When – in another life – I was working on a large marketing project for a client some years back, I was horrified to see the sheer range of subcontractors the project involved.
Apart from my own marketing team (seventeen people across five countries (and three time zones)). A branding agency. A graphic deign firm. A web firm. Two different media companies (film and audio). A marketing strategy agency. Localisation in each country. Internal management and digital teams. And me.
The process was, of course, screamingly inefficient, in so many ways.
Creatively, just trying to keep some forward movement involved conference calls, videoconferences, emails, faxes, flights, offsites and meetings, meetings, meetings. With so many parties in the process who were on the “creative” side, getting what the client wanted front and centre often got lost in competing design and creative directions. Something as simple as a colourway would take up days of work; something as complex as a tagline would take weeks.
Management reporting was, as you can imagine, inaccurate and always out of date. Every person on the project reported to their line managers; as far as the project was concerned, they worked for us, but sometimes their working for us was compromised by their direct line reports in their own firms.
Every time one organisation ground up against another, in addition to the business and creative tensions, you could almost see money leaking out of the system. Too many invoices, too many unspecified jobs getting themselves somehow worked into a task order. Too much management of budgets, too many debates about what the client could now afford. And of all things, the additional staff the project recruited were financial accountants.
Yet – project was delivered to time, and to budget. And it worked. All of these people managed to make it work despite, not because of, the structure they found themselves in. Hours of unpaid overtime. Giving up holidays, working nights, the whole lot.
Because the basic system that many of us still work in is inefficient. It’s inefficient in time, inefficient in money, inefficient in management. Projects succeed despite themselves.
What’s the answer? As it so often is in management, reducing the number of working parts is key. This has been one of the principles underlying what we do at Vivid London – bringing all of these diverse skill sets under one roof so that the client gets one bill; the team works together from the outset; the use of seminars means that ideas can be worked through with all of the various project teams represented; communication is simplified. And clients get their work faster, pay less, and come back more often.
I made lots of friends on that project – more through the companionship of shared adversity than anything else. Mind you, the client was so put off by the experience that they haven’t done the same thing again. Not, I have to say, something that’s happened to Vivid London.