Online projects of anything over a day or two have a lot of Research and Development in. The team is not working from a kit of prefabricated parts, they are carving channels out of blocks of code to interpret wants and targets to processes. To find the channels of dialogue between client and business discovery and investigation needs to be done with the stakeholders.
The discovery phase for taking over a code base may take a day or two reviewing the code and talking to its users. For business goals, having a roundtable discussion and drawing out the process works better.
When you were a child you probably started building a house or fort, going straight in with action phase. Plenty of busy work, but likely it fell down before the end of play time. When you have some build a house now, I'm sure you would go first to talk and draw out the plans first, for a better longer lasting result.
In websites, there is one occasion you may go straight to building and that's when you want to accelerate the learning phase and build research experiments, sometimes called rapid prototypes or growth hacking. These are short phases where you are happy to fail, as you want to take the learning, both positive and negative to sound out a new product or market faster. Even then though you need to have talked and brainstormed directions to try out first.
Discovery though is important as aims to put, your business, the agency and the customer all on the same page. This is a task that experience of your agency helps a great deal.
Watch the Gauges
Working with an agency that has worked with your market and types of goals before can help. They will know more of your industry terms and ways. If involved in marketing they will have a better idea of contacts and audiences to target.
Structured plan but not always structured delivery
Providing a framework to work together in, can give confidence and help with planning your own calendar with deliverables and activities. Work is better if it is not behind a curtain and revealed at the end. Knowing the process and sharing your own market timetable to meet or when you will be extra busy or away helps the flow.
Metrics for success
Partnering with an agency is never just about getting a new shiny graphic or technical piece of code handed over. These deliverables are check marks along the way and their quality matter. They matter to your customers and their actions more, though. So remember to look at what is the success of their use and how do things change for the campaign event or 3 / 6 / 12 months following launch. With some simple metrics to watch or KPI (Key Performance Indicators) you can chart their effectiveness with customers and leads.
Teams need to gel and work together over the course of a project and longer engagements so good connection helps. If when speaking with a consultant or the team, you can feel the warmth and connection, you can tell other positive things are happening inside the business.
What do you like to see in a good partner agency?
Send me your thoughts, as I am always interested to hear.