Designed for Success: Leveraging Information Flow to Grow a Digital Agency

BY MARK VAN LEEUWEN, ON SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

Running a web design and development agency is a constant race to stay ahead of the latest trends and technologies, all while keeping the day-to-day business running smoothly. There’s a never ending flow of information from disparate sources, and it’s a huge management headache to untangle all these different threads to get a sense of what it all means for the business.

For example, you may be using different applications for managing client projects, internal communications and time. To train and track employees’ skills, you might have a lightweight learning management system. Your sales and marketing teams may use a CRM solution to manage prospects and customers, as well as a marketing automation platform for lead generation. Then there’s that finance solution and perhaps a separate system for invoicing. 

On top of all that, you’ve probably created some massive spreadsheets to pull all of this information together so you can make strategic decisions. But when sales, marketing, development and finance information is trapped in different information silos, it’s nearly impossible to see the big picture.

The result is each department often ends up working towards its own priorities in isolation from the needs of the firm as a whole.

Just as bad, the enormous amount of time it takes to gather information means management may be basing decisions on numbers that are incomplete and out of date. 

Risky business

A web development agency encounters different problems at every stage of its growth. Once client work gets too complex to manage via spreadsheet, an agency often will get a project management solution. When it’s big enough to have a dedicated marketing team, a marketing automation platform becomes a necessity.

These challenges don’t arise all at once, so there’s often a belief that there’s no immediate urgency to ensure they can all share information. But over time, an agency can accumulate a tangled mess of point solutions, creating IT headaches, and keeping important information from being shared.

Manually collecting data limits visibility because management never gains a real-time view of the business.

And in the end, all of these information silos actually make running the business far more expensive, complex and risky than it should be.

And the risks are serious.

With bad or old information, forecasting is flawed. You may find yourself short of resources and unable to staff new projects. You could end up having additional personnel without enough work to keep them busy. Without an up-to-date holistic picture of the agency, you’ll also suffer missed opportunities, lower profitability and lose control over margins, all impacting revenue.

Let it flow and grow

So, how do you dismantle information silos? First, don’t buy another point solution before you work with your team to understand where the gaps and blind spots are in your current processes. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • When sales closes a new deal, can the team use their current tools to inform the development team of the scope and what skills will be required?
  • How is information about the sales pipeline communicated to the development team so they can ensure they have enough resources to meet future demand?
  • When sales creates a quote using their tools, is that information automatically conveyed to finance in a format that they can use for invoicing?
  • If a development project is delayed or has cost overruns, how is finance informed?
  • How is information compiled for senior management? Are there ways to automate data collection?

Once you understand how information should flow between different departments, you can begin leveraging it so teams stay in sync and management gains a real-time picture of the state of the business. In that way, managers can spend less time chasing information and more time increasing growth and profitability.

 

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