People, process and technology – as we heard from Adobe Workfront’s Lucinda Parish (above left), it’s a combination of those mutually-enforcing factors that makes for great, effective work in-house. For our latest In-House Life session, Lucinda and WDC’s Nicky Russell (above right) took us through the key elements of a great process and the barriers that people typically face to achieving that in-house.
Be clear on your remit
As Nicky said, “sometimes in-house agencies can feel so overwhelmed, because they’re not actually given the right tools that they need in order to be able to deliver what they’ve been asked to do”. And what they are being asked to do in reality may be different to what the agency was originally set up and resourced for. This issue has become more acute post-pandemic as, while business needs and demands may have changed, resources and processes may not have. So make sure your remit is crystal clear and up to date. Ask yourself: What is it that you are offering and that the business needs from you? Does the business understand this? Are you communicating it properly? How do you want people to work with you?
Data is your friend
Through automated reports, technology platforms can arm you with the data to show what kind of work you are actually doing and whether that aligns with the process and resource you have for it. As Lucinda said, if you are meant to be spending “80% of your time on campaigns and 20% on ad hoc work, but you’re actually spending 35% of your time on ad hoc work”, data can show why that is and where those requests are coming from. With budget cuts likely in the coming year, having the data to prove the return on investment that the IHA can deliver and how cost-effective it is compared to external agencies, as well as being able to show what your people work on and what the consequences of losing any of them would be, will also protect agencies from what could be a difficult year ahead.
Set out the rules and own them
As we heard from Tony Pipes at ITV Creative at our last breakfast meeting, it is vital that an IHA sets out the ‘rules of engagement’ in as much detail as possible. ITV Creative does this via a written document known as the ‘Thing of All Things’ detailing everything from how to brief, lead times and how many rounds of amends can be made. Marketers and agency agree to abide by this, giving the agency the power to say no to anything that it isn’t in line with it. As Lucinda said, this would be standard practice if you were working with an external agency, so why not in-house too?
Those rules should come from the IHA and it is the job of the heads of operations and creative to go out to the business, make sure they are understood and that they are in everyone’s interest, and secure buy-in.
Bad briefing is often at the root of frustrating, wasteful processes. We’ve talked a lot about briefing in previous sessions but one way in which process can help, Lucinda pointed out, is to put all briefs through a platform where the briefing form has mandatory fields to be filled out. If information is missing, the brief is automatically rejected. No more incomplete briefs.
Also, Nicky recommended, “put a logistical RASCI on every brief that you have, which very clearly sets out who is responsible for that piece of work, who is accountable, who is the person who signs it off. And the person who signs off the brief should be the person who’s signing off the work. Get some rules and rigour around that and it will really help with stakeholder management.”
Stay in your lane
Where there are problems around sign-off and approvals, with too many people offering an opinion, Lucinda recommended a checklist approach which clearly sets out the responsibilities of each department and limits each one to their field of expertise. So if you are responsible for making sure that the product copy is correct, that is what you approve on, nothing more. “Doing it through a tech platform provides really clear governance about what you’re responsible for and what you’re signing off. Some teams might hate it because you are taking away their ability to offer an opinion on creative, but it’s absolutely how it has to be in order to get those assets to move smoothly through the approval process and out the door.”
Stick to the rules
It’s all very well to set out a great process, but how do you get people to stick to the rules and understand the value of why it’s in their best interest to do so?
Nicky’s suggestion: “try to demonstrate what happens when they don’t stick to the rules.” If you can show where time is being wasted, and how much money that soaks up, you can also show how much more you could do if that time and resource was freed up for other things.
Process, what process?
Just like the best referees in a football match, the best processes are so frictionless that they become almost invisible. As Lucinda said, “a great process lets your people do what they need to do rather than being bogged down in admin. When you really nail process, people don’t even realise that they’re following it.”
A recording of this session is available to download. Email email@example.com
Nicky Russell is the former COO of Anomaly and a founding partner of consultancy WDC, which helps in-house agencies, marketers and their partners work better. WDC is also co-founder of IHALC. Lucinda Parish is Senior Program Manager – Partner Enablement for Adobe Workfront. She was previously Senior Marketing Operations Manager at Santander where she helped set up its in-house agency.
The In-House Life is IHALC’s series of monthly online sessions, in partnership with Adobe Workfront