For agencies focused on digital innovation, collaboration between research, design, and development teams is crucial for the success of any project. If these teams work in silos and fail to communicate properly, projects will likely take longer, have poorer outcomes, and cause unneeded tension within the agency. We make a strong effort at Majestyk to promote a culture of collaboration which leads to efficient cross-functional teams, effective communication, and flexibility when tackling a project.
To help you better understand what effective collaboration can look like within a digital agency, let’s take an in-depth look at the components we think are essential for collaborative efforts.
Fostering collaboration within your company involves more than simply putting teams together and hoping for the best. You need to actively develop a culture of collaboration and create opportunities for individuals to truly get to know each other on a personal level outside of any given project. This could be done through a company party, after-hours meet-up, or even a special lunch designated as a networking event for the company. Taking this more interpersonal approach with how your teams get to know each other will lead to stronger working relationships day in and day out.
As your company or team grows, be mindful of new talent you hire. New hires need to resonate with the rest of the team and value the same principles regarding how your teams currently collaborate. A new candidate might seem like a great fit on paper, but if they don’t mesh with the rest of your agency, it will cause more harm than good.
Your collaboration process is only as strong as your communication efforts. At every point along the journey from research to development, you need to sync up with all stakeholders and teams involved in a project. By frequently sharing insights, feedback, and synchronizing on objectives, you position your agency to develop higher quality end products you can be proud of.
You don’t want to get too far along into research, design, or development without these teams communicating with each other. When this happens, details get missed and the feedback needed to create a top-notch product gets lost in the mix. You’ll end up spending more time retracing your steps. Make sure your team communicates early and often.
The key to communication is to make time for it. You need to put weekly to bi-weekly meetings on the schedule and leverage the right online tools for clear daily communication. Tools like Slack, Google Sheets, Asana, and Figma all help teams provide real-time feedback on their progress and connect on the details of a project.
Before we had a refined collaboration process in our earlier days, we divided our agency into teams by function. We had our researchers, designers, and developers primarily working within their own separate silos. But, as we began to grow and add more talent to our agency, it made sense to switch to a cross-functional model where all teams work alongside each other for the duration of a project. In many ways, this shift has been monumental for the success of our collaboration process.
A cross-functional team model not only ensured product alignment at the onset of a new engagement. It also brought our team closer together. It allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of the different processes of other teams and enabled more seamless communication between individual contributors.
For cross-functional teams to work though, there needs to be a shared understanding of the language used when communicating across teams.
Cross-functional collaboration is much more effective when teams share a common language and understand each other's processes.
Designers use a different language than developers and vice versa, which means ideas can sometimes get confused and workflows will be sub-optimal. To combat this, it would be helpful for the designers to gain some familiarity with the coding languages and lingo used by developers. This doesn’t mean the designers need to know how to code. But, by having a simple understanding of the development process and the terminology developers use, a designer will have more empathy and will be able to communicate better. Cross-functional collaboration is much more effective when teams share a common language and understand each other's processes.
Since every project is unique and every client has different needs, we've created a collaborative workflow that's flexible and adaptable. It adapts not only to the different team configurations and individuals that we put onto a project, but also the different needs that arise out of any particular engagement.
So, while we do have a process, everything is bespoke to each of our different clients. We have various components and methodologies that we can pull from to tailor an engagement based on what makes the most sense for the challenge we're trying to solve.
The big question at the start of any development project is, "What project management strategy is ideal for this engagement?" Most clients and companies will talk about taking an agile approach to development. And while agile is excellent and highly recommended, it doesn't apply to all cases. Sometimes it makes more sense for us to start with a waterfall approach and then pivot to an agile workflow when the time is right. In other cases, our recommendation may change where we focus on a highly functional prototype for product validation before locking in a development roadmap and timeline. We use our expertise to determine what methodologies and tools will work best for the challenge at hand instead of allowing a set process to dictate each engagement.
Building a culture of collaboration extends beyond your employees — it also applies to the clients and projects you work with. It’s essential to properly vet the companies you work with to make sure the projects you take on are exciting for your team. You also want to make sure that the culture of collaboration you’ve built at your company effectively overlaps with your client’s culture and mission. This is important because outcomes are always better when your team can truly get behind a project.
We love working with clients who are working on cutting-edge and innovative projects that push our industry forward. That's exciting for everybody all around. However, we also work with a lot of clients who exist within a more traditional industry. In these industries, digital innovation might mean implementing solutions that bring them into the modern age, but aren't necessarily tech-forward.
Regardless of the technology or industry, all the clients we work with can fully articulate their vision of what they are trying to sell. For a project to be successful, the client needs to believe in their own company, and we highly value that conviction in our collaboration process.
Building a more effective collaboration process between your researchers, designers, and developers can be the catalyst needed to level up your agency. Making progress in this area starts with promoting a culture of collaboration and then involves communicating clearly between cross-functional teams. It also requires you to stay flexible in how you approach projects, leading you to deploy the right strategies at the right time.
If you’re interested in having Majestyk help you refine your agency’s collaboration process or if you need assistance with an upcoming development project, feel free to reach out to us today.
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