Stop the Rot: Reclaim Lost Revenue with Effective Project Management Tools

White Paper

Project management; from its beginnings with Henry Gant in 1917 and his revolutionary scheduling chart, to one hundred years later where a host of software applications and systems remove some of the complexity from the task, the importance of this discipline remains.

In almost every industry the term project management exists in some form, whether that is construction, IT or broadcast. One area where it plays a particularly critical role is marketing and advertising, and it's a space that continues to grow fairly rapidly.

In the UK, businesses spent £21.4bn in 2016 on advertising, an increase of almost 4% from the year before and the seventh year in a row that signalled growth. Moving across the Atlantic to the US, $190bn was spent in 2016 on advertising, while the industry as a whole (including PR and related services) was estimated to have generated $95bn in 2014-2015.

While project management practices and associated software no doubt make the lives of individual staff easier and helps to streamline processes, there are areas that can be improved. Not just for the health of projects, meeting deadlines and operational sanity, but for improving revenue streams and ensuring that agencies are not actually losing money. Where no tools or platforms are being used at all, the potential for enhancing operations and bolstering revenue is endless.

Effective project management can identify areas of the business or practices that are leaking money such as ineffective resource planning, tracking billable hours and overrunning on allocated project hours.

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Realize The Value Of Your Time

The frenetic pace of the marketing, advertising and creative industries is perhaps one of the drivers of success - sometimes the best work is produced while under pressure. This chaotic state of operations can't be the norm and should rather be the exception. What many agencies are finding, however, is that there is an increased call for doing more with fewer resources and working to increasingly tight deadlines. The solution may very well be hiring more staff or to "work smarter". But the real solution to the challenge lies in how these businesses manage their work, from requesting a job, assigning it, tracking hours, approvals and reporting. And of course, it comes down to the tools used.

One of the biggest culprits of lost revenue is billable hours. Agencies have historically been built on this model, which means tracking both billable and non-billable hours is critical. There is a lot to consider here, not just work that is related to a billable project. What about pre-sales efforts? Pitches? Time spent on admin? Where do these hours go? Users need to know how to record this time and which project to assign it to.

Resource Planning And Plugging The Gaps

The ultimate goal of capturing this information properly is to standardise on how long something will actually take. Are your staff taking too long on a project? Are you allowing for too much time for tasks at the expense of others? These questions can all be answered and can help businesses adjust their practices to make sure they are billing correctly.

For young agencies and start-ups, this functionality is particularly helpful; in this way you can capture the full scope of work you have completed. If you have no baseline, or a limited one to work from, each subsequent project will add to that knowledge, creating a set of templates. Even if on the first few projects the predicated hours are lower than actual hours, this is recorded and can be used to shape future projects.

In addition, once aware of how much time certain tasks take to complete, teams can better assign resources for certain projects, in effect eliminating gaps that cause the loss of revenue. More than that, not only can agencies allocate the time and staff to jobs, they can also determine where to start.

More often than not agencies have a host of projects all demanding attention. With the proper project management tools you can decide which projects should be tackled first, which will yield the best or quickest return on investment, and which ones require creative teams and administrators.

Streamlining Collaboration

Regardless of industry sector or company, no project can be completed effectively and efficiently without high levels of collaboration between all stakeholders. In the case of the agency environment this includes the client, creatives, production and account management. Internally, particularly between creatives, there needs to be a steady stream of communication, right from the project's conception, through to delivery, that will ultimately shape what is being created. Add to that the account managers, overseeing the process and ensuring the assets remain on message and are within the brief, internal sign-off and customer feedback and sign-off.

Project management tools are critical in the collaboration process, taking the complexity out of it by providing a platform where creatives can share work, comment and start conversations discussing elements of the project. In addition, with a social element included into many project management software platforms, teams can interact with one another, receive streaming updates related to the project, and keep up to date with what is going on. Not only will they be more engaged in the actual project, but motivation and energy can be maintained.

Real-Time,Centralized Overviews

It is a well-acknowledged fact that meetings are a drain on time and resources. In fact, if you are in middle management it's likely you are wasting 35% of your week in meetings. Apart from the cost, the knock-on effect in terms of meeting deadlines and getting work done can be tremendous. In a typical agency environment there needs to some level of control and oversight on the status of projects - typically something addressed through meetings. But is this the most efficient way?

All participants on the project would find value from having a real-time view of the status of that project and the tasks associated with it, and being able to access this information quickly and easily. But that won't be delivered through endless production meetings - not to be confused with collaboration. With the right tracking tools, each stage of the project and each creative on it can keep an eye on the progress of their own portions, as well as the overall view. The added advantage of this is that the number of production and status meetings will decline, resulting in more time to spend on the actual project.

In the past, milestones would be used to keep track of project progress. But what happens when the team runs out of allocated hours but has only reached two of the project milestones? With the right project management software, this process can be better managed and, again, agencies can build up a baseline of how long certain tasks are likely to take to better plan the process and assignment of resources.

Proofing, Revisions And Increased Accountability

Once assets have been created one of the most difficult stages of project management begins - gaining approval. This is never achieved in a linear fashion; instead, different client stakeholders give feedback and suggest changes to different parts of the project, and at different times. These need to be collated, evaluated and completed. And the iterations of assets need to tracked, as do the hours spent on them to ensure the project is still within budget.

From an efficiency point of view, project management tools can ensure that all changes are captured digitally, which is a safer, more effective way than writing on print outs or using sticky notes. Once the changes have been made, copywriters, designers or whoever was responsible for the amends can use the software to mark them as complete. This also tracks version control and ensures everyone is working on the most current version.

In the same way, the platform can keep an audit trail of who requested which change, whether that is internally or externally. This is particularly important for clients in highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, banking and insurance where compliance is so critical. The audit function also applies to approvals. Once an asset is completely signed off, a brochure, for example, will be made print ready, sent to print and then distributed as needed. If there is no proper tracking in place, there is the danger that not all changes have been made and that the client has perhaps approved the wrong version.

From a compliance point of view, having the right project management platform in place can help agencies prove to clients in regulated industries that they have the right capabilities and resources to deliver within those parameters. Not only does the right project management platform become a way to protect losing revenue, it can also be a powerful tool in attracting and winning new business.


Project management seems like a "no-brainer". Its inherent benefits like streamlining operations, enhancing resource planning and protecting revenue make it an attractive option. However, with the rate of industry growth using the right platform is becoming increasingly important, to ensure it is not only replacing a manual and potentially chaotic process, but delivering the right efficiencies where they are most needed.

Of course selecting the right platform and tools can be daunting as every agency is different, with varied requirements and users. Working with the right partner in scoping out solutions, assessing requirements and ultimately implementing the solution, along with the internal buy-in and change management that is needed, can go a long way towards protecting your revenue and overall, ongoing success.

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