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Collaboration between in-house design teams and external agencies: top tips for success and agility

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Kristina Huddart

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In-house creative design teams have always worked with creative agencies to some extent, but the rise of digital and content marketing has seen this collaboration increase in importance and complexity.

In order to produce creative campaigns at speed and volume, brands need to be able to work collaboratively across different teams – in-house designers, writers, video producers, freelancers, etc. – as well as with external agencies and partners.

But working in silos makes content marketing campaign production slow, complex and segmented. So how can you make sure that your team is collaborating effectively? And what role does technology play in enhancing collaboration?

Smooth collaboration – the holy grail for agencies and design teams

In today’s business environment, the ability to collaborate effectively is critical to success. Whether it’s working with other departments in your company or partnering with outside agencies, smooth collaboration is fundamental for high-quality results and speed-to-market.

There are many benefits to effective collaboration with agencies, including:

  • Stronger brand identity
  • More enjoyable work
  • Faster time-to-market
  • Greater efficiency and productivity
  • Better ideas and results
  • Enhanced resilience within the team

Ultimately, sharing knowledge and communicating easily to work together with other teams and individuals benefits everyone involved.

And when it comes to working with external partners, collaboration can help you build strong relationships and ways of working that will last.

Ways to improve collaboration with agencies

Succeeding in collaboration with external agencies is not easy – it takes time, effort, and a lot of trial and error to get it right. But the rewards are definitely worth it!

Here are my top tips for improving collaboration between in-house design teams and agencies:

1. Establish a clear and concise brief

The first step to successful collaboration is to establish a clear and concise brief. This will help everyone involved understand the goals of the project and what is expected of them.

Creating a brief can be a daunting task, but there are a few simple things you can do to make it easier:

  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Be clear about what you want to achieve
  • Set realistic deadlines
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Define the target audience or user personas
  • Make sure the brief is accessible to everyone involved
  • Determine which metrics you will use to report on the finalized content

With a clear brief in hand, everyone involved in the project will be able to hit the ground running and start collaborating effectively.

2. Communicate effectively – both in writing and verbally

Effective communication is essential for successful collaboration. This will help everyone understand what is expected of them and avoid misunderstandings.

It’s also important to communicate regularly:

  • Start with a kick-off or ideation workshop to start building relationships based on trust, and to fuel better collaboration throughout the project.
  • Set up weekly or bi-weekly calls can help keep everyone on track and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

In addition to regular communication, it’s also important to document everything. Basic project management tracking can be done using project management tools like, or Trello. However, for visually led content creation, many teams find it most efficient to use their Digital Asset Management (DAM) system for centralized communications and to track decisions, comments, and review notes on versioned assets.

By documenting decisions, tasks, and progress, you can create a shared knowledge base of the project that will help everyone involved stay aligned (even if they went away on holiday or have just joined the team).

When it comes to communication, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but technology can certainly improve your ways of working collaboratively.

The key is to find a method that works for you and your team.

3. Be open to feedback and be willing to make changes

Feedback helps everyone involved understand what is working well and what needs to be improved.

However, giving and receiving feedback can be difficult. It’s important to be open to feedback and willing to make changes based on it. Otherwise, the process of collaboration can quickly break down. When feedback is given early and everyone understands why changes are made, it’s easier to develop trust among a team.

4. Respect each other’s time and deadlines

This means being punctual for meetings, responding to messages in a timely manner, setting realistic timelines, and respecting deadlines.

When everyone involved respects each other’s time, it helps to create a more efficient and productive workflow.

It can also be helpful to set aside dedicated time for collaboration, such as weekly meetings or creative collaboration, or review sessions. By setting aside dedicated time, you can ensure that everyone is able to focus on the task at hand and make the most of the time spent collaborating.

5. Manage expectations and work toward the same goal

The most important thing to remember is that you’re all working towards the same goal: to create the best possible outcome for the client. By working together as a team, communicating clearly, and setting expectations early, you can achieve great things for your clients.

6. Celebrate successes together!

Last but not least, don’t forget to celebrate your successes together. This could be anything from a team lunch or bringing cake and bubbles to your next team get-together. Celebrations can help build team morale and show everyone involved that their hard work is appreciated.

When you take the time to celebrate your successes, it shows that you are invested in the team and its success. This helps to create a positive and productive working environment.

How DAM enhances collaboration and helps you work better with colleagues

If you want to scale your collaborative efforts beyond a few projects or campaigns, technology can play an important role in enhancing teamwork and helping you to efficiently manage multiple creative lifecycles at once. Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems offer a secure and efficient way to collaborate throughout the creative asset lifecycle with external agencies and partners.

Here are some ways that DAM technologies can help you collaborate more effectively and efficiently with your colleagues and stakeholders:

Project Briefing

When you’re working on a creative project, it’s important to keep everyone in the loop. This means briefing your team on the project goals, scope, and timeline. It also means sharing information and assets with your team members (internally, externally, or hybrid).

Your DAM should make it easy for your team to access, share and deliver the assets they need when they need them. This way, they can spend more time being creative and less time searching for files.

The bottom line is that a DAM can help you to collaborate more effectively by keeping everyone on the same page and making it easy to access the assets you need.

Collaboration and Approval Workflow

Throughout any project or campaign process, DAM systems offer efficient ways to review creative rich media assets. By using the versioning, commenting and annotation features, you can easily keep track of changes and provide feedback on images, audio, video, marketing materials, and other creative assets.

By managing your creative workflow centrally in the DAM, your team will receive alerts and notifications only when they need to do something. This helps to ensure that everyone completes their tasks and that the final product is of the highest quality while reducing delays in the process.

The majority of your assets will most likely go through one or more review processes, whether it’s a brand compliance review or regulatory checks. DAM systems may be used for a variety of workflows, such as creative project workflows and approval processes. Take this opportunity to transform manual email review processes into more streamlined workflows. Within some DAM systems, you can assign tasks, automatically advance through workflow stages, set deadlines, and track progress. This helps to keep everyone organized and on task.

Creative Production and Delivery

When working on creative projects, there are often many different versions of an asset. This can make it difficult to keep track of all the files and know which one is the most up-to-date. With a DAM system, you can easily manage all your assets and manage multiple versions of assets in one central repository. This way, you always know where to find the latest and greatest version of an asset and it will be clear to everyone in the team which version of an asset has been finalized and approved.

DAM systems also offer features that help you to deliver, publish and distribute curated collections of finalized, approved creative assets to your clients, partners, distributors, or customers. For example, when you are ready to share the latest campaign with your social media team or a local printer, you can use your DAM system to generate secure, private, and time-limited links to share your creative assets. By using a DAM system, you can streamline your creative workflow and make it easier to deliver creative assets to your clients or customers.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, there are many ways that DAM technologies can help you collaborate more effectively and efficiently with your teams, regardless if they are in-house, external, remote, or across multiple time zones.

When working with in-house design teams and agencies, there are a few key things to keep in mind for success:

  1. Establishing clear goals and objectives upfront in a documented brief and sharing relevant assets through your DAM with team members will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page from the start
  2. A DAM system can help you to manage all your assets in one central repository, making it easier to keep track of versions and ensuring that everyone is working with the most up-to-date files
  3. Utilizing the workflow features in a DAM system can help to streamline your creative process, saving time and ensuring that all assets are properly reviewed and approved before being published or distributed

By following these recommendations, you can help to ensure smooth and successful collaboration between your in-house design team and any external agencies or partners.

Utilizing a DAM system is a great way to improve efficiency and streamline your creative workflow, but is also an essential tool to help support your day-to-day activities when working with digital assets.

This article was originally published on the Woodwing blog.

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