One of the things that is really clear to us (and that we hear often from our clients) is that the way we engage with our clients is unique. In fact, bringing clients in early and often to our process is one of our specialties at Cloud Four.
Turning the model on its head
It’s not unusual for agencies to embed with client teams, and do good work helping the team execute the project at hand. Many times, however, companies hire an agency and hand the work off to them completely. There’s usually some transition point where the project is returned to the customer, but the extent of the exposure the client has had to the work is in review meetings and conversations. If it’s work that will have a life beyond the agency’s contract, they will have little exposure to the inner workings of it. It can be really hard for the client team to pick up this work and run with it.
At Cloud Four, we like to turn this model on its head. We ask our customers to embed with us.
We are often afforded the opportunity to have client designers and developers embed with us for a period of time, so we can bring them up to speed on the work that we are doing. In the end, the deliverable is theirs to manage, so it makes sense for us to bring the client in as deep as we can during the project.
One of our clients described this method as follows:
“It’s not like you gather client requirements, go away and make something, then come back and ask for feedback. It’s constant iteration, constantly involving the client.”
As we embark upon a project, we work with the client to identify important stakeholders that can affect the outcome of our project. We talk to the client team about the level of engagement that we will need to be successful in this work. We make sure we have their buy-in to proceed in this fashion.
We use Slack to solicit feedback, discuss early prototypes, and share status with the client team. We share early and often. The client team has access to all the Cloud Four team as well, so they can ask questions and check-in as needed.
During this process, we are able to identify designers or developers from the client who will actually embed with us, reviewing and issuing pull requests and enhancing the pattern library deliverables. We work with them to make sure they are comfortable in the designs and code.
The result is that the client owns the deliverable throughout its creation and is able to contribute to it in a safe and productive environment. There’s no throwing a deliverable over the proverbial wall; there aren’t many big reveals. When it’s time for hand-off, it is mostly ceremonial since the thing that is being handed over is already theirs.
Our goal is to build great things, and help our clients manage and grow those things once our work is done. Ensuring that clients are deeply involved throughout the project is one important way we achieve this.