Code Worldwide

Islands and Glue - implementing Agency Technologies

01.03.2011
Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

I spend my working life helping advertising agencies to improve their businesses through the use of technology. Often the conversation includes a discussion around existing technology which may be loved or loathed but which needs to be factored into the plan.

Typically the agency (or the client they are representing) has one or more of the following systems in place - asset management, workflow, enterprise content management or portal solution, ERP, media management, financial management tool etc

Typically there is some vested interest in the existing system(s). They are loved by one stakeholder and hated by others, or they are hated by all but are seemingly deeply entrenched into the business, or they are the property of an untouchable department (generally HR or IT) who have not been invited to the meeting because people are worried they will be 'difficult'.

Even more typically, the answer is not that these systems are bad, it is just that they do one thing, whereas the expectation of the business is that they will do multiple things, and so everyone is disappointed.

Let's take a recent scenario. ANOther agency wins a big pitch, promising phenomenal efficiencies through their unique use of technology. It's not total bullshit; they have an asset management system from one of the top 3 vendors, they have a workflow system and they implemented some portal solutions for other clients.

In themselves, each of these systems is excellent. But they don't deliver the promised phenomenal efficiencies because they are island solutions. The asset management system stores & converts image/video content well if it is given the right instruction. The workflow tool will track data and send alerts perfectly, but does not talk to the asset management system. The portals look great but cannot display the job status or the latest ad run unless it is manually posted.

The solution is not to start again but to give these systems a context within an overall technology framework and a common language to speak to each other - this is what techies mean when they talk about business taxonomies, ie that when image a of product b for brand c is used in campaign d in media e,f & g, that this information appears in the same way in every system and in every report.

This is the 'glue' and this is where the value lies. It allows the agency to reduce duplication and administration; to provide data and inights to its clients; to adopt automation across its offices so that a process that takes 4 days can be done in 4 minutes.

It means that you release the value of your islands. Your media system automatically populates jobs into your workflow system, which calls the asset management tool to get the images and supplies them to the material creation solution which builds the press ads and banners and posts them to the client portal, where they are approved by the client and trafficked to media, and the costs are posted directly into your finance system - and no one from the agency has had to do anything.

It also allows you to component-ise your technology. Need to use the client's DAM? Fine, it plugs into your architecture. Do a deal with a new printer? You have an existing meands to have off work. Your technology will change regularly but your architecture and your glue should be much slower to change.

So before your next tech investment decision, ask two questions: can you draw your technology plan on one piece of paper? Can each of your systems in each office share data? If the answers are not both yes, then proceed slowly - you can and should expect more.