Efficient production in digital agencies

Do you work in digital agency? Do you regularly deal with unexpected changes from client and later on with project budget? So read more to get some tips how to solve it.

It’s always the same story

Client comes with basic ideas described as a simple project. Time and cost estimate are made on a beginning. Work is planned to every single detail. Everyone is happy and keen to work on new project. However, somewhere in the middle of a period first client’s feedbacks start coming. Things are changing, new objectives appear, client is getting nervous because of risk of delay, agency is under pressure because of shrinking budget, people stay longer in an office, pleasure from work disappear and original friendly relationship with client is slowly transforming to pure business communication. Saving comes when project is finishing. Agency tries to reduce functionality, time for testing, finishing works and looks for other saving solutions to keep in a budget boundaries. Fact is, agency usually manage to stay on budget … or it seems to for while.

Hidden debts

Even though it seems to be all right on the end, new circumstances come soon. Bugs to fix start to appear. Reaching projects goals doesn’t seem to be so straight and project has lost so much shine that there are doubts whether to add it as a reference. And, the worst thing, client is so annoyed that won’t come back with another project. From BD perspective, saving in finishing stage cost agency much more on the end.

Solution?

Take a control of the project back. Get rid of conventional non-functional approach, stop doing excuses and start thinking how to do it differently. There is no holy grail for everyone, but feel free to inspire by my tips.

First on of all get some knowledge about agile development principles. They are usually articulate in terms of big software development and could seem to be too complex for small digital projects. True, however, give a try to inspire yourself. Google it, there are plenty resources on the internet. Start for example with this: http://goo.gl/VV5Nx8

We know the biggest issue are changes. So plan your project to be ready for them. Try to divide project to several stages and estimate each stage before it starts. No changes during each stage are accepted. For example, let’s have stages Brief > Key Functionality > Important Functionality > Nice to Have. In Brief stage you do raw estimate to know if you are in the same budget range with client. Then, you start with first stage with key functionality and do plan and estimate only for this stage. After you finish you do revision and plan next stage. This way you don’t spend time with unimportant features, client has room to come with changes and experience from previous stage can be used to optimise work in next one.

If you have conservative client, when you have to plan all on beginning, try this model. Define work on project in hour credits. For example, let’s say you do website. Define 10 hours for design work and 10 hours for development. After each design or development revision, inform client how many credits left. Charge overdrawn credits or do some extra sweet if credits left.

Log your time and learn from previous projects. You can easily estimate cost for new website just comparing to one already built. Since the scope includes same functionality, similar amount of pages and concept of website is alike, production time will be very similar.

Stop lying to yourself that one day is enough for testing and client’s feedbacks. We all want to have price as low as possible for initial pitch. However, if you underestimate project just in hope it will be different this time, then you will donate the project again. Fight with quality and smart concept, no with unrealistic price.

Don’t plan with 8 hours a day. You always need to manage emails, discuss some topics, join a meeting, something unpredictable can happen, etc. My experience is 5 hours reflect real productive time.