Evaluate Options For Your Agency

Before I go any further, I highly recommend putting together a team to sift through the comments you gathered. Get a representative from each area – from creative to accounting (you interviewed them too, didn’t you?) Evaluations usually don’t require deep analysis because when you sort issues into categories, you’ll be able to decipher the nuances of those issues. A representative from each area can spot and understand patterns quickly. There may be some issues where you need to dig deeper – identify those and have the representative uncover the details.

About your team… Meet once a week at first, put together the plan and schedule and assign to-dos. As you move through the process and get closer to implementing new process or tools, you’ll need to meet more frequently. Think of this as you would any large project for a client. Oh yeah, and track your time! Assign a job number and post time to it. It’s overhead, but it’s an internal project, nonetheless.

From the interviews, you should be able to map your process – steps from start-to-finish. Note the number of, and what tools (software, applications, folders, email, IM…ugh everything!) used to manage work; identify redundancies; and also, be sure to take note of personnel issues.

About personnel issues… This can be a sticky subject, but as I said in my last post, if you don’t address the human factor, progress can be derailed. An attitude, a difficult individual whose name is mentioned frequently, lack of training – these will all come to light and clarify what needs to be done. This will help prepare you for developing a strategy for how to get a new or revised system in place.

Now that your team has insight on common problems, bottlenecks, and redundant systems, it’s time to look at the tools currently at your disposal. Do you have a mish-mash of applications, folders, and servers? Do you have a system in place that is seldom used, cumbersome, or universally despised?

Options – Current Tools/Systems

The current tools could be out of date, perhaps weren’t configured properly, or maybe no one really knows how to use them. With any of those scenarios, staff who have to get things done ASAP will use anything that’s fast and easy…even if that means duplicating data. Verify that the current system actually offers what your staff needs. If not, start researching new systems. I am a true believer in integrated solutions for managing an agency. (I’ll be posting reviews next week). But before you look elsewhere, check with your vendor and find if they have upgrades, assistance and training. Changing entire systems can be a lot of work (time and expense) – but really worth the effort to improve operations if your current solution is crap.

And one caveat on what you’re currently using... If the staff hates it (no matter the reason), giving them a glittering new version may not overcome their jaded opinions. Keep that in mind…

Options – New Tools/Systems

There are a ton of options out there. Ultimately, you have to lay a foundation of basic needs.

  • What applications do you need? Accounting, CRM, project management, media, proofing, communication/collaboration, asset management/sharing. That’s just the start.
  • How are you going to use it? Desktops, pads, phones, remote access.
  • Do you want a cloud solution or on your own server? This leads to a big list of IT and security questions. Especially if you have clients who have strict security and SOX requirements.

Based on your interviews, the first item will narrow your list. You want efficiency? An integrated solution is key. Client data, projects, everything is sourced in one place.

The second item is convenience, but also how your staff works. If they work from home or travel a lot, staying on top of projects without having a convoluted login process makes life easier and collaboration a snap.

The third item cannot be overlooked. If you have a client that has critical security requirements, you need to address it right away. Their sensitive information is in your hands. Insurance, healthcare and government clients are just a few who require a highly-secure environment. Well, everyone should have a highly-secure environment, but they just don’t give it a lot of thought...they rely on you to take care of them.

Now it’s time to look at software applications!

You know, I was going to do this in one post, but enough for today. We’ll talk tools tomorrow.