Learning from your own history

 |  By: Steve Johnson In: Agency management

Does your business have a good memory?

If it doesn’t, you’re not alone. There’s a phrase for it: Corporate Amnesia. It’s a widespread problem and many think it is accelerating today.

The problems that corporate amnesia causes

  • It leads to errors and things forgotten.
  • It leads to a repetition of poor decisions, for example repeatedly underestimating the time a type of project will take to complete.
  • Some of these misjudgements might not be spotted until they have grown into major issues, resulting in costly knock-on effects.
  • Such problems can potentially create damage to a client’s trust, relationship and business potential. In an age where clients expect more for less, self-imposed errors are the last thing you need.

Why does corporate amnesia happen?

There are numerous contributory factors:

1. Employee turnover

High employee churn is particularly prevalent in some sectors, for example creative agencies. Trends in labour flexibility, outsourcing, remote working, economic ups and downs and continuous skills shortages all contribute to the problem.

How Synergist helps

With Synergist, everybody accesses one reliable set of facts, with no data lurking in out-of-date silos.

“Everything’s in one place now. All the consulting information and all the financial data is combined together. It’s great to have everything organised now. It helps us to stay on top of things. Projects, clients, time, financials.”  Andy Yates, Director of Webb Yates Engineers.


2. The pressure to hit the ground running

In your sector, does a lengthy employee induction period nowadays sound like a quaint echo of how things used to be? It probably does. It’s a common refrain today that you hire when work urgently needs to be done, and not before, so the pressure is on for new starters to begin delivering right away.

How Synergist helps

It helps new employees get up to speed quickly, because they are given access to all the salient information they need for the project they are working on.

They also immediately see how their decisions affect the rest of the team and the larger picture.

“When young graduates join us and work on small clients, the data now lets them be strategic. They understand the money side of things right away. It’s such good career experience for when they are promoted to handling larger clients.”  UK digital agency.

“It’s educating the team. They make better decisions now. It promotes self-education. Team members are much more aware now of what costs go into a job”. Nigel Wilson, Managing Director CleverCherry.

3. The focus is on action, not research

Thinking time is under attack in a busy workplace. In many workplaces it looks more impressive if you get the work started quickly. There’s little kudos in analysing it – just get on with it.

How Synergist helps

Speed of information access. Create history once, and have easy access to it from that day onwards.

“When a client challenges an invoice we now don’t have to wade through a thousand emails to find the one that has a bearing on it. Everything’s in one place.”

“One particular benefit is that we can create fee proposals on one screen. That wasn’t possible in our previous system. It’s another example of pulling everything together.”
Andy Yates of Webb Yates

You can quickly access similar previous projects and their estimates and outcomes to compare time taken, unexpected complications, previous work-arounds and solutions.

“We don’t need an estimating department, we need everyone to be given the tools and the data to estimate their projects accurately.” David Ladds, Director, Bladonmore.

“It’s also helped with fine-tuning targets. It’s removed all the debates and emotions – it’s all factual now. We discuss the benchmarks with each department. We also see patterns in the over-servicing now. For example, by client type. Very Useful.” UK creative agency.

Discover whether the same client has previously been difficult to work with in some way.

“Another bonus that comes to mind is that I can see at a glance who the good and bad payers are. So that’s now part of our decision-making about being more selective on which projects to take on.” The MD of a project-based business.

4. You don't know what you don't know

It’s notoriously difficult to solve something if you aren’t really aware what the problem is.

How Synergist helps

Discover patterns, such as whether that type of project has been successful or unsuccessful for you before. You see problems and warnings while there is still time to fix them.

“We see patterns in the over-servicing now. For example, by client type. Very Useful.” Finance Director at a UK digital agency.

“Getting Synergist gave us a surprise benefit: it shows us new ways to look at our data, uncovering trends, patterns and opportunities we had no visibility of before.” Director of a digital agency.

“Synergist pulls everything together... Jobs, estimating, scheduling, purchase orders, quotations. It tells me immediately about the state of every job, the requisitions, the time remaining, the time quoted, everything. It flags up problems early on.” Production Manager, Clevercherry.

“Recently we hired a highly-paid contractor to do work that our data said should take three quarters of a day. He was actually taking two days. With Synergist this stands out.

“We can act before it’s too late. We now see issues sooner and have the facts to back up the intuition.” Simon Butler, Purestone co-founder.



Winston Churchill is often cited as saying "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." It turns out he didn’t say actually it. But he did say this, which is even more illuminating:

"Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”