Successful agency scheduling isn’t always about the tools you use, or the expertise of the staff you hire. The true secret to successful agency scheduling comes down to how you plan.
Managing the jobs that come into an agency can be a real juggling act, that’s where agency scheduling comes in.
There are several reasons for scheduling…
• To create a Timeline
In it’s simplest form, creating a schedule allows an agency to create a timeline to keep track of what needs to be done and when.
• Scope of Work
A schedule is a great way for an agency to create a scope of work. Many people think of a scope of work as the agreed price of the job, usually in the form of an estimate. But it’s much more than that. A scope of work is also a commitment from the agency to the client in terms of timings and resources.
• Capacity Planning
Scheduling allows an agency to see what resources are required in order to meet that scope of work commitment, based on what else is going on in the agency at the same time.
When it comes to agency scheduling, we often see agencies work a little something like this…
The Client Service or Production team will create an estimate and timeline for the client. The estimate is usually based on similar work done previously or on a template. Once the client has approved the estimate and the timeline, this is given along with the brief, to the Studio or Traffic Manager, who then has to evaluate what’s required, and who is available to get the job done – on time and on budget.
While this may seem like a straightforward way of working, it is actually not the most efficient way of working.
By not creating the scope of work in advance, there can be quite a few drawbacks…
• The estimate is often inaccurate
When it comes to creating estimates, we’ve seen many agencies use the copy and paste method, where they copy estimates from similar jobs or use previously created “templates”. While some projects may be similar in nature, unfortunately what we see is very rarely do people go back to those original jobs to see if there was overspend or if the right resources were estimated in the first place. Similarly, template estimates can often be out of date, and don’t include the extra hours or resources required to get the job done.
• No way of knowing if you can deliver what you’ve promised
If you create the estimate before you’ve taken the time to plan out the scope of work, there’s no true way to know if you can deliver on what you’ve promised. Capacity planning should happen before the estimate is signed off by the client. Hiring freelancers might solve any capacity problems, but it can be an expensive and unnecessary solution.
• May need to create a second client facing timeline
Many project management tools allow you to turn an estimate into a timeline or a schedule of work. An advantage of this is that you can see the number of hours estimated for each role, and it may also feel like it saves time. But what you have really created is a list of roles and hours rather than a timeline containing detailed tasks and deadlines.
In other instances there are tasks that need to be scheduled but you may not be able to charge for them. Quite often these tasks don’t appear on the estimate, but they should definitely be factored into the scope of work and the timeline.
These examples would require the creation of a second timeline – one with more detail, where all tasks and deadlines are properly outlined, especially if the client needs to see the timeline. So the copy and paste method hasn’t necessarily saved any time in the long run.
Ideally before sending an estimate to a client, the relevant parties should sit down and create the scope of work together. In order to complete the scope of work ask the following questions:
- What tasks are required to complete the job?
- Who needs to work on these tasks?
- How many hours will these tasks take?
- When do these tasks need to be done?
If you do the scope of work properly then you have…
• A ready made timeline
By mapping out the what, who, how and when in advance, you will have a ready made timeline or schedule of work.
• An accurate estimate
By planning first, you’re less likely to leave items off your estimate and you can avoid Scope Creep.
• The ability to capacity plan
With a scope of work you can easily answer the following questions: Can we deliver what we promised? Will this job interfere with what else is going on in the agency? Do we need extra staff?
• Harmonious working relationships
If all parties work in collaboration to create the scope of work at the beginning of the project, not only will there will be no surprises, it will also create an understanding between team members on what’s needs to happen and when.
Scoping and planning the work in advance can at first seem time consuming. But if all parties collaborate on the scope of work, in the long run, it will save agencies a lot of time, heartache and money! It really is the secret to successful agency scheduling.