Fighting Fire with Technology: How to succeed in the "New Normal"


There has been so much change within the creative industry in the last few years that the term "new normal" is being used to describe today's environment, where it's tough - and keeps getting tougher - to make a buck and a great idea. It’s important that creativity leads the way with all activity but agencies are fighting fires from all angles, battling increased pressure from clients, lower margins, more intense procurement processes and changing leadership structures.

For many agencies it is a matter of evolving or running the risk of becoming obsolete. In order to drive the people profit line in the right direction, agencies must change operating models, processes, people and client engagement.

The new normal environment is not a phase but rather something that has been steadily building until it has now become a burning issue for many agencies. There is higher pressure on remuneration models and people, as clients demand work cheaper, better, faster. This means that even though revenue appears to be recovering post-recession, agencies are struggling to turn it into profit and are operating with reduced margins—some below 15 percent.

It's not just about the finance side of things either. There are pressures on organisational structures, with the role of project managers and producers changing, disciplines integrating and client leadership structures taking on a more global horizontal form.

It sounds pretty tough when you list it all out like this but as long as agencies play it smartly with some strong strategic decisions, they will be able to return their focus to the bastion of ad land – creativity.

So what can agencies do?

Transformation is a word thrown around often but in this instance it works nicely with regards to what agencies need to do. It is not enough to make superficial changes or just patch up issues. To succeed in this new environment, agencies need to adapt from the foundation upward.

The first step is to look at technology options with regard to operational processes. A specialist agency management system will take away the headache of issues involving resourcing, capacity planning, project management and financial processes.

Whether it's managing individual time with an intuitive timesheet system, providing an umbrella oversight of team capacity or always being a click away from reviewing the complete financial history, being able to access this granular level of data will drive strategic decision-making. Selling the idea of big data to clients is all the rage but agencies are not capitalising on their own internal data; an agency management system will help with this.

Reducing operational pressures will not only free up teams to focus on other areas of the business but will also ensure a flow-on effect for the whole business. For example, a better understanding of capacity across the team means that projects can be better resourced in order to be completed on time, on budget and at a high standard.

The innovation flowing through the industry is beyond anything that has been seen before as the industry strives to push boundaries and technology enables wonders. The issue being that this kind of thinking cannot flourish if time and headspace is taken up with processes and operations that could be managed more effectively. An agency management system can reduce manual processes and support smart decision-making – allowing for real-time decision-making that is critical in today's environment.

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