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The Outlook Creative Group

The Outlook Creative Group are a design, production and communications agency based in Northampton. As long standing Paprika clients, we have been working together since 2002. They first implemented Paprika as their chosen accounting package and have continued to explore its other capabilities too.

We caught up with Outlook’s Amie Faulkner, Operations Manager, and Terri Salisbury, Production/ Project Manager, at our recent Dashboards seminar where they kindly agreed to be interviewed so that we could share their Paprika story with you. Here’s where over a decade’s journey began:

“Paprika started out as very much an accounting function. It was why it was purchased. The idea behind it was that it was bought with the foresight that it was designed for the creative industry, but I don’t think we ever thought we would use it to the level that we do now”, says Amie.

Looking back to 2002, Outlook were an agency of 20 people. Today, the Outlook Creative group have doubled in size and have a £5mil turnover. Although Paprika was originally implemented to handle the accounting side of the business, Amie emphasises that it’s now used holistically across the business:

“It does everything. It’s a full package for us. It monitors everything on our jobs, we have everything behind the scenes on it and we don’t use any other system. It is our full business package. It covers everything we need to do and it does it well for us – Really well.”

As is the case with most software products, Paprika doesn’t stand still and we are constantly developing to improve the products and services we offer. Generally, there is a new release every 6 months which brings with it new programs and features for clients to think about implementing.

“As time went on, and functionality of it improved, we started using it even more. And as our business grew, that’s when we realised the actual benefits of using Paprika”, Amie adds.

Resourcing and estimating tools within Paprika have made a big difference for Outlook. Amie explains that it’s been a “slow but steady process” and also notes some of the key changes over the years:

“Every job has a budget now. So every job has time against it, all the costs against it and everything it needs to be able to give us the data back out of it. We invoice from it too, which we didn’t do until, I’m not sure when we started invoicing from Paprika but probably about 8 years ago… before that we used to do it manually.”

Terri Salisbury, Production/ Project Manager, joined Outlook in 2014 and notes some of the more recent changes she’s helped implement:

When I started, ‘Planned time’ wasn’t being used, and actually, not all departments were loading in budgets for projects so there really wasn’t the data there that could be taken from Paprika other than the job name and the value it was invoiced for. However, in the last 2-3years we’ve embraced many more of Paprika's features and I think it’s quick to observe the appreciation from people within the business when they can utilise this data for their area of the business or business function.

Terri really embraces Paprika and runs with it. She speaks about some of the tools they’ve needed to start using due to the agency’s growth:

A few years ago a designer would be allocated a full day on a project, maybe sometimes split a day in half, but now we have a lot more jobs with an ever increasing job turnover. So we needed something in the system that’s visible to everyone as a designers day can now be split against multiple jobs and it’s about the clarity and tracking of this time.

Amie points out that it’s the unique and flexible nature of Paprika that has enabled them to match their new internal processes, which have needed to change in order to grow the business and increase efficiencies. “Paprika has changed with us and that’s been one of the key things” says Amie.

“I feel that the changes have come at the right time for us. For example one of the key things we have been looking at is a CRM system. And whilst I understand that Paprika can’t give us all the answers, it’s certainly going to be able to help us on our journey in getting more out of our Paprika data. And the dashboards and new things like that, it’s almost as though that could change things for us again and move things forward.”

Terri seems to agree and highlights how “you can use Paprika as much or as little as you like, to the degree of where your company is at. I think, as we’re growing, we’re going to be using it more and more – and using it more intelligently as well”.

Timesheet data is another area that Outlook are excelling in. It’s a rare, but wonderful find when you meet two professionals that don’t have a bugbear with timesheets.

“If I’m honest, people didn’t used to do their timesheets. I don’t know what changed, but something did. And I think it’s got to be the system rather than us. Because we’re no different to anyone else. We’re only doing the same thing. But I think perhaps the system is easier to use. I know that the more you put in; the more you get out. The way we’re using planned time makes it easier for people to complete their timesheets. So people just do it. That’s a massive thing. That’s changed things entirely for us” says Amie.

Although Amie’s words may seem alien to some, those experiencing increases in timesheet compliance always have some similarities. Paprika observes accountability playing a big role in changing timesheet behaviour. Agency culture, and how timesheet data is used internally, also forms a critical part in harmonious timesheet completion. Amie says that if people can see the information that is being put in and how it is being used, then they are more likely to do it:

“The reality is that people don’t know why they are putting their time in. Whereas, people know that at Outlook. Because whatever they put in, it comes back out. If they don’t do their timesheets, then the jobs aren’t showing at the correct profitability levels and that's an outcome. There’s some problem with that later on down the line. That will ultimately affect figures, which ultimately affect bonuses and we’ve got complete visibility across the company with all our data.”

Like most ongoing relationships, it’s not been all plain sailing. As agencies grow, the configuration of Paprika can become more complex. Change brings with it new challenges and Outlook experienced that when introducing new business entities into their Paprika configuration:

“We’ve had challenges as well. We went over to single data multi-company which was a whole other can of worms entirely. But we’ve run with it and we understand it now and that’s worked really well... We had such good support for the integration of that – that was brilliant” says Amie.

As time goes on, there will certainly be more change on the horizon. It takes Paprika champions, like Amie and Terri, to continually review the needs of the business and communicate them with our Paprika consultants. If there are any new requirements, then we can suggest a number of solutions in Paprika and make the necessary changes. “That’s always been the case really, that every time we hit one hurdle or pass one hurdle, there’s something else we can do to progress further” says Amie.

Terri discusses some of the new challenges they anticipate facing in the near future:

Our client services team are growing as well as our web team, and we are taking on more and more project managers and digital producers. These are all class 2 users in Paprika, where Outlook was previously very ‘Class 3’ user heavy. It’s therefore really important for us to keep up to date with the system; it’s features, updates and configuration, while ensuring the team are well trained and understand what the system can do. That's why Paprika remains beneficial across the entire business.

Over the years, Paprika have built a strong support network that is readily available for any of our clients. From Helpdesk Analysts, to seasoned Trainers and Consultants, our support teams are more than capable of helping Outlook overcome some of the challenges they are experiencing due to their agency growth. We aim to continually improve, refine and enhance their Paprika setup so that it mirrors how they work today, but is capable of adapting for the needs of tomorrow.

 

Paprika would like thank both Amie Faulkner, Operations Manager, and Terri Salisbury, Production/Project Manager at The Outlook Creative Group, who were both interviewed and provided the quotes for this case study.

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