Optimizing Agency Resources and Forecasting Amidst Uncertainty

Agencies turn their attention to essential metrics and data to navigate turbulent market conditions.

That means getting new work in the pipeline, securing revenue, and making sure that active projects will turn out profitable.

While it’s common to prioritize this way, it’s also vital to remind ourselves that these metrics are not the only ones worth tracking—because an agency’s main resources are its team members.

Utilization: The Blueprint for Agency Growth

People, i.e. their creativity and productivity, are the core assets of an agency.

Decision-makers need to closely monitor how efficient their teams are and what lies ahead in their schedules to ensure that their business stays healthy and strong. This is why monitoring utilization is crucial.

While it may be tempting to see a utilization rate of 100% as the ultimate goal, reality is different. When optimizing agency resource planning, aim for a rate between 70% and 80%. When utilization soars above 90% or higher, that’s an indication that your teammate is becoming overworked. It’s time to start redistributing responsibilities, scout for more talent, or look deeper into project delivery metrics.

Operating at full capacity without any margin for error or flexibility can lead to a variety of issues. Those can be as simple as increased stress levels to long-term challenges, like managing decreased responsiveness to unforeseen circumstances. And we all know that delivering creative work tends to pair up with unanticipated circumstances.

Also, the higher teammates’ utilization rates are, the less room there is for innovation and improvement. This is why focusing on optimal utilization rates that balance efficiency and effectiveness is key.

But what happens if you’re not monitoring this metric at all? For starters, you wouldn’t be the only one.

According to the 2023 Digital Agency Report, less than 40% of agencies track billable utilization. Still, as per the same 2023 report by Promethean Research, over the past five years agency owners have been driving up the level of sophistication of their operations.

Agencies are increasingly investing in shaping their futures via digital transformation on organization-wide levels, e.g. focusing on enhancing business process automation and data enhancement, to name a few. There’s always room for improvement, and agencies who want to stay at the cutting edge are investing in tools that will secure their stability and growth.

“This is a person, this is how much that person makes, this is our overhead, this is how much we’re charging our client. The tool gives us full transparency, across the board. From our standpoint, Productive erases the seed of doubt.”
— Michelle Pittell, Co-President at Brand Labs

Leading the Way: Utilization Forecasting

At any given point in time, an agency needs to know whether it has the necessary skills and time to dedicate to upcoming projects. Are the right resources available to ensure efficient work execution?

Only around 10% out of 45,000 agencies tracked forecasted utilization from 2015 to 2023 (see report mentioned above). This means that the vast majority of agencies don’t know what their relatively near future holds.

Given the importance of planning, this is quite surprising.

Forecasting utilization is closely tied to business development (it helps surface which services to sell next or more of); operations and capacity planning; as well as human resources (knowing which roles to prioritize hiring next).

Having forecasted utilization data at your fingertips can surely positively influence navigating times of economic uncertainty.

To learn more about this topic, watch this webinar:

“The key metrics for any agency are: how busy are the people? How are we doing with bringing in new work? How are we budgeting that work? How are we forecasting further down the road for new work?”
— Jason Devoy, Delivery Director at Joi Polloi

Where To Start Turning Data Into Decisions?

During challenging times, most agencies instinctively focus on survival. However, recent findings show us that even in 2023, many agencies don’t have insight into the data that could heavily influence their business decisions.

That’s where Productive comes in. As a business management platform, Productive offers agencies a single source of truth for financial data, leads, budgets, and team communication. To learn more, book a demo now.

Marija Kata Vlašić

Content Marketing Specialist

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