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Establishing Value Beyond Deliverables—CreativeExecs® Roundtable Round-Up

I had the privilege of facilitating this fall’s round of CreativeExecs® Roundtables. While the stated topic of the sessions was the in-house value proposition, as often happens at these types of events, other issues bubbled up as well. One theme that showed up consistently was the amount and rate of change creative teams are grappling with. Whether it was M&As, new technology, demands for new services, downsizings, or reorgs, almost every attendee had a story of recent shifts he or she had encountered. While trying to deal with these types of change can conjure up negative scenarios and challenges, as often as not, these new circumstances presented new opportunities for the creative team leaders relating their changing work environment to the group.

Another high-level takeaway was the expanded focus of in-house teams on operational best practices. More and more, leads are establishing project management positions in their organizations and transitioning PM responsibilities from their creative talent to the folks in these newly established roles. This clearly has resulted in increased efficiencies and is positioning them to better adapt to the types of changes I referred to above.

It’s a mixed bag when considering in-house leadership’s progress on understanding and articulating their in-house value proposition. Few groups have formal documentation, talking points or case studies that underscore the value they bring to their organizations. Fortunately, it was abundantly clear that in-house teams, while not making a powerful case for their value proposition, are indeed making great and varied contributions to their host organizations. Aside from creating high-quality creative deliverables, many are proactively engaged in establishing and ensuring brand consistency, employing the methodologies of design thinking to solve organizational problems outside of their primary mandate of providing creative services, and discovering ways to leverage the creative assets they’re creating for specific projects to be used in other ways by their companies.

One thing is certain: leadership within the in-house community has evolved greatly over the past decade. In spite of the fact that many of today’s in-house leaders were originally designers who moved up into management roles because of their unique mix of right- and left-brain aptitudes but had little to no business and management training or coaching to prepare them for their new responsibilities, they have educated and developed themselves to meet the business needs of their departments. They are able to look at their groups as businesses and respond to challenges and opportunities in a strategic and holistic way. For them, it’s no longer just about the work their teams produce, but about applying their design acumen to larger operational and strategic goals.

If only the C-suite executives could sit in on the types of sessions I had the good luck to facilitate. The myth that creatives are solely emotionally-driven employees who shun process and hard data would be exploded. The fact that this rarely, if ever, occurs brings the conversation full circle and back to urgency that needs to be placed on articulating the value that internal creative services groups bring to their organizations.


Andy Epstein

Andy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Director of Studio Operations for Cella Solutions where he has oversight of the managed in-house agencies run by Cella. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative,” a book on in-house design in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, the former Programming Director for the InHOWse Managers Conference, and a key member of Cella’s professional development team. Andy is focused on empowering in-house teams to raise their stature in the design and business communities.

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