In two recent posts titled "The Missions of In-house Creative Teams" and "Drivers to Rethinking a Creative Team's Make-up," we have been digging up the root considerations and drivers to evolving your in-house agency. We'll now explore some of the key operational requirements that need to underpin your decision-making as you evaluate potential organizational strategies that will enable your team's mission of the future.
For sake of clarity, the term "organizational strategy" in these posts characterizes an in-house agency's approach to internal stakeholder/client alignment, team structure, individual roles and responsibilities, and approaches to engaging and managing third-party resourcing options such as contingent labor, managed services providers, outsourcing companies and creative agencies.
Each company is unique in many aspects and requires its own organizational strategy to deliver on the department mission. That said, there are some consistent operational best practices that span the industry, and your goals to evolve your organization need to be held up by a solid plan to address these operational areas. While this is not an exhaustive list, the considerations summarized below should become key requirements categories that will support you throughout the organizational strategy, planning, and transformation process.
Easy one! This is the obvious category for most and for good reasons. To the best of your ability, document a detailed inventory of the type of work that needs to be delivered in the future, as well as the key skills and tactics that are needed to execute each. If there is a large volume of work that is simply unknown at this point, call out those potential project types along with the skill areas that may come into play. In short, this is you scoping out the work that your department anticipates needing to deliver in the future.
Project Management & Workflow
Process informs org strategy. Considerations such as these below will help you determine areas of opportunity:
- The steps that a campaign or project will need to follow and what key team members need to be involved
- The variability in the tiers of strategic value and/or project complexity that require work to be addressed differently
- Whether any changes could introduce confusion around roles and responsibilities, add unnecessary steps, or generate new bottlenecks in the system
Ultimately, your organizational strategy needs to be built off of project management and workflow best practices as this area of discipline will ultimately have a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of your team's delivery of services.
Volume & Capacity Planning
Wouldn't it be great if we all knew exactly how much work we were going to have to do at the beginning of the year? The reality for almost any in-house agency is that work volume (and work mix) will always bring its share of surprises. That said, do your best to answer questions on total anticipated work volume by project type, hours worked and, if the data is available, by tactic (strategy, concepting, design, writing, development, editorial/QC, etc.). Your planning and forecasting process is also key and is a discipline often overlooked when going through organizational changes.
Flexibility & Scale
Closely tied to the category above, your organizational model needs to appropriately accommodate for the level of resourcing flexibility and growth that your department will experience over time. Most groups we work with are truly in the "agency business" and are required to respond to a range of project requests that require a varying mix of skillsets. Add in fluctuating work volumes and conflicting client priorities, and your ability to be flexible becomes core to your department's value proposition and overall health. Specific questions to consider include:
- How much will your organization need to flex up and down, and how quickly?
- Does the group anticipate significant growth over the next few years, or a need to frequently re-align to a newly organized environment of internal stakeholders/clients?
- Will there be a need to consistently evaluate your capabilities set and help your stakeholders take advantage of emerging media , channels and platforms?
If your department is to remain at the top of your industry long term, your organizational strategy will need to address this operational requirement front and center.
There are significant differences between how one funding model enables department operations, as compared to another. Specifically a chargeback model is typically much more conducive to a flexible, adaptable organizational strategy. Any organizational changes you make will need to work within the constraints of your financial model. If there is the potential to refine your model or influence change in this area, know that ahead of time and form a close working partnership with your finance team to do so. For some industry-wide benchmarks on this topic, please download our most recent In-house Creative Industry Report and refer to the Department Funding section on page 11.
The talent acquisition landscape might be the source of the greatest challenges faced by in-house agency leaders today. The employment economy in our field of focus (marketing, creative, communications, digital, etc.) is highly competitive. Therefore as a step in designing your new organization, you need to ensure that the talent is there and that they will be accessible to you:
- Will you be able to compete in your current geographic market for the types of talent you are interested in hiring?
- Can you afford them?
- Do you have the requisite channels for hiring and retaining both full-time and contracted workers?
- Do you have access to the needed third-party talent resources such as managed services providers, outsourcing companies, and overflow/specialty agencies?
Internal Account Management & Customer Service
Regardless of how your team operates or what the description of roles on the org chart are, your team's connection to and relationships with your internal stakeholders/clients can make or break your ability to show value to the company. Service-level agreements, intake and review processes, and your overall relationship management strategy needs to be reviewed and potentially improved upon ahead of implementing significant change to ensure your team can scale services while maintaining (or improving) your current service levels. As your work product complexity increases, your relationship management strategy needs to mature as well.
Industries such as biotech, financial services, and food and beverage have no shortage of compliance-driven requirements that create the need for additional reviews in the creative and production process in order to comply with regulatory and corporate standards. Leaders in these and like industries need to consider the potential impact that changing your organizational strategy may have on these compliance processes.
In some companies space is taken for granted, however more and more we are hearing of teams in which growth is challenged due to a lack of physical space for team members. Many are starting to think differently about their approach to team locations. The biggest considerations creative leaders need to ask themselves (and their managers) are (1) will the company have the available office space for the team on an on-going basis, and for growth, and (2) where and when does physical proximity not matter for your team.
As I labeled them in the opening paragraphs, the above considerations are broad operational requirements categories that you'll need to document and consider thoroughly as you evaluate potential changes to your in-house agency's organizational strategy. In our next post of this series we will explore some of the more common successful organizational models and resourcing strategies, including pros and cons of each model given various missions and operational requirements.
If your company and/or in-house agency is currently experiencing the need for significant change, consider emailing me to discuss ways in which we may be able to help you further. Cella's team of seasoned management consultants and operations experts has advised and supported dozens of Fortune 500 companies through the transformation and evolution of their in-house creative capabilities, and we'd love to hear more about where you need to go.