Why email and spreadsheets are not agency management tools

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I am preparing for the interview that I will be doing with Carlos Pezzani, ex Grey and Y&R Latin America who has more than 30 years of industry experience. Carlos is now the owner of “Sanar su Empresa” a business transformation consultancy that specializes in Ad Agencies. The interview will be a part of Deltek Insight, an event that Agency Soft is proud to be sponsoring this year. One of the topics which I’m planning to discuss with Carlos is  agency management and the improper use of tools like email and spreadsheets in Ad agencies.

What’s wrong with spreadsheets?

As an accountant, I have to say I love spreadsheets. I am sure that they are still the most commonly used tool in finance departments the world over. That said they are also the most misused tool in most businesses and agencies are no different. Spreadsheets are cheap, simple to use, and they have thousands of formulas, macros, and features. This makes them the attractive “go-to” solution for any business problem. For example:

  • We need a tool to track time, sure we can have users fill in a timesheet in excel
  • Users need to enter expense reports. We can create a Google sheet for that
  • We need to manage a project. Oh, there is a spreadsheet template for that
  • We need to manage resources and their availability. That we can do in excel

Does any of these examples sound familiar to you?

Your agency should not be using excel for any of the above. There are tools on the market that manage that perfectly well. In fact, many of these tools allow you to manage all the above and cost less than a dollar a day per user. These tools are integrated, real-time, and collaborative, so you know that the user can enter data knowing that it’s accurate.

These tools also allow you to get reports and key KPIs without having to spend hours copying and pasting data from one sheet to another. You will not be trying to use links and formulas to do so. And that assumes that there are no errors in the formulas which is not the case in as many as 88% of spreadsheets.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that agencies should not use spreadsheets. There are lots of occasions when they are useful. For example, when doing ad-hoc work or taking summarized data extracted from your business system and analyzing it. I have even created an Excel template for you to calculate cost rates for your agency (which you can download here.)

My point is that something that may seem cheap and easy is typically expensive and a time-waster.

What about email?

Similarly, email is not an effective management/collaboration tool. It should be used for what it was designed for….. communication.

Trying to use email for collaboration on projects or reviewing creative content is terribly inefficient and very difficult to track.

How many times have you been looking for the latest version of a brief or a quote on email only to find that there are multiple ‘latest versions’ which need to be consolidated?

It also makes it a lot more difficult for you to allocate time looking at email to a client whereas if you are collaborating on a piece of work in a system, it could be tracking that time for you.

I understand the temptation to use email. as it’s a tool that you already have in the business. But agencies sell the time and skills of their employees, so time wasted on unnecessary administration is time that could have been billed to clients. If you look at it that way, then you will quickly see expensive it is.

Finally, and something that we oftentimes overlook is the impact that using inappropriate tools has on the modern workforce. Agencies already struggle with high staff churns and low job satisfaction and it’s not that surprising if you consider that many of the staff are millennials and Gen Z. These folks use the latest technology and apps on their mobile devices. How do we expect them to work with old-fashioned and inappropriate tools at the office?

If you want to see some of the tools that I was referring to above, feel free to contact us.

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