Is Agency Automation the Future?
It’s said, “time is money” and in no other industry is that truer than marketing. However, while agencies have experienced dramatic changes impacting related issues – from greater billing complexity to tracking contractors to shifting staff capacity – many owners, project managers and senior leaders have failed to adapt, never mind taken steps to capitalize.
In fact, HubSpot’s recent survey revealed that these leaders’ inability to get a handle on time is causing big-time problems.
Here are some of the challenges the survey highlighted:
- The second biggest pain point for owners, project managers and leaders is little time available for administrative activities.
- The agencies that run on retainers alone were about a third of respondents, while more than three-fourths use freelancers. Yet, an alarming half of those don’t track utilization of staff.
- Even though 80 percent employ project management platforms and tools, half said an improved approach was needed.
The good news is technology can now automate agency business functions from finance to operations, sales to project management. It can support better, faster decision-making by providing real-time insights. In short, leaders may find with a professional services automation, or PSA, approach, they finally have the one platform to unite everyone, free up and empower themselves and key staff, and propel the agency forward.
Here are a few key ways PSAs are helping create the agency of the future:
Transparency to develop agency-wide efficiencies
As an agency leader, you’re likely all too familiar with the questions: “Who owns X project?” or “What’s the status of Y?” Without the transparency to see what’s happening immediately, or fully manage projects, problems like missed deadlines and staffing issues occur. Wouldn’t it be nice if statuses were always up-to-date and easy to digest?
PSA platforms automatically do this, providing complete visibility for greater control. Because they also facilitate human resource planning, agencies can become more agile and better handle change. Some even offer heat maps for at-a-glance availability, role and skill matching capabilities, even automated suggestions. This also trickles down to teams and improves how employees work and collaborate with one another.
Real-time analytics for better decision-making
PSA tools analyze the past and help leaders prepare for the future. They also provide real-time analytics, an indispensable resource, with key performance indicators–that organizations can configure–providing at-a-glance understanding of critical data. That includes sales, customer, project and utilization metrics.
The result is a complete view, from sales to delivery, quote to cash. They can keep abreast of, and grow, profit margins. They can understand the pipeline, know where the agency stands financially and from a capacity perspective, and plan accordingly. And, agency heads can easily identify best-practices and duplicate these with clients.
PSA platforms enable decision-making that produces better results, and because leaders can do so faster, an ability to seize new opportunities.
Greater control, increased profitability
PSA platforms enable agency leaders to get a handle on time and expenses from the outset. Features can include pre-filled timesheets, stopwatch tracking, approval via any device and more. Accounts can also be charted, from payables and receivable to profit and loss, accompanied by automated billing and real-time reporting. This greater financial control reduces costs and raises profits.
Agencies often have separate tools for tracking time, customer relationship management (CRM) and project management, billing and more. A PSA platform can also be the one tool that controls them all, greatly simplifying operations. Professional services organizations that combine financial systems, CRM, and PSA can anticipate nearly 12% lift in project margins, six percent increase in utilization of billable resources and significant improvement in projects delivered on budget and on time, according to SPI Research.
Finally, it’s clear it no longer makes sense for agency leaders to spend hours bogged down on administrative tasks that can easily be automated. Their focus should be on growing the business. As we look to the marketing agency of the future framework, successful executives will be those who understand the balance between technology and staff, on automating operations and empowering the right people to handle the right tasks.
A PSA platform does this and supports better decision-making, enabling leaders to focus on strategy and differentiate their agencies in a changing market in order to advance the business.