How CWA marketing agency transformed their processes and reporting with Synergist

CWA first installed Synergist back in 2011, shifting from manual processes to a centralised system. Challenging themselves to make a further shift, they’ve now opened up a world of functionality which has transformed their processes and reporting.

“Unlocking the functionality within Synergist has made a huge difference to our business, giving us clear visibility to live, accurate data.”

Zoe Wyles, Finance and HR director, CWA

Who are CWA? CWA is a proactive marketing agency working with clients worldwide. ‘Working in partnership to deliver results that add value for our clients, underpinned by the expertise and insights that cement our best-in-class performance.’

Agency type: B2B marketing agency

Services: Research and strategy, branding and design, digital solutions, live and virtual events, media and communications, video and animation.

Size: 25 employees

Location: Leicester

Who is Zoe Wyles? Finance and HR director, with a strong focus on detail in numbers and contracts, processes and policies, to make sure everything is as efficient as possible.

The problem

Becoming comfortable and complacent

CWA bought Synergist into their business back in 2011 “to centralise a lot of very manual processes into a project management system”. Although CWA had been using Synergist for years, they’d stopped exploring updates and developments, so weren’t getting the best from their system.

“We’d put in the investment, done the training and got it working really well for us.” says Zoe. “But of late, I found myself saying ‘wouldn’t it be great if Synergist could do XYZ?’ And conversations with the team at Agency Works (Synergist consultants) told me that actually, it can! There was a huge amount of fantastic functionality within the system which we simply weren’t using.

“As well as conversations with Agency Works, I took a lot of their masterclasses and online events. These are bite-sized sessions, so didn’t feel difficult to fit into my day. These really got my brain whirring and started to inspire me in terms of the possibilities.”

One of the challenges to stepping up the system was time.

“It is difficult when you’re busy all the time to try to find time to invest in developing processes and procedures to be better, but I knew it would be a worthwhile investment.

“One of the big things I wanted was availability of live, accurate data, which I knew would make a massive difference. I wanted to free up my time on reporting, so I could focus on the business.

“I also knew I was acting as something of a bottleneck – the person who knew the most about the system and the person everyone came to for data.”

The solution

Gaining business insights to grow

“So we’ve set up Synergist to make data available to those that need it, giving each team member the information they need to do their jobs instead of having to ask me for reports.

“Now we have live data and dashboards that are really visual and engaging.

“Our account handlers can see estimated hours versus actual hours, and where we are in a project compared with where we think we should be, in real time.

Example job performance dashboards

[Screenshot shows example job performance dashboards]

“We’re using the client target facility to create an overall target for the year and track the target against the planned and invoiced jobs to see if we’re on target.

“And we’re utilising billing plans to the max and get an accurate billing forecast at the touch of a button.

[Screenshot shows example management reporting dashboards]

Another big improvement has been recording non-chargeable time, which has helped the agency focus on utilisation rates and create realistic recoverability forecasts."

Building a scalable agency

Standardising working practices was another of Zoe’s goals, with previous habits meaning people were often doing the same thing in a different way.

“Synergist offers multiple ways to do things, but we found this was causing confusion. For example, if we had a new starter, whoever was training them would teach them one way to do something, while another person might teach them a different way.

“We worked with Agency Works to streamline and standardise our processes.

Zoe effectively pressed a reset button on the system, cleansing it of old data, turning irrelevant options off and customising it to make it a really bespoke system that’s right for their agency. Then, she brought Agency Works in to help train the team.

“It was really important to let the team know the benefits, so we ran some refresher sessions and took our teams through all the new steps we were going to follow. It was hugely important to have everyone on board, making sure they were confident using the system.

“This also means colleagues can now help each other, which has freed up a lot of my time. Our ultimate goal isn’t to be completely process-driven, as that’s not who we are as an agency. But it’s about using our processes to best effect to make us as efficient as possible.”

The return on investment

“We now have a system that is fit for purpose, current and perfectly tailored for our agency.

“What I’m starting to see now, really excites me. The detail of the data that’s available and the fact it’s live data is brilliant.

“We can see profitability on a job-by-job and client basis, and account handlers can look at it on an individual basis. We’ve started to be able to identify patterns, for example, if there are any jobs which have a tendency to overrun or where we’re performing really well, estimating accurately and delivering on time and on budget. We’re starting to be able to see which service areas are most profitable.”

This data will help to guide our future strategy of where to focus. We’re embedding commerciality across all the different teams in our business, and Synergist offers this in a format we can all understand. I’ve often found myself thinking ‘why didn’t I do this ages ago?!

Zoe Wyles, Finance and HR director, CWA

It’s working for them... could it work for you?

Whatever your agency looks like – 10 to 500 people, design to digital –
Synergist can be shaped to the way you work.

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Synergist consultants, Agency Works, will be in touch to arrange your bespoke demo. Their experience working with hundreds of agencies means they can help you work out what's right for you.