A simple way to create, update, and push out process changes in your agency without disruption.
It’s one of the most common reasons why agencies have trouble scaling their services.
It’s not a lack of processes. But rather, it’s the challenge of your processes keeping up with the way you and your team actually do things today in your business.
You’re constantly improving.
You’re becoming more efficient.
Your tools are changing.
Your team is growing.
Your client base is growing.
All that means that your processes need to improve, adapt, and change in order to keep up.
Process changes cause disruption.
Every time you rework one of your processes, it throws a wrench in your operation—especially all of those active projects that are still using the old way of doing things.
You probably deal with this same frustrating workflow:
- You notice a problem that needs fixing in your process.
- You edit and improve your process.
- You tediously make the same change to each of your active projects to reflect the new workflow.
- You stop your team’s progress, adding a bunch of confusion into the mix on their current projects.
In this detailed guide, we’re sharing a better approach to process implementation, including:
- Why is process implementation important?
- What are the different steps for successfully implementing a new process?
- 7 tips for implementing new processes in your agency
- What are the biggest opportunities to improve existing processes?
- What are the most common pitfalls agencies run into when improving their existing processes
- How to implement changes to your existing processes without disrupting your team
Pro Tip: Don’t miss our video tutorial above showing how to seamlessly push out your latest process changes to all of your active projects and tasks using ProcessKit.
Why is process implementation important?
Simply put, process implementation is the act of turning a strategy or process in your agency into a set of tasks that can be executed on a consistent basis.
Having well-defined processes brings many advantages, including:
Your team isn’t reinventing the wheel whenever you add a new client. So while the work might be different, you are executing the same process day in and day out
Processes ensure that balls aren’t dropped and eliminate some of the fire drills that are common in agencies
- Higher-quality standards
When everyone is following the same process, this means that you can deliver work at a consistently high standard each time.
Processes are living documents. They need to be updated and then re-deployed regularly. You want to make this process of updating processes as smooth as possible to minimize team and client disruption.
What are the different steps for successfully implementing a new process?
Regardless of whether you run a web design firm, a marketing agency, or a podcast production company, there are certain processes that all service providers should have in place, such as sales and client onboarding.
Let’s say you want to build out your new client onboarding process. Here is a framework that you can use to create this process.
- Step 1 – Set your desired goal for this process.
In this case, it might be to onboard each new client successfully within 30 days.
- Step 2 – Define who on your team is responsible for this process.
They might not have to do each step themselves, but they are ultimately responsible for it. They are the “buck stops here” person. In addition, you should add any key team members that will need to contribute to this process.
For example, the person who owns this process might be your operations manager. The key people on your team who contribute to this process might be your virtual assistant (VA), account manager, and sales rep.
- Step 3- Write down (and/or record) each step of the process
Looking for specific steps for how to design a great onboarding experience for new clients, read our agency client onboarding guide.
- Step 4 – Set deadlines (if applicable)
It is a great idea to assign deadlines for each step in your process. This holds specific team members accountable and ensures everything is completed in a timely fashion.
- Step 5 – Evaluate how well the process is working at regular intervals
As we alluded to earlier in this post, each process you create is a living document. You can’t just set it and forget it. We recommend reviewing your processes at least once a quarter.
- Step 6 – Iterate and improve the process
As you review your processes, this is the perfect opportunity to iterate on them. You should push out new process improvements to all active projects that are using that particular process.
7 additional tips for implementing new processes in your agency
Since every agency is different, we reached out to a handful of agency owners and had them share some tips on how they implement new processes.
Create a SOP for writing SOPs
“So, we have an SOP for writing SOP, which was written by somebody in my team,” says John Ainsworth of Data Driven Marketing. “We’ve got a whole structure in terms of the way that we document our processes.
“One tip is to give context for why the process is important and what you’re going to need to have in place.
Another tip would be to keep them as short as you possibly can and consider including “over-the-shoulder” style videos where it shows how you actually do the thing.”
Don’t reinvent the wheel
“Good engineers create and wait, great engineers steal and innovate,” says Davis Nguyen of My Consulting Offer. “You are unlikely the first person to ever want to do what you are about to do. Learn from others what works and avoid the time and money wasted from repeating what doesn’t work.
Talk to other agencies about how they deal with the process you are building and then optimize it even more. This is the cheat code to business is learning from the experiences of others.”
Ask the implementor to document the process
“Whenever we implement a new process, it’s always been for something that we’ve done before – sometimes just 2 times, but often 5-10 or more times,” says Alex Panagis of ScaleMath. “Once the process has been created, we ask the “implementer” (whoever that is in your case, i.e. the person actually executing this process) to refer back to the past projects and situations in which we should have had this particular process in place. Documenting each step as they go to ensure that it fits what the process has been designed for as well as the flexibility of matching a situation before we even had the process in place.
Until a process can be run with no involvement from anyone other than the people that are intended to be involved, it is considered to be in a trial stage where we know we’ll be making many improvements to it over the course of a 2-3 week period as it’s tested in dozens of different scenarios/real-world situations.”
Jimmy Rose of ContentSnare.com adds, “The easiest way I have found to create a process is to simply do the task and take notes and screenshots as you go. It ensures you get it mostly right the first time and only adds a bit of time to the task.”
Start at the bottom
“We have a slightly different approach than most agencies in the sense that we move from bottom to top,” says Jason Ciment of GetVisible.com. “This manifests by our leadership asking the deployment team at the ground level to write up the new process and present it to management for review.
By empowering these employees to write up the processes, it achieves the psychological buy-in component that often hinders or destroys the success rate of new process integrations.
We follow the 4-hour workweek thought process to break each process down into major steps and minor steps (i.e. categories and sub-categories). We then integrate the new process into our real-time online project management tool. We can then assign sub-tasks and checklists to specific employees and hold them accountable for completing them on time. The result of this approach is that managers really get to manage, and the employees become part of the solution too.”
Do a partial rollout
“Our main tips for implementing a new process or system in an agency would be partial rollout and using your team,” says Laura Mellor of AMZ Pathfinder. “Our team is very culturally diverse, with different ages, backgrounds, and ways of thinking. So when the time comes for a new process, we really use this to our advantage.
After the initial foundation is built, we roll it out to our team, usually for a couple of the clients they work with, so they can test it. After a couple of weeks, once everyone has tried the process, we gather the feedback from everyone and build upon the initial foundations, or if needed, change it altogether.
This allows us to utilize our diversity, and 99% of the time, we end up with a better process than when we first started.
It is too easy to be strict in the building process, thinking, ‘this is how I have built it, so this is how it will be.’ This doesn’t work as usual. The managers who implement these processes are not always the ones getting their hands dirty and actually using the system. We have to remain flexible as the clients we work with coming in all shapes and sizes. A one shoe fits all policy does not work. Having that flexibility in our internal processes allows us to stay on our toes and keep our clients happy and most importantly, keep our team happy with the work they do every day.”
Make sure to stress test your new processes
“Details matter, but don’t wait until it’s perfect,” says Josh Krakauer of Sculpt. “ Just like a new product needs customer validation, a new process needs team stress-testing. That means less time upfront perfecting the formatting of every slide and more time iterating on what isn’t working.
OCD operators will feel this pain.
We’ve found the best way to implement a new agency process starts with a crystal clear outcome, an internal champion willing to own R&D, and lots of timely feedback from people using it.”
Ask for feedback from clients
“Interview 2-3 clients,” says Rich DeMatteo of Bad Rhino Inc. “Be sure to choose at least one client that has had a rocky experience in one of your processes. Sometimes it may feel like you need to change, but if you can’t become laser-focused on the exact missed steps, a process change might set you back even further.”
What are the biggest opportunities to improve existing processes?
While creating new processes is important, it is often more important to keep your existing processes up-to-date.
There are plenty of opportunities that naturally arise in the day-to-day operations that are perfect queues for you and your team to improve how you do things.
Here are a few common signs that an existing process could be improved:
- A ball gets dropped
Someone forgot a key step or an important detail. Go find that particular task and fill it out with some more detail, including a screenshot or a Loom video.
- Someone or something was late
Are deadlines continuously getting missed? That’s a perfect opportunity to adjust your standard timelines or how you calculate those task due dates.
- A process is becoming more complex
Your processes should be streamlined. If you are finding your team’s workflow is becoming clunky or complicated, that is a sign you need to rework your process.
- Your client causes delays
It’s helpful to build in some follow-up nudges to help your client deliver those assets you need from them. You can even use conditional logic to only display those follow-up tasks if their dependencies are late.
- Clients ask for rush jobs
This is a sign that you should add more expectation-setters in your client onboarding flow. You can add a weekly update email to keep them informed of your progress and what they can expect next week.
In addition, ask your team regularly how they are feeling about the processes they are using.
Laura says, “We also ask the team often how they feel about the processes they are using and how they can be improved.
Since we work with Amazon, which changes its policies and systems very often, this means we must also follow suit. Adapt and overcome.
Continuous improvement is the only way to stay ahead of the game. This is why it is one of our core values. If you allow your internal processes to become old and clunky, it can lead to an overwhelming amount of work, small regular changes reduce this workload and keep things manageable and organized.”
Alex adds, “If someone goes through a process and has questions, or has to deviate significantly from the process to the point where there is doubt – meaning people that don’t normally have to get involved end up having to get involved, that’s a great indicator that you need to revisit a process sooner rather than later. Other reasons include whenever we want to test a change to a process or come across the opportunity to improve one. This can be based on new information that has come to light or general improvements that we notice ourselves that could be made as we execute any given process.”
In addition, even if none of these issues come up, it is helpful to set aside time to review and refresh all of your processes on a regular cadence. In general, we recommend going through your processes at least every 6-12 months.
You may find that it is natural to review them sooner if you do quarterly planning in your agency, like through the EOS Framework.
For example, Josh says, “Every quarter, we set Rocks (big goals) for the company in 3 intertwined areas: Sales, People, and Services. To grow in any of the 3, changes are required in all of the 3.
For instance, landing bigger clients means staffing up specialized roles and streamlining their work.
To keep a steady pace of growth every 3 months, a steady stream of improvements are required.
However, the scale and scope make a difference. We find foundational, organization-wide process changes take a year to fully implement. Whereas updating a client-specific process takes less than a month.”
What are the most common pitfalls agencies run into when improving their existing processes?
Here are some of the most common traps that we see agency owners make when they focus on improving existing processes.
- Overcomplicating an existing process
The goal is to simplify your process, not add unnecessary complexity or steps.
- Trying to fix something that isn’t broken
If a process is working smoothly, don’t mess with it.
- Updating a process without understanding the full scope of the problem
If you don’t understand the goal of the process or don’t involve all of the key team members, who are working on said process, you run the risk of implementing a partial fix, not addressing the problem at all, or worse breaking more processes.
- Trying to solve a people-centric process issue with technology
This is particularly common with technical founders. You can’t code your way out of a people-centric process. For example, if deadlines on a particular task are repeatedly being missed, creating a new script won’t solve the problem if the real reason that task is delivered late is because your team is overworked and understaffed.
- Trying to automate too much
This is related to the point above. Automation is a wonderful thing. However, your processes come first, and anything you automate should complement that. Not the other way around!
- Disrupting your team when you implement process improvements
While you need to be updating your processes regularly, this shouldn’t cause unnecessary disruptions for your team. For example, if you are continually asking people to change their workflows halfway through their work to cater to your new process, this is wildly inefficient. Not to mention, it is a morale killer for your team.
How to implement changes to your existing processes without disrupting your team
By now, you know that continuous process improvement is a must if you’re going to keep scaling and growing your agency.
You know that every time you change things up in your processes, it’s a massive disruption for your team, throwing your active projects off their tracks.
ProcessKit’s propagation feature solves this problem.
Every time you make changes to your process templates in ProcessKit–whether you’re reordering steps, adding new ones, reworking your conditional logic, date rules, or anything else—You can simply click the “Propagate changes” button.
What does that do? It magically pushes out all of your latest changes out to all of your active projects and tasks—without wiping out any of your team’s progress or content that they’ve already inputted into those tasks.
Pro Tip: Here is how to propagate process changes to active projects in ProcessKit without disrupting your team.
In sum, how you implement new processes as well as update existing ones is one of the most important factors to get right if you want to scale your agency.
This is where using software – like ProcessKit – makes it easy to not only manage your projects and tasks but also makes it easy to update existing processes as your team and client roster grows.
Want to see how ProcessKit works? Sign up for a free trial.