Digital Agency; proposal and project management

Situation:
A Leeds agency with 10 staff members approached me for a review of their in-house project management and proposal methodology. They identified several core issues:

  • The project management process was lengthy, error-prone, and unprofitable.
  • Various teams were using different tools that didn’t communicate effectively.
  • Conversion rates for pitches were lower than desired.
  • Concerns existed about the agency’s branding.
  • Multiple systems were used for different project types, including web development, marketing communications, and acquisitions.

Approach:
To address these issues, I conducted extensive discussions with the agency owner and confidential conversations with key team leaders. This allowed them to gain perspective on the issues and understand the varying priorities of team members. The approach involved:

  • Reviewing project pitches (successful and unsuccessful) to assess the entire process.
  • Tracking a project from win to close, aligning the process structure with the tools used.
  • Conducting individual team member interviews to gather insights into workflow.

Discovery; proposal:
During the discovery phase, several issues related to proposal and pitching processes were identified:

  • Briefs were not thoroughly analyzed to identify core issues or objectives.
  • Pitch focus lacked ownership, often involving multiple team members without clear direction.
  • Preparation time exceeded the scope of the projects and potential profits.
  • Pitch project management lacked structure and relied on outdated, manual spreadsheets.
  • Proposals included unnecessary “standard” pages that hadn’t been reviewed in months.
  • Lengthy and disorganized PowerPoint presentations were used for proposals.
  • Proposals required significant face-to-face client presentations and lacked advance release.
  • Pricing decisions were made without consulting the relevant teams.
  • SMART objectives in proposals did not align with the ultimate targets.
  • Smaller project proposals lacked scope documents.

Discovery; project management:
Regarding project management, the following issues were identified:

  • Project launches involved clients receiving extensive documentation.
  • Excessive quality assurance processes were in place.
  • Up to 15 different systems were used, leading to inefficiencies.
  • Timings and deliverables did not align with available resources.
  • There was no dedicated project management resource, with junior team members handling monitoring tasks.

Solutions:
The analysis resulted in a phased approach to improve systems and methods for achieving profitability for both the agency and clients. Solutions included:
Proposal Process:

  • Implementing a structured approach for managing opportunities.
  • Enhancing team management for proposals and pricing.
  • Reviewing and optimizing pitch documentation templates.
  • Exploring various pitching methods, including in-person and remote options.

Project Management:

  • Editing and streamlining key documentation and processes.
  • Establishing a clear project structure for both teams and clients.
  • Reducing the number of systems in use and defining their roles.
  • Recommending new platforms to enhance core management processes.
  • Conducting a skills audit and providing internal training while identifying the need for new skill development or recruitment.

Results:
The agency’s efforts yielded several positive outcomes:

  • Significant streamlining of processes resulted in a 50% reduction in the time spent on proposals and tenders.
  • Improved project management increased overall capacity.
  • Better project management led to increased repeat business and referrals.
  • Tool choices were rationalized, reducing costs.

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