5 top tips on maximising efficiency

These are our 5 top tips for how your agency or business can maximise efficiency and set your teams and projects up for success.

A photo of a woman from behind working on her laptop. There is a large clock on the desk to her right

All agencies, big or small, want to improve efficiency. But, this isn't something that can be achieved at once. Rather, you need to consistently review your processes and evolve all the time. 

Here, we’ll share our 5 top tips on maximising efficiency based on the experiences of our Delivery Director, Joanne Reid. 

These actionable tips are all things which she has personally implemented successfully in the past, and also things that she knows are recurring issues across the sector from the many conversations she’s had with other agency owners.

At Graphite, Joanne is responsible for elevating the project delivery function across the agency, including project management function, utilisation and project profitability. This involves aligning to client needs, building a resilient team, and supporting the agency's rapid growth. 

Deep dive into your wastage figures

To work out where there may be room for improvement, you need to truly understand your ‘wastage’. By wastage here, we mean non-billable data. 

Let's say you are expecting 80% billable and allowing for 20% nonbillable, how are your teams tracking on this? 

If you don't have this data or time logged, you really need to start collecting it. This information is gold dust and will enable you to fully understand what is happening 'on the ground' and where there is room for improvement. 

Always be future-focused

When thinking about efficiency and processes, you should always be planning for the future and asking yourself — when we grow, will what we do now still work? 

Growth is one of the hardest things for an agency — or any business — to do successfully. To ensure that the quality of your output remains consistent, you must always be thinking one step ahead. 

There will be things that you as an agency do really well. Understand these, keep doing them, but ensure they’re in place across the board and that they can be scaled when you double or triple in size.

Involve your team and set them up to succeed

They will tell you what is challenging and shed light on their pain points day-to-day. Collect this information and notice patterns in delays or errors on reports — accounting for a large proportion of admin time. This will drive you to make the change and also help to get buy-in from the team. 

At Graphite, our teams are organised in a squad structure. These are non-hierarchical teams of both strategic and design experts that are curated with our clients in mind and function as an extension of their in-house team. 

Working in this way has many positive implications in terms of efficiency. Being completely dedicated to one client improves service delivery and quality of output due to a deep understanding of a client's business and their own specific challenges. Putting automated processes, systems and streamlining tools in place — to suit both client and squad — eliminates unnecessary activities. Having fixed meetings and real-time collaborative documents helps with quick decision-making, whilst improving relations and communication flow.

Learn more about our squads and how they benefit our clients.  

A photo of some of the Graphite team members sitting around a round table in a meeting room working collaboratively. There are notepads and pens on the table

Know and scrutinise your data

Look at what data is needed to operate or forecast better and how this is being presented currently. Time and time again, we’ve seen situations where teams are relying on endless spreadsheets owned by one or two people, and if this crucial person is on leave, things grind to a halt. Remove this situation by creating transparency within the business. 

Examples include things such as profitability on client reports, utilisation, actual costs versus sold costs, pipeline versus existing utilisation. Find a system that pulls this all together in real-time or can be easily reviewed. 

At Graphite we use Productive to track our operations and profitability, and the Atlassian suite — including Jira, Confluence, Bamboo — to manage our projects, people and to implement processes on an agency-wide basis. 

Have the right systems and tools 

There are many tools on the market to create a great base for this, however, it's not just a tool that can solve these problems around efficiency. Other aspects that come into play include mindset, culture, training, process and reporting, which will also need to be regularly reviewed, adapted and refined. 

You should invest in a tool that the team sees value in and that gives value back to the business. Keep it simple. Keep it a key focus in the business to get right. Keep adapting. And, most importantly, be sure to question the scalability of your approach. Will this still work if you double or triple in size tomorrow?


 

Joanne recently spoke on this topic at the “Looking to the future” event, hosted by the ‘Agencynomics network in London in early October. 

The one-day event, held at the Ham Yard Hotel, London, brought together agency leadership teams from across the UK to discuss the key issues that digital agencies will face in the coming years, including attracting talent, operating ethically, adapting business practices, winning new business and prioritising purpose over profit. 

Joanne will also be hosting an upcoming webinar on 4 November to mark International Project Management Day. This will focus on Evolution, Consistency, Success: Exploring Real-Life Examples of Change Management. Make sure to sign up here