When you’re in an agency, you have limited resources to play with: limited time, limited money, and limited human power. No matter how great your best people are, they probably still have basic needs they need to take care of, like sleeping, eating, and watching Netflix.
These types of limitations are a challenge for any business. But that challenge is amplified for agencies: not only are you working with constantly-evolving client requirements, but you also need to think about your own company’s growth, and be able to quickly gauge whether you have the bandwidth to take on new business in a given period.
When we teamed up with HubSpot to interview agency experts about the lessons they’ve learned from projects that went wrong, resourcing issues came up again and again as one of the trickiest things to get right.
“We have a finite number of resources, and it’s enough if you plan correctly,” Jodie Robinson, Group Account Director at Velocity Partners told us. “But because of the nature of the business, you can’t be certain about what’s going to happen. We encounter issues almost daily: clients running late with feedback, a new stakeholder comes in unexpectedly, the creative teams maybe just simply need more time to do the work.”
“That automatically has a knock on effect on everything else,” she explained. “But then you still need to stick to the same timeline so there’s this constant battle between what the priorities are and how we can steal resourcing from another project without putting another one in jeopardy.”
Knowing how to allocate your resources — and having a full picture of the resources you have available to allocate in the first place — is essential to maneuvering your way through tight deadlines and shifting timelines.
To correctly allocate resources, you need to always have the bigger picture in mind. And to do that, you need to be tracking everything, so that you know exactly where your team’s time and energy is going, what’s due when, and how many hours you still have left to apportion out.
For Perry Nalevka, CEO and Founder of Penguin Strategies, those insights are the key to knowing exactly what’s working, what’s not, and what needs immediate attention.
“I need to know the resources being spent on every account, every month, so I can identify which ones are the issues and dig down to see why,” Perry explained. “That can only be done if you’re tracking everything.” And if you’re not? “Any agency not doing that is going to find out how important it is when it’s too late.”
It’s a practice that has both long-term and short-term benefits. Not only does it help you to spot any resourcing issues or deadline deviations before they happen, it also helps you to build up your own bigger picture about how you’re delivering overall and where you can grow.
“Understanding your capacity and resources is essential because we need to be able to know when to hire,” Perry said. “When you’re a team of five or six people, you can manually figure it out. But when you get to 30 or 40 people, it’s not so easy.”
Having it all mapped out using a feature like Workload means that you can see where the gaps are, which allows you to plan more effectively for taking on new accounts and developing your business — without sacrificing on quality or losing client trust and satisfaction.
It also helps you to keep things moving even when the unexpected happens. Like Jodie mentioned above, sometimes issues on the client’s side can change unexpectedly. And in an agency, when one project goes off-track, it usually takes a bunch of others down with it. (Timberrrrr!)
For example, waiting for client approval — especially when it comes to getting sign-off from multiple stakeholders on larger pieces of work — can be time-consuming. If you’re not careful, it can quickly derail your carefully-constructed timelines.
When that happens, what you absolutely don’t want is for your team to be stuck twiddling their thumbs while one project is on hold, only to end up with all of their major deadlines suddenly colliding on one day.
Using a feature like the Planner View in Workload gives you immediate visual insights (like a color-coded heatmap) that ensures you can avoid this scenario, keep your team’s workload balanced, and give clients more realistic deadlines when timelines shift.
Being able to quickly and easily check everyone’s capacities, re-allocate work, and ultimately optimize your resources is the key to happier, more productive teams — and happier, more satisfied clients.
(And if your resources are beautifully optimized but you’re finding that your project is starting to get out of hand for other reasons? Check out our ebook for more insights from the agency experts who have been there, done that.)
- Your team is the most valuable resource you have. You (probably) can’t clone them, so you need to be savvy about how you allocate their time and energy.
- No matter how prepared you are, things are going to change. The project plan you made at the outset is valuable, but it’s even more valuable to be flexible, know where there’s room to move things around, and be able to think on your feet.
- Track everything — otherwise you won’t know you’re off-track (or heading for disaster!) until it’s too late.