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Fish at Anomaly and other agencies that don’t use timesheets: How do you measure utilization (especially relating to burnout potential and hiring needs) and project-level profitability?

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Do you seriously use timesheets to measure staff burnout potential and potential hiring needs?? We all know people just make them up right? Im sure there has been a hundred questions on here about how everyone makes them up. Using them to track anything serious is like taking what’s said in a focus group at face value... You just can’t. Those things are monitored at a personal level. As they should be at every agency.

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Anomaly 1, if we put utilization/hiring aside (although I am curious about GD1’s points, too): how do you guys measure project-level profitability/financial health in lieu of traditional timesheet-based data? Or is that only measured at the macro level?

In a lot of ways it’s freeing and allows you to move around and work on a lot of different things at once but in other ways you are slaves first and foremost to your PMs, not your boss, not the partners, but the PMs and Anomaly is lucky to have many great ones but god forbid one isn’t.

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Oh there are DEFINITELY PMs that aren’t hahaha. But agreed most of them are awesome.

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It’s a great question and whoever figures out the alternative model would be the savior of the industry. The industry at large has been trying to solve this for years. A few popular experiments have been: -bonuses/earn-backs based on campaign success, -project fees based purely on the deliverables vs the specific personnel/time committed to achieving them, -agency licensing their output as IP with ongoing remuneration I don’t think Anomaly have solved anything yet but kudos to them for trying and convincing some pretty big clients for playing along with their model.

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Sort of. End of the day the costs to business are still just salaries plus overhead, so the macro equation remains as it is currently per any other labor based business model. (Notwithstanding when IP kicks in “second year” and starts paying its own dividends).

Fish at agencies that do use timesheets, what's the biggest stretch in assigning billable hours you've accomplished? Either one time or on the reg.

Yes, timesheets are used to measure and report on resource utilization and negotiate client terms. And while the accuracy does have a margin of error it’s actually smaller than you’d think even with people “making them up”. The accuracy is probably the least of the issues with the agency billing system.

Timesheets are the most ridiculous business proposition. It puts the agencies interest at odds with the clients from day 1. In a timesheet model, the best case scenario for an agency is for the client to never approve any work, and continually have meetings. There is no reward for landing on “the idea” quickly

^ The truth is, agencies never land on ideas “quickly” enough to compensate for long term overburn on head hours. If you’ve ever actually looked at utilization you’ll see the reporting is pretty consistently in favor of that fact. When was the last time any creative agency actually delivered a winning concept early, let alone beat the production schedule by any substantial margin? It never happens to any meaningful degree. The model in itself is not to blame. It works perfectly well for lawyers. But the agency system and structure needs some work for sure.

AD1/CD1: I don’t disagree and am not arguing in favor of timesheets (and especially not in favor of billing clients hourly or reconciling down to the hour!). What I’m interested in uncovering in this post is: What are alternative models and methodologies to measure key indicators of business health such as project profitability? Timesheets provide data that translates into those insights, however imperfectly. When we no longer have actuals/a record of what labor has been put towards a project (which is a real, non-overhead business cost—one of the only ones for us, since we’re not manufacturing, say, toys from plastic and wood physical materials), we seem to be left just flying blind and going off of people’s guts as to “did we finish approximately on time without the team working super late” as a very fuzzy proxy for “are we on budget/making any money.” That’s not good enough for a sustainable, scalable business. So, what is the alternative to timesheet-driven measurements and methodologies to give us that hard (-ish) business data?

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