Have you ever had to justify your department’s existence? If you’re like me, maybe more times than you’d like – it’s not a fun exercise. It can be precipitated for several reasons…your company’s soft or declining business results, a restructuring or reorganization, a new senior executive looking in the wrong place to save money, or worse yet, an outside consulting firm brought in to identify cost efficiencies. For some, it might be part of your regular year-end process.
Whatever the reason, you need to be prepared and ready to demonstrate the value of your department. To make it even more challenging, you might be preparing a report for someone who doesn’t know you or have a clue what you do and how well you do it. I’ve been involved in several of these justifications and fortunately all have resulted in positive outcomes – hence, I’m still around to write this! Our approach to these reports is simple and straightforward – we’re confident that we have a good story to tell, careful to not be defensive and report as many “facts” as possible. Here’s what we include:
- Our department’s mission/vision statement that articulates what we do for the company and how we deliver business results.
- Testimonials, especially from senior management and other influential clients.
- Regarding costs, we are a partial charge-back department. We charge for our all our production services (graphics, video production and editing, staging and technical direction) and pass-through all outside costs (freelancers and equipment rental). We provide creative and producing consultation at no cost. For the report, we benchmark outside production companies and include a cost comparison against our internal rates for similar services. We try and maintain our chargeback rates at 10 – 50% below “street prices.” Using the outside rates as a reference we calculate what the company would need to spend to if our department didn’t exist – and to be fully transparent, we subtract our salaries and expenses. We also include actual cost-savings examples from client projects; e.g. what a five-day edit would have cost on the outside versus in-house.
- While cost is obviously a very significant component of the report, I feel the following has become almost as important. It’s a separate document that describes what we call “Inherent strengths UNIQUE to our department that benefit our clients.” We’ve developed and fine-tuned the list over the years – here it is:
Company Knowledge – We know the company exceedingly well – our history, people, culture, values, priorities and our business strategies – we’re in a unique position to see across the broad organization day-in and day-out.
Shared Goals and Vision – With our clients, we are equally vested in the success of the company; we’re system first; clients can trust us to do the right thing…we’re on the same team.
Value – Financial profit is not our motive; reasonable prices for our services allow us to deliver a unique in-house value to clients, while positively impacting G&A.
Program/Event Expertise – We are experts at producing our company’s programs and events; often, we are the consistent link.
Visual Assets – We possess and manage the largest, most complete collection of our company’s visual assets anywhere in the world – photo and video.
Confidentiality/Security – We operate behind the corporate firewall; our visual assets are secure; we provide company staff for confidential programs.
Responsiveness – Being in-house, and working with our staff communications partners, we are well positioned to respond to urgent and even crisis communication needs.
Seven simple but very impactful statements that make this section of the report what I enjoy sharing most. No outside production company or agency can lay claim to any of these strengths. And of course it goes without saying, (and my internal clients need to agree) that my internal Creative Services and Meetings & Events team is as good or better than any outside production company or agency.
My wish would be that you’re never in a situation that necessitates the preparation of a department justification report, but if the need ever arises, I hope you find the above information useful.
Article contributed by Tom Bowman, CMMA Board of Directors