3 Ingredients to Agency Transformation

Who will win, Agencies or Consultants? In what seems like a battle for the ages, we are actually witnessing each business model trying to shift to become more like the other. Companies like Accenture and Deloitte are scrambling to buy smaller agencies and ramp up on creative talent to perform more like agencies. While holding companies like WPP and Omnicom are restructuring their offerings to work more like consultants. I feel that we’ll be in a very similar situation in the next 5-10 years when the tides turn yet again on the needs from the marketplace.

I’m not a betting man and won’t make an assumption on who will win, but I try to find reasons behind actions. On one hand you have the consulting organizations with a strategic prowess that can help transform their clients business from a strategic perspective, but lack the culture and creativity of an agency. On the other, you have some of the most creative minds tackling communications problems. I think the sweet spot is somewhere in between where strategic thinking meets culture and creativity and I’m sure that someone will figure it out before long. 

This whole battle has me thinking about what these organizations have in common and how do they need to transform to become more effective in their service offerings and more valuable for their clients, which is the ultimate goal for any transformation. Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to start and transform multiple teams and organizations, some more successful than others. Throughout these journeys, and now digging into what’s happening between consultancies and agencies, I’ve come to notice 3 core ingredients to driving transformation, regardless of service offering. 

3 Ingredients Transformation

People: The right people are the lifeblood to any organization, especially one in transformation. Not only do you need leaders and change agents, but you need access to the talent that will fulfill the needs for your clients. With business needs changing continually and with new challenges in the consumer environment, the need for specialized talent is rising. Understanding how to find, hire and retain these key resources is the number one element of future success. The hard part is the environment in which we’re doing business. The fact of the matter is that not all of these resources will be internal hires. There will be a combination of full time employees, freelancers, offshore talent and strategic partnerships. The challenge to you is coordinating a mission and process to keep each person passionate, challenged and engaged throughout your transformation and for the success of your client work. If you want to learn more about this approach, John Winsor has built his career on co-creation and collaborative work environments, first with Victors & Spoils, now with Open Assembly.

Process: Not only does your process need to fulfill the needs and aspirations for your people and guide the chaotic wrangling of a collaborative environment, but it also needs to become more nimble and agile to evolve with the changing needs of the client. As agency and consulting leaders, we aspire to drive long term success, which is a key driver for our clients, but more often than not, their day to day activity is geared in more short-term thinking. Both industries of agencies and consultancies are built around a long lead time for a particular deliverable and much of that process is built with rigid milestones. However, the world has turned. To drive a successful transformation for the industry and for your company, a more agile process does a couple things for you. It allows you to fail fast and iterate. This gives you short term insight and action for the challenges of today, but also builds a smarter and effective organization and strategy for long term success. It also provides your client the ability to be nimble and react to the marketplace in a way that was never before imaginable. There’s no one better to learn from than Eric Ries. His new book The Startup Way takes his groundbreaking Lean Startup process and scales it for larger organizations. It’s definitely a great place to start to understand processes that could help transform your organization. 

Technology: Finally, the connective tissue between people, process and service and the facilitator of your transformation is Technology. As I mentioned in a previous article, the right use of technology allows us to automate the commoditized features of our services and open our talent to do bigger and better things. But it does something much more than that. If used correctly, it can help drive projects forward, ease our collaboration with our extended team members, help us find the right talent for the right project, ensure effective communication and briefing… the list goes on. Depending on what you’re trying to solve, technology could help support. This is something we, at Chinatown Bureau, get pretty excited about. We feel there is a huge role for technology to play in the transformation of industry, whether you’re moving from consulting to agency or from agency to consulting, the issues that technology can empower and support are endless. 

The tides will continue to turn, but that doesn’t mean we have to take our eyes of making or organizations more effective. As you’re finalizing your 2018 organizational strategies, I hope you would find some action items to evolve your people, process and technology.