Aren’t all agency relationships open and collaborative?
We’d all like to think so.
But as someone who has spent over 25 years building, maintaining, and growing billion-dollar tech brands, I can tell you—without hesitation—that the answer is no.
Throughout my career, I was fortunate to have been part of skilled internal brand and creative teams and to have partnered with a global network of talented agencies. But it took me a lot of time and effort (and some heartburn) to learn the difference between agencies that are open by design and those that are open by request. Let me explain.
Many of us are familiar with the open source way. While the idea of open source originated in the context of software development, it now describes a movement centered on values and principles that can apply to products, projects, and processes in any business or industry. Those who truly believe in open source engage in open, transparent exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, and inclusive community.
Open by design
We have a deep-rooted belief that being open by design leads to better results, better client experiences, and more humanized tech brands. To do so, we focus on:
We value clear, helpful communication and transparency regarding the process, the thinking, the materials, and the work.
We have the experience to know when to include more people in the process and when to cut back to focus attention. And when to adjust the time and placement needed for things like consensus building and change management.
The entire collaborative working team (agency + client) has access to the information and materials necessary for doing the best work possible, together. And when the works in progress are collectively owned, communication flows freely. Ideas and discoveries come from anywhere—and more effective decisions and better understanding occur as a result.
Not only do we accept participation, we invite it and expect it. Only through collaboration can we enhance each other’s work. Building on what others know and share can unlock new possibilities in unanticipated ways. The end result is a better product that we all believe in.
We share work early and often. Our approach is iterative, it turns the traditional discovery and review cycles on their heads, which leads to better solutions, faster. Clients get to see and react to work as it happens, not just when it’s completed as if we’re behind some magic curtain.
After all, we don’t just say we’re an extension of a client’s team, we truly engage that way. When you’re free to see and participate in early work, you can approach problems in new ways and find answers in new places, together. This leads to faster discoveries, less wasted time, quicker speed to market, and, ultimately, more value.
There’s a certain pace and speed required for working and thriving in the tech space. We like to call it working in “tech-time.” Change happens quickly with people, processes, markets, and offerings.
The ability to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment is key, but so too is knowing when to move on—knowing when to evolve ideas vs. creating new ones. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting stuck in place and not making progress toward your goal.
It’s important to balance the inclusion of voices and information with the speed and effectiveness of the process.
Agencies that are used to working in an open and collaborative way know when the time is right. They can help navigate through the twists and turns of a project, avoiding the pitfalls, while still encouraging creation along the way.
At New Kind, communication, collaboration, and adaptability provide a crucial foundation. Using these principles, we build off of each other’s ideas, experience, and expertise—exponentially increasing the value of a client’s brand.
Open by request
Contrast being open by design with being open by request. All agencies usually want to be open and collaborative. But when asked directly about the open source way, some think, “Open source means open; how hard can it be to work alongside an internal creative group on a project? We’ll just incorporate them into our existing processes.” They believe the open source way is something they can learn and execute fairly quickly and easily.
But I’m here to tell you it’s not that easy.
Implementing an open source approach to working with clients takes passion, practice, experience, and a deeply rooted belief that the way you are working is truly better. It’s not something that can be switched on and off or implemented overnight.
Open source values are foreign or difficult to some. When push comes to shove and things get difficult (which can sometimes happen) they can resort back to their old ways—siloed, closed methods of creation and communication. They do their best to accommodate an open and collaborative approach, but they can fall short.
Define the way you want to collaborate with agencies
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that choosing an agency to work with and knowing how you want to work with them is an important decision impacted by many variables—especially in the tech space. What’s right for you today, may not be right for you tomorrow.
When I was the client looking for agencies, it was important that they be familiar with the open source way—working transparently and collaboratively. We needed agencies who were willing and able to work with our internal creative team, not just for us.
Transparency, collaboration, and adaptability were our non-negotiables. These must-haves guided us through countless projects and agency partnerships. They set the foundation for the working relationships we knew would result in the best outcomes.
Working the open source way is undoubtedly different. It requires a level of trust, openness, collaboration, and transparency that most are just not used to. It may even feel unfamiliar or surprising—especially if you’re not used to working that way. But the experience and results are energizing, exciting, and rewarding.
There are many ways to work with an agency, an open and collaborative approach being one of them. No matter which way you choose, start with your non-negotiables. Identify the things that are most important, that you won’t compromise on, and let them drive your agency selection process.
Having seen the true benefits of open source extend beyond just software, I was determined to bring this approach to our agency partnerships when I was the client. Now, I’m thrilled to work for an agency that shares the same open source passion and DNA—delivering experiences that are open by design, day in and day out, for every client.
Looking for an open source tech branding agency to collaborate with? We’d love to hear from you.