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4 minute read // 2022 - 02 -08

Choosing the right agency

Still, too many digital projects are declared as ‘not successful’. Most of the time this is because of a mismatch with an agency. Within this paper we hope to inform you about common mistakes while choosing an agency, leading to dissatisfaction or failed development projects. In addition, we elaborate on what you should carefully check. 

Chapter 1: Development languages and technical architecture  

Development languages

There are many development languages out there, and all of them have their pros and cons. However, choosing the ‘wrong’ language can result in delays, higher costs, impossibilities, a complete rebuild, or even have the project failing as a whole. Therefore, it is essential to not only state your current desire but also elaborate on your future plans / vision. If an agency always sticks to ‘one favorite language’, it is highly likely they don’t operate in your best interest. Whenever the agency goes a bit deeper, elaborate on the characteristics, and let you ultimately decide – you can confidently say the first red flag has turned green.

Technical architecture

Besides simply choosing the ‘right’ language, it is also important to think about the architecture. The architecture states if it can scale, how stability will be assured, and many other relevant variables. Any agency should first draw out a proper architecture and be able to thoroughly elaborate on this. This is simply because this will be the core principle of potential success (or failure). 

Chapter 2: The portfolio and other reference clients

The portfolio

Every agency that has a great portfolio will be proud enough to show it. Whenever a portfolio is not shown or missing (“because we’re under NDA”), it is highly likely not available. Therefore, always look at the website of one of your prospected agencies and / or ask them for their agency deck. This will instantly separate the great agencies from the lesser.

Reference clients

Looking at reference clients on the website takes up to 1 minute and can save hours of headaches. Often, when an agency is doing projects for all the larger enterprises and famous brands you can assume they are experienced. Simply because, if multiple larger organizations tend to put their faith in this company, they are probably doing something very right. However, also be aware that this can create a mismatch. For example, if a company is only doing large projects for governments and you are a 1 man company (having a lower budget), the process and cost will definitely be too high for you as a company. 

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    Chapter 3: A well though-out process and an experienced team 

    Process

    Not only is process important, but it is also essential for every development & design project. While the deliverables are ‘free of form’ – the process assures certain milestones, check-ups, and builds in a necessary safety net. For example, if dissatisfaction, miscommunication, or a mistake is detected early on, the impact will be minimal. However, at the end of a process, it can be horrific and very costly/time-consuming for both parties. However, the process should always be able to match the size of the project and therefore be ‘agile’ (yes, I said Agile). Therefore, only trust the agencies that are able to set up a strong yet flexible process.

    Experience

    Besides a strong process, execution is key. Therefore, we highly recommend having at least one senior on board of every project. Simply put, this is to prevent simple mistakes and spot irregularities timely. For example, one senior project manager can structure a whole team and assure that you are informed of every step along the way. Definitely, while leaning to large-scale project (1 million Euro +), assure every agency team member has at least a medior level of experience. 

    Chapter 4: General cost-indication and timeline 

    Cost

    The cost is always an important factor while finding the right match with an agency. And of course, it is very nice to know exactly beforehand what the exact costs are. But, let me ask you this: “do you exactly know what your product will look like?”. Exactly, of course, you don’t. Therefore, every process – which is free of form – needs flexibility built-in. Meaning that, for example, a range of hours or an indication based on user stories means that the agency knows that they need to be flexible. 

    Timeline

    Similar to the price, a timeline can also differ whenever the project changes. However, sometimes you just need to assure a certain deadline. Therefore, an agency should always take into account a certain % for an unpredicted delay (a third-party API not working for example). Besides, if the timeline is fixed the agency should state beforehand that extra resources can be dedicated whenever extra hours are necessary. Any other way, this would not be realistic. This is broadly known as one of the most common mistakes within the development, ruining momentum and delaying product launches off many companies. So be aware, and definitely, be realistic instead of optimistic. 

    Chapter 5: The personal connection with the agency 

    The best feeling 

    Of course, you don’t have to be best friends with your agency, however, you need to be able to trust them and rely on them. For example, whenever you think something is not going as planned or you losing grip, the agency should be able to talk to you and comfort you. In addition, the agency should be able to state the facts and directly notify you of any hick-ups and delays. Therefore, multiple input / contact moments will be required to create your ‘perfect’ product. Meaning, you definitely need to have a positive feeling about the agency and team you are dealing with.

    Want to learn more?

    Read here to find out more about custom development.

    How to ensure the credibility of a custom development agency?

    1. Make sure the agency you choose has a strong profile that includes case studies. Ensuring the agency lives up to what they have promised is essential and what better way than to see it in practice, using real-time examples. This will give your company a sense of what the agency can do for you. 
    2. Check out the ‘about us’ page – make sure you research the team and what they specialise in. You want to ensure that the people working for the agency have the skills to make your vision a reality. 
    3. Ask for referrals! If you’re looking for the perfect agency, you must seek referrals from their previous clients to see if they are a good match for your custom project. 

    What does a good custom development strategy include?

    • Clear strategy – it is essential to communicate effectively with your development team, to ensure the success of your project. Defining your goals and objectives will help save time and energy. Make sure you have regular meetings to understand how the project is going and what the company expects from you during the development process. Once the essentials are outlined clearly, it is easier to proceed with your project.
    • Time for Implementation – remember custom development can’t be completed in a day, so be patient and make sure all your expectations are met. Rushing the process can hinder the development process greatly, so if you are under time pressure – this isn’t the best option for you. 
    • Communication Ease – ideas grow and develop when an environment encourages communication. Through communication, questions can be discussed openly and new ideas can be discovered and implemented. It is important as a client to ask questions and voice your concerns to ensure success.

    How do I maintain full transparency whilst working with a custom development agency?

    • Frequent Contact – make sure you have continuous contact with your chosen agency to get more information on your project, performance metrics, and strategy.
    • Insist on transparent tools and processes – you may not have time to continuously chat with your point of contact over the phone, so make sure your agency provides management softwares to help you stay up to date and get the information you need quickly.

    How to define your needs & expectations for your custom development build?

    • Set expectations during the contract phase – make sure you use the contract to set expectations between your business and the agency. Give crucial information for your project goals and budget so you and your agency are on the same page.
    • Communication is key – the final outcome is very important, make sure your vision is clear for the duration of the project. Remember, you can always provide feedback if your goals aren’t being met.

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