“I can’t ‘make’ them use the system.”

If you’re the Traffic Manager, you’re in an empowered position. IF, that is, the Principal(s) within your agency fully support you in your role.

Yes, you can.

Throughout the years, I’ve encountered numerous Traffic Managers struggling with their project management systems and getting employees to embrace them. The primary underlying factor, in nearly every instance, is a lack of support from upper management.

Many Principals recognize the need for improved workflow strategies. They’re wholeheartedly on board with finding the right system. Once the system is in-house, however, they often adopt an attitude of “everyone should use it [but me].” Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying they’re doing so in malicious way. They’re simply pulled in so many different directions that it’s often difficult to slow down long enough to enter their meeting notes in the system. The problem is, other employees see this and, in turn, adopt an attitude of “if he doesn’t use the system, why should I?” Ultimately, this leads to an overall system breakdown and you’re right back where you started.

So, what’s the solution?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a silver bullet. What I do have, however, are a few suggestions for getting “buy-in” from Principals and employees alike. Of course, every agency is different, so you’ll have to find a balance that works well for yours.

1. Show them the money. Keep a running total of the time it takes within a given week, for example, for you to track down information outside of the system. For example, the Art Director came to you (as Traffic) with questions about the layout. You, in turn, had to track down the Account Executive (AE) and ask questions, take notes, etc. Then, you had to convey that information back to the Art Director so s(he) could begin working; 30+ min. of billable [Art Director] time lost. Had the AE simply put his/her notes in the system to begin with, valuable time could have been saved. This is information that a Principal(s) will find helpful — “lost” billable time.

2. Talk about ROI. Gather a rough estimate of how much money has been invested in your project management system, to date, and remind the Principal(s) — “We’ve invested a $2,000 License Fee + ~$3,000 in User Fees… ~$5,000 for this system.” That’s A LOT of hard-earned money to just “throw away.” If each employee recovered a mere half-hour of billable time (e.g. $100/hr.), per month, the cost of his/her individual user fee (e.g. $35/mo.) would be covered. The system will pay for itself, if people simply use it. 

3. Show them what’s in it for them. If I’m an Account Supervisor, for example, I need to see the “big picture” of my client’s workload. Look within your existing project management system for said reports. Show them to agency/department managers and stress how helpful they could be if information were entered in the system in a timely manner. When presenting employees with this information, avoid using generalities. Envision how each employee will use the reports and then convey those role-specific benefits.

4. Educate employees about the overall system. It’s important that employees feel comfortable using your project management system. If they don’t fully understand its capabilities, they’re going to be less likely to log in. Also keep in mind, some employees may perceive the implementation of a new system as actually increasing their workloads by requiring that they learn new processes and procedures. While this may be true initially, in the long-term they’re going to gain far more valuable time by using the system.

Again, every agency is different — different people and processes. Invest time in truly understanding your existing workflow (the good and the bad), your team members and what may be prohibiting them from “buying into” the system.