Evaluate Options For Your Agency – What’s in Your Toolkit?

Often, an agency or marketing department will look to a software application to solve those nagging issues plaguing their productivity or profits – or morale.

When you’re frustrated – things are late, you can’t find the latest version, hundreds of emails from the client to sift through, the budget and timeline are blown – and work is all about putting out the next fire – it’s time to take a long look at what's being used to manage work.  

Was there one thing that triggered the decision to finally look for a fix?

You know that evaluation (from yesterday's post) you completed? It’s time to compile a list of all the tools everyone (yes, everyone in the agency) is using to communicate, manage and store their work.

If your agency or department has been growing, you probably have outgrown the tools you started with – and then added apps, spreadsheets and folders along the way to get a handle on what’s going on.

My guess is that none of those folders, apps, or programs talk to one-another.

Redundancies. Lots of them. Send an email, note what was done on a spreadsheet, IM a colleague, search your notes. Time wasted.

Get your team together and go through your evaluation to make a list of every tool used, from the basics like email, Word and Excel; to collaborative programs like Basecamp or Slack; shared resources like Google Docs and SharePoint (or shared folders on a server for that matter); local chat/IM. Accounting programs such as QuickBooks; timesheet apps; and then on to agency-centric enterprise programs – or perhaps you’re linked into one of the enterprise systems such as NetSuite or SAP – compile a comprehensive list of everything being used.

  • Note each tool, what it’s used for and who is using it.
  • Where are the redundancies?
  • Why is staff using those tools, and why aren’t they using what you already have?
  • What do they like/dislike about the tools?
  • Is there an associated cost for each user? For storage?
  • What exactly is the biggest problem you’re trying to solve?

I’m all about a single integrated solution – something that can manage everything from accounting to collaboration. The reason? Everything is captured in one application – organized, searchable and structured.

Perhaps you only need an application to augment what you’re using. Is there something that will integrate with what you’re using? Can an API be written? Always look for integration.

Now it’s time to get your evaluation team together and review the options available. If you’re looking to replace all or part of them, write your list of requirements – such as accounting, media, project management, chat – and so on. What functions and reports do you need? 

Now that you have your list, it’s time for…demos! They’re not as fun as watching paint dry, but if you’ve prepared your list, it will actually be a worthwhile experience.

Check the Web, groups on LinkedIn, 4A’s, Second Wind – there are a lot of sources  (I’ll have some reviews next week to help). There are also some sites where you can search for software solutions based on your business – however, what I’ve found hasn’t been that great. Agencies and marketing departments have specific needs and these sites tend to gather information in very broad terms and have recommendations that require a fair amount of configuration. 

Go with the pros who know your business.

Once you’ve selected a few vendors, ask for a demo. And when I say demo, get a live person to give you a live demo. Let them know the areas you want to review (from accounting to creative dashboards to media if you need) and the size of your agency (size matters).

In the process of doing my reviews, I have had plenty of 2-1/2 minute pre-fab demos sent to me showing features. Even a couple 20 minute demos - all features. 

They don’t do anything for me - I have to know how their systems will work for my needs. You need that information too.

If a provider wants you to make a big investment in time and dollars, they can get a rep to show you how the system works and answer questions as you go.

Dig in and have a representative from each area of your agency ( like a biller, AE, art director, PM, media planner, etc.). Did I say ask questions? Make the rep show you the applications and how they can solve your problems. This is about running your agency. Take notes on your requirements sheet

Are they checking items off your list?

Ask how long it takes to setup and roll-out (implementation), if they provide free/paid assistance and training. What kind of support do they have (email, live person)? 

This exercise will provide a scorecard.

Meet with your team and compare scores. You are now narrowing your options to a solution.