Contracted Project Work from Inquiry Through to Delivery: Why Collaboration + Automation is Difficult to Achieve

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In the world of contracted work, both suppliers and clients can feel overwhelmed, overworked, and confused by the amount of online back and forth between the two parties. Communication and collaboration are at the heart of these businesses, but when workflow processes are not well defined it can lead to low productivity levels, less optimal business decisions,  and burnout. 

“Constant streams of messages, prioritized in terms of importance can create cognitive scarcity, resulting in a deterioration of the individual’s ability to adequately process information.”

Positive technology: Designing work environments for digital well-being, Deloitte

 

Automation and tooling is the answer to these problems, but what’s on the market to solve them?

The service provider workflow problem

82% of organizations reported their need to do a better job of tying knowledge to action

Knowledge management, Deloitte

Whether you run a small digital creative agency, a law firm, or an online marketing business, or you are an independent freelance developer, writer, or consultant, you’ll know these struggles intimately:

  • How many handoffs do you do?
  • How many clarification messages are sent?
  • How many times is the wrong person contacted?
  • How much time do you spend searching previous communications to find relevant information? 
  • How do you keep track of work across a swarth of active and inactive clients?

“Many external information workers reported feeling “overwhelmed by the significant increase in the number of chats, channels, and documents they need to reply to, be aware of, and contribute to for collaborative projects”

The New Future of Work: Research from Microsoft into the Pandemic’s Impact on Work Practice

Wippli_counterproductivity-1

It’s very easy to get lost in email chains and struggle to find artefacts or conversations. If there are multiple parties involved on both sides of the contract - with a team building a deliverable, and another team providing guidance for the project - things can get messy fast. Without the right systems in place, people suffer under a high collaboration workload.

69% of employees report spending up to an hour a day toggling between apps, with 31% losing their train of thought while toggling.

From Workplace Chaos to Zen, RingCentral | Enter: the rise of digital contracting and workflow management.

The current state of digital contracting workflow solutions for SMBs

Digital Contracting is described as “digital solutions to facilitate contracting, from negotiation through execution,” in PwC’s Digital contracting

At present, end-to-end products in the space focus on a singular traditional contracting business; such as mergers and acquisitions, real estate, and lawyers. These tools are too limited in scope to be useful to other small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

On the other hand, legacy Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) Software solutions, such as SAP Ariba, focus on enterprise procurement and supply chain contracting, which are both too bloated and too expensive for SMBs.

Tools like Asana and Trello help with project management but don’t provide full coverage of the contracting process including client touchpoints.

Instead, digital contracting agencies and individual providers have had to build out their own project management processes to ensure they’re able to do work smoothly - without ridiculous time and effort overheads. 

Automations can be built into these processes, but it can be tricky to achieve an end-to-end workflow. Automations are cobbled together and each business’s configuration is unique. Depending on workflows, this can be cost-prohibitive for SMBs, as custom coding may be required.

What do your processes for contract work look like?

From pre-qualified inquiries through to final product delivery, there are a whole lot of steps to go through that involve a number of different tools to achieve. 

You may have to go through: 

  • An inquiry, which may or may not meet your client standards,
  • Potentially a further meeting to discuss the project and qualify the lead, 
  • A full brief through your email with a Word document attached,
  • Which then requires an email back,
  • A contract to sign if required,
  • And then requires translation into your project management tool of choice - perhaps Asana or Trello,
  • And then some more back and forth with the client over email or other communications tools about project progress - with more attached files,
  • An approvals process,
  • And then finally, delivery of the end product. 

It’s a lot.

Those who’ve automated their workflows across this entire process have had to cobble together systems to save time.

Automating the client work process: A case study

For instance, Shweta Dawar uses Zapier to automate her workflows from pre-qualified leads through to testimonial follow-ups for her digital marketing business. 

This involves:

  • A pre-qualification questionnaire with JotForm 
  • From which potential clients are booked in for a meeting using Acuity Scheduling
  • And a Client card automatically created by Zapier on a Clients board in Trello under the vertical Scheduled Call (other verticals are Follow Up, To Send Proposal, Signed and Paid, and Testimonial Follow Up)
  • Using Zapier to send an email reminder one hour before the meeting
  • With ConvertKit for follow up emails post-meeting for clients that haven’t indicated they’re ready to sign (placing the Client card under Follow Up on Trello)
  • And HelloSign for contracting, with invoicing at the same time (placing the Client card under To Send Proposal on Trello)
  • Once the invoice is paid, moving the Client card on Trello to Signed and Paid
  • Which triggers Zapier to do a board creation on Trello for the client, along with a Google Drive folder for the client
  • Once the work is complete, the Client card is moved to Testimonial Follow Up
  • Which triggers a Testimonial sequence in ConvertKit

As you can see, it’s quite an involved process, over a number of different apps, with automations built-in along the way with Zapier.

Is there a better way?

While a combination of app-based automations and solid project management software can take care of this process, it is:

  • Time-consuming to configure
  • Prone to automation breakages when processes change
  • Business-specific
  • Not branded for the business across the process
  • Tricky to configure and collaborate across multiple external suppliers

That’s why we’re building Wippli.

We’re more than an internal project management tool and more than a pure contracting platform. We’re a smart workflow solution for contracted project work.

We want you to be able to complete project work seamlessly with your clients, without the communication and contracting overheads. We want you to be able to work in teams, and find project, client, and company data fast. We want to automate handoffs as much as possible, reducing your time spent in back and forths with clients. We want to improve the relationship between clients and suppliers, removing those friction points that exist in current workflows.

We’re excited to be building an end-to-end workflow product that’s designed to make your life easier, by increasing productivity and removing roadblocks to effective contract-based communications. And, perhaps most importantly for scaling your business - without any more hacked together and easily breakable automations.

Watch this space.

 

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