Our latest In-House Life session, in partnership with Adobe Workfront, explored strategies to help prove the value of your in-house agency. We were joined by Tabitha Winter, until recently the head of Entain’s IHA, Wave Creative, Richard Kinning, ex-Head of Creative at Warner Media, and Lucinda Parish of Adobe Workfront.
We looked at value from two perspectives – the quantitative, numbers-based side and the qualitative worth of great collaborations and knowledge leading, hopefully, to, great creative work.
If you’d like to watch the whole session back, a recording is available here
I’m going to pull out a few key points:
What do you exist?
This goes back to our earlier discussions about remits, but as Tabitha said, it’s important to understand why the IHA was primarily set up in the first place. If the overriding reason was cost-saving, then that might have to be the focus of your attempts to prove your value.
Knowledge is power
If it’s all about costs, tracking is key. Whether it’s via spreadsheets or sophisticated automated dashboards, the more data you have the better. Tabitha, for example, set up a spreadsheet to compare the daily cost of in-house staff by role compared to the charge-out rates of external agencies, allowing her to estimate relative costs of projects and show the potential cost-saving of using the IHA. In all, her tracking allowed her to show millions of pounds in savings per year based on the IHA doing projects versus what they would have cost if an external partner had done them.
Discovering where the problems lie
Tracking revisions and time also helps identify where the problem processes, people and departments are. When Lucinda was helping to set up the IHA at Santander, they shared dashboards with business unit managers so that so-called ‘repeat offenders’ that were the cause of wasted resources by not following processes or doing things in a timely fashion could be identified.
No-one wants to get into finger-pointing or a blame culture, but having data to show where problems lie can help everyone to work towards a solution, whether that is training or just better communication. Richard said he felt that being more rigorous over schedules and feedback actually helped not only to build respect for the IHA but also to build relationships, making everyone feel that they had a stake in improving things.
Richard stressed the value of competitive pitching in proving your value, not least because it allows an in-house team to show how much more a client would get for their money from them.
But you need empathy
It’s not necessarily something that comes easy to creatives, but in-house in particular, as Richard pointed out, creatives need to develop their empathy skills so that they can understand where their colleagues are coming from and the issues they are wrestling with. This makes it much easier to build trusted relationshps, find common ground and have the IHA really valued by brief-setters.
Keep in touch
Both Richard and Tabitha stressed the importance of in-house leaders being proactive in building relationships with colleagues, checking in with them on a regular basis (which could often identify opportunities for projects), spending time with them socially and taking advantage of the proximity that in-house provides. As Tabitha said, even though costs were a factor in winning work, “It was always the soft skills that won the day, it was always in the way we treated our partners.”
The power of no
“The other part of being able to show your value is knowing when to say no,” Tabitha said. “Sometimes your your natural situation as an in house agency is that you are trying to prove that you know how to do all of these things and you can do all of these things better than any of the externals, to take on everything that gets thrown at you, or to fight for everything that you see going out to externals and want it to come internally, but the truth of the matter is you’re in a race to the bottom, because you’re just taking on work that potentially you don’t have capacity for, or stretching your team too thin or burning people out or making promises that effectively you’re not going to be able to keep.”