The transition from one agency to the next is becoming more complex

Reading the marketing and advertising trade media you would think that the tender or pitch process is the start, middle and end of the client / agency relationship. Tenders and pitches make great news, with winners and losers. Plus there is all the intrigue of why one agency won and another lost. But in actual fact, the selection of the agency and the signing of the contract is just the start of the process.

In the euphoria of the new relationship, it is usual for the parties involved to get on with the job and start working together. But like most areas of marketing, advertising and media, the process has become more complex due to the changes in the process created by technology.

One of the challenges that is becoming increasingly complex is the transitioning from the current agency to the new agency and the on-boarding of the new agency to get up to speed.

While it may work to simply get on with the job, there are some key issues that need to be considered in transitioning to a new agency supplier.

Key Transitioning Issues

In our experience assisting with the transition from an incumbent to a new supplier or agency, we have identified some key areas of consideration. These are not of course mandatory, but they are certainly worthy of review as overlooking these can lead to additional cost, lost value and poor performance of the new relationship.

  • Identify and engage all key stakeholders across all aspects of the relationships (both the departing incumbent and new appointee).
  • Plan and execute the transition of knowledge and Intellectual Property between the incumbent and the new supplier.
  • Manage the workflow and timing to minimise disruption to business and process.
  • Manage resource levels in both the incumbent (retention) and the new supplier (recruitment) to ensure service levels are maintained to the required levels.
  • Plan transference of process including the induction process for the new agency. It is also an opportunity to re-engineer or improve existing processes.
  • Implement a process for identifying and dealing with out-of-contract or out-of-scope issues that may, and will, arise during the transition.
  • Identifying where training may be required to supplement existing knowledge among all stakeholders.

Let’s explore each of these areas in more detail.

Stakeholder Engagement

It is normal to simply engage the new agency and perhaps the marketing team who will be working with the new agency. But it is increasingly common for agencies, especially digital, content, public relations, social media and media agencies to have multiple contact points within the organisation, which must be managed including:

The marketing team:

It is important to engage those in the marketing team who own the existing relationship as well as the key people responsible for the new relationship, which is not necessarily the same people.

Internal stakeholders:

Identify the key internal stakeholders outside of Marketing which could include IT for digital and digital media, data and analytics, procurement and legal regarding contract and exit compliance etc.

The incumbent:

Often there is some awkwardness with the incumbent, leading to some people wanting to avoid them. But it is important to develop a transition team inside the incumbent agency representing the core competencies being transferred.

The new agency / supplier:

Rather then just having them get on with the job, on appointment they should nominate a ‘transition team’ inside the new agency aligning core competencies to the incumbent.

Other agencies and suppliers on the roster:

Agencies on the roster increasingly cooperate and coordinate their activities, therefore it is important that they are also engaged in the transition process.

Transition Planning

The actual transition process can be planned and organised around three key meetings.

1. Initial planning meeting:

All internal stakeholders participate in preparing a timing plan for review, identify all aspects impacted by the transition and developing and agreeing an action plan with roles and responsibilities.

2. Incumbent planning meeting:

This meeting involves the internal stakeholders and incumbent transition team to brief the incumbent on the timeline and workflow, brief them on the preparation tasks for transition, discuss and agree resource requirements and service levels.

3. Transition planning meeting:

This meeting includes all internal stakeholders, the incumbent stakeholders and the new agency transition team where all aspects of the transition plan from the Initial Planning Meeting are discussed and agreed, including timeline, tasks and responsibilities.

Transference of Intellectual Property

While the creation of intellectual property is core to many agency activities, and while the contracts with the agencies have clear principles regarding IP ownership and transference, it is an area that is often overlooked when exiting an incumbent agency.

The first step when changing agencies is to review the incumbents contract to clarify who owns the IP and how it is to be transferred to the owner if required. Then you need to identify all of the IP held by the incumbent. The best way to do this is either undertake an IP audit or have the incumbent undertake an IP audit of the relevant materials including:

  • The current accessibility of the IP.
  • Availability of accompanying paperwork proving ownership.
  • Any costs associated with the transfer.

Once this has been done, you need to consider the true value of IP assets against cost of their retrieval and transfer of ownership. Once decided on what is to be transferred, it is simply a matter to agree the timeline for the transfer between incumbent and new agency / supplier.

To ensure a smooth future transition of IP, you should agree with new supplier upfront on the requirements for future storage, ownership and retrieval processes.

Operating Materials

Outside of IP there are innumerable operating materials and resources developed and required to support the smooth running of the workflow process.

Traditionally these may include:

  • Software systems such as DAMs, Approval and Workflow Systems, etc
  • Licences, contracts, agreements and manuals held on behalf of the client.
  • Market data, research reports, past activities, etc.

Increasingly, in a digital and technology driven world this also includes:

  • Click tags for all of the digital display campaigns in the market
  • Third party publisher data and customer campaign data
  • CRM, customer databases, email marketing data held on behalf of the client

Once identified you need to document the availability of the materials and the format and ease of transfer. You need to ensure the new supplier is able to accept the transfer in a format they can use. Finally you need to set and agree the timeline for transfer between incumbent and the new agency.

Process Transition

Every agency and every organisation has their own marketing process or way of doing things. The HP Way is possibly the most famous and title of a bestselling book. Many organisations have their (Insert Organisation Name Here) Way process and it is important that the new agency is aligned to this process at the start and that they don’t learn this by trial and error.

The Marketing team should take the new agency through the current process map. This is an opportunity to review the current process and look for areas where the process can be improved and optimised.

If there is no existing agreed process, then a process should be discussed and agreed with the new supplier. You may consider implementing the TrinityP3 Engagement Agreement process to obtain process alignment between all parties, the new agency, the existing roster and the marketing team.

Contract Resolution

It is important here to remember there are two contracts being transitioned, the incumbent contract, which is being terminated and the new supplier contract being instigated. Both contracts need to be reviewed to ensure the incumbent exit roles, responsibilities and terms are met and that all relevant terms and conditions are included and understood in the new contract.

Lessons learned from the incumbent contract should be reviewed and where relevant, included in the new contract.

All schedules in the new contract should be reviewed with the new supplier including remuneration, resources, rate cards, reporting etc. to ensure the requirements are clearly agreed and understood.

Hand Over Period

In the transition process, the final step is the hand over from the incumbent to the new agency or supplier. While there is no perfect time for most advertisers or marketers ideally it should be at a time when there is a minimum of work in progress and prior to briefing any major new work.

If projects are in progress, then you need to identify those that will be handed over incomplete. These on-going or major projects should be transitioned through a work in progress hand over meeting.

This Work In Progress Hand Over Meeting is the point in time where the incumbent team and the new agency team meet together with the Marketing team and any and all outstanding jobs or tasks are handed over to the new supplier and the next steps agreed between marketing and the new supplier.

This marks the point in the process where the incumbent withdraws from the relationship with the marketer.

Training Requirements

During the transition and induction phase it often becomes obvious where there are gaps and skill deficits in the Marketing and agency team. These skills and knowledge deficits are identified and a training program should be devised and implemented.

The training sessions should ideally involve both the marketing team and the new agency or supplier to ensure alignment of knowledge and this allows both the advertiser and the new supplier personnel to gain knowledge and develop a working relationship and understanding.

DIY or ask a professional

As we have observed earlier, the transition process is one that many marketers either believe they can manage themselves with their new agency or leave largely to the agency to manage themselves.

But depending on the level of complexity of the roster and the agency scope of work the transition process can be particularly time consuming and one where significant intellectual property and valuable assets can be lost and a new agency can spend significant time and resources learning and aligning to the clients processes.

If you wish to do this yourself, then hopefully this provides at least a valuable checklist of what needs to be considered. If you require help, we have significant assets and resources to support this process to ensure you maximise the transfer of knowledge and assets and that the new relationship is optimised as quickly as possible with minimal disruption.

The choice, as always, is yours.

TrinityP3’s Strategic Supplier Alignment service helps you to untangle your supplier roster, understand its strengths and weaknesses, and develop an optimal structure to improve your performance.

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