Monday, January 25, 2010

Seamless Integration

I love working on integrated accounts. You know - the accounts where it's a true collaborative effort that involves multiple departments, subject matter experts and parties to plan, execute and measure a truly extraordinary campaign for a client.

Working across departments, however, can present its own challenges. Frustration may arise internally because of a lack of understanding of each individual department's own processes (think Creative, Digital, Advertising, PR, and Accounts) and and how the timing required may impact the overall execution.

In my experience, here are some things that can be done to eliminate any internal confusion when working on an integrated account:
  • Understanding capabilities - Do you know how the creative team works to develop a concept for a print ad? What platform the digital team uses for Web development? Meeting to have a basic understanding of how each department works and understanding their processes will help to better manage internal and client expectations.
  • Bandwidth needs - How many people are going to be needed to work on the account? Developing a strategy with a few key people, sourcing it out to a larger team for brainstorming/research and then narrowing down project leads within departments should help effectively manage resources. This is a tightrope to walk:Too many cooks in the kitchen and nothing gets done; Too few, and the customer may leave because of poor service. Best to strike a balance assign roles early.
  • Set expectations - Who's doing what? Weekly reports? Billing? Day-to-day contact? Once an integrated team is established, it is imperative that roles be set for key deliverables so there is a clear understanding of what department and which individual in each department is responsible for doing what. Ending a meeting recapping who is taking the lead on certain initiatives (strategy or tactic) is key. It eliminates confusion and the assumptions made by other team members on who is in charge of doing a specific task.
  • Collaboration tools - Avoid 'death-by-e-mail.' Set-up an online workroom or portal that allows collaboration and the creation of vital campaign materials to appear to all working on the project. Even better are collaboration tools that allow for real-time discussion on documents, production schedules and meetings and send out "alerts" to relevant team members if there is a change or crucial update (think production schedule change or change in messaging) so the entire team is notified and the change is documented and updated across campaign materials.
  • Create efficiencies - There is no reason that someone or multiple people can't be on a laptop taking notes and updating documents while integrated teams are meeting. Having someone or everyone mobile on the account (to the degree resources allow) will save everyone on the team time and avoid the dreaded "I'll have to go back to my desk to send you that" or the "I'll type that up later" conundrum. Create efficiencies by doing things like note taking and document updating when the meeting is occurring. Work smarter, not harder.
  • More communication - I have found that integrated accounts require more communication across all departments. While individual meetings between various departments may be necessary to iron out details, having a standing time everyday where all departments can come together and exchange information/insight is key.
  • Same team - At the end of the day, everyone involved in an integrated account are on the same team. Respecting each other and understanding that we all are in this together and will help each other avoids any "us vs. them" or "they don't get it" mentality, which unfortunately, can develop if the effort is not made by all parties involved to really respect and understand each other's processes and work.
What other tips or insight do you have for working on integrated accounts? Do you have a favorite collaboration tool for your team? Let me know in the comments.


OneLegUp said...

Colleen, great post and a topic you don't see a lot written about. As someone who has worked at an integrated agency (and happily, with you, Colleen!), I believe your most important points are:

Communication -- Too much time is wasted because one team was kept in the dark about what another team was doing.

Trust -- If team members enter the program with suspicions about their colleagues' motives, everyone loses. Team leaders need to make it clear what success means for every team player, and they need to make sure they are going out of their way to give credit when deserved.

Territory -- This somewhat falls into the trust category. Don't guard your territory if you want a successful outcome. It's easy to discount or diminish the value of a suggestion about media relations that comes from the Creative team. The Digital crew may have some ideas on ways to improve a press release that deserve an investigation. Don't tune out ideas because they may not originate from the appropriate department. That's what I loved most about working at an integrated firm -- being surrounded by creative people you can tap for new perspectives and fresh thinking.

I guess the points I'm making here have everything to do with emotions and human nature, factors nearly impossible to change when working on a team. Perhaps entering a new project with the awareness that these potential problems might arise, and discussing these scenarios upfront may be one way to avoid them.

Have fun at your new job Colleen, and keep sharing your ideas with us.

Michelle Damico

Colleen Campbell said...

Thanks Michelle! I really appreciate your comment. When we were working on integrated accounts we always tried to keep perspective and understanding for everyone involved on the team. I think the points you reiterate are excellent!