Blogs

A Q&A with Avery Swartz, Helping Small Business Owners Connect and Manage Tech

PSO Expert Series

By Mark van Leeuwen, CEO of VOGSY

VOGSY is fortunate to interact with leaders and influencers involved in a range of professional services organizations (PSOs). The PSO Knowledge Expert Series brings you their thoughts on the topics that matter most.

For this edition, we spoke with Avery Swartz, founder and CEO of Camp Tech, a company that helps non-technical small business owners get the web working for them. Avery created and operates the North Coast Group as well, a website advisory and digital marketing consultancy. She’s also a correspondent for media programs like CTV’s Your Morning, where she keeps Canada up-to-speed on tech trends.

The following are Avery’s insights on small business ownership and overcoming technology struggles.

MVL: Tell us about your work and what you’re trying to accomplish?

AS: I run two businesses, but the shared mission is to help non-technical people with technology. While I work with companies of all sizes, this mainly plays out though Camp Tech with small business owners, and my website and digital marketing consultancy, North Coast Group, which serves many PSOs.

Smaller organizations often see technology as a money pit instead of a way to achieve business goals. There’s this promise that tech will make everything easier, that it will help a company magically streamline and scale. Owners read this in industry publications, hear about it at trade shows. But when they decide to give it a try, things break, systems don’t work, resources don’t speak to each other.

Sadly, many throw their hands in the air and say “to hell with it.” They believe they’re not techies, so they don’t understand and that they’re the problem. They settle or abandon efforts altogether. They revert back to tools they know how to use, instead of utilizing the right tool for the job. I’ve seen people use spreadsheets in the most creative ways imaginable. That, or they just throw more money at the problem, whether it’s another consultant, solution or more training.

Regardless, this gulf between expectations and reality creates a lot of frustration and waste.

 

PSO technology management

MVL: Why does this happen?

AS: It usually has to do with integration. An owner sees an opportunity to expand and buys a specific tool for that purpose. However, the business runs on legacy systems and its infrastructure is outdated. IT folks try to jam square pegs into round holes to get the systems to talk to each other, but they don’t. Meanwhile, owners acquire more applications, IT sprawl kicks in and the complexity to manage it grows.

Then there’s other types of integration issues, such as when systems no longer work together due to industry factors. A good example is Shopify and Mailchimp, a valuable nexus for e-commerce and e-marketing, whose tools recently stopped integrating. It impacted a lot of businesses and it’s a vulnerability small business owners have little control over.

MVL: How do you help?

AS: With Camp Tech, it’s about training – we conduct informative hands-on workshops for adults who want to learn practical tech skills. It could be to overcome issues or understand a specific program. Along the way, there’s always those bigger integration discussions, though – a Google Analytics workshop naturally leads to talk on the interplay with websites, social media and more.

Then there’s the work that I do directly with my digital clients, where I’m both a web/marketing advisor and tech coach. That entails everything from overhauling websites to performance analysis, guiding on software and integrations, auditing for accessibility, compliance and more.

Basically, I call myself a fixer – I put people and their companies on the path to succeed with technology.

 

“Issues usually increase whenever  a company doubles in headcount. Older systems can’t keep up.”

MVL: When do the tech problems usually arise and what should owners consider?

AS: As a rule of thumb, issues usually increase whenever a company doubles in headcount. Older systems can’t keep up – they slow down performance or just don’t function as needed – so the business needs to move to something more scalable.

Owners should be attuned to growing pains and periodically step back and look for detrimental patterns in their processes. Identify recurring issues, look for bottlenecks, consider how activities can be fine-tuned. For instance, if there’s an issue in client onboarding that needs to be addressed repeatedly, chances are the process can be bettered. Further, consider if automation can rectify the situation, particularly for rote functions like pre-populated responses to an email or mundane billing and invoicing tasks.

Before investing in new technology, ask, “How is this going to get us any closer to our business goals, big and small, short and long term?” You don’t have to break out a lab coat and conduct hours of data analysis. Just do a simple audit that addresses where you are, where you want to go, your current technology costs and the friction points. Then, evaluate if a tool is going to make things better, test it for a bit, then evaluate it again to see if it really did help in any way.

When it comes to buying tools, keep design in mind. As I mentioned earlier, people revert to old tools; they’re familiar and comfortable. When you look at something like the G Suite, you know they’ve got the design conventions right. If you buy a tool with a similar interface and feel, your employees will know where the buttons are – instinctively they’ll be able to do more.

This ensures the tools you buy will be used and the results you want are more achievable.

 

“I am a believer in controlling  technology, not letting it control you”

MVL: Are there any areas of technology that particularly intrigue you these days?

AS:  I am a believer in controlling technology, not letting it control you – and that means using the right tools for the right jobs. For many of my clients, I think professional services automation (PSA) should be a consideration. You can automate tasks to free people up and streamline. You can gain visibility to get an entire team on the same page, control margins and forecast work. With the right cloud-based platform, you can overcome integrations issues and possibly have that one tool to control them all.

Just keep it simple – make sure whatever you buy is something your people want to use. When small business owners gain employee buy-in, and the tools have the capabilities, they’ll be able to connect with their tech and achieve business goals.

Are you in control of your tools, or are they controlling you? Check out our e-book to find out.

e-book information silos

 

Blogs

What Are Information Silos? Business Problems & Organizational Fixes

You’ve run the numbers, checked in with different departments for reporting, and you can already see your business has experienced phenomenal growth. The progress feels good, but the journey has been a little hairy.

Just in the course of gathering data to measure your business’s performance, you’ve had to manually cross-reference different documents and chase others. Some departments have added tools to try to streamline data collection and insights sharing, but even those readouts are piling up, and the tangle of tools is starting to look a little bit like spaghetti.

When did these tools, which were supposed to be helpful, start to get siloed?

The reality is that your sales, delivery and finance teams may not be completely in sync. Since different departments focus on different priorities, they can lose sight of the bigger picture of the business. In turn, this leads to unnecessary cycles for gathering the best information to make data-driven decisions, which can cause inaccurate strategizing due to outdated numbers. On top of that, the CRM, invoicing, bookkeeping and project management tools you may have adopted to try to save time end up creating new silos and costs.

To simplify the problems caused by information silos and improve productivity, you need an integrated, holistic view of your business activities, resources and teams.

what are information silos

What are information silos and where are they?

Information silos occur when different individuals or groups generate or record new data, but don’t integrate or aggregate that information for other parts of the business to view or use in a strategic way. These silos can crop up from the CRM tools that sales teams use to close a new project deal, which may not relay for delivery teams that have to manage the project, as well as personnel utilization rate, employee time tracking and finance’s bookkeeping.

As an example with one agency, information silos resulted from the tool sprawl and the spaghetti tangle of their apps and activities. Let’s take a look at the setup:

  • HubSpot’s CRM for prospect and deal management
  • Slack for team collaboration
  • Google Drive for team sharing of Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Gmail
  • Basecamp for an internal and external team portal
  • Atlassian for task management of development projects
  • A Wiki for an internal team portal
  • Manual spreadsheets for resource allocation
  • Smartsheets for project plans, which show complex work streams and dependencies
  • QuickBooks for finance
  • Workamajig for invoicing

As you can imagine, the number of tools quickly turns into a complicated tangle.

Not only do the tools and information silos increase complexity, but they create other challenges for the business, as well. The discrepancies in information can make quotes slower to convert to cash, the resources quoted may not match the personnel available, and combining data from the various teams is a slow, manual process.

information silo problems

What problems do information silos cause?

Siloed data can cause new pains and discrepancies to arise. Manual data collection across disparate sources is not only a pain—taking time to focus on data collection and away from analysis and insights to move the business forward—but it limits visibility. The lack of transparency across the organization increases your risks for decreased revenue, bad resource utilization and inaccurate data.

You may have inaccurate or delayed forecasting of demand, capacity, revenue and hiring needs. If you don’t have enough transparency, accountability and real-time data throughout sales, your team may not be agile enough to act on potential business development opportunities, or a lack of unified utilization data can cause hiring for upcoming projects to be inconsistent.

Though considered in the pursuit of efficiency, add-ons and extra tools may have adverse effects. Tool buildup increases the risk for unused, unnecessary or redundant costly subscriptions. Plus, you may require additional training or personnel resources solely to support various applications and tech troubleshooting. Tool fatigue can cause your team to use applications less, which leaves important project data unknown and undiscoverable.

The IT team or a not-so-tech-savvy employee are not the only victims of this tangle. The real victims of tooling spaghetti are your business’s transparency, productivity and profitability.

productivity problems

How does removing information silos improve productivity?

Rather than adding services or tools that are one-trick ponies, begin identifying ways to combine competencies based on your organization’s priorities. How do you remove information silos across the business? Probe your team to create a full picture of the tools or blind spots around your organization.

Possible questions to help you get started include:

  • If sales and business development create quotes through the CRM, is the tool able to inform a finance and invoicing package at the other end of the business? Is there a gap between tools that is causing issues?
  • If production and operations manage personnel, how and when do they receive information about new project scope and deliverables?
  • If you rely on spreadsheets or manually compiling data across all sorts of different systems, is there a way to make this data collection less time-consuming? How is this reporting shared with key stakeholders?
  • What’s the cost of using the sum of the tools in one business? What is the opportunity cost of not having data all in one place and providing this transparency to teams?
  • Is there a way for teams and employees to access all the same data from a single engagement point or some other holistic approach?

You may not be aware of potential blind spots, but by examining how various parts of the organization interact (or don’t), you can start to determine walls that can be broken down, dependencies that are important to consider, and new ways to ensure teams have access to the same information, remain engaged and make smart decisions in real time.

eliminating information silos for greater yield

Eliminating silos for a greater yield

By eliminating disparate solutions, you gain greater transparency on information coming from CRMs, finance systems, invoicing, other tools and previously siloed inputs. In fact, by enlisting VOGSY’s PSA platform, Metis Communications, a marketing communications agency, was able to reduce reporting time by 75%.

You start to improve visibility into employee utilization rates and availability, increase billability and decrease over-servicing and over-delivery.

You increase projects delivered on-time and within budget, as well as increase efficiency and project profit margins.

You make more accurate resource and revenue forecasting because you can see real-time data on profitability–such as insights into current projects and expected revenues–from one single view.

With a single source of engagement for your business, there’s less time required for leaders to work IN the business, so you can work ON the business. The fewer information silos, the greater the opportunity for strategically growing your future opportunities. That’s the power of professional services automation solutions like VOGSY.

Interested to learn what a silo-free business looks like? Download the e-book: 

e-book information silos

Blogs

Why Employee Utilization Rates are the Key to Driving Profitability

No matter the focus of a professional services organization (PSO) –  from a digital marketing agency to a management consultancy or a software development firm (like VOGSY clients)– you’re primarily selling time and your team’s expertise. As such, you need a targeted model for billable resources that applies to each employee across the organization. This requires a utilization rate.

What is a utilization rate?

Utilization rates are a way to measure the efficiency and productivity of an individual (or even an entire PSO) in generating revenue against available bandwidth, divided over a set period of time. In simpler terms, a utilization rate reflects the percentage of an employee’s work hours that can be billed to a client versus their overall availability.

If you don’t know what you have to sell, or how much you can deliver, it’s easy to end up under- or over-utilizing employees. This lack of control can have serious financial and operational repercussions, including dissatisfied customers, missed sales, inflated overhead and more.

There are many factors that go into creating a utilization rate formula that works best for your business. Many areas can impact calculations, and rates can be used in various ways. To make it easier, there are technology solutions that can help PSO leaders gain this invaluable insight, putting their organizations on the fast-track to greater profitability.

The fact is, if you don’t have target utilization rates, you’re likely not using your workforce correctly.

 

utilization rate formula

Is there a standard utilization rate target or formula for success?

The short answer to this question is no – and there are a number of reasons. Foremost, organizations have different strategies, so (resource) utilization formulas vary.

Take PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte, operators of huge global professional services and consulting networks. Their employees generate revenue through longer-term engagements, often in client settings. These consulting utilization rates would typically be very high because the pipeline of work is full, jobs are specific and the priority is squarely on generating revenue.

Now, consider a smaller PSO that is more focused on growth versus profit. To achieve that, a PSO might hire additional people. They might then run a high utilization rate, but not with an emphasis on profitability and billability – the margins might be less because they are attempting to build for the future and are relying on cash reserves for the time being.

Such reasons explain why professional services utilization targets vary. For instance, HubSpot found some agencies aim to target an 85 to 90 percent utilization rate, however the actual average utilization rate is much lower at 60 percent.

Rates vary by type of organization, role, business goals and individual job functions. You could try to benchmark your competitors’ rates for comparison purposes, but it’s most important to know your own organization – and that requires you to evaluate your operations first.

 

calculate employee utilization rates

How do you calculate employee utilization rates?

PSOs should set rates for employees that are achievable. You’re looking to determine the actual supply of what you have and how to cost-effectively meet demand. So, while you want to set a baseline to ensure employees are profitable, this shouldn’t be an attempt to reach an inflated sales target. Doing so could lead to employee burnout, which, according to research, causes high job turnover, increased absences and decreased productivity costing U.S. businesses $300 billion annually.

To calculate employee utilization rates correctly, understand that different roles have different rates. As an example, someone with managerial responsibilities wouldn’t have as high a rate as someone working directly on a project. Why? You’d expect them to spend a good amount of their time managing personnel and performing other duties that are not directly billable to a client.

calculating employee utilization with VOGSY

A staffer responsible for overseeing a financial area like account payables or someone heading up human resources is probably not generating a lot of billable hours, either. Are they still instrumental to your success? Absolutely. But they shouldn’t have the same utilization rate as a graphic artist or an accountant who spends the bulk of their time on billable client projects. Furthermore, jobs have various monetary values: the hours of an architect can fetch a higher markup than a project manager.

Which brings up a good rule to keep in mind when assessing utilization rates: employees involved in billable client work need to not only cover their own salaries, but also need to allocate a portion to functions that don’t generate revenue. So, a percentage of overhead costs needs to be divided amongst billable employees to ensure profitability for your overall organization.

Determining billable versus non-billable time is also important. Consider time employees spend on personal professional development, in internal company meetings, and on paid time off.  These are all important; you certainly want to grow employee skills and don’t want them to be overworked. But if you fail to incorporate non-billable hours from the outset, any calculations will be way off.

So, a basic formula to calculate employee utilization rates looks like this:

  • Begin with 260 working days per year (52 weeks x 5 days).
  • Then deduct the following internal or paid time off activities (you’ll need to adjust to fit your business):
    • Vacation days (say 25 days)
    • Sick days (5 days)
    • Internal activities such as training, off-sites and meetings (15 days)
    • Professional development or conference attendance (10 days)
  • That leaves you with 205 days of billable client work. Divide that by the total 260 working days, and you’re left with a 78 percent target utilization rate.
  • Beyond this, you may deduct other non-billable work activities, such as client prep, reporting, travel, etc., which will further reduce the utilization rate. This is also where you need to factor in each person’s role, as their responsibilities and target rates will differ from each other.

 

ubillability vs utilization rate

Billability vs. utilization: How can employee billability drive profitability?

All of these factors detailed above need to be used to develop target margins. Those targets should then be reflected in utilization rates at every level of your business. It’s vital to set and be able to analyze these rates in order to establish and grow profit margins.

With this in mind, you should then use these utilization rates to establish billability targets, or the number of billable hours each employee should hit. These should be shared with individual employees, as well as teams, giving everyone realistic goals all can work towards.

What’s more, it’s important that you have visibility into the status of utilization at all times. You need to be able to plan ahead in order to fulfill client work, improve employee bandwidth and make sure the right resources are in place. You don’t want employees to be idle and worried about insufficient work in the pipeline. Nor do you want them overwhelmed and be forced to hire in a way that’s not cost-effective.

You always need to know that enough revenue is being generated and that projects are completed profitably. For that, you need real-time visibility across your organization.

 

raising-utilization-rates-pso

Can tools help PSOs raise utilization rates and billability?

If the above sounds like a lot, take heart – there is technology available that can make creating and maintaining utilization rates, margins and profitability a snap.

And these tools were created with PSOs specifically in mind.

Professional services automation (PSA) platforms free up everyone in a PSO by automating time-consuming tasks in management, sales, finance, operations and project management. They facilitate each step of the quote-to-cash journey. They can raise efficiency and profitability with greater CRM capabilities and finer control over time and costs, invoicing, pricing and cash flow.

See how VOGSY helps you stay on top of utilization and delivery

 

A PSA platform can help PSO leaders set and monitor utilization rates, offering constant visibility along with tools to analyze the past and anticipate the future. The right PSA platform delivers real-time sales, customer, project and utilization metrics. Configurable KPI boards provide fast access to vital data.

As a result, scopes of work are on-target, margins are effectively managed and grown, and the pipeline is accurately forecasted.

Equally important, it gives you a realistic view of employees. You can make sure they’re not getting burnt out and that they have the right resources and skills in place to meet demands. You can empower staff to take ownership of work, ensure that they’ve got projects to tackle and are able to achieve their deliverable targets. Everyone can see what their peers are working on, prepare for what’s ahead and collaborate more effectively.

For companies, a PSA solution can give you the data you need to ensure you’re selling the right services at the right margins. And for leaders, that is the key to driving profitability.

Use Google G-Suite? Learn how VOGSY, the only PSA solution for G-Suite, can help improve your utilization rate calculations and profitability. 

CONTACT US TODAY

 

Blogs

Cash is King: How to Strengthen Your Invoicing and Rule

“Cash is king.” The expression can have various meanings, but when analyzing professional services organizations (PSO), it typically refers to cash flow and its importance to fiscal health. It can be used as a declaration of success, a metric of a well-run business or simple indicator of company growth.

Regardless, the principle is key to all businesses; cash is fundamental to daily operations. It primarily impacts your ability to pay salaries, operating expenses, suppliers, taxes and more.  

As a business, you control cash income from invoicing. Having an effective process in place can build a foundation that protects cash flow, increase credibility with suppliers and even bolster investor confidence.

So how do you build a strong invoicing model? It’s not as difficult as you may think. The following presents common problems and effective solutions for you to consider.

Strong commercial terms

The problem: “This isn’t what we agreed” or “This isn’t our process.” This is what happens when your customer disputes an invoice based on their interpretation of the contract or usual business practices. In all likelihood, the person processing your invoice on the customer side is not directly involved in the engagement and will follow their internal processes and review documentation before making payment

The solution: Every sale you make should be linked to unambiguous, clear and achievable terms and conditions (T&Cs) for invoicing and payment. By framing the quote/order form with strong T&Cs, you control the financial engagement, limiting stalling or delaying tactics by your customers.

Proactive not reactive

The problem: “The values are incorrect” or “The invoice has the wrong details.” You hear this when your customer disputes the values or data of the invoice.

The solution: Don’t wait until it is time to invoice before you check orders – validate at the point of sale. This shouldn’t be perceived as delaying sales; it is managing commercial risk and ensuring all data is correct from the start. This includes customer data (addresses, legal name, payment terms), contractual data (quantities, rates, products) and contact information.

Further, having an independent compliance check of a contract can identify any mistakes, irregularities or adverse commercial terms, enabling you to adjust prior to the start of the delivery process.

Automate, automate, automate

The problem: “The rates are incorrect” or “The calculations are wrong.” This occurs when your customer identifies transactional errors and disputes the invoice details.

The solution: Creating invoices is a time sensitive process. When data is manually collected and then manually entered into invoices, there is a significant risk of incorrect values presented to your customer.

Maximize your software to minimize manual mistakes and improve efficiency. Let the software do the work based on the transactional data your team is recording.

When data is validated/approved, the software creates invoices (singular or batches) based on this detail, with no requirement for manual entry or creation. The monthly process is faster because you’ve reduced the risk of incorrect invoices – and clients tend to be happier.

Assurance not processing

The problem: “The transactions are incorrect” or “You didn’t deliver this work.” Customer’s disputing the content of an invoice are common but frustrating.

The solution: Traditionally, invoices are created and processed by the finance team or another back office function. They have no direct knowledge of whether the content of the invoices is correct or not.

Empower your project team to create invoices. This ensures that someone with direct knowledge of the engagement views the invoice at creation and is accountable for the transactional data. The back office team then performs an assurance role, focused on contractual values and acting as a safeguard.

Maximize engagement

The problem: “I’m not paying” or “I am waiting on dispute resolution.” This is a phrase you don’t want to hear because it means the customer is delaying payment and there’s no clear communication path.

The solution: Emails back and forth to generic addresses, lack of ownership and vague promises from faceless names all contribute to negative cash flow. During the project delivery cycle, your team and the customer communicate, build relationships and interact on a regular basis. Utilize your delivery teams interactions with the customer to aid dispute resolution for the benefit of all parties.

Positioned to rule

Using these principles creates a strong foundation to improve your cash flow, maximize your customer reputation and reduce commercial risk.

To further improve your billing processes, invest in an end to end quote-to-cash software solution, such as a professional service automation (PSA) platform. The benefits this can bring to your invoicing process includes:

  • Automation of compliance processes (approvals and audit trail)
  • Single source of customer data (quote to invoice)
  • Single platform for sales and delivery teams (capacity management)
  • Real time data for sales and delivery performance and leadership insights
  • Improved employee efficiency (reduction in overhead through automation)

As the saying goes, cash is king. And when you strengthen your invoicing processes, you’ll be in a much better position to rule.

Interested in learning how you can strengthen your quote-to-cash process? Contact us today.

Blogs

The Professional Services Expert Series: A Q&A with Karl Sakas, the Marketing Agency Leader’s “Dr. Phil”

By Mark van Leeuwen, CEO of VOGSY

Welcome to the newest edition to the VOGSY blog, The Professional Services Expert Series. We’re fortunate to interact with leaders and influencers involved in a range of professional services industries and would like to share their expertise. This is the first in a series of interviews VOGSY is conducting in order to bring you their thoughts on the topics that matter the most.

Our first interview is with marketing agency expert Karl Sakas of Sakas & Company.

Marketing influencer Jay Bear calls Karl “the Dr. Phil of agency owners and managers: one part confidante, one part ass kicker.” Karl has shaped hundreds of marketing agencies worldwide, enabling owners to conquer growing pains. He speaks at national and international events, and has written several books, including Made to Lead: A Pocket Guide to Managing Marketing & Creative Teams.

I recently chatted with Karl for tips on how to improve a marketing agency’s health and create revenue goals.

MVL: Marketing is constantly changing. Since the start of the digital revolution, agencies have constantly been adapting to new practices, strategies and technologies. It can be overwhelming. What’s the most important thing you can do to keep an agency on track and moving in the right direction?

KS: Plan for the expected, so when the unexpected hits, you’ll have time to improvise. You’ll either avoid emergencies, or at the least, have fewer ones. This includes setting profitability goals, which requires first setting revenue goals. When you set revenue goals, benefits fall into three categories: capacity planning, runway and compensation planning, and growth style alignment.

MVL: OK, let’s start with capacity planning – a major pain-point for agency owners today.

KS: You want to hire at the right time, upgrade your agency structure, and upgrade your internal processes. And you want to do this before you hit crisis mode.

Hire too early and you’re paying people to do work you don’t need done. Hire too late and your people are overworked, morale suffers and turnover follows. When you set revenue goals you’re not guessing – you know what you’re trying to hit, when and have an idea of where you stand – so you can plan accordingly.

You need to know when to upgrade your agency structure, too. You can’t scale without making changes. As you grow, that likely means new team structures, which could entail adding roles like subject matter experts or a head of new business development. Capacity planning helps you understand when those hiring points will come.

Projecting revenue can flag problems in your internal processes as well. If you have aggressive growth goals – more than 30 percent annually – you’ll probably have to revamp your project management processes. What worked last year may not get you where you want to go now. And that’s certainly true for account management because you’ll be bringing in more clients and need to consider changes to onboarding.

You want to resolve all or most of these questions in advance, not during a fire drill.

MVL: How does runway and compensation planning tie in to revenue goals?

KS: It’s about knowing if you’re on-track and identifying shortfalls while there’s time to fix them. When you manage against revenue goals, you build that “runway” to avoid mid-year financial crisis since you’ll see a problem before it turns critical. And compensation is motivation for your team and yourself, whether it’s inspiration to reach that dream goal or a nudge to pick up the pace if you’ve fallen behind.

Personal compensation ultimately stems from your agency’s overall budget: More money in and less money out typically allows more compensation for the owner. If revenue projections are down, you’ll know to cut your compensation or make other cuts. It’s not fun but it’s better to know in advance and tackle the issue than to delay and burn through your agency’s emergency cash reserves.

Your revenue goals help you know what — if anything — you can pay in profit-sharing, too. If numbers are down, I recommend communicating that sooner than later. It may lead to some hard feelings and perhaps even staff departures, but more likely it will help you enlist current employees to overcome the gap. After all, they typically understand the situation; they’re doing the work. Transparency is better than people expecting bonuses that never arrive, especially if they’re relying on that money.

For more information on how VOGSY can help your agency today, contact info@vogsy.com.

Interested in learning how you can take better control of your company’s time and money?

DOWNLOAD OUR AGENCY GUIGE

 

Webinars/Podcasts

A culture of Simplicity: A Podcast with Bureau of Digital

Excerpt from the Podcast:

Each day, we fire up app upon app upon app, going through the motions to create and organize our work and business in meaningful ways. Trouble is, all of that work takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. It can lead to a culture of chaos, leaving people frustrated when they can’t find things, align teams or projects or benchmark data to make good decisions.

Mark van Leeuwen, CEO of VOGSY, has been working in projects his entire life. He knows how complex professional services can be, and how difficult it can be to create change. Mark joins us to share insights gathered from working with many, many professional services organizations, and talk about some of the ways technology can ease our pain.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

 

Blogs

Increase agency margins with professional services automation

The new year has officially arrived, and if you’re like some agency leaders, you’re wondering how you can improve control and increase agency margins in an industry that’s constantly changing. Instead of just adding it to your “wish list,” why not make it happen?

With client needs becoming increasingly complex and budgets spread thin, the push for measurable metrics that prove your firm’s work is producing leads and sales has never been as essential as it is today. On the other hand, while you want to generate results, if you’re consistently over-servicing clients or incorrectly pricing projects, you’ll go out of business.

Luckily, there’s a technology out there that’s delivering a solution for many agencies: professional services automation (PSA) platforms. Here are three ways this single tool can get your company on track and profitable for the year ahead.  

  1. Understand and manage revenue strategy

Your revenue strategy (quote-to-cash model) doesn’t have to be difficult. Just think of it as a blueprint, one that starts with your client’s intention to use your service and ends with cash in the company’s bank account. Along the way, it should touch every department, channel and client in your agency, adding control and driving innovation across your organization.

In an agency, your employees are your asset and time is the product. This is true whether you charge clients a fixed cost per project or employ value-based billing (such as the percentage of sales you generate for clients). At the end of the day, you’re really trading hours for dollars.

When using a PSA with real-time insights into your company, you can manage revenue strategy to quickly adopt new business models, predict outcomes and meet complex customer demands. You can easily determine if costs and sales rates are accurate with cash flow.

In fact, companies using a PSA platform typically report an 8.4 percent improvement in projects completed on budget.

  1. Become more transparent

Karl Sakas, global agency consultant and president of Sakas and Company, revealed in his latest agency trends report, “Designing the Marketing Agency of the Future,” that savvy CMOs need revenue attribution to help them with business pressure from their CEO and CFO. According to IDG Connect, 70 percent of marketers struggle with cost justification.

Needless to say, it’s a lot easier for CMOs to get approval for marketing and sales initiatives if they can demonstrate need and success. So, it’s important to ensure your agency is giving clients the attribution they want and need.

The right PSA increases transactional transparency so you can provide clients the information they require based on real data. Not only does this increase your value, it provides business insight that enables you to help them identify new opportunities. This transactional data is the key to generating new business and increasing agency profitability for your team.

  1. Remove silos between team members

As a leader, no doubt you’ve heard some peers remark the agency model is “broken.” It’s not – it’s just changed. The digital age has introduced new technologies, marketing channels have both disappeared and sprung up, globalization is on the rise and competition is at an all-time high.

To be competitive, agencies must adapt their offerings, and even consider different business models.

PSA platforms provide the flexible, powerful platform agencies can build on. For instance, with project management becoming more agile, teams must constantly collaborate and draw upon each other. PSA tools give agency leaders and employees the ability to ensure work is done as efficiently and profitably as possible.

That’s why services organizations are used to quickly seeing a 9 percent increase in projects delivered on time and on budget with a PSA platform.

Make no mistake, running an agency in today’s business climate is challenging. More importantly, keep in mind the path to increasing agency profitability is different for every business. Still, running an agency is a matter of adapting to the work at hand. With a PSA platform providing greater operational insight, efficiency and financial control, you’ll have a greater ability to change, compete and conquer in the year ahead.

Interested in learning how you can take better control of your agency’s time and money? Download our agency guide here.

Blogs

Managing Contractors: Three Steps to Greater Success With Professional Services Automation

As professional services organizations (PSOs) face increased competition and a constrained talent pool, tapping contractors for work has become a necessity when it comes to staying ahead of competition. In fact, a recent NPR/Marist poll revealed that one in five jobs is held by a worker under contract. At this rate, independent contractors and freelancers could make up half of the workforce by 2028.

PSOs are all touched by the movement toward hiring independent contractors, which presents new challenges. How can you manage contractors efficiently? Can contractors seamlessly become part of the team? Are contractors helping your company reach its key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Luckily, there’s a technology solution out there that can solve this: professional services automation (PSA). Here are three ways a PSA platform can help you achieve greater success in managing contractors.

  1. Onboard contractors easily – and retain them 

    If you’ve recently hired 10 new contractors, chances are three of them might quit in the next 90 days or not want to work with your company again, according to a survey from Jobvite. Why? Thirty-four percent reported an incident or a bad experience drove them away, 43 percent said their day-to-day role wasn’t expected. This is worrisome when only 45 percent of businesses provide contractors and freelancers with training and only 54 percent offer formal onboarding, according to Deloitte’s “2018 Human Capital Trends” report.While providing a complete onboarding and training program to these workers may seem impractical, failing to do so could cause damage to a reputation, employer brand and internal teams. With a PSA platform, you can easily onboard contractors by sharing and storing all agreements and contact information upfront, removing the admin burden for you and your team. Additionally, with the ability to define their role and responsibilities, and assign them the number of hours they’re given for each project, it’s clear what their task is and what to bill against.

  2. Remove the silos between contractors and employees 

    Silos within businesses can bring PSOs down. That’s exactly what happens when businesses use a variety of applications that can’t be synergized; team members and contractors find themselves disconnected and working at cross purposes. 

    As PSOs project management approach has become more agile, it requires constant communication and collaboration between team members. PSAs break down these silos and increase visibility between projects and teams. In fact, Service Performance Insight Research has found it’s the transparency between projects and team members that allows executives to better analyze the business and make smarter decisions for positive outcomes. 

  3. Meet your KPIs 

    Almost every PSO is familiar with clients asking to measure and quantify the benefits of their work. But what about your company’s internal KPIs? 

    Understand how your contractors are helping you meet your company’s revenue goals with the automated insight that PSAs provide. With real-time analytics, there’s no “digging” for performance and financial reports – and these reports are adjusted as data is inputted from your contractors. This gives you access to determine if costs and sales rates are accurate and you can easily manage the cash flow. 

    Fortunately for PSOs who employ contractors, the tools available today are better than ever. All you need is the knowledge to choose the best-fitting PSA solution for your team.

Interested in learning how you can better manage your contractors? Contact us today.

Blogs

What professional services organizations can expect in 2019

Can you feel the change in the air? It’s refreshing, as the start of fall always is, but it also signals a time of reflection and preparation for your business. The end of the calendar year is a natural time to understand what worked and what didn’t, where you need to improve resources and start looking toward your plan for the following year.

With that in mind, here is a look at what’s coming to professional services organizations (PSOs) in 2019, and for what you’ll need to plan in order to remain competitive.

    1. Faster speed of change
      Remember the good ol’ days when life just seemed…simpler? Well, PSOs are no exception to that. Businesses were humming along as long as they supported their customers well. Now, PSO customers are more well-informed and are being targeted more aggressively with strong competitive offers.

      PSOs have to evolve their business – and do it quickly – to retain their existing customers and continue adding new ones. The industry evolution keeps requiring new adaptations, and that speed of change is only increasing.

    2. Constant agility
      That ever-increasing speed of change requires PSOs to become more agile. They simply must be faster on their feet and adjust their operations to customers’ changing needs. Becoming agile applies to every individual in the organization, and affects everything from how you hire, to how you develop and treat your team, and how you manage projects.

      It also means adopting technology and tools that are flexible enough to meet your pace of business. We’re not going to go back to how things were, so it’s time to understand and implement agile methodologies throughout your PSO.

    3. Customer centricity
      All businesses – not just those in professional services – must be built around the customer’s needs, wants and preferences to remain competitive. To center your business around your customer, you must first know your customer. To do that, you must listen to them.

      Listen to your customers and you can build a product that meets their needs and create experiences with your organizations that they enjoy – and benefit from. As one of our very wise customers says, “We don’t have a process. Our customer is the process.” Keep your customer at the heart of every decision you make, and you’ll keep delivering.

    4. Moving to the Google Cloud Platform
      Because of the incredible pace at which businesses are adopting new technology, we’re seeing more PSOs rely on a cloud platform rather than managing many disparate applications. Many favor the Google Cloud Platform for its less-is-more approach and easy to use tools – which means more vendors are building solutions on the Google platform.

      “The number of professional services organizations moving to G Suite is rapidly growing as companies look for a more agile, collaborative approach with less overhead and lower costs,” says Jeanne Urich, Managing Director at SPI Research, a global research, consulting and training organization for PSOs. It’s a natural choice: The G Suite doesn’t let cumbersome technology get in the way of doing your job well.

What’s on your radar for your business in 2019? Share with us on Twitter @VOGSY_PSA.

 

White papers

Agency Guide To PSA: Taking Control of Your Agency With Professional Services Automation

Where Does The Time Go? Agency Guide on Taking Control of Your Agency With Professional Services Automation.

It’s been said time is money and in no other industry is that truer than marketing and advertising. There’s an array of tools for specific functions, but when it comes to running “the business”, it’s often spreadsheets and manual madness.
In this guide learn:

  • what you can automate and achieve
  • what you can measure
  • what to look for in a PSA solution
Download the guide! 
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