ADOTAS – What sets creative agencies apart from other companies is not only the imagination and freshness of their work, but how teams work together to innovate and collaborate with clients to reach their end goals. Unfortunately, there are inherent collaboration challenges in the agency environment caused by a number of obstacles. For instance, creatives typically spend the bulk of their time working in isolation from clients and rely heavily on account managers and briefs for direction. Due to the size and scope of a project, creative teams are sometimes split into groups that handle only one category of a larger campaign – like mobile, email or display advertising – leaving them disconnected from other components. Teams are often divided into groups that handle specific segments of the client’s business or regional markets without having a holistic view of the client’s brand and marketing strategy. Lastly, internal client service delivery always involves many moving parts, from brainstorming to design, concepting to review, and approval to production and delivery.
To address these challenges, many agency owners and creative technologists have sought out resources to help them mitigate the burden. Yet many struggle to find, evaluate and deploy the best tools available to keep teams from getting bogged down in emails, lost files, version control, prolonged approvals and the overall project management process so they can focus their attention on their true talents – the creative process.
A typical scenario involves a number of point solutions pulled together to address different facets of the same problem. Agencies might implement Skype to help teams easily connect via IM or video conference, Dropbox to share larger files, or Google Calendar for scheduling and task reminders. At first glance, many of these tools seem like viable solutions and are attractive due to their low-cost and ease-of-use. However, it quickly becomes evident that managing a growing number of disparate tools and getting everyone on board to use the same tools in a consistent way – if at all – is a significant hurdle. Ironically, in the attempt to bring people together, the sheer number of tools separates people and processes with information becoming more and more decentralized.
Alternatively, agencies’ other options are high-priced, bulky and complex solutions that require hardware, trained IT staff, and hours of consulting and configuration. These solutions often prove to be too complicated and frustrating for users, resulting in mutiny or team members simply solving their own problems in other ways. These experiences leave many agencies disillusioned and even fearful of new technology.
However, a middle ground between these two extremes is emerging. Niche players are receiving funding and working fast to tack on additional and more comprehensive services. At the same time, the large-scale solution providers have made efforts to simplify processes and functionality through consulting services. Both groups have fine-tuning to do, but it’s evident they’re closing in on a middle ground that finally points towards a true definition of collaboration. Ultimately, agencies should set their sights on solutions that comprehensively address all their unique needs without sacrificing ease-of-use and simplicity. Tools should be cost-effective and an “organic” addition to current processes within the agency, so teams can fully adopt their benefits.
For instance, SK+G, an advertising and marketing communications agency, is leveraging Central Desktop’s SocialBridge platform to address these challenges. The platform is an online collaboration workspace specifically for advertising, digital and creative agencies. The platform’s consolidation of video and creative file markup tools, time tracking, task management, Gantt charts, web conferencing, social sharing, chat and other tools is changing the way SK+G and other creative agency teams collaborate both internally and with their clients.
“We needed a tool that brought together social capabilities, document sharing and creative markup tools and team collaboration under one umbrella to help us better serve clients,” said Jennifer Cuny, director of creative services at SK+G. “Not only are tools like these providing a simple path for team collaboration, but they have enabled us to streamline our traditional processes – even down to how we assign tasks, keep on top of projects and approve creative internally and with clients.”
It’s apparent through SK+G’s and other agency testimonials that agencies are seeking one solution that combines all the tools necessary to ease the agency’s end-to-end processes from creative development to project management to client services delivery. They’re finding that the most effective tools are those that come together on a middle ground and maintain ease of use, yet have a comprehensive set of services that will truly allow creative teams to get back to their natural teamwork and creative processes.