Every company is different. Not necessarily in the way that they are structured but deep down at its core. Therefore, when faced with a problem it is not wise to have a pre-existing solution that was used on a previous client or project. Applying these pre-made solutions can lead to some negative consequences such as project delays, losing trust, but mainly wrongly categorizing a problem and its solution. Having these negative impacts can deter your relationship and thus future endeavors with the client. Trust, for us, at our core, is the biggest and most important aspect that we strive to have with all of our clients, no matter how big or small they are. Therefore, using these pre-existing solutions can lead to a huge impact on your future client relations as well as project outputs.
“If you only have a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail”
It has been shown that user-centric businesses outperform their rivals. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that with no real client relationship and commitments, you will most likely not have a client in the future. Companies are trying to become more and more user-centric, and only a few can really achieve this. At Mäd, we always treat every client as unique, because we know that no matter how similar they can appear on the surface, they are always going to be deeply different to work with. It is very important to make sure you are aware of their different needs and wants, and with this tackle problems as they need to be tackled and not end up putting a band-aid on a broken bone. Because that won’t fix anything.
Dealing with and avoiding frustrations
Applying these pre-existing solutions can lead to a misunderstanding of the underlying reasons for the problem itself, as it ends up framing the problem so that it can be fixed by the pre-existing solution instead of deeply understanding the problem. One way to avoid such frustrations and move from these pre-existing solutions to more unique and personalized ones is to work backwards. This is a great way to understand the technology, systems, and processes required to solve the problem at hand.
There is pressure during the sales process to get everything scoped out up front, both from the team members as well as the clients. Depending on the project, this strategy can be smart if it’s applied properly or it can become absolutely absurd. Therefore, it is key to understand exactly how to work with each client. If we take a branding project, we can generally estimate the full scope of work up front, and be confident in the timelines and deliverables of the project. On the other hand, especially for a technology project, this type of fixed-in-cement scope is far too inflexible and quite absurd… We are left making key choices at the point where we have the least amount of knowledge about the project and the client.
Furthermore, especially with technology companies, if agencies have a solution, they will want to customize the solution as little as possible for one client, as this adds cost, time, and complexity. Leading to an effort to change the business model and processes to fit this existing solution instead of actually thinking about what’s best for the end user and client. Of course, there is much to be argued in favor of industry standards and best practices, this is something that has to be applied intelligently by reviewing things on a case-by-case basis. There are always going to be exceptions to the rule.
Mäd course of action
So what to do? Let’s explore the facts
-Clients want to know how long something will take and cost
-They want the flexibility of changing their requirements based on user feedback
-We want to bill a fixed price project as we believe that this aligns agency and client towards the same end goal: a great project and efficient smart work.
These seem misaligned. Having a fixed price diminishes the flexibility of a project by a great deal in most cases. Therefore, leading agencies to end up with mixed expectations and little to no willingness to change the requirements due to increased costs and time.
However, we can offer a solution (ha, pun!)
Do a smaller project first
Have the end goal be learning on key points of uncertainty as well as defining a clear scope of work for the main larger project. This could mean doing a design sprint, building and testing a prototype as the first engagement with our client. Based on those results, we can then confidently draw up the key feature list and scope of work as well as pricing and timelines. We also tend to give an initial estimated pricing/timeline for the main project even beforehand. We do this based on similar work in the past, but then again, it really depends on the project and its key objectives.
This approach also has the advantage that the relationship between the client and the agency isn't started with a huge upfront commitment. It gives a taste of what working together for the long term will feel like, while also demonstrating if the partnership will be a good fit. After all, one wouldn’t get married before dating someone, so why jump head first into a business relationship?
Pre-made solutions sound very good on paper, but in reality, they can lead to plenty of frustrations and setbacks. From costs to timelines, pre-made solutions can hinder your relationship with your client to an extent that there would be no willingness to work together on any future projects. Many times, these pre-made solutions are in place due to the lack of understanding on the agency side of the way the client’s company works and is managed, as well as uncertainty in the project objectives.
At Mäd, we have found a good solution to jumping head first and being overcome by these types of frustrations. To start off developing a smaller project, one which allows the team to fully engage with the client and learn from them without the big price tag and stresses. We are very client-centered, not only in the way we set up projects but also in the way we bill them. This forces us to be innovative with our approach to each project, having team members not work for our clients, but with them. Furthermore, this leads to being able to tackle project specific problems in a faster, confident, and mainly, not pre-made way.