Building Partnerships Between Client and Agency Technology Teams

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The following article is part of the Hatch Unlocked series, a look inside the inner workings of Colle McVoy’s innovation studio.

In our digital-first world, technological innovation is essential for creating breakthrough brand-building ideas. So nurturing a culture that builds, fosters and enhances innovation will lead to great creative work. To encourage this culture of innovation between clients and their agencies, strong relationships built on trust and respect are vital. And we mean relationships at all levels, from the C-suite to analysts. We’ve learned that when our brand innovation studio, Hatch, partners with our client information systems (IS) or information technology (IT) teams, innovative ideas happen and brilliance is possible.

But building relationships between agency and client tech teams isn’t always easy because it requires opening up walls and changing how we typically work. When done well, everyone is better informed and works more efficiently, which allows more time for creativity to thrive. Based on our most innovative working relationships, here’s how we build partnerships between our client teams and the team of creative technologists in Hatch.

Make trust and respect key

Every great relationship is built on trust and respect. When technologists on the agency side begin working with technologists on the client side, a level of trust is gained knowing that the agency can deeply consider client problems holistically, which these days are almost always digitally focused. Understanding how the client-side team works, what they might be worried about or what they need to be successful creates strong, technically informed decisions that solve brand problems.

Communicate the importance of agency/client collaboration upfront

Building a strong team of technologists on all sides should start at the client kick-off, where leadership introduces the teams, allows them to work directly with each other and supports open and transparent dialogue. Client-side relationships between the CMO and the CIO continue to strengthen as the technology and digital marketing landscapes change. As this happens, the agency team needs to be considered a creative technology partner in addition to a marketing partner. While teams may initiate in the marketing department, introductions need to happen on the tech side too. This could not be more true as marketing approaches become more data-driven. There is a level of translation that happens between technologists that is sometimes lost with marketers. (The same holds true when it comes to marketers translating the brand to technologists.)

Hire diverse talent

Diversity is a big issue in our industry, and we strive to hire people of all backgrounds. When it comes to tech partnerships, diversity can also mean the array of technology skill sets that individuals have. Ideally, we hire technologists who are “T shaped.” They may specialize in one skill (the top of the T) but are also familiar with the relevant subject matter surrounding it (the body). They are also brand literate and able to communicate well with everyone on the agency and client teams, from writers and designers to brand experience managers and data scientists. Many of our technologists have worked in various IT and developer groups on both sides, which makes understanding and communication even stronger.

Build alignment

We have sometimes found that certain teams on the client side don’t work together as closely or meet as often as our agency teams do. However, they are all integral to creating the work we do. When our tech people are involved from the ground up, they can complement our account management team and become liaisons for the client tech team throughout the process. In this way, they advocate for client teams during development, keep them better informed overall and help them build alliances with their internal brand team. All this keeps communication flowing, makes the process move faster and prevents problems before they happen, saving time and money.

Allow exploration

In the tech space, if you’re not exploring and innovating, you’re probably falling behind. This is especially true for the client/agency team that is responsible for the brand. When there’s trust and respect between all teams, they should be allowed to have exploratory conversations about what’s possible as well as the time and budget to invest in the ideas that show promise. Hatch is set up to allow clients to explore and prototype ideas quickly to see how they could come to life. This approach worked well for Invisalign, which developed an amazing VR experience after exploring how it would work with our team.

When our creative technologists work directly with our client technologists, we’re all able to keep on top of the latest technology, work more efficiently and bring innovative thinking and solutions to solve brand problems.