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IT for Agencies – software

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We run a monthly forum for heads of Finance and Operations in creative and communications agencies. These provide an opportunity to discuss IT-related topics with peers and develop some industry benchmarks. The last session was on December 4th. Many thanks to Broadgate Mainland for use of their boardroom and for providing refreshments.

We had a lively discussion from the following:

Jenny Brown, Broadgate Mainland
Guy Whistler, Cubit Technology
Ralph Harrison, Cubit Technology
Ashley Nunn, Lansons
David Cohen, Powerscourt
Daisy Fannin, Templemere
Andrew Shephard, Wildfire

PR Data/service providers merge
Cision merged with Vocus and in October bought Gorkana
Discounts on pricing to existing customers have disappeared. Use of monopoly pressure to get higher profits?
Might drive users towards Agility?

Media monitoring
Key suppliers are Gorkana, Precise and Moreover (recently bought by LexisNexis)
Precise is costly but do offer discounts to get you started. Gives a full range of services:
• Database of media contacts
• Builds lists
• Distributes content
• Records what’s been sent to whom
• Monitors coverage in media
• Reports activity
• Competitor analysis

Single sign on software – Centrify
Uses Windows domain controller
Runs on Windows and Mac OS
Gives staff a portal to access all web-based applications they use
Logs in automatically based on the authentication
SAML protocol – exchanges encryption tokens in the background
Can link all services to Active Directory
If user leaves the business, can revoke all services – users don’t even see their passwords
Also has a suite of programs to bring Macs into Active Directory
Works for FT access etc? yes, will work with any web service but works best with SAML compliant
Personal logins or joint subscription?
Easier for new staff to access the software products they need
Great reduction in time taken to set up new members of staff or turn off services of leavers
Cost is approx £100 for a 3 year subscription

Remote Access Software – DataNow
Replicates from corporate server(s) to an organisation’s own DataNow folder locally
Unlike using Dropbox etc, the data never leaves the organisation
You can choose to synch down to your computer or leave it on the server
Offers the choice to user – but administrator can override
Done through AD permissions
Works with OSX and Windows
Can view/edit through Android and iOS – doesn’t download to device
Install on Windows server with AD
SSL certificate to secure entry
Runs as App with system tray icon that users can see on Windows Explorer
Much easier to use than VPN
Also valuable for Citrix users – allows them to work when they have no Internet connection
Encryption key taken from the first time it sync
One-off licence – £80 per person – incl first year software maintenance. These are licences for each named user but can be transferred if a person leaves the business.


Like using Vocus, many CRM systems need discipline to set up and run
Have to know what you want out of it at the end
Need conformity – difficult with creative/communications business
Act! – found to be not very effective so people gave up and reverted to their own XL sheets
Manually collated – so errors and omissions
Recently annual party and Christmas card/gift distribution – highlighted the need for better system
Some people want a system that connects with Linkedin
But recently Linkedin only provide API’s to 2 strategic partners, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce, others like SugarCRM and Zoho have been cut off
For some agencies, CRM is just an address list – not for tracking sales opportunities or events,
Key to success is ensuring people use it and update it
For new business contacts – relying on people to report back that they’ve met for a coffee etc
But now, using smartphones, people can update while they’re in the taxi on the way back from the meeting
Like filling out timesheets or sickness form it’s a culture that has to be adopted

       Capsule CRM

  • Very simple – 1/10th sophistication of Salesforce but don’t need a training course
  • British company, terminology is familiar
  • Import from Excel or enter organisation and people – tag by sector or however you want to use it
  • Can enter sales opportunities
  • Can enter cases – for parties, events etc. Quite flexible
  • Can trial first
  • Salesforce at top level is £85 per month
  • Capsule is £8 per user per month
  • iPhone App available

Forcing timesheets
Probably not a single technology solution – get people to understand how the info’s used for planning resources and running the agency. Not just big brother. Send them a chart showing how their team compares with the others.
Clicktime is good for this
To block someone before they fill in timesheet mans they might not be able to complete the timesheet and they won’t be so accurate or comprehensive so counter-productive
Good idea to break into teams of about 6 and use peer group pressure – compete for prize like half day holiday. Or a lock on the beer fridge which only opens when all the time sheets are in.
Need to make it easier for people to enter their timesheet but they do need to apply intelligence so the information is accurate and comprehensive

Document Management System
Can be cost effective for finance and HR. Standalone scanner will read the contents and enter into the relevant accounts so clerks don’t need to enter, just visually check it’s correct. Also contracts can be centrally stored and then searchable. Can use on-premise server or cloud-based. Can read paper or pdfs. Margolis is one supplier.
Low cost alternative is to scan into OneNote which is a product included in MS Office then all text is searchable.

Next session
Powerscourt kindly offered to host once we have an agreed agenda. Current suggestions are:-
• Gorkana-Vocus/Cision monopoly and effect on costs
• Paywalls for Murdoch titles

What are your hot topics?

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