Business growth doesn’t always work in exponential curves.
If your agency management tools are letting you down, then business will inevitably slow. If you’re feeling it, then it’s definitely time to switch up your agency management system. This guide will get your team on track and headed back in the right direction-up.
Growing teams need the freedom to focus on their core roles, without being sucked into unnecessary administration- and the structure to make sure key tasks like budgeting, project tracking, scheduling, invoicing and business analysis can happen smoothly even while volumes ramp up.
The cornerstone to successful growth for many agencies is a solid agency management system. One that runs behind the scenes to align multiple strands of the business process. By integrating and automating business applications, a great system leaves your top talent free to focuses solely on delivering only their best for your clients.
It’s time to invest in the right system for your business. But with so many different ERP and agency management solutions out there, where do you even start?
Ask yourself these questions to ensure you secure the best product for your business.
1. What are your current pain points? Is a new system the right solution for you?
The first step in finding the right system for your business, is to identify the issues you need to solve and make sure a new system is actually the right route for your business at this stage.
Create a unit of people from your agency and start idea dropping. What are the barriers each of your teams face? Where are the bottlenecks, and what could be made more efficient? Do you need an entirely new system – or are there just a few processes that should be fine-tuned?
This will give you a snapshot of the way your business is working at the moment and will help to identify the opportunities. You can check that a new system is the right solution, and build a picture of how this can help facilitate business growth.
2. What do you need your system to do for you?
If your team has agreed on the need for a new system, it’s time to start scoping. Make sure your chosen system does everything you need it to – and don’t pay more than you have to, for tools you won’t use.
Do you need a full ERP system, or just a stronger scheduling and timesheet tool? What reports will you want to draw from your new system? Will your new system have to integrate with – or replace – your existing finance and CRM tools? What type of projects will you need your system to deal with – are they complex multi-part commitments, smaller more agile jobs – or a mix of both?
When you’re thinking this point through, don’t forget to future proof. Your agency system is a tool for growth – make sure you’re thinking about the needs you might have in coming years, as well as the pain points you need to address today.
3. How will you use the system?
A new system will mean dealing with some change – and as with any change process, thinking through the full implications is the best way to avoid unnecessary confusion and stress for your team.
Once you have a new agency system, you might find that some of the processes currently within the business are no longer fit for purpose. You may also discover that the way teams and functional areas interact is different. Think about how you will use the system on a day to day basis. Ask yourself what change is inevitable, and how you can best plan the implementation of your new system to allow your team to hit the ground running.
Now you know what you want – it’s time to find your fit
Now you have your criteria for a new agency management system – it’s time to start looking for the right one for your business. Here’s how.
Use the hive mind
There are a vast – and potentially quite confusing – array of agency management tools out there. Not every solution is suited to every business, though, so doing some homework can help narrow down the options to a manageable number.
Seek recommendations from your contacts and connections. Ask others in your field for their ideas, insights and experiences. And consider taking advice from professionals who can help you make the right decision for your business.
Don’t decide based on price
Don’t base any decisions on price. First and foremost it’s important to find the right system, not the cheapest. You need a solution that meets your current and predicted needs, and will make a genuine difference to the way your business operates. And after all – price can always be negotiated.
Create your criteria and don’t be distracted
You’ve put in the time to consider how to boost business growth. You’ve built a picture of what your company needs now, and in the future. Now stick with it. Sales people will try to sell based on their product having a long list of features. But more isn’t necessarily better – make sure the tool fits your needs and don’t be distracted by bells and whistles.
Try before you buy
Organise a detailed demonstration of your preferred products. It’s a smart plan to have several people from different business functions test drive your product short list. You’ll need to know that your team can use the tool effectively, no matter which area they work in, and regardless of how tech-savvy they might be. At this stage, try several different system solutions – it’s good to compare your options.
Based on your criteria of core needs, have questions prepared for the software provider to make sure you’re comfortable with what the tool will – and won’t – deliver for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on a feature if you’re unsure. If the software is missing a feature you think is important, ask why. Sometimes there’s a good reason why functionality is left out – for example, because it complicates the tool too much, or limits the use of other features.
Ask for a trial
Once you have identified your preferred product, ask for a trial so you can test it out. This gives your team a broader chance to try the tool and make sure your internal processes can be aligned to make the best use of it. It’ll also help you get a feel for the service and support you can expect from your chosen provider.
Ultimately, you’re looking for the best fit for your agency in terms of functionality and features, but you also want to find a provider who you like and trust. You’ll need their ongoing support for training, updates and issue resolution, and you’re far more likely to get a good outcome if you have personal and professional confidence in the people you’re dealing with.
Make the moves
One final word of advice: once you purchase the software make sure you have the necessary processes in place, and don’t scrimp on training. A great agency management system will help your business with everything from estimating, budgeting, project management, CRM, scheduling, timesheets, invoicing and business analysis – but only if your whole team is engaged and able to get the most from the tools they have. If you’re investing in a system, make sure you know how to use it or ultimately it’s a waste of time and money.