Working remotely has a lot of challenges and among them is the uncertainty of working with agencies and building new partnerships.
We’ve spoken to a lot of businesses that are concerned about losing insight into their agency spend and making sure they’re getting the maximum value for what they’re being billed. This is natural. After all, the days of going into your agency’s offices to talk through a brief or get updates on a project are gone (at least for now) so there needs to be new ways of encouraging agency-client accountability. You shouldn’t be wondering how your agency is using your investment when their teams are working out of sight.
Then vs now
Before we moved into remote working, there were stalwarts of our process: Brainstorming sessions and briefings that got everyone into a room and gave them the space and freedom to come up with their best ideas. Regularly checking in with our team and our clients through regular half hour stand ups. A strong structure of accountability to our clients through retrospectives and sprint demos. Every fortnight we had a new iteration of what we were building for our clients that they could use and engage with. We thought that a lot of this depended on being in the same physical space - all of us being in a room, bouncing ideas off each other, working closely and, therefore, collaboratively. But, of course, all of that changed and there was little time to prepare.
Where did it leave us?
Our team has responded to the new working environment in an incredible way. We’ve seen productivity increase and everyone is still engaged with each other: We have a number of social groups on our Slack channels and because we follow the Agile methodology, our reporting structures, responsibilities and accountabilities have all stayed the same. We’ve worked hard to make sure that everyone feels supported (we run regular online team events and some of our team have started off-shoot events) and has been set up with everything they need - laptops, monitors, computer chairs (we even did a run of hoodies and water bottles) - to thrive. Our online social events have been important in making sure that no one gets lonely or despondent. My team has risen to the challenge and keeps delivering for our clients.
What this means for you
While our teams have adapted and, as a company, we’ve agreed to keep working remotely until the end of social distancing, it does mean that there are some changes for our clients.
Working with a software development agency
A lot of businesses have found themselves in a unique position where employees have been furloughed and resources are limited. For those reasons, they might be turning to agencies to get things done or pick up new projects. Being completely digital has transformed the agency and client relationship. You won’t be able to come into our offices to talk through your brief, but we can still support you through the process and there is a real human, a friendly face, every step of the way. Anxiety and concerns around beginning a new agency relationship aren’t entirely unfounded but it’s much easier than it seems.
Remote discovery workshops
We’ve moved our Discovery Workshops online. They’re still designed to get the best out of our team and out of our clients - we use a suite of online tools and management strategies to manage the workshops and foster innovation and creativity. Our three-part series about remote discovery gives an in-depth look at how we’re managing the process online and getting people involved.
Regular stand ups
A big concern of people working with agencies is that communication within the agency and with the agency is going to be weaker and things are going to take longer. Our daily stand ups are run across our project teams and give everyone the opportunity to check in on each other, support their teammates and raise any concerns, issues or challenges they have. This keeps our communication strong, keeps our accountability in check and helps to keep people motivated - sharing innovation and ideas are at the heart of what we do and what brings our team together.
We’ve always worked in fortnightly sprints. Sprints are a big component of delivering the final product to our clients - each sprint gives them something new to test, feedback on and refine. In a remote working environment these sprints have become more important than ever. Every fortnight, we’re able to connect with our clients and show them measurable progress on their project. This method of constant communication means that our clients always know what’s going on with their projects and what they can expect. Regular accountability goes a long way in removing the anxiety and stress that comes with beginning a remote partnership.
Creating stronger efficiencies
The other concern that businesses have is that partnering with a remote agency can mean things are less efficient. Software development and agency services are extremely collaborative. In a traditional working environment our engineers and product teams would work closely together and be in constant, collaborative, communication. This can be hard to capture in a remote team but not impossible. We use Slack as our main communication tool and each client project has its own dedicated channel, bringing together the engineers and product teams. Slack’s channels keep every project separate and everyone that works on them connected. It makes it easy for our teams to connect outside of their daily stand ups, share ideas and collaborate in real time and without delay.
What the future holds
No one knows what the future holds but we do know that way we work has changed dramatically. In some way or another our teams will remain decentralised but deeply connected. Over the past few months we’ve adapted to the new way of working and created a space where our teams can thrive across the business. People have talked about this new way of working remotely as an experiment but for us the experimentation has ended - we’ve entered a comfortable new normal in the way we work and over the past few months have delivered some amazing projects for incredible clients. It’s a better time than ever to talk to us about how we can support your business - get in touch here.