February 12, 2017


Mission Control ›

Learning to love systems and processes

Robust systems and processes are the foundations upon which all successful account management is built. Some people would say they are a necessary evil, whilst those who live a systematic life would say they can't live without them. Either way, agencies need these systems - and staff willing to work within the systems - in order for the agency to run smoothly and without issues. 

Given that account managers are usually highly organised (if you weren't you wouldn't last long as an account manager), if anyone is going to love systems and processes, it should be you and your team. Why is it, then, that so many account managers gripe and grumble when it comes to working within a process-based framework? 

"There is not enough time" 

The life of an account manager moves swiftly and is full of time pressures and deadlines. Even if an agency has the best systems and processes, expecting your team to use them can be viewed as requiring extra time that you feel you can’t afford. 

This misconception lies in the belief that using systems adds time on top of your usual workload, where as they should be considered as simply part of your workload. This involves changing your mindset and factoring in administration time into your critical path planning and the flow of your daily schedule. 

If you approach your working day with the understanding that administration is an important and necessary part of your job, then it won't seem as much like a burden, but as something integral to your job that will benefit you and your agency.  

"The system is not working"

It's all very well to say that "thou must followeth the systems”, but if those systems are fundamentally flawed, then you could be setting yourself up to fail, and continue failing; and the more a system is flawed, the less inclined you and your team will want to use that system – which inevitably leads on to other issues.  

Systems may work for one type of scenario, but not for another; or the system may have worked five years ago, but not now.  Therefore, it's good practice to always ask "is this the best we can do?" and "is there a better way?". Hopefully your management is open to making a change if they can see the benefits for staff morale, output quality, client relationships and the bottom line.  

"The system is rubbish" 

"What's wrong?"
"This system has been giving me grief all morning. It's not as good as the system at my old agency. This one keeps spitting out errors. It's stupid and I don't want to use it."
"Have you tried x, y and z?"
"No. Oh, thanks. That's fixed it." 

How often have you (or your colleagues) complained about a system, or application, or piece of technology being "broken", or "rubbish", only to find out that the problem was actually with the way you were using it, rather than with the system itself? 

Pushing back - against using systems and processes – is often the result of not understanding what you're doing; not asking for help; not being willing to learn; or a fear of appearing foolish. If you can open yourself up to learning new things (especially if they are fundamental to your job), you'll get to the point where using systems and processes becomes second nature, and the frustration and fear will drop away. 


You can teach a person to use a particular system or process, but if they don't like the system, or understand WHY they have to work within the system, they will only reluctantly do what is required, or end up doing things their own way. 

Explaining the why as well as the how is important to ensure team buy-in. It's also OK to admit that a particular system may have limitations. As long as everyone works together, in the same way, for the benefit of the whole agency, then the agency cogs will still keep turning. 

The bottom line

Whether we like it or not, systems and processes are here to stay, and they are a fundamental and compulsory part of agency life. You can choose to allow yourself to be frustrated and fervently wish you didn’t have to use them, or you can choose to become a systems and processes guru and maximise all the goodness out of them that you can - for the benefit of your agency, your clients, your projects and your career. It will be totally worth it.



Sarah Ritchie
Sarah Ritchie


Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.

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