Overcoming Agency Hurdles: How to Embrace Automation

office full of people. cartoon style. Lots of computers and robots

What is automation?

Automation isn’t a modern phenomenon. People have been automating tasks for centuries. Originally this meant creating a mechanical solution to a manual task, but more recently we’re automating using software and cloud services.

What started with fishing and waterwheels is now focused on writing code to offload the work of a person to a computer.

IBM defines Automation as “the application of technology, programs, robotics, or processes to achieve outcomes with minimal human input”. Nice!

There’s a massive opportunity for agencies to remove the need for ‘human input’, allowing your people to focus on work which returns more value for clients.

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Win at Client Communication Using The CRAFT Model

woman sat at desk typing on a computer with dozens of messages flying past on both sizes

A simple communication approach that works with your clients.

They say that retaining a client is easier than winning a new one. They’re right. Much easier.

But it still takes effort.

Using a simple system reduces the burden. Ensuring your clients get a positive and consistent experience. Even across projects, teams and annual budgets.

Building strong, lasting relationships is the foundation of any long-lived, successful agency.

Agencies that thrive tend to excel at knowing and retaining their clients. They create partnerships rather than encouraging a limiting supplier status.

There are many ways to build trust and grow a strong client relationship. By far the most important is how you communicate with them.

Communication is Key

Relationship building ultimately comes down to how we communicate with people. Doing it well is often the difference between client disappointment and delight.

So to help, I’ve defined a client communication model you can use to boost your team’s existing skills.

The CRAFT model helps ensure your team’s ways of communicating with clients don’t vary. No matter who sends the communication. Which project it’s for. Or how challenging things might be.

Sticking to the CRAFT model will help keep your client relationships on track.

The CRAFT Model

With only five markers to be mindful of, the CRAFT approach is simple enough to embed in any team.

All your client communication should achieve the following five markers of quality.

Everything you send should be:


Client stakeholders are rarely only working on one thing. They are likely dipping in and out of the projects you work on with them. Context switching will occur.

When you contact them, it should be obvious what we want. What information we need them to know. What thinking they need to do. What response we want. When we want it by.

The Clear marker encourages:

  • one message per topic
  • shorter messages
  • fewer words per paragraphs
  • bullet points
  • one single call to action
  • the right channel for the message


Projects rarely have a single stakeholder. It’s what makes Stakeholder mapping so important in the earliest stages of a project.

Each stakeholder usually has a different amount of involvement in the project. They will want to know about different areas of the work and need different levels of detail.

Relevant means only sending the information that is desirable to each recipient.

Do you need to send that detailed project plan to every stakeholder, or would some like an overview?

Would a weekly summary be better for some, while others want daily updates?

The Relevant marker encourages:

  • sending personalised communication
  • creating summaries for some
  • not sending all updates to all stakeholders


Don’t send communication which removes your personality. Avoid sending over complex language when you normally speak plainly.

Be yourself in communication. Write as though you’re speaking.

Include empathy where it makes sense to do so.

Be self-aware while creating your communications. Read it back and confirm you’re being yourself.

Being authentic has proven to be better at forming bonds between people. They feel like a human is getting in touch.

The Authentic marker encourages:

  • using simple language
  • writing how you speak
  • being empathetic
  • including personality in your messages


The best way to sow seeds of doubt with a client is to leave gaps between your updates.

Frequent communication fosters trust, but also engagement. The best project outcomes come from engaged teams and clients. Encourage engagement whenever possible.

And that means sending frequent communication. Some stakeholders might want a weekly summary of progress. An engaged stakeholder may want daily updates and questions.

Ask about personal communication preference and ensure all stakeholders feels involved.

The Frequent marker encourages:

  • regular contact
  • transparency
  • a personalised schedule


Sending a reply a week after being asked a question won’t make you many fans.

Being Timely is about reducing the gaps between having news and sharing it.

Sending out information shortly after an event or meeting. Being quick to respond to questions.

The Timely marker encourages:

  • being prompt
  • being responsive
  • sending information before it’s requested

Implementing CRAFT

The CRAFT model works best with new projects. But with a little more work can be implemented more broadly.

A Stakeholder map is useful for knowing what to send to whom. You can create that yourself or with your client.

The style guidance is globally relevant and works as a reference card or for marking your own words.

Pin the CRAFT markers on walls or share them in your Slack channels. Ask for feedback on how it might be best embedded in teams.

It can also help when reviewing messages that you’ve already sent. When looking for ways to grow a client relationship, consider historic communication. Go from there.

Let me know how you get on

If you make use of CRAFT at your agency, I would love to know!

And feedback is always welcome. Is something missing or unclear here?

How does Agile work for a project where the client expects fixed scope and price?


Does it work at all? Let’s dig into Agile’s origins.

Fixed scope clashes violently with the flexibility so fundamental to Agile approaches.

Agile needs a different mindset than methodically working through the lines of a requirements list. The ‘delivery what we agreed’ of fixed scope, against the ‘respond to change’ of Agile.

For a moment, let’s imagine we’re a project manager. A bloody good one. One who prides themselves on our ability to solve challenging puzzles. To make complex things appear simple.

We’re face to face with a new client. This client has insisted on a fixed scope and fixed price project. They won’t budge on the expectatio. Both sided has signed the contract (or SOW) which includes this fixed scope clause.

We’ve had zero involvement up to this point. Which means we couldn’t have done anything different. So we need to work out how to pull something brilliant out of the bag.

Turning to the client, we call a short meeting break. We head to a quiet breakout room and scream into a cushion for several seconds.

Once we’ve recovered our composure, we start to wonder; Can Agile still deliver success with a fixed scope?

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Agile without a framework


What does it even mean to do Agile?

Let’s jump right in with a very brief history of Agile. 

Agile was launched by 17 white men (from only 3 countries and aged between 36 and 61) in late 2001.

They created and shared the Agile Manifesto at that time. The manifesto is made up of principles and values. 12 short principles and 4 short values to be exact.

It focuses on the creation of software, nothing else.

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Better Project Risk Management for Agencies

a sign on a stone wall warning of danger

What do successful projects look like? Is it about profitability? Is it about making clients happy? A proud team? Or always hitting deadlines?

Success often means the avoidance of potential failures. And failure avoidance is about surfacing and mitigating risk.

Risk to project delivery comes in many forms. Complete failure is luckily rare. Most project risks only reduce the amount of success that can be achieved, and value that can be created.

Modern agencies serve many concurrent clients. Every one is different. They come with distinct requirements and people. Every project is unique. With new outcomes and deliverables.

Risk needs consideration and review before every new project.

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