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I work at a digital agency and we've got many different clients and projects, which is great, but we end up assigning each member to a few clients and getting evertone into their own client-bubble.

We've got a channel for sharing references and briefly comment about them, which is nice but far for enough. We've tried having a daily channel for people to share what they are working so everyone knows what's going on and maybe have some insights but the engagement was poor.

I feel like the main problems are time and information. How do we fit that in our schedule and how do we help each other effectively if we don't really "live" the client's day to day.

So, what do you think? Are you also struggling with this? Have you achieved some nice system in your company? I'm really looking forward to share some thoughts with you people! :D

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    No one can tell you how to fit anything in your schedule but for sharing (assuming there aren't NDA in-place) a very good option is a demo session where each group - every couple of weeks - presents a selected product/feature/design/idea. – Adriano Repetti Jul 29 at 10:05
  • Is the information brought up in these channels relevant to all present? I've been to 3 hour long departmental meetings in the past that only 10% of the things discussed are relevant to my area - these are extremely annoying. On the other hand I've had team meetings that have been really useful. Sometimes daily discussions may just be too often. If it feels like you're going in depth about what everyone did the previous day that is also annoying. Ideally you want round the table summaries, and if anyone has interest or suggestions for someone else, to pick that up after the meeting. – Smock Jul 29 at 13:49
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We've tried having a daily channel for people to share what they are working so everyone knows what's going on and maybe have some insights but the engagement was poor.

This may be a good idea, but engagement will stay poor until management enforces it. When they do, there will be an adjustment period where agency members complain about the extra work load (1-2 minute per day per project to type up a short status - or, as a compromise, a weekly status report). And then it will become normal.

Does management want this? If I were in their shoes, I definitely would, because sooner or later, someone will "get hit by a bus" (get fired, get sick, win the lottery, really get hit by a bus), and the others will have to pick up the slack. It's really not good form to ask your customer clueless questions about the job you're supposed to do for them.

I would also consider assigning two members to each client/project. One would take the lead, and the other would keep up to date and assist when needed.

These measures cost time and money (though in my opinion, the cost of the daily/weekly channel report is negligible).

Agency members currently have no motivation to spend even a small part of their work days on information exchange, because it is not part of their job. Again, it is the management's job to change that.

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Take a page from Agile in software development and try a Stand Up Meeting.

The original purpose is for everyone to briefly tell what they plan to work on each day and any stoppers or blockers they faced.
In your case you maybe rotate through each of your clients and tell what you accomplished and how the client reacted (fit it to what works for you).

These are done usually at the same time of day, first thing in the morning... if you don't have a set work schedule that might be a little harder.

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The issue you're facing is not unlike the issue faced by teams that have a distributed workforce (e.g. in different locations, across different time zones). The goal is to facilitate communication and increase communication fluency among all members of the team.

There is a good amount of research to support different methods and modes of increasing collaboration among design teams. The literature supports the value of building shared mental models, common language, and universal access to resources and representations (e.g. mockups, drafts, and completed products). This suggests that the particular communication medium isn't as important as the ability to access it and the perceived value of participating in it.

Here are a few of the most frequently-cited research articles. For further information, search "design collaboration" at scholar.google.com or something similar. For your situation, it may be beneficial to look for articles that are case studies or surveys of existing research.

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A variety of Agile techniques can help with this.

  1. Pairing - consider assigning 2 designers to a given client instead of one. They will collaborate and learn from each other. The immediate reaction to this is usually "but everything will take twice as long!" But pair programming among devs has been shown to be 15% slower but to produce a 15% lower defect rate.

  2. Demos - regular sessions where everyone demos their work to each other.

  3. Retros - regular sessions where the group retrospects on what they've been doing and how to improve

  4. Standups - daily short meetings where everyone reports what they've been doing/will do/what blockers or questions they might have

THere are a lot of resources out there about applying Agile to a digital agency model, check out this podcast with Rachel Gertz and Brett Harned talking about it and look for some more!

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