Henry Kogan
Henry Kogan 24 August 2016

How to Select the Right Agency for Your next Web Project

Most organizations don’t have the capability to build a complicated web property on their own, and even if your business has the resources, you may be inclined to seek outside help to get a fresh perspective.

Organizations today need flexible technology to deliver digital experiences and they also need the right service partners. This is where creative, digital and full-service agencies can help put all the pieces together.  

Selecting the right agency is crucial for your website, app or other digital properties to be successful. One size certainly doesn’t fit all. Even though most agencies are capable of handling an intensive web project or app, you have to pick the one that is right for your needs.

Many organizations opt to bid their digital projects via a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quote (RFQ) process while others meet directly with multiple service providers and then make a decision. Here are some questions you should ask during your first meeting with a potential agency to ensure you get the best possible team on your project. These questions would also be important aspects of an RFP or RFQ.

1. What are your agency’s primary services?

It’s important the agency’s primary services accommodate your project vision. Some agencies focus on back-end work only while others are experts in digital strategy, marketing or creative. In a previous post we discussed how to plan your next web project and described the various types of agencies, so take a look for more information.

2. How is your agency set up?

Learning about the structure of the agency breaks the ice and begins the vetting process. You should ask how the firm operates, how many employees it has, and the qualifications of the team members who would manage your project. This is also a good time to ask about the company’s core values and see if they align with your organization.

3. Does your agency outsource any of its services?

It’s important to understand what aspects of your project will be managed in-house and which tasks, if any, will be delegated to third parties. Outsourcing is not necessarily a deal breaker but it’s not ideal by any means. You should ask the agency to provide detailed information about their partners’ qualifications. Do you still have doubts? Ask to set up a meeting with the agency and the third party. Also be sure to confirm with the agency how project management and communication will be handled together with you, the agency, and their outsourced teams.  

4. What is your agency’s typical project management approach and implementation process?

Building a website or app can take a long time and expectations on both sides should be realistic and communicated clearly from the very beginning. No matter the nature of your project, it’s essential the process is well defined and the project is managed efficiently. A well-organized agency will have their standard implementation process documented in some fashion, and the Account Manager should be ready to speak of his or her project management processes, and how they keep the client up-to-date on milestones, deadlines, and delays. Before you select an agency, discuss all of your milestones and define a timetable for the project.

A good agency  defines KPIs and goals with the customer before the project begins and uses them to steer project management. Clearly defining metrics up front prevents the customer from being distracted by “irrelevant” topics like the positioning of a picture. A goal/KPI may be defined as an increase in revenue, better customer satisfaction with self-service or saving cost by digitizing a process. It may be simply creating a mobile  version of the client's site. Post-project, the agency would compare these previously defined goals with the actual results to determine project success. 

5. Which technology and systems does your agency use and why?

Digital agencies typically specialize in a specific programming language and a particular CMS or CMSes. Ask the agency to explain why they favor certain systems and what the benefits are for your business.

Some key considerations include:

  • the platform’s extensibility and flexibility to support current and future business needs
  • the strength of the repository and the ability to customize the content model
  • the ability to deliver content on websites and beyond, to apps and the Internet of Things (IoT)—even if this seems far into the future, it’s best to think ahead!
  • the ease of integration with internal and third-party systems via APIs
  • the user experience for content creators and developers (especially if you may take the project in-house down the road)
  • the availability of extensions and of course the roadmap

Also be sure to ask the agencies about the limitations of each system, and listen for a transparent, well-informed answer.  Then do your own research on the systems themselves—an investment in a CMS is a strategic decision that requires careful consideration in itself.

6. Can you show me similar work from your portfolio?

In addition to the technology question, this is also imperative. Ask the agency to walk you through some projects for other clients in the same industry, product type, and primary challenge. What did the agency learn from each project? See if they can deliver some best practices and show they know which pitfalls to avoid, and listen carefully to how they talk about their clients’ KPIs. If the agency doesn’t talk about objective metrics, that’s a red flag A good agency will internalize their client’s KPIs for the end product and this should come through in how they talk about their past projects.

7. Can you provide a proposal with some alternative approaches?

Challenge your prospective agency to show they can think outside the box. They’ll surely provide a proposal but request they provide some alternative ideas as well. You may uncover some new insights and you’ll be able to test if they can solve a problem in multiple ways.

When discussing the proposal, pay attention to the picture they paint. Are they being transparent about potential complexities or areas where there are trade-offs between two approaches? Favor the agency who proposes clear ways to simplify a project into phases and deliver on incremental requirements—this is a good indicator of business value and ultimately project success

8. Can you provide me with 3-4 client references?

Sure, most references will be vetted by the agency and thus quite positive but strike up an honest conversation and just listen. People love to talk about their projects and you may very well find out an agency is exactly the one to hire… or if the picture isn’t so clear.

9. Beyond your technology and strategic expertise, what else do you offer to build a strong collaboration with your clients?

Building a website or app is an intimate process involving regular interaction between  your team and the agency. Needless to say, a cultural fit is very important. Pay attention to how the agency answers this question and, in general, how they interact with you throughout the discovery process. There needs to be a soft connection for good cooperation—it isn’t only a digital interaction.

We hope these questions provide a strong foundation in your agency selection process. Needless to say, your organization should compare quotes from different agencies, taking into account everything from their proposals, portfolio, company vision, and references. At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself, which agency shows they understand my business and my goals and has the project experience and expertise to deliver.

At eZ, we are dedicated to helping organizations improve the customer experience and we achieve success through collaboration with top agencies. Our partners have deep portfolios showing their expertise using eZ software and other technologies to meet customers’ needs and deliver a range of digital experiences.

Stephane Grunewald, General Manager/Partner at Kaliop Canada, an eZ Partner, says,

“Most websites today are the center of your business. It’s part of your revenue and marketing. It has to generate leads and sales. You need to brainstorm with your agency to make sure the revamp of your site will be profit driven. This concerns not only the user experience but also back-end CMS you will use. Your agency should be able to support all your efforts.”

If you are interested in learning more about our partners and how eZ’s CMS can deliver, create and optimize your content, don’t hesitate to contact us.   

Image Credit: Freepik 

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