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Wired Innovation Insights: Getting an Ad Agency’s Tech Stacks to Work – 7 Characteristics of Effectiveness

January 08, 2013

It’s a given these days at ad agencies that, whether you’re the head of media planning or in the finance team, you’ll need to handle multiple technologies to manage across different tasks, media types, and teams across the business But how do you know you’re using the right tools in the toolbox? To help you out with this question, I’ve outlined seven points below that you may not have considered, but should, when you’re thinking through the tech stacks that power your agency.

Teams work differently from one another -- how do you manage it? It’s important to keep in mind how different teams function in different ways, especially since software stacks run across multiple functions, and often multiple teams. Sometimes those differences are obvious, such as when digital teams measure with comScore, and radio teams use Nielsen Audio/Arbitron. Other differences are more subtle, however. That is until you introduce the scale that software allows, and subtle issues become huge nightmares for businesses. Make sure you know the differences in how teams work so you can accommodate appropriately and sync software across them.

How do you define the workflow? Software exists to help people work more efficiently, but to make the most of it you need to understand exactly how people do their jobs. What steps do your employees take within tasks, across tasks, and how do they communicate between functions? If you go beyond asking how software fits with your goals and ask how you can make it operate best with the ways your employees work, you’ll be better positioned to serve up solutions when employees can leverage them best. Knowing this also helps to coordinate the software solutions you introduce more tightly -- the more you understand the ways people work, the more you’ll get from your software and your teams.

Are you providing choices? One of the biggest aspects of building out a technology stack is giving your teams the flexibility to choose from an assortment of options. This means knowing when you need more providers in your arsenal, as well as knowing when to provide interfaces, like drop-down menus and checkboxes, that make it easy to choose among the options that suit different workflows. It also means thinking through when you want to simplify by offering just one choice to everyone across the agency.

Can you ensure that it fits with current IT?  It’s great if you manage to hook TV software to a DSP, but you might have a problem if one set of software only works on PCs and one of the teams you need to loop in is all on Macs. Make sure you’re getting the most of your arrangement of tech products by thinking through the IT infrastructure piece as well.
Something broke -- now what? It’s important to have everything worked out ahead of time so that if one piece of software slows down, it won’t hinder productivity across the board. The moment you tie different functions together across a single solution set, those functions become more intertwined than ever before. This means that it can be a lot more damaging if one piece of the puzzle breaks down—and, say, bugs in your social media software suddenly impact your TV buying. And make sure you’re storing the data you need to ensure everyone connected to the stack can pick up right away when things are back up again.
What’s your definition of automation? Tech stacks are built around using machines to sync across roles. At the one end of the spectrum, it’s a completely programmatic proposition -- you can flip a switch and walk away. And at the other end, you can have machines that pretty much stay in the background --to make the people smarter, faster, and more nimble. Just ask yourself, what needs human intuition or relationships, and what needs high computational power and massive scale?

 Can your partners collaborate? When you assemble a tech stack, you’re not just dealing with technology -- you’re dealing with the businesses that sell tech, too. At some point you’ll need your partners to sync together to integrate products, no matter how much you invest in building a tech stack on your own. If partners have issues with working closely with other tech providers (especially when big egos get in the way), it’s something you’ll want to know up front.

These seven points are critical when you’re building your agency stack, but they’re hardly the only items to consider. Have more of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. After all, that’s what tech stacks are all about -- they work better when more minds collaborate to build them.

Via InnovationInsights