What we’ve learned integrating Design with Technology

Oil and VinegarIn the ever changing world of digital agencies, the predominant majority of players are ones that grew up or were rolled into the traditional advertising agency world.  We are a bit different in that our heritage is in strategy, process and technology and have subsequently added the agency component.  What is unique to everyone working in Digital, independent of a firm’s bloodline, is that bringing together disciplines of experience design and technology in the simple scope of a website redesign can be a challenging experience.  While I wouldn’t say we have found the secret to flawless execution, I thought I’d share a little about how we’ve overcome some of the biggest challenges along the way.

To attack the root causes, as with any change management exercise, you need open, honest individuals with no hidden agenda.  It took us a little time to get everyone facing the same direction and to commit the time necessary to driving change.  Once all of the right leaders were on board we took a knife to old dogma that had caused much of the division: the dated view that Design trumps all and Technology should always lag behind.  The reality is that they inform each other and promoting one for the sake of the other is a path to project failure.  Turning an Information Architect loose on a design for a given web platform without consulting a technologist makes about as much sense as having an analyst draw up requirements without doing any discovery or talking to the customer.

While everyone was always in full agreement on what the end state would be, defining how we get there was always an interesting exercise.  Primarily because both camps had their own methodology, different estimation models and no real knowledge of what the dependencies and prerequisites were across the workstreams.  Yes, these are the same Design and Technology teams that will work hand-in-hand to deliver a new web experience.  Creating an integrated project approach required getting all of the right brainpower together for a series of late night sessions to go through a typical project day-by-day and talk through exactly what everyone is doing.  This was tremendously enlightening for everyone involved.  We worked through differences in definitions, reconciled processes and came to truly understand the interdependencies in such a complex project.

In the end we were able to produce a single plan from which we are creating derivative works for different technologies and different scope limitations.  We also discovered numerous positive by-products of this engagement, namely tearing down the invisible walls that were erected in a very “IT vs. Business” type way within the organization.  This is also a strong competitive differentiator for us as we were able to scrutinize every task of an engagement and ensure resources are effectively utilized and we are as lean as we can be.  Are we done?  Absolutely not.  Continuous improvement is just that….continuous.

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One comment

  1. Brett Bernstein

    This sounds a lot like what the agile community has been advocating for a number of years now with cross-functional implementation teams. The ‘late-night-sessions’ sounds like the daily stand meeting that teams following SCRUM hold each day where the team members report to each other what they accomplished during the previous day. ‘Open-honest-individuals-with-no-hidden-agenda’ sounds like a desire to make things transparent to everyone involved.

    Its great to see another positive example of how agile development practices are gaining traction in the software development community.

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