Does your agency have trouble getting projects off the ground? Are key staff members “out of the loop?” Are steps and details being missed or duplicated? These are signs you've outgrown your agency workflow (or signs you don’t have one at all).

Without an effective workflow, you risk chaos… and chaos wastes time and money.

Every agency, no matter what size, needs a workflow that works for them. It should define each step, who owns each step and the flow from one step to the next.

Designing your workflow

How are projects done currently at your agency? Even if you don’t have one documented, there is probably an “unofficial process” that is loosely followed out of habit. Start there. Find out what works and what doesn’t and build from there. Identify weak spots. Involve your teams; they will have valuable input. Start the discussion about persistent pain points, communication gaps and where they are "flying by the seat of their pants." Do you have seasoned staff members who have previously worked within agency workflows? Use them as a resource by asking them to share their experiences (both good and bad).

Expect a little push back. Agency creatives often reject the idea of a workflow as too structured; they fear it will hinder creativity. Actually, structure and creativity can co-exist within an agency workflow. In fact, because an effective process establishes ownership of deliverables and defines handoffs, it can improve the quality of creative work. Include your creative staff in the design of your workflow; it will foster buy-in and you’ll benefit from their insights.

Ask your clients which areas of their experience with your agency need improvement. Doing this may be frightening, but imagine how valuable it would be to discover that almost all clients experienced similar issues, such as missed deadlines. Wouldn’t that motivate you to find a way to prevent this in the future?

Your agency workflow should be clear and easy for every team member to follow. Test it by running it through various scenarios. It should work for every type of project.

Putting the process to work

Change is not easy to implement, so do all you can to encourage adoption of the process. Your agency workflow is a guideline that must apply to everyone (including management and senior staff). Be the example. According to the Harvard Business Review, no amount of top-level support is too much. For example, if you or a senior manager has a special project, it must go through the same process – no workarounds. Importance of following your workflow is diminished if team members don’t see leadership observing it.

Use software that makes it easy for team members to work within your process. Giving employees the tools they need will not only will this make them more efficient, it can free up their time for more billable hours. Train your employees on the workflow and how the software is used to support your process. Make it clear that team members can ask questions without fear of judgement when unsure of how to proceed.  

Measure the success of your new workflow by tracking employee time and project statistics. Conduct a post-mortem of completed projects. Look at in-progress projects so you catch issues and adjust as needed. Design reports that show performance as well as profitability, such as excess hours and missed deadlines. You know your workflow is working for you when you see improvements to your bottom line.

Finally, remember that everything changes. Agencies grow and new lines of work are added. Review your process periodically to ensure it evolves as your organization does.

Looking for agency management software that works with your process? Advantage Software is perfect for full-service advertising agencies of all sizes, creative and production shops, public relations and marketing firms. Over 850 agencies use Advantage for Project Management, Accounting and Media. We build our software with the right mix of browser-based and other tools that maximize productivity, efficiency and profitability. This means something for every employee associate in every department. Find out how we can help you by contacting us for a demo. If you simply would like to learn more, sign up below for our free Newsletter.