Procurement is Broken
Do modern procurement processes guarantee value?
We believe in providing value in everything we do. It’s one of our core values and it influences all of our processes ‐ including our sales and on‐boarding process.
As a result we don’t always behave the same as regular digital agencies. Our on‐boarding process is not about winning business. It has been designed specifically to benefit the final outcome of the project. This article explains why.
The agency sales model
"If I'd asked them what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse" – Henry Ford
Before we became the organisation we are today we were a regular digital agency and we operated the agency model for almost two decades. But the agency sales model is flawed for a number of reasons. The agency model works as follows:
- Client identifies need – The client identifies its need and in doing so often identifies the expected solution before approaching agencies to realise the dream.
- Client approaches agencies – The client approaches a number of agencies and explains the need. In doing so there is an implicit (and often explicit) explanation of the expected solution.
- Agencies responds – The agency responds to the brief. In doing so the agency is investing cost of sale in preparing the response so a successful response is crucial. The response must therefore align with the brief.
- Client selects agency – The client selects the agency, usually selecting the agency which most closely aligns with the brief.
This seems entirely appropriate except there is a key risk here; the brief. The brief is almost never an explanation of the client’s need ‐ it’s an explanation of the client’s assumed solution.
In order to win the business the agency is incentivised to respond to the solution, not the need. They lose points for interrogating the brief, identifying the real need and responding to that need if they identify a solution that doesn’t align with the client’s assumed solution.
The question then is who is the organisation best equipped to arrive at the correct technical solution for the client’s need? The agency or the client?
The outcome in these circumstances is one that fits the brief but doesn’t solve the need. The client’s expectations are based on their need, not their implied solution and as the project progresses the greater the gulf between the expectations (ie. solving the underlying need) and the implemented solution.
This leaves no‐one happy. The client feels expectations have been missed and the agency feels that they’ve provided exactly the solution they were asked for. We’ve seen it time and again, in our own careers and in the public domain ‐ remember public sector projects that go through strict points‐based procurement processes are the worst example of this model.
Deep Blue Sky’s Approach: The project is king.
Working together for the delivery of value; continuously, objectively and successfully.
Deep Blue Sky’s Approach: The project is king.
Our approach looks a little different and fundamentally it’s because we are interested in the client’s need and less interested in the assumed solution. Our flow looks different too ‐ as follows:
- Client Approach – The client approaches Deep Blue Sky with their needs and their assumed solution to those needs.
- Roadmap Workshop – Our first step is always to conduct a roadmap workshop. This gets the entire operational flow out on the table, along with the needs and pressures of the organisation and allows full discussion of the assumed solutions.
- Iterative, Open Build – We then embark on a stream of smaller, more discrete and more clearly defined engineering tasks, often starting with the vital underlying mechanics rather than the cosmetics.
This approach solves a number of challenges;
- We are not distracted by the brief – The Roadmap Workshop is a standalone product. The cost of the workshop is transparent and it provides the client with truly valuable outputs and an holistic understanding of how their project fits into their organisation. We are not incentivised to tell the client what we think they want to hear in order to win business ‐ so we’re entirely objective about the solution we think is best.
- We make no assumptions about the future – We make no assumptions that we definitely know what the final solution will look like in 12 months time ‐ because in truth we don’t and neither does the client. 12 months is a long time in the digital economy.
- Our approach is stronger because it's flexible – The roadmap and the contractual relationship that surrounds our build phase is flexible enough to withstand changes in the market, in assumptions and in the client’s trajectory. We transparently describe the route we think we should take and we take the time to discuss and update the route with the client regularly, throughout the project.
- Our clients fully understand each step we take – The steps on the roadmap are small enough to be easily comprehensible. Each step has it’s own brief, flow‐diagrams, wireframes and acceptance criteria, written as little as a month before the step is started so that the information and expectation is fresh, accurate and relevant.
Continuous delivery; honest, intelligent, inclusive.
An approach that reflects our fundamental promise; to deliver value.
Deep Blue Sky’s approach can be very different to other organisations that operate in our space and it is difficult to judge things when they are not alike. Most agencies operate a model that is designed around the need to convert the lead ‐ they are not designed around what is best for the project.
Deep Blue Sky’s model is designed for the project. It is the model employed by thousands of the world's leading organisation where they have internal development teams for building software and no requirement to win business. It is the model used by startups and by the Googles, Facebooks and Netflixes of the industry, who have no single client but have to continuously deliver exceptional, robust and innovative software.
We understand that in commercial contracts it is important to know what the other party is promising before embarking. The traditional agency model is to make explicit promises up‐ front; with pictures and wireframes and designs and reams of acceptance criteria. But these are often promises for things that will change before they are delivered, so it is often a false promise.
At Deep Blue Sky we have a different promise to make - that serves the the project and our desire to deliver value. We promise to meet the underlying need and we promise to take our clients on a journey of continuous delivery of software that meets the needs of their businesses, improves every month and which helps our clients out‐grow their competition.
Write a comment.