Collaboration is the new way of working. Niche experts come together in a bespoke arrangement to fit the mission critical requirements of the project. That’s the best practice theory, anyway.

There are good reasons for getting independents to work together. Collaborative partners can plug ’n play as required. They can be cherry picked and substituted. On the whole, independents tend to carry less overhead than their integrated, more corporate colleagues. Part of the ideal, of course, is to bring divergent disciplines and personalities together, a collective of experts, that should spark new thinking or a fresh approach.

There are, likewise, distinct advantages to an integrated team. It’s a one-stop shop, process is immediate and fluid, and learning is shared. It works well for larger brands that require a consistent, multi-disciplinary approach. There is more stable, strategic brand continuity. Confidential market intelligence can be more tightly managed.

Truth be told, whichever appeals, collaborative and integrated models both require that co-ordinating kingpin, whether by way of operation, or vested accountability. You’ll need that choreographer to keep your merry troupe in step. In a collaborative scenario, this will likely be the strategic partner, who probably oversaw the casting in the first place.

The multi-disciplinary dynamic is not just a meeting of clever minds. Key to the success of collaboration or integration is, obviously, the execution. Your choreographer will at once be that tactical motivator and the mercenary operator.

It is feasible to say that collaborators who do not have integrated experience behind them will need a pretty strong choreographer. They will also need to be the truly collaborative personality who is able to take direction, or be amenable to different methodologies.

Established, integrated environments are a vital training ground for up-and-coming talent, where they can learn the ropes of their particular skill set, yet be exposed to the complementary relevance of strategy, media, creative, digital, experiential, research and production expertise.

Niche independents will conceivably have had significant career exposure in a larger, integrated environment. But their consultative practice is less likely to offer new talent a broader perspective and relevance outside of their immediate focus. The point of collaboration, though, is to engage each expert for their area of specialty.

Bottom line? Choose the line-up that works for your business, operationally or budget-wise. But if you’re not to be led a merry dance, ensure you have the right instructor to keep everyone on their toes.