Key Questions to Ask When Vetting Digital Product Agencies (Part 1)

Jenna Rodrigues
October 9, 2020

If you have decided to partner with a digital product agency to help bring your idea to life, we’re doing the happy dance for you! Not just because we’re obsessed with helping our clients do just that… but we truly believe that working with a digital agency is the best way to access the latest and greatest knowledge and technologies so you can increase cost-efficiency and reduce time-to-market.

So… you have your idea brewing like your favorite cup of coffee, figured out where to find digital product agencies, and created a shortlist of candidates. Now you may wonder, “How to hire a digital product agency that meets my product development needs?” After all, a lot is at stake. The wrong choice will not only cost you time and money but also derail the progress and even impact your first-mover advantage.

To ensure successful collaboration, you need to consider the cultural and administrative aspects of working with a digital product development agency. In part 1 of this 2-part series, we’ll discuss how to find a digital agency that’s a good cultural fit for your business.

Key Questions To Determine if a Digital Product Agency is a Good Cultural Fit

“Cultural fit” may sound willy nilly but don’t be fooled! After all, you’ll be working with your agency day-in-day-out for months. You don’t want to cringe every time you have to get on the phone with your team, do you? Not to mention, if you aren’t defining “success” the same way as your agency does, the collaboration process can become inefficient, ineffective, and frustrating.

Here are some key questions you should ask when vetting digital product agencies:

1. What’s Your Approach to Building a Digital Product?

Before putting your idea in someone’s hands, you need to make sure that the team has an idea of how they’re going to turn your vision into a viable product. Pose this question in an open-ended way to leave the ball in the agency’s court and see if it has a sound approach to building a product like yours.

Your agency should focus on building your product in a way that’ll help you optimize your investment. For example, our team is dedicated to delivering the best possible value at every stage by running all product features through our Value Framework. This ensures that every iteration is based on qualitative and quantitative analysis to create the highest value for our clients.

2. Who Will Be on the Project Team?

Ask this question after you have clearly explained your requirements. Find out who’ll be on your product team, as well as their skill sets and levels of expertise. This question gives you insights into whether an agency has a good grasp of your idea and vision so it can staff the project with the right talents.

To build a top-notch product and get the highest ROI, you need a team of experts with deep knowledge in their areas of expertise. Look for an agency that will staff your product team with seasoned professionals who have extensive experience in working on products similar to yours.

3. When and How is Progress Measured and Reported?

Herding cats isn’t in your job description. Who wants to hire a team that isn’t tracking what they have done and know exactly what they need to do next? But that’s more common than many agencies want to admit. You should ask an agency how often it’ll provide status updates and what the reports entail so you can stay in the loop.

Find out how the agency plans to measure success for your project. “What gets measured gets done” and as such, your agency should use KPIs that align with your objectives. Measuring the right metrics is key to making sure that you and your agency are rowing in the same direction during the entire product development and launch process.

4. What’s Your Communication Plan?

You should expect thorough accountability to short-term timelines, delivery cycles, and key milestones from your product development team. Find out if an agency has a well-defined plan and established channels to communicate incremental progress based on your product roadmap and get your feedback on deliverables along the way.

Your agency should assign a single point of contact (e.g., a product manager) to facilitate efficient communication, manage the product team, handle reporting, and identify risks as they arise in the development process. Also, it should define an escalation path to ensure that all your concerns are addressed promptly.

5. What’s Your Value Proposition?

An agency should be able to articulate why you should work with them instead of its competitors. Also, its value proposition should align with your product development requirements. Say, a specialty in “medical IoT applications” may sound fancy but probably does bupkis when it comes to developing an app for knitting patterns. If an agency can’t map its capabilities to your project, it’s a red flag that it doesn’t understand your product idea.

Some key questions to ask a candidate include:

• Do you offer end-to-end services that encompass product strategy, design, prototyping, development, and go-to-market strategy?

• Do you specialize in specific industries and verticals?

• Do you have a unique framework to deliver the highest value to your clients and ensure the success of each project?

• What differentiates you from others?

Get the Highest ROI From Your Digital Product Agency By Ensuring Cultural Fit

Seeing eye-to-eye with your product development team can eliminate many unnecessary back-and-forths down the road so your project can go as smoothly as possible. This helps you minimize errors and delays that could derail the progress, impact your time-to-market, and affect how quickly you can start generating revenue.

To find the right digital product agency for your project, you should do your research, create a shortlist of high-quality candidates, and ask good questions during the initial consultation to vet each agency. After all, you want to know that you can trust the team to execute your vision without breathing down their necks every step of the way.

Use the questions here to help you identify an agency that has what it takes to build you a killer product on time and within your budget. Not to mention, finding the right agency can be the beginning of a lasting partnership in which it will become your portfolio partner to manage your full range of digital products and ensure the highest performance in the long run.

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