The concept of outsourcing work is nothing new to the advertising industry; in fact the industry itself is built on companies doing just that, so it should come as no surprise that agencies are some of the heaviest users and drivers of the "gig economy". In some cases, virtually every team member of an account is a freelancer, often working from remote locations in the US and abroad. While such working arrangements are often beneficial financially for the agency, they pose unique challenges from a Project Management perspective.
Remote work arrangements are particularly effective with projects that require individual work vs collective work, such as writing brochure copy or designing logos. In most agencies, employees often wear headphones to block out distractions, whereas remote workers have the ability to completely isolate themselves for greater productivity. It's actually that isolation that can be one of the greatest challenges of getting a remote team to work successfully.
The Challenges of Isolation
It's often said that a lot of the best work in agencies happens in the hallways and the kitchen rather than during meetings. Some agencies actually position their work stations to encourage cross-pollination of ideas, processes and talent from one account to another. Obviously, that's not possible with remote workers.
It's also true that communication often happens on the fly, with unexpected changes that pop up and are best communicated in person rather than trying to convey the complexities via email (of course, this is also why so much of the work in agencies goes undocumented, which is another problem in and of itself...).
Isolation can also cause remote workers to feel out-of-step with the project itself:
- unclear on who is working on what and how their work will fit into the broader team's actions
- confused about timing for deliverables and priorities for multiple projects
- hesitant to ask questions for clarification because of the perceived hassle of trying to reach someone
Software to the Rescue
Thankfully, the right software can solve or significantly address many of these issues. For instance, Advantage's AQUA Agency Management System is custom built for these challenges.
Assignments are consolidated onto one card where everything is tracked and all key actions take place. This facilitates creative collaboration and enables team communication all from one place. For remote workers, this creates a virtual sense of community with the team that addresses the issues of feeling out of step with what's happening and how their work is impacting the overall team effort. It also centralizes communications which makes it easier for the entire team to track progress and understand the history of why changes were made. Tools like Slack can help remote team members communicate, but the difference is connecting the discussion directly with the work being completed.
Working from a centralized system also helps with the lack of structure that often plagues remote teams. Advantage has worked exhaustively with ad agencies to design a simple and visually intuitive interface to help both in-house and remote workers quickly understand their workload and manage expectations with a drag and drop card-based interface based on the agile methodology of kanban boards.
Through tools like these, project managers are better able to keep remote teams on track, productive and communicating. As the gig economy continues to grow (nearly half of all gen Z workers are freelancers), the challenges of working with remote teams and making that model work successfully will impact every agency (with the exception of very small ones).
Get ahead of the curve by making sure your agency management software is designed for remote work and your agency positioned for success both now and in the future. Schedule a free online demo of the AQUA software and see for yourself how powerful it is to have everything in one place - including consolidated data for Project Management, Accounting and even Media. You'll quickly see why the right agency management system can be a competitive advantage for your shop.