It can take a push to make something official.
For R/GA, that push was Marcel.
Publicis Groupe "has a brand, but not the capabilities, yet," R/GA founder, Chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg says of Marcel, Publicis Groupe's forthcoming AI-powered internal operating system. R/GA has had the capabilities, says Greenberg, but no brand for it.
Then Publicis used the Cannes ad festival to announce its effort to build Marcel, and Greenberg says he decided it was time to put a name on his own agency's system. The newly branded R/GA O.S., which works for 2,000-plus employees across 17 R/GA offices, was fully functioning in 2007, says Greenberg, when the shop expanded to London 30 years after its founding.
In announcing it, says Greenberg, he's not taking any digs at Publicis Groupe, which is looking for Marcel to operate across its global network of 80,000 people in 130 countries after a year-long development process is complete. Every company should be creating such systems to help their businesses grow, save money, help balance workloads and improve talent retention, Greenberg says.
Greenberg recently held an employee Town Hall where he explained R/GA O.S. and its capabilities in full. Everyone was using pieces of it, he says, but it lacked one clear umbrella name to live under.
R/GA O.S. addresses the needs of the agency to "connect," "collaborate," "operate" and "inform," Greenberg says, by which he mostly means colleagues finding inspiration from each other.
Let's break it down.
Connect: Staffers worldwide can search for others within the network by specific skills and experiences. Each employee uploads a portfolio into the system that's verified by a manager and includes his or her past and present projects, previous work from other agencies and personal projects. Through the system, a person in New York can search for someone with specific skills to work with on a project, such as a graphic designer in Japan with car experience. The system will list whoever fits the bill and include his or her availability based on other projects he or she is working on at the moment.
Seven R/GA offices, for example, used the system to work on the Ad Council's "Love Has No Labels" campaign; 10 offices tapped it to collaborate on Lifewtr's #ArtByAWoman initiative."
Collaborate: This function includes the R/GA Bot—which staffers can text and ask for things like available conference rooms or someone's phone number—as well as R/GA CACE, a portal that allows the agency to share work with its clients. The portal lets a client see all work ever done for its brand, including items that were pitched but never used. Other pieces within "collaborate" that weren't built by R/GA but are used by the agency include things like Slack, Zoom and Google Drive.
"Why build it if it already exists and works?" asks Greenberg.
Operate: The agency uses R/GA Reporter, which it built 14 years ago to track people, their hours, billings, time off and more. Greenberg says it's a single snapshot of the entire business, is GAAP-certified, and has also been certified by SAP and PwC.
The shop also uses its own "R/GA Portal," which allows employees to search for any file across the network, whether it's on Slack, an email or a Word document.
Inform: Staffers use the R/GA app to connect with their coworkers and interact with their offices. The app allows employees to explore office art and see what projects people are working on as they pass their desks. The system incorporates technologies from R/GA Ventures alumni companies like LISNR and Clarafai.
Every office around the world is a branded R/GA office with the same look and feel, adds Greenberg, helping to create a unique culture. "You go into our office here in New York or in London or Sao Paulo and it's all the same," he adds.
Most of the R/GA O.S. sections are only available on desktops right now, but Greenberg says the next steps will include a mobile application and voice integrations. "The key part of [the operating system] is having a collaborative network," says Greenberg. "You can't just put a platform on top of a company—you have to have the culture and infrastructure in place."