TankTank: Three years ago, the three advertising professionals Stephan Zschaler, Patrick Plogstedt and Alexandre Butaud founded a virtual agency under this umbrella brand. The background for the spin-off from an existing creative agency was the realisation that digitalisation as well as "new work" are also becoming more and more prevalent in the agency industry. At TankTank, there is therefore only a lead team consisting of the founders, who bring freelance experts - conceptioners, strategists, designers, copywriters, art directors, SoMe editors, SEO/SEA experts, programmers, motion graphics artists, editors, directors - into a so-called "tank" for each new client project. Once the project is completed, the tank dissolves again. Advertising clients who rely on this concept include companies such as HUK-COBURG insurance, BMW Motorrad, the manufacturer of dairy products Kerrygold or comdirect Bank. TankTank relies on the cloud-based software solution ZEP for the recording of project times as well as project controlling of the individual tanks.
This is how Patrick Plogstedt, one of the founders and partners of TankTank, describes the advantages of his company's way of working for the client. He explains: "With our tanking concept and our large network of freelancers, we are able to bring together the most suitable talents in a project team for each project. We deliberately do without the 'organisational overhead' that traditionally exists in advertising agencies and additionally take into account the ever-increasing desire for freelance 'remote' work, especially among many creatives."
However, the TankTank concept of a virtual agency with agile project-based collaboration of different freelancers poses a very special challenge in project controlling.
"Especially with virtual teams, i.e. our tanks, it is important that all services provided in the tank are recorded and accounted for promptly and precisely.
In addition, we in the lead team naturally need as up-to-date an overview as possible at all times of what working hours have been incurred in the individual tanks and how this affects the current status quo of the project."
With an ever-increasing number of tank projects, it quickly became clear that manual project controlling as in the early days was no longer sensible. For this reason, TankTank decided to introduce the cloud-based software ZEP for these tasks after only about one year of existence. ZEP stands for time recording for projects. The web-based solution has been on the market since 2000 and offers project-oriented companies a complete solution for time recording and verification, travel expenses, project management and controlling as well as invoicing.
Patrick Plogstedt remembers: "I heard about ZEP from an acquaintance who was already using the solution in his company. Based on this recommendation and after a corresponding evaluation, we then decided to introduce the solution at TankTank as well."
In the meantime, all project staff working in a tank record their project working hours and usually use the ZEP mobile apps available for all common operating systems. ZEP is also used to record all receipts. This also applies to external services. Mr Plogstedt explains:
"In a freelance network like TankTank, the allocation of all external services to the corresponding project is essential to ensure profitability at all times".
In addition to the pure time recording, TankTank also uses the ZEP module quotations and the ZEP module invoicing for the billing. For this purpose, all data stored in ZEP Time Recording is automatically transferred to the invoice. Patrick Plogstedt explains:
"A continuous workflow from quotation to invoice for each individual tank was an important decision criterion for us when selecting an appropriate software solution."
ZEP offers exactly this integrated workflow on a uniform user interface.
The TankTank concept of a virtual agency with agile, independent freelancer project teams naturally also affects the IT area. "Our premise of not building up any overhead at TankTank naturally also means that we want to stay as lean as possible in IT," explains Mr Plogstedt. For this reason, it was more or less obvious to use ZEP as a cloud service instead of in-house operation.
TankTank employees access the cloud-based software version of ZEP via the internet. This is operated in an ISO 27001-certified high-performance data centre in Germany. The basis for use is an online usage contract that can be terminated at any time at the end of the month as well as a contract for order processing in accordance with the German Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). Billing is based on usage per user and month.
When asked what role the topic of data protection and DSGVO compliance plays for him when using a cloud solution, Patrick Plogstedt explains:
"The topic does not play a central role in our projects, but the fact that all specifications are adhered to when using ZEP nevertheless conveys a high level of security and trust."
After almost two years of using ZEP, Patrick Plogstedt draws the following conclusion:
"ZEP can do a lot, but still focuses on the functions required for project controlling. The interface is very intuitive and clear, even if it is certainly not 'hip' for us as creative minds and advertisers from a design or UI point of view. But that's not what matters when it comes to time tracking and project controlling."
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