How to become a lean, mean, agency machine

14th September 2022

In this piece, we help you avoid common process pitfalls so you can become a lean, mean, agency machine. Because refining your agency’s processes will drive efficiency, build your agency’s value and boost profits, but having efficient processes isn’t enough, they need to be documented and followed religiously by all employees.

Set your projects off on the right foot

Project planning is everything, below we highlight two common reasons project planning fails:

1. The scope isn’t understood

You can’t produce an accurate figure on how long a project will take if you’re not clear on what you’re delivering. It’s crucial that you ask clients the right questions to deeply understand what’s being asked of you. Then this needs to be mutually agreed, documented, and signed off by client and agency stakeholders. Documenting this project sign-off process is crucial to significantly reduce the risk of scope creep.

2. Your estimate is inaccurate

There are several reasons this can happen, we wrote a whole piece about improving your agency’s estimating but the two most common reasons are:

  • You don’t know how long it’s going to take because you didn’t document it last time you ran a similar project.
  • You purposefully reduced your estimate

Please note, the time it takes to deliver a project doesn’t change, according to how much you charge for it, delivery timescales are what they are! So you need a rock-solid process around how your agency produces estimates, and how you record it when you’ve deliberately reduced an estimate.

3. The scope of the project isn’t clearly communicated

Above we discuss not understanding the scope of a project, but of course the scope can be understood but not clearly communicated.

Using your approved scope document as the basis for the brief to the teams delivering the work should reduce the risk of confusion, and again having this ‘scope to brief’ process documented will ensure it happens on every project.

Following this clear process will save you time as confusion over what needs to be delivered will inevitably mean more amends or repeating entire tasks.

4. Lack of project planning

Sometimes it’s not that you can’t see how many hours have been used vs budget, or when the project needs to be completed by. It’s simply that these metrics haven’t been set. This creates the prefect opportunity for timescales and budgets to run wild.

Processes to monitor project progress

If you do all the above then you’re starting your projects on great footing but you’re not out the woods yet, the above doesn’t automatically mean that your project will be delivered on time and to budget. Now we will look at some common process shortcomings when it comes to project delivery.

1. You’ve not defined who’s leading the project

You may feel that in your agency’s structure, it’s obvious who runs the projects. But roles change and people come and go so you can’t assume that this will always be clear to everyone. Plus, it might change project-to-project. On a larger project it may always be an Account Manager, but on a smaller project maybe the Project Manager can do it?

Someone needs to formally own the project, and they’re ultimately responsible for tracking progress against budget and timescales. Who this is and how they do this, should be formally agreed in a process. Are budgets to be checked every week, or when a monetary or delivery budget is met? Recording all this as part of a process means it’s more likely to get done.

You also need to consider how someone will get this information. You can’t relay on the data if everybody has a different process for working out these metrics. But if you’re using an agency management system to track this then you can be confident that your data is correct.

 2. You stop tracking progress

Sometimes when a project starts to run over, the person responsible for monitoring this simply sticks their head in the sand. This is dangerous because a project that may have run 5% over, could spiral into a 15% overrun. Your processes need to involve continual monitoring of work so no matter where the project is at, the progress is still monitored.


Documenting your processes and having an agency culture where they must be followed will help you sleep easy that everyone is doing the right thing. Far from being more red tape, these processes will ultimately save you time and ensure projects are delivered on-time and to budget.

You can learn more about how the right Agency management system can support your solid agency processes and help you on your journey to becoming a lean, mean, agency machine on the Synergist website.


About Synergist

Synergist agency management software helps agencies to grow safely and smoothly by reducing the ‘busy chaos’ and enabling teams to work more efficiently and profitably. By streamlining project workflows, with features such as Kanban Boards, Ga...

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