Is it my agency, or is it my platform?

One of the most difficult things to assess is whether your technology or your supplier is the problem. This article gives you some tips on how to establish when to change your technology or your agency.

20 Jan 2016
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Jon Eaton

We often find clients in a strange state of confusion just before they go to RFP. It’s almost like watching someone coming out of a long term relationship;

Was it me? Was it them? What went wrong? Can we get back to that right place? What if we try this? Etc. Etc.


One of the most difficult things to assess is whether your technology or your supplier is the problem. Sometimes it is both, but there is often an opportunity to make a change without having to go through the disruptive and expensive process of completely starting again. This article gives you some tips on how to establish when to change your technology or your agency.

1. When to change your agency

Like any long term relationship, agency engagements can be a bit of a roller coaster. Most clients want their agencies to be dynamic, interesting, creative, etc and this can often come with attitudes of pushing boundaries and breaking rules.

Clients who normally work in more structured environments frequently find this, plus the occasional chaos of agency feast and famine, challenging. The problem comes when you look at your agency and the love has gone. They no longer understand you and you no longer understand them. Performance of your web platform might be a cause for concern but ultimately you know and they know that the trust, knowledge and passion has died. Break up. Move on.


The next thing to decide is to work out whether the technology is worth keeping. The best way of doing this is to find another agency who have experience of working with the platform you have. A number of our clients such as FARO Technologies, ETOA and Kodak Lens came to us this way. Our approach is to conduct a needs analysis (to check that the platform has the potential to support what you are trying to do) and a code review (to establish the state of the code and whether what you have is worth saving).

2. When to change your technology

Technical change is often less emotional. In real life terms it is a bit like watching a Volkswagen Passat slowly chugging to a halt. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to be in it when it finally breaks.  


Early signs of technology failure normally come in a sequence of ‘eureka’ moments.

"Oh, my platform can’t do that"

"I've just realised it has taken me 2 hours to add a news story"

"Only senior developers can work on my platform because all the younger developers weren’t trained to work on my CMS"

"When I asked whether my platform could be hosted in the cloud everyone laughed at me and now I feel sad"

The key thing is to make sure that you keep your eye on issues like this. Web technology, in just the same way as any other technology, will eventually fail if it is not updated and maintained. Change is required when the technology you are using really stands in the way of you meeting your organisational goals and business objectives. I covered this in a lot of detail in a blog post last month titled ‘How to spot if your platform is dying’.

The ideal situation is to spot the need for new technology early. This gives you more time to consider your options and if you use this time wisely you can make more informed decisions.  

3. When to change your agency and your technology

There are situations where organisations outgrow their technology partners and fall out with their agency at the same time. This normally occurs in three situations:  

  • A business is growing very quickly and a fresh approach is needed to deliver against new ambitious plans.
  • A business hasn’t invested very much in their technology for a long time and it just so happens that they have fallen out with their agency.
  • There is wholesale organisational change. New personnel come in and have their own ideas around which partners that they prefer to work with (it becomes about supporting individual performance).

If you are in the first two of these situations (and don’t have a preference on agency or platform) the most difficult thing is working out where to start. Stakeholder management can be quite tricky in these situations as these sorts of projects are frequently Capital Expenditure projects with project steering/buying groups.

The challenge becomes gathering technical, user and business requirements from everybody, examining where conflicts are and working towards a point where you can brief agencies, vendors or both. Having watched a few organisations try to do this (both successfully and unsuccessfully) the best piece of advice I can give is to not try and do it all yourself. Freelance or internal Business Analysts can be invaluable in helping to facilitate meetings and interpret the information gathered in internal discussions. Alternatively engaging with a new agency either in pre-sales or as a one off piece of consultancy might be a good thing to consider.

Summing Up

  • Avoid wholesale changes if you can. It might be that a change of either agency or technology could kickstart your digital strategy.
  • If changing technology try to give yourself enough time to properly explore the market.
  • If changing everything recognise that there will be challenges associated in getting the business to re-engage with the website. Get help from anywhere you can.

If any of this sounds familiar or you have a project that you would like to talk through feel free to give me a call on 0114 279 2750.  

Listed in:  Development Platforms