Creative Operations Consultant
What problem we are trying to solve?
Verizon Wireless came to me with an interesting problem, "How do we transform our internal production team to an In-House Agency?" They had a very talented team of visual designers, UX & UI designers, copywriters, and project managers. They also had a record of out-performing the company's agencies of record. There was a strong argument they were cheaper, faster and better than the competition, but they weren't yet operationally organized to start competing in earnest. They needed help creating a foundation, making the transition and repositioning themselves while managing and executing their current workload.
PHASE 1 – DISCOVERY
The primary objective of the discovery process was to compare the existing roles, responsibilities, processes, operations and relationships of the current production model to an agency model.
A PRODUCTION HOUSE IS TYPICALLY VIEWED AS A VENDOR;
WHILE AN AGENCY IS A VALUE-ADDED & STRATEGIC PARTNER
The significant difference between a production house and an agency is how they’re perceived by their clients: agencies are partners, help solve business problems and have smarter, more talented resources. Also, bigger agencies have their own internal production capabilities and will try to capture that business if they can.
The Discovery process included stakeholder interviews, gathering and analyzing the existing processes & tools, team structure & people's roles & responsibilities, the work the team created and expectations of the existing model.
The interview format was very casual. I asked each participant what a typical day was like, what their process was for getting their work done and if they saw any areas for improvement. Each interview was slightly different because of everyone's experience was different. The interviewees provided me with process documentation; they discussed the tools that were currently being used and their opinions about the teams relationships to other stakeholders.
• 20 Formal interviews
• 15 Team members (UX, Graphic Design - UI, & Project Management)
• 5 Stakeholders (Senior Leadership, ISO team members in other departments)
During the interview process I gathered and analyzed ~40 documents. All members of the team interviewed submitted work from that month.
I created a map of a typical project lifecycle and used the map to flag issues and successes as I found them. I've listed one example below the map.
01 - PROJECT INITIATION
The team used a work-order type of process. The briefing materials and steps that followed reflected this. The team had evolved beyond this type of work, so the brief and subsequent steps were lacking when working strategic projects. Wording on the Brief lead the stakeholder to submit and solve the creative problem, limiting the creative solutions the team could provide. The language used on process documentation was Site-centric vs. User-centric, which caused teams to meet more often to clarify meaning and intent.
I proposed creative specific briefs for different types of work and implementing them into the project initiation part of the process.
PHASE 2 – Documentation
I spent a month documenting my findings. If you'd like to see a copy of that document please contact me. Some of the elements are used in this case study.
PHASE 3 – DEFINE
This phase was defining what the team wanted the agency to look like. I created a vision-based framework with the intent of another round of interviews with team leadership and stakeholders. The framework is below, but the project was put on hold indefinitely after a company-wide reorganization.
DEFINE WHO YOU ARE
• your “reason for being,” vision and aspirational mission with business and team objectives (see the Vision-Based Framework)
DEFINE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
• carefully consider how you refer to the people whose lines of business you support
DEVELOP YOUR TEAM CHARTER
• define your organizational model with roles, responsibilities and interdependencies, and a summary of operating practices
BUSINESS MODEL OPTIONS
The current business model was confusing, it wasn't clear how budgets were used to "pay" for the completed work. It appeared that all the work was one line item, with one price. Regardless of the effort or resources used.
I proposed using a Charge-back model, which is about running a creative services department in the most efficient manner to support maximize company’s profits. This was recommended by several in-house agencies. I provided the benefits, different options for billing clients and recommendation for communicating the changes once they decided what was best for them:
- Increased awareness of how much it really costs to do creative projects—
- Recognition of the value of an internal group compared to outside agencies—not just the cost, but things like brand knowledge and quick turnaround
- Increased efficiencies by reducing endless rounds of revision
- Increase resource flexibility—it’s much easier to add staff to meet demand
- Clients are less likely to misuse your department
- Develop a change management communication plan
- Work with finance and define your model before you start.
- Theoretically a Charge-back model should decrease allocated costs to each business unit and free up funds for new creative services services
- Track charges very carefully, evaluate your chargeback strategy for accuracy, and then fine tune your model.
- Fixed hourly rate
- Bill each resource individually at their respective rates*
- Average hourly rate for pool of resources –blended rate*
- Rates based on job function
- Fixed project fees
- Need a price list of different types of project, does one exist?
- The business funds a percentage of in-house team
- Paid in advance of work, reconciled monthly
- Fixed fee
- Billed a fixed amount monthly for agreed upon services*
- Time and Materials
- Client is charged after a project is done based on accurate, daily employee time sheets*
PHASE 4 – Create & execute A plan
I laid out another framework to start the transition from a production model to an agency model:
- DEFINE LONG & SHORT-TERM GOALS
- HAVE CLEAR ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES
- MAKE SURE THESE GOALS CAN BE CLEARLY MEASURED
- ESTABLISH MILESTONES WITH DATES FOR COMPLETION
We didn't get to create the plan, the project went on hold and then was cancelled.