Most marketing, PR and creative agencies don't have the resources to maintain their own technical web development teams, particularly when it comes to the kind of complex and challenging digital work that clients are increasingly demanding. Freelancers, recruitment consultants and offshore teams are all options; but it's quite common to run into problems with communication and continuity.
Blueprint has been partnering with agencies for several years and we've come up with a few pointers that could help with managing subcontracted projects and supplier relationships.
1. Ensure your agency has the right people and processes to manage a technical project
Finding a partner with the right technical skills is only half the battle. The hard bit is managing those skills and the complexities involved in digital projects. Your project managers need enough technical understanding to work out the client’s requirements, accurately brief the technical team and then monitor and review progress against that brief. You need clear lines of communication between your in-house managers and the technical developers. You also need to think about how you will manage tasks like requirement gathering, issue tracking and source (or version) control. Are your current systems up to the job? A good technical partner will help you fill any gaps in these areas, including advising on the best tools and project management techniques.
2. Make solid plans for support and maintenance
Building the website is usually only the first – albeit most visible - part of the job. It then needs maintaining, and you’ll need on-going technical support to keep on top of updates or changes down the line. Support and maintenance is an often-overlooked aspect that can have significant implications for costs, resources and timescales. The obvious solution is to outsource it to the partner that developed the site. But are your developers still available (and willing) to undertake these vital tasks, or have they moved on to other jobs? Can you trust them to deliver? Will it be cost-effective to retain them in a support and maintenance role? Ideally, support and maintenance should form part of a program of continuous deliver where a website constantly evolves to meet the changing demands of a business and its customers.
3. Seek out specialists who have the right experience and accreditations
As with a surgeon, it is advisable to pick a technical partner who is a specialist in their field. Java, PHP and .NET are all very different animals and it’s very unlikely that anyone could claim to be a specialist in all three. The last thing you need is a technical partner that turns out to be not quite as ‘technical’ as you first thought.To be safe, it is advisable to partner only with certified developers or members of relevant professional bodies, so you can be sure of their professionalism and depth of expertise. Look out for recognisable accreditations from well-known organisations, like Microsoft.
4. Find a technical partner who is committed to service delivery as well as technical capability
Agencies can become frustrated when developers get fixated on technical issues while neglecting other more “mundane” concerns such as schedules, budgets and consistent quality. These risks can be minimised, however, by choosing a partner that invests in service delivery, as well as technical capability. A good technical partner will work with you to demonstrate a clear plan for meeting project deadlines, including online issue tracking, agile boards, sprint schedules and clear team member responsibilities. Things are also less likely to go awry if you choose a partner that adopts widely recognised software development best practices like Agile and Scrum. These help to facilitate a collaborative approach to development, promoting effective communication and making sure that everyone stays committed to the common goal.
5. Pick a partner who can help you use technology to solve business problems
The internet has torn up the rule book for traditional marketing and communications. Understanding the myriad of different technologies can be hard enough, but selecting the best areas for a client to invest their budget can be even harder. Some developers struggle to make the connection with business goals or to spot the commercial potential of new technology. When shortlisting potential technical partners it is always worth asking them to give examples of where they have made or saved money for a client through a particular technology solution.
A good development partner should combine a solid foundation of technical expertise with an ever-evolving understanding of new technologies, and a practical insight into how clients’ needs are changing. That way, they can provide a constant stream of good, commercially-focused ideas to help you expand your service offering and approach clients with proposals for enhancing their digital presence.
Outsource and white-label development solutions from Blueprint
Blueprint Web Technologies is a Manchester-based web development specialist. We work with a select number of marketing, creative and PR agencies to help them capitalise on new technologies and deliver added value to their clients.
Our ethos is based on delivering first class development services and cost effective web technology support to agencies throughout the UK. From fully subcontracted development projects to tailored support on specific areas of technical expertise, we have the knowledge, commitment and professionalism to deliver what you need and to exceed your clients’ expectations, either on a white-label basis or as an extension of your team.
Thanks to our expertise across the full range of development technologies, we are ideally placed to help you:
- Keep your development projects on schedule, on track and on brief
- Enhance your delivery of web development services
- Improve the way you – and your clients - use technology
- Understand how your competitors use technology
Our highly skilled team of Microsoft Certified developers and technical experts deliver high quality work across a range of web development areas, including:
- Umbraco technical build
- ASP.NET development
- Dotnetnuke development
- Digital production
- UX and interface design
- Website technical build – HTML, CSS, JQuery
- Custom programming, C#, back-office systems integration
- Specialist CMS managed hosting and support
- Systems design – wireframes, requirements analysis, UML
- Project and development management – PRINCE2, Agile, SCRUM
If you’d like help in any of these areas, get in touch to discuss your needs and find out how we can put our expertise to work for your agency.