This is a guest post by Hubstaff, time tracking software with screenshots, activity levels, and in-depth reports.
There’s a truth we all know about what it takes to run an agency properly: the process is everything.
But while we can all agree that processes are incredibly important, many of the tasks you do on a regular basis probably don’t have proper processes in place.
Think about it for a second… What tasks have you already done today? Did you follow a process while doing them?
The answer is probably not.
That may seem ok at the moment, but as your agency grows, and as you take on more full-time and contract staff to help you manage demand, your quality and consistency will suffer.
Why will this happen?
When you have no process in place it’s really difficult to run projects successfully.
You start working and find you don’t have the right assets from the client, you run into delays in development as you realize you’ve missed crucial steps, and the output always varies in quality because the steps you’ve taken have been applied haphazardly.
What’s more, as you start to take on multiple projects and move responsibility to other members of your team, it becomes impossible to juggle all the work that needs doing because you don’t have a clear process to help guide the way.
This can all lead to you having delegation anxiety because you fear everything’s going to fall apart without your input and guidance.
Thankfully, there is a way to stop this: implement clear processes for tasks and projects that don’t already have them in place.
What is a Process?
Most people understand that the tasks they do need a process, but few people actually understand what a process is. This is usually because a process can be created in a whole range of formats.
So what is a process?
A process is a document that includes all of the steps that need to be followed to do a task properly.
It can take the form of a checklist, a flow chart, an instruction video, a diagram, or a set of numbered instructions.
Whatever format a process takes, the key similarity between all processes is that they include instructions that cover exactly how to do a task from start to finish.
Processes are used by agencies, by HR managers, by freelancers, and even by doctors and surgeons.
What Processes Should You Implement?
Here’s some food for thought:
Good software runs incredibly efficiently because it has been written with clear rules and processes that are followed every time, and achieve the same results every time. Poor software is clumsy and patched together, so it throws up bugs and doesn’t perform as you expect it to.
Your agency is like software: when it has clear rules and processes, it runs incredibly well, and when it doesn’t, things just fall apart.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, look at the tasks that you and your team complete regularly, but that don’t already have clear processes in place.
Key areas to look at
Research – having processes here can help guide the finding, collecting, and reporting of information and data. Clear steps can help establish proper citation, note-taking best practices, and more.
Delegation – having a framework in place to help guide team members delegate tasks means that the person completing the task always has the right tools, information, and access to complete things to the highest standard.
Filing and Organization – implementing a process here helps to keep your agency’s filing structure ordered, accessible, and efficient. Processes should include file naming conventions, proper file structure, and instructions for backing-up and using ftp clients.
Approval Process – processes for having work approved can help cut down the time it takes to vet and clear content and deliverables (and prevent sub-standard work going to clients).
Client Management – this is incredibly important: properly managing a client is the key to running a successful agency. Having a process that account managers and key figures follow to gather information and to craft communications helps everything run smoothly.
Delivery or Publication – having a process in place that is followed before your team deliver assets to clients, or publish content, means that all deliverables are always sent, and that your clients never have to chase up for missing assets. A process for deliverables should also include instructions to check and verify all assets and deliverables against the brief. Publication processes should include all steps that should be followed before releasing content to the world.
See an example publication process
Creating Process Documents
To create your process documents, spend some time thinking about how this task could be done best and most efficiently.
Think about the exact steps that should be followed (from the very start, to the very finish) to complete every aspect of the task.
Try to include helpful comments that can resolve common roadblocks, and link to resources that should be used when completing the task (files and folders, applications, websites).
When writing your process document, it’s incredibly important that you make it as straightforward as possible. Anyone should be able to pick it up and complete the stages you have outlined.
Your document can take the form of a checklist, an instruction manual, or a diagrammatical workflow. The key is to create something easy to follow, but that includes all of the relevant information.
When you’ve completed your process document, follow the steps you outlined and try to complete the task. If you can do so easily, and without having to use your existing knowledge, your process document should be fairly bulletproof. But, if you find that you are having to call on your existing knowledge of the task to complete steps and stages, you need to go back and revisit the document.
Once you have finished the document, share it with other people who will be doing the task (or who have done it before) for them to review. This can help spot confusing steps or missing information.
From there, distribute the process and store it on your agency’s network for easy access.
To learn more about creating blueprints check out our in-depth guide to creating process documents for remote teams.
Pro Tip – you shouldn’t stop working on your process once you have finalized it. Your process should be a living document that’s continuously refined and iterated on to account for new software, new clients, and enhanced ways of working.
Are You Ready to Create New Processes?
The benefits of creating and using processes for tasks that don’t usually have them are clear: they help to make your agency more efficient, more effective, and more productive.
But remember, processes only work well when they include all of the right information, and are straightforward enough for anyone to follow.
Once you have created and implemented your processes, monitor how your employees use them with Hubstaff, an advanced time tracking application that integrates with a huge number of apps that your teams use on a daily basis (like Basecamp, Asana, and Trello). Advanced time tracking means that you can see exactly how much more efficient your teams are as a result of your process documents, and can make sure things are being properly implemented.
If you need more examples of quality processes, check out Hubstaff’s employee onboarding process.