In an ideal world a business or organisation gets all their ducks in a row before they engage an agency. Senior stakeholders broadly agree what a project should entail and what its business goals are. There’s already a consensus that it’s necessary and the best possible use of budgets and resources for the future success of the business.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. Digital transformation projects are fundamentally important in terms of keeping up with customer expectations and staving off disruption. But sometimes an agency arrives to start on a project only to discover that it’s being derailed from the get-go by internal politics, with disagreements at senior level on approach, scope, priorities, goals, or whether a project is valid at all.
In the UK in particular we don’t like to openly disagree with each other too much, it’s not part of the national psyche. Often these problems have been bubbling under the surface and only really come out in the open once the project is supposed to be in full swing.
Luckily, we’ve seen it all before, and in many ways it comes with the territory. Though stakeholders are all working collectively towards a common goal, they are also bound to have their own individual priorities. What an outside agency can do is mediate between warring factions and bring in an objective view in a situation where it’s hard for internal teams to do so. Our only agenda is to create and deliver the work that will create the most positive impact on the business. With no pre-existing ideas or baggage, outside specialists can canvas all points of view and take a balanced view on what matters most, helping our clients to come to an agreement. Basically, we can get things done.
Building trust is key
For any agency coming in from outside, building trust with internal teams and not taking sides is crucial. We believe that everyone deserves to be listened to and all opinions are valid, even though it may be that there has to be compromise – though hopefully they will get at least some of what they want, if not 100% of it.
We also try to ensure that all stakeholders know we are there to support and collaborate with them, not to compete or try and take over. Our role is to take the pressure off and empower internal teams to focus on what’s most important. This allows them to get on with other crucial projects without being spread too thinly.
Aside from playing peacemaker, there are other reasons why bringing in an external agency is sometimes the best thing to do. Resolving a longstanding issue or reinvigorating a project that’s been put on the backburner because of a lack of time or inclination is hard to solve internally. For a team coming in from outside that’s their only focus, and the likelihood is they have set timelines and budgets to do it in, so the process should be efficient and is unlikely to get stalled.
Agencies can see beyond the business’s own internal rules and laws. The cry ‘But that’s how we’ve always done it’ may go up, but sometimes it takes somebody from the outside to question whether this particular rule is still valid. Though created for perfectly sensible reasons, sometimes rules have to be broken because they’ve become a hindrance in a world that has vastly changed over the last 20 years. It can be very hard for an internal team to agree to break a habit entrenched in company culture. It’s far less of a challenge for an outside party – for us the hard work comes in successfully persuading our clients that it’s for the greater good.
Agencies bring valuable new perspectives
Most agencies, BIO included, work on multiple brands in multiple industries. This means they can bring in new perspectives and best-practice learnings from outside the sector, rather than only looking at what direct competitors are offering in terms of customer experience. They also create flexibility and come in with specialised skills that it may not be cost-effective to have in-house all the time. In addition, they can bring in new ways of working, not just for the project in question but for other projects going forward. In this way they can be a major influence on company culture, helping it evolve and move forward and getting people more comfortable with the idea of constant change.
Some digital transformation projects are hard to get off the ground because stakeholders can’t agree on their validity or who should be responsible for them. Some don’t run smoothly because of various internal issues that have risen to the surface and haven’t been factored in. But the most important thing to do in these situations is take action however uncomfortable it feels, because doing nothing presents greater risks to the business.Time to call in an outside agency – and get the benefit of their specialist skills, new ideas and new processes into the bargain.
The BIO Agency has worked on digital transformation projects in sectors including financial services, travel, retail and B2B. Take a look at some of them here.