Product Design

July 11, 2017

/ business & Agile

Ad agency and software house - how to make this relationship work?

Michał Lisewski

Modern technologies and 21st-century lifestyle determine marketers to seek and fluently manage new channels of communication with final customers. Even medium-size marketing project demands a highly skilled team of designers, software developers, and soft-skills talents. However, despite the size, advertising agencies worldwide witness serious obstacles while delivering customers success. There’s an urge to build a clear relationship based on mutual understanding. It needs to be truly customized, not “casual.” Why?

Here we go again...

Every day our team receives RFPs from ad/marketing/PR agencies, usually with no or very… briefly written brief. From the beginning, you know that there are two things that agency cares about: budget and deadline. Of course, “the customer comes first” is a great attitude. For a moment we need to forget about work-life balance and other common buzzwords. The major activity of each service provider is delivering competitive services, which means that sometimes we work overtimes or/with double-speed. 

Experienced software development team is aware of the role of timing and has the ability to make things work in short duration. Actually, the lean approach is clear on this matter: i.e. MVP shouldn’t be delivered in more than 8-16 weeks. Relative time-limit rule applies somehow someway to every kind of project such as simple landing pages, e-commerce, maintenance, etc. Of course, the smaller project means smaller time-frames, but the major rule is similar. Software doesn’t like procrastination, but it also doesn’t like haste. Unfortunately, in terms of deadlines, plenty of clients’ demands are outlandish. They ignore the fact that stability is just as important as design. And at the same time, they are surprised even while offering overestimated budgets.

Better, faster, crush on browser

But still - some agencies seem to believe that 9 women can make a baby in a month. Inexperienced marketers, suffering from lack of know-how, demand to fulfill completely outrageous deadlines. Most often they actually expose their projects to suddenly oncoming requirements, changing conditions, canceling previously confirmed tasks and asking for features which take the team away from the priorities. Being a control freak isn’t good for the project. It might be even worse than “I don’t care, just do your work”. 

Talk first, then shoot

Communication is the key to every successful project. Lack of understanding is the reason why professionals from different fields witness so many problems. Following these good practices should help you to avoid most common mistakes. 

  • Do your homework. Deliver clear and precise description of project’s business goal and don’t be afraid of someone stealing your idea. That’s why we have NDA’s - try one. If you are unable to say in few words what is the purpose of your project, please don’t expect that anyone will “decipher” it for you. You must understand it by yourself.
  • Find out if software development company offers workshops/scoping sessions. You don’t need to be tech person. UI/UX designer should ask you questions (sometimes you might be surprised how crucial they are) while launching project’s backlog. Talk, talk, talk, and don’t be afraid of asking questions. Revealing uncertainties at this stage is way better than expressing disappointment afterward.
  • Disclose your budget. By knowing budget and scope of work, an experienced business analyst is able to answer quickly on request and, as a result, speed-up pre-launch period. Don’t play hide and seek. Setting out a budget will speed up communication, deliver the brighter scope of works and open up several opportunities for you from the very beginning. A situation when “extra funding” shows up when it’s too late takes place quite often. Unclear conditions of cooperation sabotage the final effect.
  • Deadlines. Delivering clear roadmap from the beginning is good. Just remember, the best development teams will provide Quality Assurance as well as design and development services prior the release. On one way, be honest with the team and explain why you need this brand-new-shining web app in three weeks. On the other, don’t expect that respected crew will take a project which can’t be finished on time.
  • UI/UX audits. Perhaps your e-commerce is too complicated? Different groups require different interfaces. Don’t think that by bombing a visitor with a list of 129 bras or spices you help him in purchasing. Ask the software development company about possibilities of having an audit. NOTE: if they have third party partner or hire freelancers, you should smell a rat. Proper interface design must be delivered at the beginning and UI/UX consultant should participate in almost every stage of the project. 

Solution of all solutions

Long-term relationships are usually healthier than "one-time" stands. If your company has a frequent need of skilled developers, I strongly recommend creating a bond with someone who’s trustworthy. This might take some time, especially when you’re new on the market or your company explores new fields, but it will pay you back in the longer term. 

Besides obvious tech skills, a technological partner must represent great acumen with understanding business goals and have good corporate culture. This means in example good communication between teams. Repeating dozen times that communication is the major factor in every project isn’t waste my breath. Therefore interviews and eagerness to have a call with potential partners are as important as software house’s portfolio while searching.


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