Interagency Collaboration: It’s Time for An Upgrade

There’s a noticeable, somewhat paradoxical trend in the agency world – agencies are  expected to be specialized and lean, while also being cross-functional and scalable to multi-year engagements. Being both small and large, experts at one thing and pretty good at everything, is almost impossible.

That’s where the interagency team (“IAT”) comes in. Where once agency lacks, another can pick up the slack, making the perfect combination. Merge a digital shop with a social shop. PR with creative. Talent with media. The list goes on. More and more brands are relying on interagency teams to launch and maintain their marketing initiatives.

Sounds perfect, until you consider the logistical nightmare this presents. Could you imagine if Hebrew National and Oscar Meyer teamed up to make a new hot dog product? Sure, they’re both experts in the food industry, but they operate in silos. They take different approaches to everything – from product promotion to packaging to preservatives.

Competing agencies will run into the same issues. Open and honest communication with a competitor can be difficult. Teams lack trust in one another and withhold information for fear of giving away the secret sauce. Overlapping strategies can create redundancies and inefficiencies.  And then there’s the inevitable battle over who really controls the account.  

It’s time for a good old fashioned shake-up. We’ve found success in mitigating the above problems by applying Agile development principles to interagency relationships. But before we dive in, let’s dispel a myth.

There’s a myth about “Agile.”

That is, Agile is reserved for product development teams. The principles that guide the teams at Electronic Arts, Apple, Microsoft, and IBM can’t (or won’t) work with teams building anything but software.

This is dead wrong. Organizations like Capital One, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Vanguard all leverage Agile principles across a variety of projects, tech-driven and otherwise.

Four Agile Principle for Interagency Relationships

Below are four principles of Agile that we’ve deployed (to much success, in our opinion). You can see an exhaustive list of Agile principles here.

Build projects around motivated individuals.

Agile says to “Give your teams the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” In our world, this means assigning roles and responsibilities early and giving each team clear ownership over a piece of the puzzle.

Meet in-person as frequently as possible.

In-person meetings are huge to the success of our IAT relationships. Some IATs meet monthly, others meet quarterly. Regardless of the frequency, face-to-face interactions build trust.

Operate with and without the client.

Agile relies heavily on self-organizing teams.  In other words, the IAT should be able to identify and delegate tasks, without being managed by the client.

Be reflexive.

Retrospectives help to create transparency and trust, and move the teams forward in the positive direction without pointing the finger.

Conclusion

These four principles can be deployed by any team, for any client, in an industry. While changing your processes might sound scary, a functional and collaborative IAT is worth the effort. If you want to learn more about working with interagency teams, shoot us an email at Liz@isl.co and Joshs@isl.co