In-house Agency: An Oxymoron?

Incites2I often hear in-house team leaders proudly assert that their goal for their department is to become a true agency model organization (if they’re not already asserting they are one). In many respects this is an appropriate pursuit but with some critical caveats. Below are issues it would be helpful to consider when searching for the agency holy grail.

  1. Is your company big enough and are its needs great and varied enough to support an agency structure? If you are a true shared services group servicing multiple business units and corporate departments then adopting an agency model may make sense. If, instead you’re dedicated to only one or two clients with repetitive projects and agency approach would be inefficient and a flatter organization would serve your company better.
  2. Are you ready to establish an Account Management team?  Account Management is one of the biggest differentiators between in-house and agency organizations. It turns your group into a sales based entrepreneurial venture. Are you up for “owning” your own business and being committed to feeding the beast? (You’d better be set up as a chargeback department for this model.)
  3. Can you justify and manage a more siloed staffing structure? Making the case with upper management for new roles in your group will take time and focus. Most companies default to the flat model when they consider headcount for their in-house departments – basically a group of designers wearing many hats. You’ll need to show the ROI on establishing project management, editorial, traffic and administrative positions.
  4. Most importantly, will you be able to meet client expectations when positioning your team as an agency? There’s a huge difference between establishing a “whatever it takes”, 24/7, “we’ll do your work for you” culture in your department versus continuing with a client management mindset that places more accountability on your clients to provide clear direction, feedback and deliverables that they don’t have to make good on with their agencies.

Bottom line is the bottom line of ensuring that the adoption of an agency model is really the best fit for your company.

One thought on “In-house Agency: An Oxymoron?

  1. Teri

    This is spot on:
    “Most importantly, will you be able to meet client expectations when positioning your team as an agency? There’s a huge difference between establishing a “whatever it takes”, 24/7, “we’ll do your work for you” culture in your department versus continuing with a client management mindset that places more accountability on your clients to provide clear direction, feedback and deliverables that they don’t have to make good on with their agencies.”
    Putting more accountability on the internal clients is critical to the entire company. I’ve seen too much waste happen by internal clients who refuse to practice good project management and do everything last minute. This only produces more errors in the project. Internal designers need to take a risk by tracking and presenting data to upper management that clearly shows how much waste some of the internal customers are costing the company. If more internal design teams would practice this, it could help internal design teams to be seen more strategically and less as a last minute rush service.

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