What to look for when partnering with a digital studio
A digital project, like any project, is as much about the journey as it is the end product. And to have a smooth journey that gets you to the best possible end goal, you need the right partner. If you’ve never worked with a digital product studio before, it can be difficult to know what your expectations should be.
Naturally, we have our own clear view of how a digital product studio should be run. But we do feel that the following things are the key characteristics you should look for when picking the right partner to drive your digital project.
Digital product studios should have the right processes
When you’re embarking on a digital project, it’s vital to ensure that you’re not only building the right thing, but you’re building it in the right way. This comes down not only to technologies and frameworks, but methodology and approach as well. Ensuring a digital studio has the right processes underpinning everything is probably one of the most vital things to look for when partnering with one. Opting for a studio which organises work in agile sprints can help you to ensure your project is more cost-effective, as well as helping you get where you need to be faster, with further improvements planned in and accounted for from the start. Ultimately, it comes down to fit – you should partner with a digital studio whose team and their passion for your product aligns with your organisation’s desire to innovate.
Digital product studios should challenge your assumptions
Let’s face it – you don’t want a bunch of ‘yes people’ working on your project. A good digital partner will ask the right questions to challenge your initial brief and get to the root of a problem or an opportunity. They will usually do this through a discovery sprint – engaging stakeholders, identifying key user groups and doing industry and technological research to map the ideal route forward. To get the best results, you need to be willing to go through this process and challenge your own assumptions and those of your internal stakeholders. You may think you know exactly what you need, and how you want it built – but there might be a better way or a better end-product that will work best for your users. Naturally and rightly, your requirements and understanding will also change as you move along your product journey.
Digital product studios should be innovative and curious
This may seem like a bit of an obvious one – but your digital studio partner should be suitably innovative to help you achieve what you need to. If you have a complex requirement, such as a process that needs mapping out or an integration that needs implementing – you want more than “I’m sorry we don’t know how to do that”. The onus to figure out how the end product should work and make you more efficient is on the digital studio, not on you. While you can expect to do a fair bit of pushing to get the answers you need, the best digital partners will be constantly pushing themselves to find new ways of doing things and to develop their internal capabilities to help you achieve what you need to.
Digital product studios should have the right industry expertise
When it comes to starting a digital project, it can be a real advantage to partner with a digital studio that knows your industry inside out, already knowing what questions to ask, what some of your requirements are likely to be, and the idiosyncrasies of your sector. You can really hit the ground running in this way and proceed with peace of mind that a lot of knowledge and experience is already held by your new studio team.
This section does come with a caveat though that’s closely related to the section above. As much as it can be advantageous to partner with a digital studio who has specific experience in your sector, it can also be unwise to discount one because they don’t have that experience. The best digital product studios, as we’ve mentioned, should be innovative and curious, and as such take this attitude into every project that approach – being able to apply expertise in other areas and combine this with research into your specific sector to bring a fresh perspective to your project and a strong end product.
Digital product studios should be the right cultural fit
A digital product or website is a significant investment that if approached in the right way will be evolved and developed over many years. You’re going to be working closely with your digital studio over an extended period, so the bottom line is – you need to get on. Tensions in a working relationship and cultural clashes will not only threaten the progress of a project, but also potentially lead to a diminished end product. As humans, we’re pretty instinctive, and you should hopefully know within a short period and a few initial calls and meetings whether the vibe is right. To help with this, we work with you through an initial discovery sprint, which not only gives us and clients the opportunity to create a great starting base, but also gives them the opportunity to feel what we’re like to work with before they make a long-term commitment. The key takeaway being – listen to your gut feel on these things. Even if the digital studio in question seems to tick all of the boxes capabilities-wise, if it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be easy and pleasant to work with them, it’s best to walk away. It’s important to consider how partnerships are approached from the other side too – you’re better to seek out digital studios who are selective about the partnerships and projects they take on than you are those who will say yes to anything.
Finding the right digital studio partner involves evaluating everything we’ve covered in this post, and identifying which characteristics are most important. As we mentioned, you might find it better to partner with a studio that doesn’t have specific experience in your industry, but is innovative enough to work in new sectors, and also has the right processes and cultural fit. You might find that a digital studio works in a different way to how you might usually but has that valuable industry experience that you need. Finding one that ticks all the boxes is the ideal.