In today’s world, using technology is the only way. Regardless of the size of your agency, or how much you’re trying to grow - technology is vital to any aspiring organisation.
Jasmin Patel, senior software solution consultant at Oracle NetSuite shares her experiences in helping multiple advertising, media and publishing organisations successfully transition to tech and explain the importance of using technology to scale.
How does technology benefit agencies when they are looking to sell?
When an enquiry is looking for an agency to buy, there are two things to look at:
1 - Low risk high potential organisation to buy: Firstly, you need to think about your agency. Are you utilising technology to drive your business right now? Have you got systems in place that are enabling you to make a set of processes really efficient? Or are you utilising tech as part of one of your services? This is one thing that will set you apart from other agencies that might not be doing that currently and then ultimately make your agency more valuable to that enquirer.
2 - During the actual process of sale, there are a couple of things that happen. Of course, you have to put down your people strategy and bring in advisors, but the other thing they'll be asking for is visibility of your legal, financials, commercial information. You're going to have to be able to give them information around your revenue growth, KPI's around profitability and you need to have all that at your fingertips.
One thing that Cloud based systems allow you to do is have a holistic view of your organisation and the ability to report that data in real time, very accurately, at a pace where the required will need it. That will make sure that the momentum of the sale will continue throughout the process.
What would you say is the right balance between technology and making sure the culture of the agency is right?
Before I started working as a software solution consultant I worked with a couple of communication agencies for around seven years. The one thing I loved about working there is having that family feel. That's something that can disappear with growth, so the most important thing that technology enables you to do is to build a more collaborative environment, especially when you're growing.
For example, if you're opening up multiple subsidiaries across the UK, France and Germany, you need to be able to have one place where you can harbour all the details of a project. So that all the multiple resources that are allocated for that potential project are able to have one single work space where they can share ideas, innovate, where they're able to share resources and information and then continue collaborating even though they are not working in the same space.
The communication lines shorten when you have technology. This means that having the visibility of missing information or having the information harboured in one place, where it doesn't matter who you are, you can go into the system, you're able to find that information independently. Technology helps you shorten the communication lines and understand exactly what's going on with every single process within the organisation.
Finally, there has been a big shift to remote working. The one thing about technology right now is that it enables you to be very flexible in terms of where you're working. NetSuite is a cloud-based platform. It doesn't matter where you are, you can access details of what's going on in your organisation by phone, laptop etc, even if it's in a different country. It's really important to have that flexibility within the culture of your agencies now.
Once companies install one piece of technology, in comes another updated piece. There's always the reluctance to buy as well as cost implications. What would your advice be to agencies?
Right now, there are so many choices. It's different when you're of a larger organisation where you have a department focused on IT strategy. You have somebody dedicated to understanding the systems that are out there and the systems that are going to help your particular organisation do things more efficiently.
However, with certain technologies out there you need to make sure that when you're talking to suppliers that you understand their strategy as well. The one thing you need to understand when you're implementing a new system is making sure that their strategy maps with yours. They have the investment to push the product in the direction that you're expecting to go. That's the one thing that people forget and then the technology becomes redundant. Five/ten years down the lines you end up buying something else and that's exactly what we don't want to do.
What practical advice would you give to agencies, in terms of the technologies that are available today?
With the multiple different prospects, I work with, all in the agency space, they come to our sessions when they are new with wild and wonderful things that they've been dabbling with or they've brought into their organisation.
One is the digital tools. Now it's a lot easier to not bring specialists to do certain things like create content. There are tools out there to do that, even if you don't have a creative bone in your body. Then there are client collaboration tools. There are tools like Sampler where you can drag and drop information for the client so that they're able to, at any point in time, log in and understand exactly what is going on with that project.
How vital is technology when it comes to data?
It's very important now in this day and age to be able to harbour all of your data in one place and to have a holistic view of your organisation. In the current environment we are in where things are so unpredictable, you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, you need to be able to manage whatever happens tomorrow within the click of a finger.
By harbouring all data in one place it enables you to have a clear view of exactly what's going on in real time. Then you can start taking advantage of all the other kind of technologies that are out there.
Jasmin Patel spoke at The Drum’s Agency Acceleration Day on March 28.