It’s what the client wants…

What the client wants is a statement fraught with ambiguity and is a constant source of friction between project managers, the client and agency owners.

I’ve had one director at one agency say – “what the client wants is key, always focus on that” and another at a different agency say “don’t just deliver what the client wants, challenge it”. Neither statement is wholly right, nor is either wholly wrong. As so often in the world of digital project management (and of course other industries) the answer lies somewhere in between.

Delivering what the client wants – generally this is accepted as working through a list of deliverables and providing them to the client at the quality they expect, on time and within budget. The key to this being a successful approach is ensuring:

Clear list of deliverables

  • A tight scope
  • An understanding of what out of scope means
  • Good management of your teams workflow
  • Keeping an eye on time spent v revenue

But what if an agency feels they can deliver not just the requirements but that little bit more to make the project or campaign a roaring success?

  • An agency should discuss their thoughts with the client, but importantly this needs to be at start of the project and ensure the ideas are fully explored and fit with the clients business objectives
  • We need to make the client understand why we want to alter their brief and/or the deliverables
  • We also have to be mindful that additional ideas or approaches could have implications on cost? Is this something the client will welcome?

Why do agencies do this?

  • They want to be proud of their work
  • Most agencies can want to do more than just deliver a project brief, they want you to benefit from their experience – this is where the over-used term “adding value” comes from.
  • They have an understanding of digital channels and generally feel they are better placed to understand what will and won’t work

When is challenging a brief a bad idea?

  • An agency is not always privvy to the internal workings and politics of a clients organisation
  • An agency might even feel the deliverables aren’t especially well thought out but sometimes an organisation needs the brief delivering exactly as stated and no questions asked.
  • Trying to add value can end up in scope creep, or more importantly losing sight of the core aims – all of a sudden time and budget becomes an issue

The good agencies can challenge a brief accordingly and use their experience to deliver a better end product (be that a website or a campaign). However a good agency also knows when to step away and deliver what the client wants. The skill is in making that judgement call.

By Simon Williams, Senior Account Manager at Cite DMS