The Right Fit: Resource Allocation in a Creative Agency

The Right Fit: Resource Allocation in an Agency

Back in early 2000 when I was running our creative agency with just my partner and I, we pretty much knew what we were working on at any given time, or thought we did. We ran a small busy agency in Vancouver, Canada, and our clients were not shy at letting us know what they thought our priorities should be — them!

Most of our business was by referral and as we grew the project load became such that we needed to take on staff. For the first time we were faced with having to allocate our resources strategically, and manage our projects in a way that was transparent to everyone instead of just yelling across the office.

I began looking for a tool that would help us co-ordinate all the different creative and business needs, but one of the biggest challenges was tracking what our staff and freelancers were actually working on in any given day so that we could make sure we were billing properly and hitting our deadlines. Not easy when you’re dealing with creatives (myself included) who hate paperwork, don’t care about “busy work” and just want to be left alone to create cool stuff!

The Right Fit

Matching the right person (resource) to the right project is important for the quality of the end result. But sometimes the deadline is so tight staff are allocated elsewhere so that you have to assign work to folks whose skills aren’t a perfect match.

I found these projects were a mixed blessing in that they stretched folks to learn new things, and with good creative oversight usually produced some innovative work. The flip side is that slippage in the timelines can occur as folks are out of their normal comfort-zone. It was always better to allocate the right resource for the project.

The Long View

After a few months of fiddling, I had a decent tool in place to actually map all our projects and see them in a Gantt view. I was able to foresee a bit better what projects were loading up, view the workflows and work-in-progress, see how the resource allocation could be assigned further out and have the right folks on the right work.

Function Point Gantt Charts

Client Expectations

Adjusting client expectations was necessary so that they knew when they were coming into the workflow. I was initially worried that clients would react poorly when we said we couldn’t accommodate their project until a given date (sometimes weeks out), but in fact, the reverse happened!

When they saw we were meeting our deadlines more efficiently, had the best talented resources allocated to their project so that the quality was better, we actually got more business through referrals. Clients were happy and that was the most important priority.

We worked more as a team, eventually taking on agile project management principles so that folks had more control over what work they took on. We finally were working fluidly, a beautiful feeling in a creative firm that is humming along. And this was mostly due to being able to manage our resource allocation and projects with more insight into the long-view.

It’s a Process

As we grew over time we were able to work with many talented staff and freelancers who appreciated that our projects were well managed. They got to do the work they cared about most and were best suited for. The most important aspect of that was making sure we knew what they were up to by assigning the right work at the right time.

Now that I work for FP I wish I’d had a tool as robust back then with all the different features built in such as estimating, invoicing and collaboration, but any tool you consider that will help with allocating your team resources can propel you forward. I highly recommend considering it!

This article was written by former Function Point employee, Carol Sykes.

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