Eight Cities, Eight Conversations—One Dynamic Experience!

We recently wrapped our In-House Agency Roundtables, where eight different companies in eight different cities hosted coffee and conversation among their in-house peers. Each session began with a host presentation followed by a facilitated exchange on the challenges and opportunities facing in-house agencies today. From time tracking to talent development, we covered much ground (and many miles)—with key takeaway highlighted below.

Organizational structure. With increasing demands placed on in-house teams, a number revealed that they in are in the process of assessing their infrastructures. With many having lived through a recent reorg, sharing was rich on this topic including the steps to take and pitfalls to avoid when evolving a more-advanced model. Roundtable participants appreciated the openness of those who described their own growth paths, encouraging others to do the same by embracing the possibilities associated with change. (For a sampling of member org charts, download our benchmarking study: Building Today for Tomorrow.)

Managing a variable workforce. This issue seemed to have everyone’s ears, as in-house agencies are challenged to manage headcount while complying with stricter guidelines regarding “permalancer” posts. The decision to leverage outside talent is typically prompted by one of two factors—capacity limitations in effectively managing the volume of work that is in play and capability requirements related to the skillsets needed to produce specific types of work. In-house teams are juggling both.

Creative briefs and briefings. A constant among internal and external agencies alike is the need for well-crafted project briefs and kickoff meetings. This year’s roundtables were no different, with participants talking about the struggles they've experienced and lessons they've learned. While some questioned the integrity of the templates they are using (IHAF has three proven Creative Brief Templates available for members to download), others talked about the role their clients play in planning programs and clearly articulating business objectives. This topic is evergreen and certainly one we’ll revisit.

Workflow and time tracking. Another area attendees were curious to hear more about are the software tools teams use to manage project workflow and in some cases, track time. There are an assortment of automated workflow systems on the market—with participants leveraging many of the solutions listed on our recently released Workflow Systems Comparison Chart. When it comes to time, regardless of whether your in-house agency bills back to its clients or not, teams are encouraged to track their hours, as it's one of the best ways to quantify the contribution and allocation of those on your team.

Proving your value. Conversations about team contribution often led to the inevitable question of how to prove the value of an in-house team. This seems to be one of the leading challenges internal agencies have, particularly when it comes to justifying headcount. It was also one of the most meaningful topics of conversation during our sessions. Those who have been successful in telling their value story described the steps they took to get there, recognizing the art and science of itespecially given that their value equation is comprised of both qualitative and quantitative parameters.

Client satisfaction. One of the quantitative parameters discussed at length is how various teams measure the satisfaction of their internal base of clients. About half of those attending our roundtable sessions assess team performance on a regular basis. Those not measuring client satisfaction wondered how often their peers ask for feedback, and what mechanisms they use to gather that data. A number of members were happy to report that they take full advantage of the customizable, complimentary IHAF Performance Evaluator—an online survey that enables you to measure the effectiveness of your in-house agency as a marcomm solutions provider to the businesses you support.

Our In-House Agency Roundtables offer internal agency professionals the opportunity to discuss and debate various topics of interest. These dynamic three-hour sessions are held in May and June at member facilities across the country. With 15 to 50 people attending, participants join together to network, share, and learn from one another.

Many thanks to our gracious host companies: Bloomberg, City Year, Hasbro, Marriott International, McDonald’s, Publix Super Markets, Quicken Loans and The Boeing Company—and to all those who attended and contributed to our regional discussions. Let’s keep the conversation going by weighing in on IHAF’s members-only community via LinkedIn. If you’re not yet part of the group, join us.

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