High-performance partnerships

Why do strategic design firms even exist? When it comes to digital product development, working with full-service agencies is a global standard. The very fact that one firm is capable of handling every part of an assignment gives managers a sense of comfort. However, full-service is often flawed by design in terms of scalability.

Agency Fatigue

Growing a full-service agency quickly escalates as existing roles start to get overwhelmed. New developer teams are being created, specialists hired, administrative divisions summoned to keep up with complexity and headcount. Agencies today try to find hybrid working models to cope with the side-effects of growth. This results in higher prices and a huge responsibility for management to sustain a healthy cash flow. Larger teams means larger risk. Over Planning ensures a profitable operation, though results in a constant lack of resources.

To keep the system running agencies start to fill the gaps with freelancers using subcontracts. The challenge of working with freelancers is often their lack of solid time management and their decreased performance because of it. The bigger problem is that client often don’t even know they exist.
At the end, the client pays a high price for something that wasn’t even made by the senior design team introduced by the agency. The more strategic an assignment is the more risky this can be. Enter collaborative high-performance teams.

Collaborative Partnerships

To compete with large agencies smaller design firms turn to a more transparent and horizontal way of work. Strategic design firms keep the developer headcount low to keep their focus on more strategy related assignments. Development firms can also be very focused business wise, like preferring specific coding languages or work methods. Focus enables teams to gain expertise in their fields and complement others.

The missing workforce is provided through partners selected on the basis of actual requirement of proficiency. Instead of sneaking subcontractors into the equation without the knowledge of the client, partner firms team up and are right there from the start.

Bridging The Gaps

Even though frequent collaboration can bring partners closer, on a daily basis they still are separated by their own offices, culture. However, management challenges of keeping it together are constantly shrinking by the rise of remote working culture and it’s new tools, methods. Firms like IBM, Cisco or GitHub don’t have all their members sitting at their offices, instead, they form small hubs or work remotely. This trend also helps working in high-performance partnerships to be more acceptable for everyone involved. Even though it’s efficient, real life workshops and occasional meetings are essential to make this really work.
Also, to make collaboration work, partners need to have a common language which involves everything from process methods to management software.

In a Nutshell

Specific problems need specific expertise. Focused design firms can provide a more polished service in the industries they know best or in the kind of design challenges they’re facing most if the time. For instance, Exalt’s focus is more on business and service design strategy, user experience and often relies on high-performance partners in terms of development or online marketing. To provide complex services, focused firms are forming partnerships to complement their expertise. Success very much depends on the ability of teamwork and the realtionship between members, cultures. Having a team with the right chemistry and expertise do the work is just as important when it comes to high-performance collaborations. If present, such focused workforces provide the best services possible for any specific business need.