Timesheet system helps leading media agency to bill with confidence

London based communications planning and media buying agency ZenithOptimedia have been using timesheet system Tempora since 2006. Today, they have a clear view of time spent on all clients, jobs and projects – and that means they can see client profitabilty at a glance. But it hasn’t always been this way.

According to Hazel Hillary, Group Financial Controller, recording time used to be a much more labour intensive process.

“Staff used to write down their hours on a piece of paper. PAs would then enter those hours manually into a spreadsheet before someone in Finance could consolidate everything by department and by client.”

It didn’t stop there. Salaries had to be added in manually too. All 300 of them.

We knew Tempora had been designed specifically for our type of business, and we could have it up and running quickly.

Hazel Hillary ZenithOptimedia

“We really needed to analyse our profitability by department and across multiple monthly periods. We also wanted to be able to analyse by brand level – not just by client,” says Ms Hillary.

It just so happened that while they were considering replacement systems, the Finance Director at Starcom joined ZenithOptimedia. She’d been using Tempora and suggested bringing it onboard.

“We knew Tempora had been designed specifically for our type of business,” says Ms Hillary, “and we could have it up and running quickly”.

So ZenithOptimedia started using Tempora.

Custom reports give us options

Now, seven years later, ZenithOptimedia are using Tempora on daily basis to run reports and provide analysis at various levels: by client, department, brand, campaign or person.

“It allows us to maintain our efficiency as an agency,” says Ms Hillary.

“By running custom reports, I can see quickly whether a client is profitable or not. Tempora allows us to compare profitability year-on-year, or by department – which means I know whether the TV department is more efficient than the press department, or whether each department has improved in the following year by client.”

This gives ZenithOptimedia options.

If there are profitability issues on certain clients, they can either look at ways of improving internal efficiencies (possibly by choosing more suitable individuals for a specific type of job), or renegotiate fees with clients.

“We can be totally upfront with clients about how much time we spend on their campaigns, and that builds trust between us.

Hazel Hillary ZenithOptimedia

The threat of lock-out

In recent weeks, ZenithOptimedia has started trialing Tempora’s add-on module Prompt – an automated feature that reminds staff to fill out their timesheets. In extreme cases it can also be configured to lock a user out of their computer all together, until the offending timesheet has been completed.

“So far, we’ve only rolled the module out to 30 people,” says Ms Hillary, “but it already looks as though the threat of being locked out is enough to speed things up”.

Clients trust our data

When asked what the biggest advantage of a timesheet system like Tempora is, Ms Hillary is quick to answer.

“I think the fact that you can custom-build your own reports is very good – especially because you can drill down to five levels of detail.”

The bigger picture, however, is one of trust and transparency.

“We can be totally upfront with clients about how much time we spend on their campaigns,” says Ms Hillary, “and that builds trust between us”.

The Group Financial Controller cites the example of one of their clients, who they send time reports to on a monthly basis.

“Because Tempora allows us to provide a detailed breakdown of time,” says Ms Hillary, “we have greater creditability in our fee discussions with clients because they trust the data we send them.

“That wouldn’t be the case if we simply submitted an invoice on its own.”


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