Foolproof Work Management Practices for Agencies

by Jon Ogden
, 4 min read
agency work management

Agency life is renowned for moving at breakneck speed. The whirlwind of scheduling meetings, updating processes, changing timelines, budgeting projects, and juggling clients means it’s all too easy for clients to become disenchanted and projects to spiral out of control. In fact, more than half of IT projects fail. One meta-analysis of failed projects concluded that a vast majority of IT projects fail because of process mistakes (45 percent) or people mistakes (43 percent).

So how do the best agencies do it? What are the practices that brands or non-agency corporations overlook? Which ones do agencies often neglect? How can best practices be identified and maintained? Here, we explore the best agency work management practices and how they help forge strong bonds with customers.

The Best Don’t Settle for Chaos

The common denominator of all successful agencies, and non-agency corporations, is impeccable client account organization. Any agency that accepts “chaos” as a way of life is destined for failure. Top agencies know how to structure their accounts, keep customers informed at all times, and “cut down on the chaos.” In fact, a whopping 97 percent of organizations view project management as critical to business performance and organizational success.

In 2018 — amid the modern digital transformation taking place and project management tools at agencies’ disposal — there’s no excuse for letting customer accounts go off the rails. Effective project management demands that project requirements, objectives, and scope are documented and stabilized early in the project lifecycle.

At the core of success is the adoption of an operational system of record (OSR). Agencies that accept chaos are ones that have all types of documents — Word, Excel, Keynote, PPT — haphazardly strewn and stored, often unsecured. Failure to stay organized means information gets lost, work is unnecessarily repeated, and the ability to stay on top of client accounts is compromised. Modern work management protocols of top agencies demand that information management is foolproof, constant, and available to clients at all times. Clients who sense chaos will walk, seeking an agency that takes account management seriously.

Rock-Solid Platform

Modern work management involves seamless, agile platform sharing. Clients can’t afford to waste time and money familiarizing themselves with a plethora of project management platforms. Top agencies equipped with all-in-one operational systems of record are able to provide better experiences for their clients. The modern digital transformation taking place means platforms are able to execute multiple — and depending on the program, perhaps all — aspects of project management. Great customer service involves a streamlined, frustration-free experience, and ideally results in easy adoption of a single, all-in-one operational system of record.

Gone are the days of encouraging clients to use different platforms for project sharing, emailing, messaging, budgeting, PDF proofing, and motion graphic editing. Top agencies recognize that clients appreciate when management tools are consolidated into one platform.

Mutual Timeline Transparency

So many agencies fail because they cannot adhere to timelines — or more specifically — they cannot maintain timeline transparency. In fact, 45.8 percent of project managers say their biggest challenge is meeting deadlines. The tragic thing is that if a failure occurs and a client is lost, it’s often because of miscommunication. Without an operational system of record, production visibility is nonexistent and project status is untracked across the overall campaign.

In the absence of appropriate record keeping, it’s impossible to know whether fault lies on the side of client or agency. Was the milestone communicated and visible? Key stakeholders must be able to constantly review the definition of deliverables and always agree they accurately reflect what must be delivered.

The best exponents of modern work management distribute an automatically updated, completely visible cascading “waterfall” of production progress. The best agencies continually monitor milestone production dates and give fair warning to clients of possible impending delays. Often, work stalls on the client side — they can sometimes keep agencies waiting for copy, feedback, or authorization. Cascading Gantt charts, when kept updated and visible, help agencies advise clients of likely holdups, so that clients know when they are required to keep the process moving. Such a modern work management system keeps both agency and client accountable, leading to collaborative efforts and seamlessly running accounts.

When timeline transparency is maintained, there are no nasty surprises — and effective, collaborative business partnerships flourish without strain.

Poor Proofing Undermines a Perfect Project

Rushing and inattention cause mistakes. Top agencies provide quality assurance (QA) services for their clients, but convoluted processes like PDF exporting, file downloads, markups, and re-uploads leave the door open to small mistakes, rendering an overall project a failure. A typo in an important printed annual report? You can bet the client won’t come back to your agency next time. Screwing up the final hurdle can cause long-term devastation.

The simpler the QA process, the better. The modern digital transformation is happening fast, and even the process of marking up PDFs with edits has been refined. Easy-to-use proofing software takes much of the download/upload process out of the proofing equation, keeping most recent versions organized and at the top of the “file pile.”

For clients introduced to an agency’s operational system of record, a built-in proofing service is a welcome relief. Not all clients are savvy at editing documents — or even downloading and uploading files. When all documents are kept safe within a single platform that includes a proofing tool, documents aren’t lost and client and agency can easily refer to all files at any stage of a project. The best agencies are those that keep modern work management simple, and proofing is the final, most critical step that helps those agencies thrive.

Work Management Outdoes Creativity

Effective project management is often the “secret sauce” of an agency’s success — arguably more so than sheer creative brilliance. A groundbreaking deliverable is hoped for, but in reality, the right mix of planning, monitoring, and controlling can make more of a difference in completing a project on time, on budget, and with high-quality results. Putting in place an operational system of record signals to prospective customers that your agency takes work management seriously. It demonstrates that you have made a significant investment into delivering their projects on time and on budget.

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