In my last blog piece I gave you an overview of my own opinions on the subject, but now I’m looking to the agency world for their opinions and comments on ‘What makes an agency great from a creative technology perspective?”
My thanks goes to those that contributed, as it has allowed me to explore the synergy between creative, technology, management and internal education a little further…and hopefully it will help to conclude what the underlying factors are within agencies who excel in digital delivery.
The most important thing
Having innovative and technically astute managers one of the most important attributes of a technically great agency.
Yuval Zukerman, the Director of Solution Strategy at Isobar in Greater Boston believes that one of the key attributes is creating “not an environment where you simply talk about and dream up ideas, but one where the idea is sold firstly inside the agency and then to clients. Once there, and with the leadership of an experienced technologist, the idea can be refined and improved until the point of building and thus realising the merger between vision and technology. And so we can argue that for an agency to get it right, it needs to stress the unity and collaboration between creative and technology” – and this seems to be an ever popular view point.
Peter Lorent, award winning technologist with over 25 years experience and current Technical Lead at 180 Amsterdam kindly contributed ‘mutual respect and a true “one team” approach as the most important ingredients’ of a great agency.
The perfect combination
Although this combination may seem simple it can be hard to achieve. Brian Gillespie of Media Catalyst describes it as an ‘elusive ideal, but when it works it makes a big difference’.
It seems that for an agency to be able to produce well thought out and inspirational digital work, it has to inspire it’s creatives to think like developers and its developers to think like creatives, and for everyone to see through the eyes of a designer! Still following…..?
Getting an agency to turn itself on its head and completely change the mindset of it’s creative and technical staff is a daunting prospect. Instead in recent years we’ve seen the rise of the ‘Creative Technologist’, as a new job role has emerged. The role of a CT is to bridge the gap between the creative and tech teams, to help challenge their ways of thinking, and to be a source of innovation that breaks the conventions of a traditional approach. I think it’s therefore a key indicator of a digitally and technically savvy agency when a Creative Technologist is involved at the early concepting stages of a project.
For a developer this means the reassurance that a technical mindset has been present from the get go, and that possible shortfalls or problems have been considered and the risk of fault at later stages reduced. Alex Matthews , the Technical Director of Dare, solves the same problem in another way. “At Dare we’ve solved this in two ways – firstly creative and tech all sit together, mixed up, so you get a designer next to a php developer for example, so there is a massive cross fertilization of ideas; secondly we’ve altered our process so that tech is part of the concepting and refinement of an idea”
Creative Technologists play a key role
Andy Hood, the Head of Creative Technology at AKQA , stresses a similar point about Creative Technologists; that they have ‘a key role in being the hub that connects UX to design and technology’. CTs will find that their role includes a bit of every discipline, but as such can be ‘central to enabling great ideas’. He also identifies the need for a decent PM to play a part in creating team spirit, making sure that the differing personalities within a team bond together.
I’ve noticed that agencies such as Wunderman who have strong technical project management and digital delivery teams seem to continually receive praise from developers who have had the chance to work for them.
There are also the more obvious factors to add to this commentary, such as the following;
- Ability for a developer to take ownership over a project
- A fully collaborative environment
- The adoption of a modern day technical development process or framework
- Strong client service teams who fully understand digital and the capabilities of internal teams
- A digital understanding and following at board level
- An insightful manager who can allocate based on the competencies of their team
- Clients who understand digital and give greater freedom to their agency to develop the best solutions.
- A continual and proactive learning environment where developers are encouraged to take on new languages and promote the use of these within.
One final point, and a thanks to Omar Malik (previously Technical Director of Collective London), is that a technologist really does love to see their hard work come to fruition, as it’s only when budgets have been signed off that a developer can ‘allow their wings to stretch unfettered’. To clarify, it’s all very well working for an agency that spends great amounts of time and money on creating interesting pitch work, often made by creative/designers, but it’s not until that work has been signed off that a developer really has something to get their teeth stuck into.
So when looking for an agency that’s great from a creative technology perspective, I would advise you look out for those who place technology at the heart of any digital project, who ensure that the communication process between creative and tech is clear and nurtured by some form of Creative Technologist, and whom adopt a strong project management approach to ensure collaboration between all internal teams. And perhaps above all, look at the quality and regularity of their work!