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6 pros and cons of working agile on-site with clients
Some key clients that The Friendly Agency work with have adopted agile design methodology which requires designers to be on site. 2016 EOFY marks my first year with Friendly and in this short amount of time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with multiple clients lasting anywhere from urgent one day placements up to 3 month engagements. Below are advantages and disadvantages I’ve observed from my perspective.
Different Workplaces and Cultures
Personally, a major appeal of being on site is the ability to experience different environments and cultures. Coupled with agile workspaces, switching up my environment meant that I’ve never risked getting too comfortable in one place.
Part of being a better designer is developing empathy but an unfortunate side effect of working in a silo does the opposite: tunnel vision. This is what agile design methodology solved that waterfall couldn’t. I’ve had the benefit of collaborating with amazing people from different industries who all brought their individual insight to a project. Completing tasks in sprints and having regular stand up meetings also ensured all stakeholders were up to date.
As a designer, seeing the client in person allows a better understanding of challenges without confusing back and forth emails. Truly being part of the team also encourages a genuine sense of accomplishment for when challenges are overcome.
If I’m on-site and situations get out of hand, there is comfort in knowing that Friendly is there to rely on. For example, if there is a case of scope creep, our project managers were able to step in to align expectations.
Alternatively, from a client perspective, the ability to work on site allows Friendly to respond to urgent situations. When the client’s in-house team aren’t available or can’t handle workload, they are able to rely on us to step in and keep deliverables on schedule.
Out of touch with colleagues
One of the disadvantages of being immersed in client side is risking getting out of touch with colleagues at the agency. Friendly navigates around this by having daily standup meetings and an organised day of the week to work from the agency office for longer term engagements. We also use Slack as a main form of communication that’s split into project channels so the team has a general idea of everybody’s status.
Depending on the client, having direct contact means a lack of Project Management to filter communications between the designer and the client. In some cases, this risks poor time management and responsibilities that don’t relate to the scope. This is a potential detriment to quality of work and level of output but It’s a given that we try to deliver more value where possible.
It’s a default expectation to be presentable and professional in a workplace. However, as a representative of Friendly, I had to be diligent and aware of how my actions would reflect back on the agency.
The past year has been an enjoyable and valuable experience. Ultimately, it’s been a delicate balance between focusing on my craft and client management. It’s truly highlighted the importance of developing an understanding of clients’ situations and empathy of their experience with engaging with an agency.