It’s been over a month now since Team Kyan went 100% remote. We kicked off this blog series mid-March, focusing on the tools that you need to run workshops with distributed teams.
We then looked at some of the best-in-class SaaS products that we use day-to-day at Kyan. Thankfully, we switched to many of those long before lockdown, so our transition to fully remote has been pretty smooth. But what about the day-to-day running of an agency? What about those specific tools that you need to keep the cogs turning back of house?
This is certainly a saturated market, with no lack of choice when it comes to CRMs, time management, planning and so on. And we’ve tried a bunch of options over the years, but in the last 12 months we’ve settled on a core set of agency-specific SaaS solutions that we couldn’t live without. Here’s a lowdown.
This one is pretty important to us. All of our billable staff log their hours in Harvest. This allows us to track all project budgets with granular detail, so as a measurement of time, it needs to be 100% accurate and done in real time. Harvest is a robust timesheeting solution with great visibility, and it’s not a pain to use. There are browser or OS add-ons that make time tracking really easy. Timesheets are never a fun aspect of the job, so picking one that’s got a good UI and integrates nicely with all your other tools makes a difference.
As a sister product to Harvest, Forecast naturally integrates with it really well. It allows us to see where the gaps are in our production schedule and gives us some really insightful at-a-glance visibility of ‘studio load’. This means we don’t have to bother people and ask them what they’re working on, or interrupt them to tell them what they’re working on next week. Forecast plots out projects and keeps it all running smoothly. It also really helps for planning design sprints and workshops where you need to find availability across 4-5 disciplines.
It’s a simple job but someone has to do it. Tracking holidays means we can avoid clashes, and it also ensures that everyone is taking the time off that they need. As you can imagine, this could be a lot of admin. Timetastic is an easy-to-use tool that everyone in the company has access to. It logs all holidays, absences and even our team offsite events. And as with the previous two examples, it’s all about visibility. Anyone can login and see where their colleagues are at. This makes planning ahead easy. We’ve even setup Slack integration, so there’s a daily 8am post into our #whereiseverybody channel.
This one’s really important to us. Officevibe polls the team at regular intervals with questions around culture, team, workload, structure and the general mood of the studio. It’s our way of keeping a finger on the pulse and garnering real feedback from everyone at Kyan. It’s by no means a replacement for face-to-face conversations but when there is something small that you want to bring up or suggest, it’s a nice low friction way to register it and know someone is going to take a look.
We use this data for a number of things. Firstly, it builds an overall Officevibe score, which gives us an idea of how everyone’s feeling collectively. Secondly, it’s a way for team members to feedback on improvements, suggestions or something that’s troubling them (which they can choose to do anonymously). And we can act directly in response to that feedback to keep Kyan an award-winning place to work.
I’ll be honest, we’ve been around the block with CRM solutions. We never quite found that sweet spot, but we’re happy we’ve landed with Hubspot. This is the central repository for all client communication, their information and any lists we’ve chosen to categorise them into. We also use it for all of our marketing communications, so that may be event invites, followup emails, signup forms and such like. We’ve plugged Hubspot into Gmail, which really helps with business continuity. And we’ve also hooked it up to Survicate, which allows us to easily NPS our clients.
Our events programme is very active, with six events in the Kyan event family. For the bigger things like WXG and Crafted (watch this space), we use Eventbrite. This means we don’t have to worry about a payment gateway and can let someone else do the heavy lifting here. It’s a familiar platform to many people, so we have no qualms about using it in place of a bespoke, self-built solution. We can easily hook this up to Slack and Hubspot using the excellent Zapier.
All of these SaaS products make the day-to-day running of an agency so much easier, especially now we are fully remote. There’s no hardware requirements for any of it and it all integrates nicely together where we need it to.
As a software company ourselves, we really value good, solid and well-designed products, and we think we’ve found our 'happy place' with these. We’ve tried lot’s of different combinations and I really enjoy testing out new products, but there’s always room to improve, right?
Kyan love to build SaaS products for our clients and we know building our own solution is always an option. But we do take our own advice; where there is a good quality digital product already providing a solution, we’re better off using that, and spending our money and time on fixing something that’s more unique to our business.
This is part three of a three part series. Read the others here:
Why it's a great time for SaaS products by Laurent Maguire
Running discovery workshops with distributed teams by Ben Horsley-Summer