The real digital divide

Digital agencies, consultancies and everything in between.

At Tigerspike, we consider ourselves agents of digital change and we really do build amazing products. Our approach is simple: We solve problems through good design, creating and optimising interactive user experiences to improve business and end user ROI. We operate with a fairly flat reporting structure that takes away from the traditional emphasis on hierarchy, thus resulting in more efficient decision making processes. Although providing services across industries, we are generally not vertical experts but user experience professionals. Our startup type mindset and the agility to innovate, often looking past any barriers to entry, is what uniquely position us in the market. Improving peoples lives has been our mantra — emphasis on improving, not perfecting. It the very embodiment of Marc Zuckerberg’s “done is better than perfect”.

The larger tech consulting companies have cemented their reputation for quality as well and have a lot to be proud of. They have taken years to get to where they are and vast amounts of experience / intellectual property (which includes oceans of data) has allowed them to perfect their value proposition. Consultancies are primarily concerned with the strategy, structure, management , architecture (technical and functional) and operations of an organisation. They will identify options for the organisation and suggest recommendations for change, as well as advise on additional resources or process improvements to implement solutions. Their wealth of expertise and global resources make some consultancies extremely well marketed contenders, thus leading clients have notoriously high expectations of them. For this reason, “done is better than perfect” will never materialise. A challenge to be spontaneous when it comes to innovation as the company focus is always on longer-term solutions for reducing uncertainty and ensuring that both the firm and client is not on the verge of reputational damage.

We are in an age of collaboration, in which both consultancy and digital agency operating models can benefit from one another. While agencies often possess an impressive range of horizontal skills (e.g. user experience and user interface design, architecture, quality assurance, project management and development), the reality is that more often than not, only a few see the bigger picture of what is trying to be achieved. On the other hand, within a consultancy, we are at times insufficiently agile to respond creatively to client delivery needs. We tend to create a situation of analysis / paralysis as to when and why we should move forward with a specific solution or adopt a specific technology. Ever mindful of the implications of accidental public disclosures of client information, security is often at the fore of every discussion. What this means is that creativity can be stifled if we are not allowed to colour outside of the lines from time to time.

Creating a great product requires a sense of user centric design thinking and much like a consultancy, an exposure to successful and failed projects. As a result, many agencies and consultancies now offer digital consulting as a value add and at times extend their capabilities through mutually beneficial partnerships agreements. Having worked in both models, I have highlighted a few key takeaways:

1. Know when to partner

  • If you are vesting in a strategic architectural or organisational transformation piece, a partnership is probably not going to help — consultancies are more effective at that.
  • Design doesn’t solve all problems but it’s excellent for innovation — it helps people and organisations cut through complexity.

2. Leverage each others strengths

  • Consultancies are experts in solving problems through organisational architecture and strategic process improvement.
  • Agencies are experts in solving problems through design and creating and optimising interactive user experiences to improve ROI.

3. Expectation Management

  • Within the consultancy — there is a need for a paradigm shift. Agree on a shared set of values / KPI’s and assess the monthly collaborative innovative progress.
  • Not understanding and defining what success means to each party can be a potential disaster so find your Zen: starting from the top of both organisations, strike a balance between getting it done and perfection.

Whilst there is definitely much both operating models can learn from each other, at the end of the day, the competitive digital landscape means companies need to evaluate their value propositions and seriously think about how they position for market relevance through partnerships.

by Zaheer Hamza

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