Why nasty surprises shouldn’t be part of your agency life

By Michael Collinson, AccountAbility

It’s that time of the month again when you get to review the numbers on all your projects. As the most financially astute Account Director in your agency, I bet you just jumped out of bed ready to meet the day right?

Well most likely not, because ensuring projects are delivered on time and on budget can be an elaborative and exhausting process. Chances are you’ve experienced a conversation similar to this:

Finance person: ‘These jobs are running way, way over estimate on time and it’s impossible now to bill the client for it. Why has this happened?

You: ‘There was serious scope creep on all the jobs. The briefs kept changing, so we were forced to make many changes at the client’s request’

Finance person: ‘We need to know in advance before these cost blowouts happen. If we did, we may have been able to increase the estimate – it’s too late now!’

You: ‘OK, I’ll keep track of resources and costs more closely. (Finance person starts walking away) By the way, the client loved the campaign!’

You could probably hit repeat on this exchange for next month and the month after that. However, creatives shouldn’t have to wear the label of being floozies with time management and budgeting.

Many of you have a great head for numbers, you’re just spending a lot of hours hoping by chance your projects are on track. But not all projects go perfectly to plan – that’s what make agencies such a hive of activity – but if you don’t have a business system that manages jobs end-to-end, then you have zero visibility and control.

creative agency

So what might an Everyone Wins solution look like?

You need real time, on demand reporting tools that make it easy to track costs and available resources, and identify when your projects are at capacity. A smart project workflow will also have alerts set-up to mitigate those cost blowouts.

On top of this, visual tools to easily monitor tasks across multiple jobs can be a huge benefit. Drag-and-drop task allocation, assigning colours to different jobs, team member photos – all these features can help make your life easier.

If you can see exactly what’s happening right now and communicate changes as they emerge, then you can better manage your team, your clients and your own sanity. It also means you can dedicate more time to assessing the quality of the work being produced. Imagine that huh?

There’s a long tradition of tension between the numbers people and the ideas people within agencies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if your business system can talk across roles.

It provides valuable business information that can actually generate revenue, it can look forward as opposed to backwards, avoiding those nasty surprises and ensuring there’s more all round smiles every month.