Every few months, a development company or consultant will come along, full of cutting-edge theoretical ideas for your agency and your clients. They will present technologies that offer theoretical advantages, efficiency, or more fun for your agency team, which presumably is always thirsty for cool new work. This all sounds positive on the surface.
Or, even more frequently, clients themselves will drop some new tech buzzword that is the method a peer used to achieve some goal that the client also has. The client perceives relevancy at a glance -- and inherently trusts the peer. So, pronto -- you are pressured to replicate this method rather than just servicing the goal by the means you would most recommend yourself. And, of course, the quick-fix popular client refrain these days to the agency and to us is often, "We need an app!"
Take a breath, you are not alone
As a production company, we are often called upon to fill the gap or rise to the occasion for agencies like yours -- and your clients. The scenarios are constant. A reminder: We are all in this together. Let's talk about how to manage expectations around the pressure to be "cutting-edge" and to produce the all-mighty app on a whim and on the proverbial dime.
These scenarios and the dynamics they illustrate put incredible ongoing pressure on today's agency or media company seeking to do right by their own competencies and what's best for their clients, all at once. No matter where you sit in the equation, it's a line we all have to walk at one time or another. We offer several words to the wise for agencies or media companies dealing with these and similar high-friction scenarios with their clients -- and then, in turn, when collaborating with production companies to execute.
Covering the cool stuff: Matching talent to cost parameters
If you decide to go there and bang out that app for your client, you have to be able to find and fund the right talent. Ideally, you are able to not only find the right skill set but also find a team or individual who has done comparable work before. But here's the rub: The costs of finding and staffing resources are proportional to the size of the pool of availability, and when choice is limited, quality is often limited as well. This can defeat the purpose of using the cutting-edge tech or developing that app in the first place. How do you weigh your options and rationally determine your course?
Prioritize the required skill set
When aiming for ultra staffing efficiency, not all skills are created equal. Determine the core skill set, prioritizing downward from there, and hire or retain a production partner based on your leading skills of choice. Be willing to let go of non-critical but nice-to-have attributes in order to get the skills you primarily need covered first. Understand the trade-offs and the weighting, and re-balance your budget accordingly. When under pressure to move, it's important not to move so quickly that you forget to take the time to sort things out and operate strictly according to priorities. And, when it comes to app development, for example, the assignment might be as simple as finding a team that has successfully developed for and launched in the Apple Store, and understands the parameters and cycles involved there. Keep a clear view of what you really need. And choose your partners and people accordingly.
Weigh standard and cutting-edge
Scalability occasionally truly calls for solutions that need to be better or different than what the "standard" tech has to offer. It's case by case. But, you've got to know the difference. How do you understand which case you really have on your hands? Always take the time and do the work to remove the rosy lens and determine the necessary degree of cutting-edge. Make sure you've got a clear view on where cutting-edge fits in -- and what degree of it is needed for your client to differentiate, scale, and compete. Don't get caught up in a client's or another party's external love affair with cutting-edge. You need to first do the assessment, discovery, and spec work to understand what constitutes cutting-edge for your objectives and how far to push the standard to cover what you need with the right, fairly compensated production talent.
Be rational under pressure to clean up after someone else's hasty mistakes
When looking at new technologies, and specifically app development, you must consider the long-term implications of everything proposed. You're placing bets on a "hot" new commodity. In the business of serving our clients, we all are here for them when they have painted themselves into a corner, and those of us on the production side have "plug and play" resources to meet these niches. But, even better, we can help during the concept phase and get ahead of the entire situation -- if we are simply given the end goals early on. This level of collaboration helps us help our clients determine the best long-term solutions.
Does an app appropriately service your business objectives, or will the right sequence of standard development work to tune your environment fit the bill just fine? Ask and answer this question with the client in the room. It's a vital conversation.
Your keys: Timing, phases, and good old fashion QA
While the ideal situation for an agency or media company is to bring in a production company at exactly the right time, early on, with its team of developers -- this is not always the case. A production company may be asked to step in at an awkward juncture -- to what essentially feels like a turnaround scenario. Because there were legacy mistakes, you hand this production company a mess. Our advice to everyone: Don't just move. Take a few steps back and reposition the new partnership in place before you proceed. Timing matters.
You or your potential production partner should not be afraid to think in terms of phases not necessarily proposed by or discussed with the client in the first place. The client has commanded cutting-edge solutions or an app it views as critical to its business. In addition to taking the time to vet all of this in the context of business objectives, properly scope it, and determine the degree of cutting-edge technology entailed, you may need time to build toward the ideal solution. So, phases of development and, of course, appropriate QA will keep the client from rolling out something incongruous to its brand, or not exactly right, too quickly. Encourage phases and instill the importance of testing and QA -- period.
Ultimately, in the business of serving and developing for aspirational, growth-driven clients, we all operate in a highly pressurized environment. As agencies and production companies partner to deliver on technology and the "app" imperative, we do each other a favor by vetting client requests, not being afraid to modulate the pace, and seriously weighing standard, cutting-edge against the reality of business objectives.
AJ Vernet is CEO and founder of Rey Interactive.
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