Measuring ROI – Timesheets For A Digital Agency

BC Web Wise Blog Author

Nitin Patil is PHP Team Lead @ BC Web Wise

Do you get a clearly defined commitment from your agency on the resources and time, and cost of tools it invests in your project? Are you able to identify why you are spending X for your agency retainer or a development project? If you are often challenged by a lack of transparency then read on.

The Time Warp

At BC Web Wise, we figured a few years back that an average employee spends around 8 hours in the office moving from one task to another. We defined costs by fair assumptions on the time a job would take. But not withstanding the same, we found a 3-month project at the onset, turned out at times to be a 9 month project or may be even more. The broad scope remained the same. Yet, the work just rolled over. Possibly more layouts were demanded, sections were added, content was being updated because we were behind schedule, client was not available, brand manager changed, logos changed, their branding changed. However pinning it down to how much time we spent on the project was almost next to impossible.

On the other hand we also had certain projects where the client assigned a retainer but did not allocate the work as expected. Monthly updates did not happen because the client was not available for approval of the idea. So no execution happened. It might seem like money for nothing, but not without a big cost to us. At the end year, while accounting for the retainer it becomes a challenge to again summarize what was done and what, if not, was not done and ensuring that we were able to justify the retainer.

So some web research and review of tons of products made us realize how critical it was to understand the efficiency of each employee and evaluate the work carried out by each on a daily basis, and came up with a very simple and easy solution : The Time Sheet.

The Time Sheet

Time sheets are a systematic record of our team members daily tasks with relation to the time spent on its completion. Computers and the Internet have made the process of entering data very simple, as well as generation of reports a matter of a few clicks.

The Time Sheet helps us to track the time spent on each account, maximize profit and keep clients in the loop through total transparency. Everyone in our team, including the administrative staff and non core-product development teams, sales and servicing teams, finance etc. fill the task sheet. With this we have been able to effectively measure the cost of management and production of our accounts.

Not only has this helped us to accurately gauge the profitability of each individual client but tracking time spent on our client’s accounts has enabled to understand cost allocations and ROI. It means that both strengths and weaknesses are 100% visible pushing everyone to work their hardest and most efficiently at all times. In addition, it also allows us to identify inefficiencies in both our processes and individual team members. For example, we can identify individuals within a team taking more time than average on a specific task and then provide coaching to help the individual work more efficiently and improve upon their weaknesses.

Time Tracking Helped Lower Costs In 3 ways:

  1. Making processing more efficient
  2. Making costs visible so you can lower them
  3. Accurate billing and Timely invoicing

Time tracking increased our revenue, as we were able to get correct invoices out for all hours utilized in working for a particular account over a period of time. It speeds up the overall payment cycle, right from invoicing and receipt.

Timesheets Help Projections of Costs & Timelines

Further the timesheets has helped us accurately build a body of knowledge about how much effort different jobs take to develop. For example if developing a 50 page non-flash or animation based website has historically taken 2 months, then it can be assumed that creating a new one will take 2 months. Equally we are able to identify and apprise clients about potential delays that can be caused from their end. Our timesheet software has the ability to track resource costs and project expenses to allow for better future budgeting.

How Timesheets Can Work For You and the Client

Historical data, if not already mapped will be impossible to track should there be no data inputted already. Ask for a record of monthly efforts to be shared and recorded starting today. You will not only get accountability but will be able to understand the efforts digital campaigns require much better. You can move towards getting better ROI, focusing on jobs that are delivering and those that are not so efficient.

Can A Specialist Digital Agency Help In Improving Your ROI

Asha Ravaliya, CFO, BC Web Wise

Asha Ravaliya, is CFO at BC Web Wise

In the new world of marketing, Return on Investment (ROI) has become a key performance indicator for marketing managers. The shift is towards a real-time approach to evaluate how well marketing strategy is working, and how and where money can be best spent. Ideas are still the foundation of creative strategy, but it today has to match the medium of advertising – and most importantly, deliver the goods.


Digital spends have started carving out a bigger chunk of the advertising pie.  But it is not just the incremental monies that are increasing. No longer do traditional/mainline ad agencies monopolize the client’s time on planning for a campaign. Most clients who have realized the digital opportunity involve their digital agencies right from the beginning of a launch/campaign. Joint meetings are held for the briefs, and thereon for shaping the entire campaign. And given the spread of digital work, often enough more time is spent in doing spadework together with the agency on all the digital touch points, and the customized communication that one needs for each.


A specialist digital advertising firm thrives on digital business. Your business is critical to digital outfits, and as a result there is no choice but to be very responsible for delivering returns. Work with a digital arm of a large advertising agency, if you can treat the digital arm independent of how you treat the mainline. Expect a common spread sheet for budgeting, measuring deliverables, and you risk undermining the extent to which you can exploit digital power.


If your overall advertising spend has anything less than 10 per cent on digital, but natural that your full-service agency will be biased towards the medium that has the higher spends. Unwittingly digital work can get a step-motherly treatment, even if the top brasses of the network realize that digital is the next wave. This is simply because right here, right now, the team that’s working on your project has to act on the entire budget allocated to them. With campaign pressures, it would be very difficult to focus on deliverables from the smaller of the campaign elements, however critical it might have appeared at the start. Even you as a client, may allow digital to take a backseat since the agency is finally going to be measured with the total scores on the report card.


Considering that you have indeed allocated smaller of the budgets to a digital agency, the best way to help the one who is working for you is by giving them a better leverage on budgets by centralizing the work on all your brands with a single agency. So other than having better understanding of the digital medium, the need for the digital agency to deliver, bigger budgets that result due to centralization can give your agency better economies of scale, be it related to optimization of media budgets, dedicated resources on your account, investing in research, tools, etc. A single AOR for digital medium for all the brands can help securing the volume the agency will need, and will finally benefit you as the client. Clients can also get better rates having consolidated their business and assuring revenue to its digital agency, all finally resulting in better ROI.


Mainline agencies that have been around for a longer time, and have managed to build layers of cost that add to their overheads. Moreover digital work is often outsourced by the larger agencies, and they do add their premium to the costs actually incurred. Digital agencies have largely emerged only in the last decade. Since budgets have always been smaller for digital work, specialist digital agencies have learnt to keep their costs in control, being wary of large sized conference rooms, work stations, walled cabins, limos for their top brass, and all the perks that may have come with it. A purchase manager while negotiating and justifying why he paid more for a mainline agency simply stated that it was fair because of the overheads they had, siting the office location, the size of their office, etc. Really, it is time to step back and take a look at the amount of investment that is going into addressing nice-to-haves that your brand might not be in a position to address today.


By keeping two separate agencies for traditional medium and digital medium, you do keep both your agencies on their toes. Larger agencies are waiting to grab the digital business, and the smaller digital agencies just work harder to deliver and build client relationships and incremental allocations of budgets as well as keeping any competition at bay.

Your advertising rupee will really turn to be the investment it is meant to be, and not an expense that it often turns out as, if done with the 3Rs – Right medium, Right budget & Right partner