Founded in 1967, Marketing Associates is a full service, technology-enabled marketing company headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, employing 250 employees. The company develops analytically driven, integrated sales and marketing initiatives for its clients focused on delivering measurable results.
Services include analytics, creative strategy, sales promotion, direct marketing, interactive marketing, application management services, digital asset management and web hosting.
Marketing Associates has a compelling 45-year history, and yet continues to ambitiously embrace growth nearly a half a century after the firm was first founded. Originally a sole source provider of marketing services to automotive OEM Ford, the company embarked on a strategy in 2008, recognizing the potential for future diversification.
“Back in 2008 we were predominantly focused on the Ford account. But we recognized there was an opportunity to diversify our business and expand our services to other clients,” explains Marketing Associates CFO Ryan Russell. One client with ten projects is a much different scenario than 200 clients with 2,000 projects.”
Taking inventory of its business operations, the Marketing Associates management team also realized it had grown beyond the ten disparate systems it was using to run its business. “Most of these systems were homegrown web applications, used to manage various processes from time tracking to project management. They were rudimentary at best and not scalable,” says Ryan. “We were beginning to experience quality issues, and were struggling with rework and workflows. Engagements were not tracking as profitably as in the past, and in the business we’re in, we are given a PO by our clients and need to deliver within that constraint. We can’t go back asking for more budget because we were inefficient.”
Recognizing that Marketing Associates needed a better solution to support its business into the future, the company embarked on a search for a professional services automation (PSA) solution.
“We needed a solution that could support us in 2009 and beyond; manage a myriad of projects small and large; roll those projects up to the engagement level; and manage resources and all the associated details, such as time and expenses, billings, and so forth,” says Russell.
After a careful consideration of the various market options and “conference room” pilot using the firm’s own data to demonstrate the technology’s fit to the business, Marketing Associates chose Changepoint.
The PSA solution went live in a “big bang” deployment to all users on December 7th, 2009. “It was critical to us that every department was at the table and bought into the Changepoint solution so we have widespread adoption,” says Carrie Nelson, Technical Solutions Manager for Marketing Associates. “The biggest chunk of our statements of work (SOW) and purchase orders (POs) from clients arrive at the first of the year, so we wanted everyone on the platform and acclimatized so Changepoint would be ready to receive new work come January 1st.”
The Marketing Associates team represents true power users of the Changepoint platform. “We use projects very, very heavily,” says Nelson. “I think right now we have about 20,000 to 30,000 projects in the system. We also are power users of Changepoint’s process management engine. All our development work, our development lifecycle, rework, and creative processes flow through Changepoint. And we use Changepoint’s request module like nobody’s business. We use Changepoint requests to move files from one stage of development to another; for our help desk; purchase orders; hire and exit processes within HR; training requests; time off requests. We are definitely using Changepoint request to its fullest potential.”
Marketing Associates has also become a big fan of Changepoint’s advanced business analytics, powered by IBM Cognos. The company has crafted a variety of dashboards which provide real time insight into the business’s workforce and financial operations. “We have over 350 users on the Changepoint system including full time employees and outsourced contractors and everyone has access to an employee dashboard,” says Nelson. “They can log in to see their two week project plan, check on their vacation status (days taken/days remaining), and status of a request for time off. Every employee also gets a utilization report that shows how, and on which clients they have been spending their time.”
A project manager dashboard has automated many of the manual information gathering and reporting tasks that previously bogged down a manager’s day. It filters information based on the project manager, and then shows all active projects, hours planned and hours pending.
Nelson has also built out more than 20 financial reports for Ryan and his team, that allow the finance group to drill down to understand revenue by customer, status of outstanding invoices, and utilization by department among other key performance measures.
Thanks to Changepoint, Marketing Associates now has a fully automated process to run their business, complete with the required signoffs, allowing the organization to eliminate 10 disparate systems. As a result of this improved efficiency, productivity and visibility, the company has realized 34% revenue growth over the last three years, and has watched its utilization grow from 79% to 89%. The entire business has become more proactive in its client dealings, and its work, which is now on time, accurate and delivered with efficiency, has led to improved customer satisfaction scores.
“Business intelligence in Changepoint has allows us to address all of the main information points across the organization, and has helped us manage the business better,” says Ryan. “I strongly believe that if we didn’t have this system in place, we could not have achieved the double digit growth levels we have experienced. “Before Changepoint we had limited visibility, limited reporting and quality issues. Now we have the information at our fingertips to react quickly, fix changes and provide our managers with the feedback they need to improve their piece of the business. As they say, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”