The Shift that broke the pendulum

Corporations are shifting their marketing services in-house and re-defining relationships with their suppliers. This is a strategic shift brought about by a confluence of technical, social and political change on a global scale. At the core of this movement is the corporation’s need to control global brand messaging quickly in an increasingly regulated world. Is this a temporary shift or is there more to it, and how far might it go?

The rise of mobile computing combined with an explosion in SaaS software development has led to more intuitive purpose-built applications with built in learning tools. The net effect is that corporations can do much more with less.  Hence, the rapidly accelerating move to take internal control of the corporate global supply chain. More specifically, control of process, digital assets, resources, and the brand message.  Evidence of the shift can be seen in global corporations like P&G who in recent years consolidated their packaging prepress supply chain from hundreds of companies to only three.  The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) committee for in-house agencies includes members from hundreds of the Fortune 1000.  A Google search reveals many recent articles detailing the rise of in-house ad agencies.

The drivers of this shift are affordable and effective new technology and the need for speed to market. The value of a middleman controlling portions of the marcom workflow has diminished. This does not mean that everything is being produced in-house, just internally controlled and managed by in-house staff who are defining new best practices for their agile enterprise. Many companies go back and forth between insourcing and outsourcing, but this time it is different. Companies are focused on process, and it is not just marketing, legal and business analytics, recruiting, employee services and even providing in-house healthcare.

With change comes opportunity. Demand for business process management tools is growing rapidly. Many new companies are developing SaaS products to further enable the agile business.  Online workflow modeling and business process management tools are becoming main stream.  File sharing and digital asset management services are widely accepted. Integrating these services to meet the requirements of a project has never been easier now that RESTful APIs have become widely available. Artificial intelligence applied to big data analytics will provide the agile business with insights previously inconceivable. Best of all, the enterprise can securely access most SaaS services without making any upfront investments or long term commitments.

At the core of the agile business is an integrated business process management platform. This is the tool that enables distributed process control.  In-house is only practical when the technology enables the staff to do an order of magnitude more with less. BPM systems capture huge amounts of data that can be analyzed as a service in real-time. The ability to analyze any combination of process and behavioral data yields valuable predictive insights. Standards such as BPMN notation and the XPDL file format have allowed developers to simplify the user experience for defining, managing, and sharing process maps across BPM platforms. A virtual task can automatically serve up the tools the user will need. SaaS tools have one thing in common. They can be called through a RESTful API without the need for a software developer. The workflow can be configured to invoke access to tools based on the nature of the task. For healthcare workflows a digital radiology file format (DICOM Web) enables secure cross-platform viewing and collaboration over a patient’s scanned images and medical history.

Business agile companies adjust to market conditions faster by adopting a culture of managed change. It is no longer acceptable to be so disconnected from your projects that you can’t even access your own brand packaging and promotion files. The same is true for legal, regulatory and compliance work. The agile company controls all of these processes. Their DAM enabled BPM system interacts with a SaaS reporting service like EZBI that concatenates and reports on data across distributed systems. Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma programs are used to configure these systems to monitor compliance to regulated processes.

These changes are far more profound than may appear on the surface. The gig economy is fueling a virtual cottage industry that circles the globe.  Project managers are increasingly in demand.  This is not just an IT thing, every business runs on projects.   The certified project management professional PMP is a new college certification.  Rachel Burger in a Capterra article explained The 5 Biggest Project Management Trends Shaping 2018. In brief, “business agile” is the new way of doing business. A visit to the Fiverr.com web site will show how one SaaS service is bringing buyers and sellers of creative services together.

This in-house trend is not just another swing of the pendulum.

About the Author

Murray Oles is the President of CHALEX Corp. The company is specialized in Workflow Management for Marketing Communications Projects through the use of SmartFlo and integrated third party tools.