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Three ways we use bonds to scale products better and faster: Part 2

In part one of our bonding series, we explored the best way to utilise bonds when hiring at scale. By ensuring that hiring, onboarding, culture and ways of working are considered and properly executed, teams are empowered to move quickly and effectively.

Another option for organisations that are scaling quickly is to hire a design studio to bolster your team’s current capabilities.

Now, as a design studio ourselves, we are well aware of the fact that hiring an agency partner to help with a product challenge is typically not everyone’s first preference.

Agencies tend to be quite expensive, and unfortunately, results can vary.

So who better to share our advice on how to get the most out of agency relationships than, well, us?! We’ve seen how well things can go when the right foundations are laid, and how badly things can turn when they aren’t.

1. Consider co-creating the brief

A point of anxiety for many of our clients before approaching us is the process of writing a meticulous, comprehensive, failsafe brief. This is extremely stressful because clients feel that they can’t afford to forget anything, or get it wrong, lest time be wasted in the proposal process.

Plus, for challenges that are highly technical, some clients just wouldn’t know that, for example, a simple login feature might take an extra week of work. There’s no need to be embarrassed by this! Not everyone is a developer, or has a sound understanding of how technical features are built.

Instead, think about writing the brief collaboratively with your desired agency partner.

At Modulr, we have a workshop specifically designed for this purpose. It allows us to tease out requirements, dependencies, and spot potential obstacles, and it allows a client to cross the briefing task completely off their list.

Plus, if we turn out to be the wrong agency partner for this type of project, we happily share the briefing session notes with the client to use with other potential agencies.

The collaborative briefing process also creates fast bonds. We find that companies can sometimes be embarrassed about the progress of a project they’re working on, or guarded because they’re stuck and don’t know how to proceed. It’s our job to see the messy underbelly of the product development process and know what to do about it, so the sooner we can get to the truth of the challenge, the better.

Being open and sharing the briefing process with an agency only results in better trust, faster onboarding to the challenge, and a much more specific and accurate proposal.

2. There’s no secret sauce

If your agency partner is keeping secrets from you, then this is a problem. At Modulr, we like to avoid a situation where work by our teams is being done privately, or behind closed doors.

We don’t want to finish the project in a “big reveal” style event where we show you work that you’ve never seen before.

This way of working relies on an exceptional level of understanding of the brief and your business in general. Plus, as a client, you don’t learn anything in this process as all the knowledge about the project is hidden by your agency team.

Working as a bonded team, with regular check-ins, honest communication, and transparent workflows is more inclined to help you to scale quickly, effectively, and with longer lasting impact. This way, clients are able to build competency within their teams, create the best possible outcome together, and learn as they go.

The truth is, most agencies aren’t the experts in your specific business. What we are experts in is product, branding and design. The faster the bond is created between client and agency, the better the outcome will be.

3. When to work with an agency

The best time to bring in an agency varies, but the key issue to keep in mind is this: Agencies are often perceived as a quick fix or an afterthought. Much of the time, companies will try their luck with a freelancer, spending more than half of their project budget, and ending up with very mixed results.

To keep this from happening to you, we recommend getting some solid consultation from an agency partner as soon as your idea and business plan has been validated.

Once you have built the initial blueprint and skeleton of your product or service, you'll need to start planning. Involving a Design Studio sooner, even on just a consulting basis, will help you figure out whether or not you need help at the next stage, or can involve them later on down the line of the product development process.

That is, once your idea is validated and you have built the bones of your product or service, you’ll need to start planning.

Once you’ve found your product-market fit, questions that an experienced product team would ask include:

  1. Is this product going to grow into a larger brand or group of products?
  2. If so, which platform should we build on in order to support these multiple touchpoints and avoid technical debt?
  3. What technical architecture should we use in order to support sustainable growth?
  4. How might we design this product now so that we don’t have to do a huge redesign down the line?
  5. Is it a website? Is it an app? Could there be an Android app or just iOS?
  6. Will my product ideally last longer than a year? Could there be connected services related to my product?

Asking these questions gives teams foresight, and with foresight, comes flexibility. And without flexibility built in from the beginning, you will almost certainly have to spend double the time and effort once the product starts gaining traction.

Our goal with our clients in this position is to help them to find self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. This means creating a strong, viable foundation for scale.

Thanks again for reading our thoughts on how to bond with your agency partner! In the final part of our series, we’ll be talking about how Design Systems create bonds inside organisations, and how this translates to gaining velocity in the scaling process. We hope you enjoy it!

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