The Reason Your Agency Can’t Deliver Awesome9 Mar, 2012
I recently read a post by Jaime Creixems on his affection for the superior experiences crafted by Disney Imagineers (and to a lesser degree Apple). It’s nothing that hasn’t been said before; in a nutshell, Disney & Apple care deeply about and excel at user experience design (water is also wet).
Jaime also said the following, which I could not agree with more:
To achieve that kind of ‘awesomeness’ you need to care deeply about details.
His attention to detail comment, coupled with Andy Budd’s recent scathing remarks about the agency model inspired this post.
The Typical Client/Agency Relationship Is Not Built For Awesome
As Andy Budd points out, most successful design agencies are better at winning business than producing great work:
[They're] full of sales people motivated and incentivised by winning business rather than producing quality work.
Great work requires attention to detail, and attention to detail takes time. Time is a luxury that is rarely found in marketing & advertising agencies. Designers and developers are likely juggling a plethora of projects (because agency design & tech resources are chronically understaffed), all of which have pressing deadlines. Time isn’t allotted for creative exploration and ethnographic audience studies. Let’s be frank, it’s barely allotted for usability or quality assurance testing.
Work is also typically done on a project-by-project basis—with teams hyper-focused on the “go-live date”. In other words, a team works hard to deliver the best product that they can within a fixed amount of time/hours. Once that product is delivered, the team moves on to the next thing. There is rarely anything left in the budget for ongoing testing, evaluation and iterative enhancement of the product. It’s been shipped. It’s off the agency’s plate. On to the next…
Time to Evolve
Here are some tips to help evolve the old agency model and improve the awesomeness of your products:
- If clients expect something innovative, it’s going to take time. Use that additional time to get a deep understanding of the customer’s needs, iterate on multiple design ideas, and test your design hypotheses
- Hire a dedicated team of designers and engineers that can collaborate closely with each other and with business stakeholders on the client side. Clients also need to trust these folks (the good ones always have clients’ & users’ best interests in mind), and think of them as an extension of their internal team
- Reduce the scope of the project. Cut as many features as possible and focus solely on the ones that truly matter to have a viable product (more on prioritization strategies here)
- The go-live date is not the conclusion of the project. Allow for additional time for ongoing testing, tweaking, observation and product enhancements
Creative agencies are full of super-smart people who are itching to produce fantastic work. If your agency model can evolve to focus less on business development and more on executing awesome work, you will have happier employees, happier clients, and prospects beating down your door to work with you.
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