The ‘Balancing Act’: How Agency Leaders Ensure Quality
As a successful digital agency owner or leader, you have to make important business decisions every day. You weigh the short- and long-term benefits along with the costs and the risks of unintended consequences.
One challenge that affects all of your decisions revolves around how to achieve the quality of work that your clients expect. That’s because your team has to balance the effort and skills required to achieve targeted quality metrics with harsh business realities such as tight project deadlines, limited budgets, project-related costs, and clients’ evolving expectations.
In my previous blogs, I delved into the reason why you need to consistently ensure quality output and the issues that contribute to why maintaining quality is an ongoing challenge for you, your colleagues, and your competitors.
In this blog, I turn my attention to chipping away at the question: “How do you, as an agency owner/leader, balance the drive for quality when so many other things compete for your time and resources?”
But, before we dive into this issue, I invite you to leverage a practical Tip Sheet entitled, “Top 10 Things Interactive Agency Owners and Leaders Need to Know About QA”.
Quality: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
First, let’s just quickly summarize the good, the bad, and the ugly of achieving quality.
The Good: Achieving quality means that you’ve delivered on your mandate and have helped your clients’ provide a top-notch digital experience for their customers. Furthermore, your creative insights, business acumen, and project management skills are recognized and rewarded by your clients with kudos, more engagements, and greater trust. Finally, delivering work at the quality you clients expect reinforces to your team how important those standards are in keeping your agency competitive.
The Bad: Let’s face it, achieving and maintaining the quality standards your clients expect is hard. Doing so requires a commitment that goes beyond short-term project deliverables and shapes how you organize, reward, and lead your team. Furthermore, clients’ quality standards and metrics are prone to shift throughout and across projects.
The Ugly: Digital marketing projects are increasingly complex. That means the skills required to ensure that each digital asset you produce (i.e. website, email, mobile site, mobile app, interactive game, dashboard, integrated campaign, etc.) requires more time, more specialized software tools, and more specialized skills. This rapidly shifting landscape means that with each project there is a greater risk of overlooking dangerous threats to your projects’ success.
What a Balance of Quality Looks Like
So, given the realities above, what does it look like when an agency achieves an effective balance between all of its competing priorities and delivering required levels of quality? The truth is that varies for every agency. But, there are some signs that you have effectively achieved a level that works for your agency. These signs include the following:
– Every time you develop and share a digital prototype with your client it works flawlessly
– You are confident that clients’ digital campaigns produce the customer experience they expect — under all conditions
– You can accurately predict the time, costs, and staff needed to conduct QA throughout the development of your digital assets
– After a project is launched, you are able to pinpoint the people, technologies, and processes that require upgrading to ensure quality is improved
– You set yourself apart from competitors by demonstrating that you consistently deliver digital projects at expected levels of quality in cost-effective ways
– Clients ask your opinion about how to improve the quality of other digital projects that they have been using in the past
– When clients are asked about your work, they consistently use phrases that reveal that meeting their quality standards is your normal way of working
– You have people and processes in place so that when team members leave, you are able to maintain the standards of quality that clients expect
How to Achieve a Balance of Quality
Here is a handful of actions that you take to achieve an effective balance between producing work that meets clients’ evolving expectations of quality and your other top priorities:
1. Flesh out what quality means to clients as it relates to the functionality and performance of the digital assets you produce. Identify the specific devices, operating systems, and versions of operating systems that will be accommodated.
2. Task your QA team to provide detailed project plans with quality-related costs, milestones, and deliverables.
3. Monitor your QA resources throughout the building of clients’ digital assets to make sure they are meeting or exceeding plan deliverables.
4. Task your QA team to provide you with quarterly reports on how they will sustain and/or improve quality standards across projects/clients.
5. Conduct scenario planning with your senior managers to identify the risks/consequences, of delivering assets that fall short of clients’ expectations of quality.
6. Before your team begins work on building (i.e. coding) any digital asset, bring in your QA team to identify areas of high risk.
7. Operationalize and socialize standards of quality throughout your agency so that every one recognizes the consequences of delivering client outputs that fall short of accepted quality standards.
More Practical Insights and a Chance to Win
In my next blog, I will tackle what to do when your agency loses its ‘mojo’ for quality.
To help seasoned agency professionals be more successful, I invite you to use the QA Consultants authored Tip Sheet: ‘Top 10 Things Interactive Agency Owners and Leaders Need to Know About QA’.
The interactive agency landscape is always evolving. So, I welcome your insights about how the dynamic issue of quality is shaping your agency, your priorities, and your projects. By all means, reach out to me directly (via email BTurner at QAConsultants.com) or via LinkedIn.