Delivering Excellence as a Digital Agency

Delivering Excellence as a Digital Agency

I have spent several decades delivering digital with, and for clients in the interactive agency space. Working with talented teams, we have delivered impossible deliverables for clients when it seemed we had run out of ways to get something done on time, on budget and on strategy. Trying to accomplish the improbable is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I love the adrenaline of solving complex problems, and helping teams go through the process of how to get the challenging done, and the pride they feel when it is accomplished.

One of the areas I am most passionate about as the head of Delivery at Agency Oasis is helping teams and clients collaborate in order to shift their focus from how to get work done, to delivering great work. This is not easy, but the outcome is well worth it. It drives better business results, teams feel more inspired, and clients are happier about the work they are receiving. The reason focusing on great work instead of how to get work done is so important is that it allows team members in different disciplines to both work as a part of an interdisciplinary project team and each have the space and time to focus on their individual craft during the life of a project. Whether you are a developer or a designer, it is critical that there is space in a project plan to create work.

So often we spend too much time figuring out what needs to get done and who is doing what on a project team instead of focusing on the type of work we want to do and how to make it great. I have witnessed developers working with clients directly to update them on projects and designers re-writing business requirements and creative briefs. When we start to stretch subject matter experts away from their core purpose, the work suffers. There are a few consistent themes that help teams quickly figure out how to work together so this critical mind shift happens. The themes are simple. In reactive business environments they can be easily overlooked.

  1. Engagement Model. Create and execute a process for the agency and the client that protects the craft of creating great work. This includes key internal reviews by subject matter experts and quality checks by different team members to ensure the work is on strategy. It sounds so simple on paper but when you mix business context, strategy, timelines and budgets, the process can bend if not break.
  2. Casting. Team talent, communication and chemistry is one of the key drivers to project success. Each team member thinks differently. This isn’t good, it is great and the trick is to get everyone from different disciplines to understand the goals and outcomes of the project at hand while applying their expertise to the solution. We need a translation leader on each team that can help connect the critical dots between the clients business, the business requirements and the creative and technical execution. It takes experience and high emotional IQ to be able to lead a room of thinkers and align them through the life of a project.
  3. Alignment. Agree on what “great” means per project. Are we breaking ground by doing something in the UX space that has never been done before?  Or are we creating a digital strategy that needs to redefine personas? Regardless of the type of work, projects have budgets. Understanding where there is room to push, what “great” looks like and the constraints of the project is critical. These aren’t the hard KPI’s. These are the softer edges of the project scope that often get missed. Teams need to be on the aligned on pushing boundaries and there needs to be clear leadership and ownership around this from the agency and the client.
  4. Risk Management. Tell it like it is and take accountability when mistakes happen, quickly. Acknowledge that projects hit speed bumps and it is how you handle them before they happen that will determine a great outcome.
  5. Delivering for a Digital Platform, not just a site or a tool. Three things must run in parallel to deliver in a digital eco-system. I have seen patterns where teams deliver magic in strategy but crunch the implementation timeline. Or teams don’t dig deep enough in business requirements and the developers realize they need more information before coding and deadlines are missed. It is critical that there are three tracks of work happening simultaneously for clients with different teams and tracks of work to support each.
Managed Services and Support Track

Keep the engine running
Site Enhancements Track

Flexible delivery model to update platform content and experiences based on real-time user data, changing market needs and other business drivers
Strategy and Planning and TrackInnovation and thought leadership for what is next

What we do can be challenging but, with the right focus on great work and a strong foundation of process and talent, digital agencies and clients can help teams move from how to get work out the door to delivering truly great work.

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