In this constantly evolving eCommerce world, many scenarios arise that mean you reach out to a development agency to support your in-house team. It could be a lack of expertise in a specific area, guidance on platform selection, or your level of through-put.
You want a reliable expert you can lean on to deliver the best possible solution but selecting the right agency and setting up effective ways of working together can be daunting. You may have niggling thoughts as you choose your agency partner…will they get us? Will we get results? Will they understand our needs? This blog will lend a helping hand in finding a perfect-fit partner for your business.
Do your research
As with any project, the place to start is research. If you have a few agencies in mind, look at how they present themselves, get to know their brand, experience, certifications and previous work. Consider these questions:
- Who are their previous clients?
- Do they have experience with any of your competitors or brands with a similar offering?
- Are they highly recommended?
- How does their web platform provider rank them?
- Have they won any industry awards?
- Is their team certified?
- What sector (if any) do they specialise in?
- Will they understand your business and your customers?
First impressions are important
When searching for an agency to work alongside your team, the most important question of all is “Will this agency add value to our business?”. If the answer is no, you need to look elsewhere. Background research is important to understand expertise and experience but, it’s equally as important for assessing whether they’re a good team fit for you. The aim is to build a seamless and collaborative relationship so you can meet your business goals.
It’s hard to gauge what an agency is really about over email and on the phone so meet their team. Sure, the Account Manager is likely to be at your first meeting, but what about the rest of your project team? Your project will require interaction with various departments and meeting them first-hand will provide real insight into what they’re all about, their culture, values and ethos.
Once you’ve made your choice…
Communication is important in every relationship and something we value highly at Pinpoint. Work out the best ways to communicate with your project team. Plan to use a messaging channel such as Slack? Email, paper airplane, semaphore? Whatever you decide, make sure you’re all on the same page and that everyone will get the information they need when they need it. Slack is great for daily communication, but a weekly digest email or meeting will help keep everyone in the loop alongside regular calls and meetings.
Adapt, integrate and collaborate
You will have your own internal development processes, as will the agency. Start by identifying similarities in how you work to find a happy medium. While it’s unlikely you’ll have the exact same processes as one another, we find it’s usually simple to make small changes on both sides to create closer project alignment. It’s also worth considering implementing additional checks to maintain these processes throughout your project.
A division of labour is necessary to form a collaborative working environment. Once you’ve defined what needs building and how you’re going to communicate, you can decide who’s doing what and when. How are you going to split the work? Can you split the requirements into backend and frontend development? Who has the capabilities? Do you split it on a per-task basis? Understanding who is doing what, agreeing on processes at every stage of the build and allocating tasks helps with this. Consider the dependencies between the two teams and how you can reduce overlap by splitting tasks effectively.
In our experience, internal development resource can often become consumed by day-to-day activities. Hiring an external team for your web project can take away some of the pressure. As an agency, we have more time, resource and expertise than internal teams because it’s what we spend all our time doing, it’s why we exist. Taking this adaptable, and collaborative approach can help in a smooth project delivery.
Be transparent and demand transparency
Transparency is needed at both sides, with each project stage visible to the other. To make this easier, we advise you plan, plan and plan some more. Create a project plan that includes everyone’s requirements, responsibilities and milestones, add contingencies and plan again. If one element runs over, if you have a shortage of resource, or even if you’re ahead, make this clear to the other party and expect the same level of transparency from them.
Get on with it
Alongside all the planning, make sure you take action. It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail but working alongside an agency enables you to remove blocks and get things done, delivering a high-quality project. You want to form a partnership, working collaboratively with your agency becoming an extension of your team.
Every agency is different. The platforms they use, the services they offer, whether they use in-house or external resources, even their strengths in key development areas and sectors. Web development isn’t an out of the box solution, every project is unique, and the key is to find an agency whose strengths align to your objectives.
We’ve successfully worked alongside many client teams, delivering projects from start to finish or supporting specific aspects of their builds, re-platforms and recovery projects. If you need advice on your Magento project or just want to find out how to get started working alongside an agency, we’re here to help.