Process is a hard thing to nail down at an agency. Creative & Technology trends change daily which give way to new roles and processes. Couple that with a constantly changing agency environment and you end up with an extremely circumstantial opportunity. It can take agencies years to find the right people and processes that work for them. Part of that process is how to maintain and update the process itself. It really comes down to the people and your culture.
I like to work with people who are just as curious as I am. I learned how to program because I had ideas I wanted to see come to life. I’m passionate about the potential modern technology has to improve our lives. I’m also surrounded by people who are equally as passionate at accomplishing the same thing through their discipline of expertise. This is the single most important thing an agency should encourage if they wish to be creative and successful. We don’t want to be the ones reading blog posts about innovation, we want to be the ones writing those posts.
I also don’t believe in staying in your lane. I think its safe to assume most agency folks agree. The truth is we’re exposed to the outputs of each others jobs daily and like I mentioned above, those outputs are changing daily. A copywriter working with someone from the search team on a regular basis is going to start to pick up some trends that help streamline that relationship in the long run. The same thing happens with Creative and Technology. Creative, Copy, UX, Dev, Search, Analytics, etc all start to blend together where we all have our subject matter experts but we can be more effective because of the extended feedback. The more siloed we keep these disciplines, the less likely we are to find room for process optimization.
You have to be open to working this way. It can help streamline complex workflows but only if collaboration across teams is encouraged. This means dropping any ego associated with your team’s deliverable to incorporate feedback from other teams or working with other teams to education them on how to give better feedback.
Approach every project differently depending on the clients expectations and capabilities. A strong united front on the agency side helps better foster trust with the client which can simplify workflows and processes. I see a lot of people try to find the one process that works best for them and as a result they end up falling back to more traditional waterfall-like processes that can often stifle creativity and innovation.
A bunch of tools have popped up to help us solve this problem allowing us to select the best tool for the job. I think deliverables like style tiles and CSS component systems are great steps in the right direction. Even things like low-fidelity wires and then functional prototypes in favor of high-fidelity wires can help get to an iterative state of a project a lot faster. This only really works if you have the trust and klout to sell in. If the client feels out of the loop or deliverables aren’t properly explained or translated for the client it could prolong the process as new deliverables are introduced to fill the client knowledge gap.
It’s a balancing act however we can control the conversation with the correct level of trust both internally and externally.
One of the best things you can do as a manager in an agency environment is to empower your team members. A developer or designer that gets into UX is going to be a bad ass UX designer or developer. A data analyst that gets into programming is going to be a kick ass data programmer. Encouraging these types of evolutions can help you keep an edge in an industry where titles change as fast as the trends that encourage their existence.
We also need to be flexible when it comes to work environments. How productive or creative we are is directly related to our mental states at that time. Most of the time your office will work just fine because you are constantly surrounded by people that bring you up and motivate your through their own inspirational actions. Other times you’ll be more productive in a shared work space or working from home. Agencies that can cater to the changing needs of their employees in this manner will not only do a better job retaining them but will increase the quality of their output.
At the end of the day, who’s to say someone is or is not creative. I believe we are all creative at heart and express it through different mediums. In a digital agency we are all creative and we are all digital. It’s the mashup of backgrounds, expertise and passions that lead to better products. Learning to work better together helps us do better work.