Agency Management Systems are software programs that help everyone in the agency manage their work from the moment a job enters the pipeline to getting paid by the client. There are currently a dozen or so Agency Management Systems designed specifically for the Advertising Industry. The major benefit of having an Agency Management System is that the entire agency’s information is stored in one central location eliminating duplication of data entry and better, more accurate reporting capabilities. Most of the systems have the same basic functionality, although each system does have its uniqueness. Some of the systems have a more comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module. Others are more GAAP compliant in the way they handle the accounting functions.
Agency Management Systems are different than other software programs you use because everyone working in an Agency should have at least one touch point with your Agency Management System. Because of their complexity, there are five main things that you need to continually do to get the most out of your Agency Management System. No matter how long you have been using your Agency Management System, ensuring that these 5 steps are being met will exponentially improve the benefits you receive from the software program.
- Make certain that your system is setup correctly for your agency
- Continuing education (training)
- Know what all of the parts and pieces are within the system and what they are there for.
- Ensure that you are entering the information into the system correctly to get the information you need.
- Submit enhancement requests regularly
Symptom – You have a set of reports that you have regularly used in your prior system. Now that you have a new Agency Management System, you no longer can get the same information. You setup the system exactly like the software company instructed you to do, but none the less; you are not able to get the information you need.
Solution #1 – Make certain that your system is setup correctly for your agency. There is no one specific way to setup any Agency Management System. Implementing a new system should start with a review of how you operate your Agency and what information you need to get from your Agency Management System. Most of the companies that provide Agency Management Systems assign an implementation specialist or have independent consultants to help you through this process. If the company you bought your system from doesn’t provide this service or a list of consultants, you should ask them for it. I have too often been contracted to find the best Agency Management System for Agency’s when the system that they were currently using was the best fit – only it was not setup to meet their individual needs. You invested in your Agency Management System to streamline your workflow and have instant access to the information you need to make the import decisions. If you are not able to do this with the system you have in place, there is a chance that it could be the system is truly not a good fit for your agency, but most likely, your system wasn’t setup to fit your agency.
Symptom – You recently have been contacted by or viewed an online demo of an Agency Management System different than the one you are using. In addition to the really cool interface, colors and other things. You see that this new system does the things that you or your staff has been complaining that the system you are using doesn’t do. And, what system designed for the Advertising Industry wouldn’t do this?
Solution # 2 – Continuing Education (Training) Before bailing ship on your current system make sure that you are fully trained on the system that you are currently using. I often see agencies abandon their Agency Management System because they get a demo from another system and see all that it can do and focus on what their current system cannot do – or so they think. It is a major investment to convert to a new system. Not only is there the financial investment, but you also must commit a huge amount of time from your staff as well as the natural frustrations associated with the learning curve of a new system for everyone. It typically takes about 2 – 3 months just to get the new system setup and have everyone trained on using it. Then, there is about 2 – 3 months before everyone is comfortable with the system. While the thought of a new system is exciting, make certain that you NEED to make the change before you do so.
Symptom – You have schedules setup for each job and have the specific steps assigned to the people who are responsible for the steps. Even though you keep the schedules current, you are not able to forecast your staffing needs. You can’t even see which employees are over-loaded and who is playing Mafia Wars.
Solution # 3 – Know what all of the parts and pieces are within the system and what they are there for.
While you may have setup your schedules to reflect the start and end dates for each step and designated the appropriate persons to each of the steps, you may not have allocated the hours that each person needs to complete their respective steps. If this information is not setup in your system, the system doesn’t know how much time to put towards each person’s workload – it only knows that the person has a step to work on between a specific date range.
Symptom – Your Income Statement seems to be overstating your income one month and then understates it the next month. Last month we were extremely profitable, but this month we are reflecting a loss.
Solution # 4 – Ensure that you are entering the information into the system correctly to get the information you need. Chances are you are billing your client one month (when the income is recorded) but entering and posting the costs into the month that the invoices are received (when the cost of goods is recorded). This may be the result of billing your client in advance of the job being completed. If you do so and show that billing as income instead of deferred revenue, your income will be included in the billing month, but the costs will not be stated until they have been incurred.
Symptom –You have determined that your Agency Management System does not have a certain functionality that you would like for it to have. For example, your system allows you to submit files for approval to your clients and you want to pull a report showing where in the process each file is at (approved, pending, not approved). A system expert has confirmed with you that this information is not available from your particular system.
Solution # 5 – Submit enhancement requests regularly – Regardless of how unusual or complex the functionality you need may seem you should always submit everything to you systems provider. Most of the software companies have an enhancement request tracking system. Typically, the new features that are added into the systems are the features that are requested most by their clients. If you don’t tell them what you want the system to do, you most likely won’t see those features added in future releases.