How to write a business case for a new agency management system

Investing in a new agency management system can be a big decision. And if it's something you – and maybe your colleagues – are convinced will make a huge difference to your agency, you'll need some hard evidence and clear facts to inform your agency leaders and financial decision-makers that it's the right thing to do.

In this guide, we'll explain how you build a solid business case for introducing a new agency management system.

In this guide:

What is a business case?

First, let's start with the definition of a business case. Essentially, this will outline your proposed objectives, making the argument for why a particular project – in this case, an agency management system – can benefit the business. You need to convince your stakeholders this is a worthwhile investment, so include as much detail as you can about how the benefits will outweigh the costs and deliver a return on investment.

This is where it's worth doing your upfront research to effectively communicate the positive commercial impacts and how to engage wider team members to embrace the change.

Building a business case

Now, let's look at the step-by-step guide on how to build your case. 

Step one: have a clear idea of your business need

Anyone investing in a new system will want to know that it's actually needed, rather just nice-to-have. This might especially be the case if your current systems are working ok, as decision makers might need some persuasion that you even have a need.

It can be tempting to focus on the tech, or the fancy features a new system might offer, but that will often fall on deaf ears, especially if the person you're trying to persuade isn't particularly tech-orientated.

Rather, you need to be looking at the problems and gaps in the business that this system could help to overcome. Essentially, what are the pains and opportunities in your agency that a system could alleviate?

You can probably find a whole range of things which need fixing in your agency, from lack of visibility through to traditional timesheeting pains. But there's no point presenting the system as a magic wand which will fix massive problems and tiny niggles alike. You need to identify clear, concise example, the 'big rocks' that are really causing obstacles to growth, rather than the 'small pebbles' which are a nuisance but not insurmountable.

Think about examples like:

  • Improving sales forecasting and capacity planning
  • Improving service delivery and client satisfaction
  • Highlighting business growth opportunities
  • Improving processes and efficiency
  • Increasing project and client profitability
  • Removing financial errors and risks
  • Enhancing employee engagement and performance

These are the cornerstone of an agency's success, and you're more likely to get buy-in if you can address these, rather than focusing too heavily on smaller stuff which might only benefit one team or department.

Start by describing and defining the facts, situation, position, that you and your agency are dealing with. Then, move on to discussing the implications or importance for the business. In other words, why is this relevant to them? Why should they care? What are the opportunities you can highlight to engage hearts and minds in the idea?

Step two: create a sense of urgency

Change can be difficult to embrace, and so often, it's easier all around to just carry on as normal. But easier doesn't mean better, and business as usual can make it difficult for an agency to effectively grow and remain profitable. Research has shown that the reason for failed transformation efforts is a lack of sense of urgency. Essentially, highlighting this as an opportunity which is here now but might not stick around is a great way to bring people together with a common goal and direction.

Step three: don't go it alone

You can shout from the rooftops about the perceived benefits of a new agency management system, but if you're a lone voice you might not get heard. The more people you can get on side, the better your business case will be.

But it's not just a case of herding friendly colleagues: you need to consider who the stakeholders are. Does it make sense to have an ally in every team? Is there anyone in senior leadership who might be willing to support your case? You want to demonstrate the breadth of benefits an agency management system can bring in terms of all aspects of the business, so make sure you're inviting the right interested parties to contribute to your presentation.

Step four: look to the long term

Agency life is fast paced and there is often such a focus on here and now that strategic decision making can be set aside. But investing in an agency management system needs a focus on the long term: for example, if the agency is likely to grow in size or change direction. It needs a system that can evolve alongside it, not one which needs replacing every time.

So create a realistic strategic vision that shows how the future will be different and how your proposed solution can help to meet the agency's long-term requirements.

Top tip: it's easier to bring in an agency management system to a smaller agency and then getting new starters to adopt the practice. It can be harder to gain buy in and engagement from existing teams. So the sooner the better!

Step five: establish the return on investment

Senior leaders will be interested in an agency management system that can make agency life smoother, simpler and easier for everyone. But they're not going to introduce something that doesn't deliver on the financial side, too. How will the agency management system help to lever profitability, revenue and productivity? It might sound obvious, but you need to show the gains outweigh the costs. Our brains are five times more attuned to recognising threats than rewards, so you really need to have some solid evidence at your fingertips.

Can you produce data, evidence or case studies to actively show, for example, that better capacity planning can have a direct impact on profits? Or that an improved system will lead to higher morale and less staff turnover, directly resulting in lower recruitment costs?

Good examples of this include:

  • Businesses using data to make effective decisions and optimise business processes are 19 times more likely to be profitable (McKinsey)
  • If you have 20 people charged @£90ph, simply recovering an extra 15 minutes per day per person could increase profitability by £190K a year...
  • ... and increasing utilisation from 65% (industry average) to 75% (average for agencies using an agency management system) could generate an extra £313k a year
  • Overservicing clients to the tune of 10% on each job is like working for free from mid-November until the end of the year
  • "The year following Synergist's implementation was our biggest for profit." Finance Director, Butterfly – a strategic consultancy with studios in London, New York and Amsterdam
  • "Synergist is the best IT investment we have made as an agency, and I would absolutely recommend it to any marketing services business." CMO, The Marketing Practice – B2B marketing agency with over 500 people across the globe
  • "Synergist essentially improves all your processes. We've seen improved utilisation, productivity, quoting, team development, job reporting, briefing... all aspects of the business have benefitted. "Production Manager, ArmstrongB2B - 50+ B2B marketing agency in Chester

Read our customer stories for more inspiration.

Step six: consider onboarding and ongoing support

A 'plug-and-play' system might seem tempting to agency leaders as it's often seen as less of a time and cost investment. But in reality, a DIY set-up and a few online training videos aren't going to give you the best results. You're very likely to end up falling into the trap of trying to replace like for like, with team members getting annoyed and switching back to the old, familiar systems. But if it was working properly, you wouldn't be replacing it.

You will need to introduce some change management techniques to engage your teams and encourage buy-in, and this is where your implementation partner can really support you.

Proper onboarding means you'll have experts to help you find the best way to achieve your goals, configure your system perfectly to your agency's needs, deliver in-depth training to get everyone on board, and provide ongoing support to ensure you achieve success. This way, you're much more likely to get long-term results than quick wins.

So when you make your business case, presenting a system that has onboarding and implementation will be seen as a much wiser investment for your senior leaders.

A business case template

There are certain things that it's always wise to include in your business case. Below, we'll outline a template you could follow:

Executive summary. Condense each section into a concise summary at the beginning. Top tip is to write this last, after you've written the complete sections.

Business need. What is the problem that you're trying to resolve? And how could your suggestion provide an opportunity to impact the business goals? Include research, insights and suggested timeframes to convince stakeholders this is more than just a vague idea.

Solutions. This can include a 'do nothing' but make sure you explore the benefits, costs and risks associated with all your suggested options. Here, it's a good idea to 'score' your solutions based on what's likely to be most important/beneficial to your agency. For example, you could score them on functionality, costs, impact, onboarding, ongoing support, and longevity.

Recommended solution. This will be clear from your rankings as above. Explain how the solution will solve the business need and the strategic, financial and personal benefits it will bring to your agency.

Investment. Outline the initial financial outlay and all ongoing costs. Give as much detail as you can about what the return on investment is likely to be. You won't be able to offer concrete figures (you don't have a crystal ball!), but you can outline projected costs and ROI.

Plan. Create a project plan including a timeline with all the activities, resources and people involved, highlighting expected outcomes at each stage. It's important also to factor in any risks or challenges that could impact your project, like availability delays or pushback from the team. This means you're being transparent in your business case by anticipating these potential issues and can offer ideas to resolve them if they do arise.

In summary...

Getting the right agency management system can be a tricky process and, as with everything, it's often easier not to do it. But as Jay Neale from Agency Works says, "Doing nothing won't just keep you at a standstill. It'll send you backwards. Essentially, the cost of doing nothing is that you end up in a place you're not happy with." And nobody wants to be in that place...

For an overview of how Synergist can help your agency improve performance book a demo