagement

I mentioned timesheets earlier because these are universally disliked at agencies. But you need them and there’s no getting around that. If timesheet entry is an issue, how can you make sure it’s rolled out to ensure a smoother and more effective process? For something like this, no matter what software you choose, unless your teams are fully on board then it will always be an issue. So could you find a system which has experts onboarding your teams with bespoke training? Understand the why alongside the process could work better for your people than a generic implementation covered by webinars?

Make sure there are no hidden costs

You’ve found a great system and you’re sure it’s what your agency needs in all aspects. Look at the core features of the software and make sure they form part of the standard implementation and aren’t subject to an additional subscription fee. If the provider has promised an API or bespoke feature build, is it real or a box-ticking exercise which in reality is going to cause more problems than it solves?

Don’t jump in feet first

Do you feel you’ve put in due diligence so you won’t get an attack of buyer’s remorse mid-implementation? Double check that what you’re getting aligns with your objectives and your must-haves (and hopefully your nice-to-haves) to avoid any nasty surprises in terms of costs and ensure that your team will be fully onboarded.

Then relax… your agency is in good hands.

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