Whether you’ve had a web development agency for years or you’ve just partnered with one, knowing how to get the most value from your agency is an essential part of justifying the expense and maximising your ROI.
Below I’ve outlined four ways you can increase your value in the future.
1. Are they great salespeople?
If they’re not, you may think this is a good thing! Finally, you’re not talking to someone who’s trying to sell you something!
However, this isn’t necessarily good and here’s why. Great salespeople don’t try to sell you stuff you don’t need. Instead, they actively listen, empathise with you and craft tailored solutions that address the challenges you’re experiencing.
As outlined by the Canadian Professional Sales Association, the top 3 characteristics of good salespeople are:
Their goal is to help you achieve excellent outcomes, and by doing so, they help themselves – it’s a win-win. The alternative is that they hear what they want to hear, interpret it in ways that suit themselves, and then blame you when they deliver something that isn’t what you asked for.
So when you’re talking to your contact at your web development agency, look for elements of great salesmanship. Are they actively listening? Do they ask questions that help you, as well as themselves?
If not, consider asking them to take a sales training course. It will help them improve their active listening skills and help them better understand what you need them to do.
2. Do they ever give you good surprises?
No one likes surprises unless they’re good. Psychologically, we tend to remember bad things far longer than good things. Even so, you want to have good things happen more often anyway!
Can you remember the last time anyone finished something early, gave you an unexpected insight or even sent you a gift? If not, perhaps this means the relationship is more transactional than transformational (or non-transactional).
Give your team the benefit of the doubt – perhaps they think it might not be appropriate (in some cultures, it’s impolite to make suggestions without being asked). Take the first step, and have a genuine two-way conversation with them. You may be pleasantly surprised by the result!
Some suggestions to prompt proactivity going forwards:
- Ask your team for a brainstorming session
- Ask questions like “is there a better way to do this?” or “what’s something interesting that you’ve seen lately?”
- Ask about current trends – are they working with new technologies that, for whatever reason, aren’t currently being applied to your projects?
3. Does your web development agency tell you if they don’t know how to do something?
Just because teams have expert developers doesn’t mean they’re experts at developing everything. There are over 700 programming languages and over 20 languages used by professional developers.
Good teams want to manage risk as much as possible – one of the major reasons for Agile development. A promising sign of good development practice, irrespective of language, is rapid prototyping.
A great way to do this is to conduct a short, controlled experiment or develop a small-scale model that helps identify major unknowns that are likely to become issues. Then, teams can extrapolate the results and learnings to understand how long a project will take and what other risks you may face.
If teams ask you to spend time prototyping, it’s usually a good idea to consider it – it’s not a waste of time or money.
Here’s an example:
You ask to develop a business model that drives a decision-making process. It needs to calculate across many different data points, collate other sets of data and flag possible issues to look into.
A development team might:
- Design the model
- Document expected inputs and outputs
- Create user stories
This is all proper procedure and has its place. However, what will happen with this approach, is that the model will be developed without necessarily understanding what issues might affect the output – or even worse, what “good” output looks like.
The solution to this is to model the inputs, business logic and output in excel – and use this as your source of truth for quality assurance. Then, you will quickly understand whether there is a hole in your logic and fix it, all before any code is written.
4. Does your web development agency know everything about your business?
It’s pretty common for web development agencies to ask their clients about their direct business – it makes sense that an agency needs to understand the business context to develop functionality that people would be happy to use.
However, it’s one thing to talk with your web development agency about how your business works; it’s another thing for them to experience it.
The suggestion here is to invite your web development agency to experience what your business is really like. One of the advantages of having an agency member work from your office is that they can observe many of the interactions between your team and understand more about what’s essential to both you and them.
They will also be able to pick up on things that you do that could be done faster or more efficiently and make suggestions for minor changes that could have a more significant impact.