The end of managing agencies in Excel is coming

The end of managing agencies in Excel is coming
Kamil Skramusky
Kamil Skramusky

Excel is one of the most commonly used tools in the agency business. It is used for all sorts of things, from project records to creating price calculations to tracking company cash flow. And because 70% of our customers started using Costlocker specifically to get rid of manual editing in several Excel tables, we have started taking a closer look at this topic. We asked 20 smaller agencies several questions to verify our claims.

  1. Do you use Excel tables or Google Spreadsheets at your company?
  2. Which project, client and other information do you record in Excel tables?
  3. What is the total number of such Excel tables?
  4. Are the individual Excel tables interlinked?
  5. What bothers you about Excel tables and what do you like?
  6. Who creates the Excel tables and who can edit or update them?
  7. How often do you update the data in Excel tables?
  8. Do you work with the data you have stored in Excel tables?
  9. Do you have access to the data in Excel tables outside of your computer?
  10. Do you share the data in Excel tables with your clients? If so, which data?

The results of the survey

The results of the survey only confirmed our assumptions. You need only look at all the things agencies use Excel tables for:

  • Creating price calculations
  • Recording all projects
  • Monthly revenue and cost overviews
  • Planning annual, quarterly financial targets
  • Overview of the use of flat-rate services
  • Lists of clients and their client rates
  • List of employees and their monthly wages
  • List of external workers and an overview of paid amounts
  • Overview of what should or has been paid
  • Evaluation of finished projects

If the agencies make such massive use of Excel, it is interesting to look at what bothers they like and what bothers them.

What people from agencies like about Excel

  • It can calculate everything
  • It is possible to program functions to meet their needs
  • It is the most affordable database
  • Easy overview of worked hours for clients

What bothers people from agencies about Excel

  • They are not interlinked so a change in one is not apparent in another
  • Numbers from several tables are required to evaluate projects
  • Data can be overwritten by mistake and then they don’t know the original data
  • They are often inaccessible apart from the computer at work

Using Excel for reporting on projects is time-consuming

All of the foregoing disadvantages have one thing in common, and that is the tie that must be spent creating and updating the tables. We recently presented Costlocker at a creative agency, where the assistant spends several hours every Friday evaluating the current status of projects. She calculates the profitability of finished projects and completes the hours worked on currently running projects. She spends more than 10 hours every month doing this, simply because they cannot replace this manual work with anything else. They have no instrument they could look into at any time to determine the current status of all projects.

Another example is an executive agency that holds a staff meeting every Monday. For this meeting, the team leaders prepare a table in Excel with the number of worked hours and the remaining budget for each of their projects. They often do this on Sunday evening, instead of spending time with their families. The issue here, again, is that the managers do not have an instrument to replace this manual work. Yet every preparation of such a table means a cost for the company, and it’s not petty change. Calculate for yourself how much money it costs every year to prepare such project reports. These are costs that cannot be invoiced to any client, which means they are paid from project profits. Are there no “better projects” that the company’s money would be better invested in?

Limits of using Excel for managing the entire agency

However, agencies also use Excel tables to help manage the entire company. They keep track not only of payroll and overhead costs but also expected revenues from projects. But the problem is that they collect and register such data only for an immediate overview. In other words, they draw no further conceptual conclusions from this data. They do not look for links between the data, do not know how to break them down in detail based on client profitability, or don’t know what types of projects actually earn them a living. They only know the overall monthly financial balance. But this is not enough if they want to manage their agency cleverly based on numbers, not feelings.

And why is this data not available to them?

  • They only track worked time, not the costs of worked time
  • The data is often outdated because it takes several days before everybody fills in the right numbers
  • They only evaluate some projects because they don’t have the capacity to evaluate all projects

The lack of collected data is also due to the fact that most agency owners only track paid projects. They entirely forget about the fact that people at their agency spend a lot of time on unbilled or internal projects. These are all costs that significantly affect the company’s overall financial efficiency. Ask yourselves: do you know how many internal projects are running at your company and how much money it costs you monthly? Or do you track these internal projects in yet another Excel table?

Manage your agency by using Costlocker

If you are in the same situation and are tired of running your agency in Excel tables, we have a solution for you. Try Costlocker and keep all your revenues, costs, and profits from projects under control. See your agency’s financial performance and people’s efficiency in real-time, not just on billed projects but also on those that are unbilled and internal. You need only one thing — to transfer everything you currently register in Excel to Costlocker in one go — people’s wages, client rates, company overheads, external project expenses and all the projects and their budgets. Costlocker will take care of all the rest..