Across the past ten years I've had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of leaders at the majority of Fortune 500 companies. I've learned that in-house creative teams exist for a multitude of reasons. And regardless of why they were started or the function they served at that point in time, many have evolved to serve a refined purpose. Below is an overview of six "flavors" of in-house creative teams. Surely more exist and sometimes there is overlap between these six, but understanding where you fall (and where your leadership wants you to fall) on this spectrum will help ensure your team meets the expectations of your organization.

The Marketing Communications Agency
Typically aligned to the CMO, these teams deliver full-service, end-to-end marketing communications and creative capabilities in support of new customer acquisition and revenue generation. Their talents range from strategic thinking and creative direction through production and channel delivery. Capabilities can span print, direct, broadcast, outdoor, in-store, web, mobile, social, etc. They are often viewed as a more accessible, and at times more advanced, creative resource compared to sourcing similar work externally. The Marketing Communications Agency is a master of the company's products, services and messaging.

The Brand Creative Team
These teams serve to develop and uphold the corporate and/or product-level brands for the company, often acting as a "Creative Center of Excellence" for all things related to the brand. They are very commonly involved in directing the development of corporate-level identity and messaging, as well as in the packaging and presentation of products. Brand Creative Teams set brand standards and drive brand creative excellence across media, messaging, products and markets. These teams are, at times, included as part of an in-house Marketing Communications Agency as described above.

Shared Services In-House Agency
Often aligned to either a Marketing Services or Global Shared Services executive, these in-house agencies are designed to be able to serve a wide range of internal stakeholders across the company, including internal "clients" such as marketing, PR/communications, sales, HR, learning and development, e-Business, and the executive team. Their funding is typically generated from either an internal chargeback system or a shared pot of allocated money that has been contributed to by various stakeholders within the organization who possess a need for the team's services. Shared Services In-House Agencies' capabilities can span channels, are often diverse in capability, and serve a variety of needs across the corporation. They are typically viewed as a faster; more cost-competitive; and, at times, more advanced creative resources as compared to sourcing similar work externally.

e-Commerce & e-Business
Often referred to as the "digital" team, this group takes ownership over the design, development and maintenance of the company's external facing applications inclusive of the website and apps for mobile and emerging platforms. These teams are often rooted in user-centered design and agile development methodologies and may be found residing in one of the models listed above.

Creative Production Studio
Companies will often "decouple" concepting work from more tactical work. This can occur both with external agencies, as well as with the in-house agency which results in the creation of a "Creative Production Studio" that specializes in developing less conceptually-complex creative deliverables and handles the "finishing" work downstream from the creative teams that may include adaptations, retouching, proofing, and pre-media services.

Creative/Design Management
When a company chooses to outsource all, or a significant portion, of their creative requirements to external partners such as ad agencies, design firms and outsourcing companies, these teams focus on directing the creative from the client side and ensuring that the requirements of the company's internal stakeholders have been met. There is both an internal account management and project management aspect to what these teams do, in addition to strategic creative direction. At times, these teams will also manage the workflow from one external partner to another.

Is your executive team in the process of evaluating and/or validating the current and future state mission of your company's in-house team? If so, keep the consulting practice team at Cella top of mind for support in conducting an objective analysis and benchmarking exercise.