How to successfully co-create with a product development agency

Everybody knows that two heads are better than one. Now imagine what two complementary teams could do if they were working together. When you’re getting ready to invest time, money, and effort in product development, co-creating with an agency is undoubtedly the best way to pool your resources to amplify the results and design a product that better meets market needs.

Why work with an agency?

There are many reasons why it’s worthwhile to work with an agency to develop your product. A good agency can, for example, give you new insights into your product, bring new skills to the table, and help you boost your effectiveness, speed, and agility during development.

An outside look from experts who have seen it all

It’s a safe bet that you know your project inside and out. But can you still be critical of your product and see what could make it even more compelling for your customers? An agency will not only take a fresh look at your product, but also come with experience from other projects that allows it to:

A proven approach to product development

Product development requires that you follow a rigorous process, especially when the product has to meet strict standards like when developing medical devices. You can’t afford to cut corners or overlook even the tiniest detail. By working with an agency, you’ll get access to a process that was developed by experts and has proven its worth time and again in all kinds of projects.

For example, NOVO has developed the IDEAL process, an approach that not only makes it possible to define user needs and the desired solution very early on, but also challenge them throughout the process. With the IDEAL approach, multiple prototype-test-refine cycles are carried out to ensure that the final product is perfectly suited to users’ needs.

Skills that complement yours

You may have the world’s best engineers, but do they have the experience to conduct quality user testing for your product? Are they well versed in industrial design and ergonomics?

When you use a product development agency, you can tap into a whole new pool of expertise to ensure that every aspect of your product is analyzed and studied from top to bottom.

Additionally, the agency team will be in the know about the latest user experience trends and up to date on the newest technologies that can help you make your product more appealing, first to investors, and then ultimately to end users.

Strength in numbers

Working with an agency also means that you can count on more staff — and qualified, capable, and motivated people, no less! — to get your project moving. And since you’re the client, you’re their priority. That means that product development gets kicked into overdrive and nothing is left up to chance.

How to work effectively with a product development agency

Once you hire an agency to collaborate on developing your product, you can’t just call it a day. You still need to be able to work together effectively. To do that, you need to build a relationship with the agency on a strong foundation and implement good practices to keep everything running smoothly throughout the process.

Choosing the right agency

The first step in creating the best possible partnership with an agency is choosing the right one. In addition to looking for a team that you connect with, you should also make sure that the agency:

Implementing tools to build communication

The key to a successful collaboration is communication. At the outset of the project, decide with the agency what methods you’ll need to use to maintain open and efficient communication.

At NOVO, for example, we use various collaboration tools for different needs: Slack (communicating with clients), Confluence (sharing meeting notes), Miro (creating mind maps), the Google suite (sharing documents) and Greenlight Guru (doing quality management).

Give the agency the resources they need

When we say “resources” here, we’re really talking about people. At each step of the project, you’ll need to designate people internally to work with the agency team. First and foremost, look for people who have the skills to answer their questions and who will enjoy doing so. Also, don’t forget to allocate time for that in their schedules, or they may always have something more urgent on their to-do lists. Lastly, remind your team how critical full cooperation with the agency is to the success of the project.

Get off on the right foot

To ensure the success of the project, you’ll need to take time, right from the beginning, to plan it out. To make that happen, you should hold immersion workshops where you can define and refine the project details together (value proposition, market, target customers, etc.).

Not familiar with immersion workshops? No worries. If you work with an agency that offers a 360° approach (strategy, user experience, engineering, and quality assurance) like NOVO, they can also help you prepare and hold these meetings.

Additionally, schedule project planning workshops to clearly establish from the start:

Stay in touch to stay on track

Once the project is on track, there’s no way that you should go days without hearing from the agency. Transparency is a must. You should have meetings with them at least once a week to discuss the progress of the project, identify potential obstacles, and identify and resolve issues as they arise. Remember that having frequent short meetings is often more effective than having occasional long meetings.
Throughout the project, also make sure that the process you put in place with the agency leaves space for problems and any required changes to come up during those meetings.
When co-creating, flexibility is needed on both sides. Even if the project has been planned out in minute detail since day one, don’t be afraid to suddenly switch it up if things aren’t working like they should, or if an opportunity to further improve your product (say if you discover a new user need or an interesting technology) presents itself.
As the project moves forward, also make sure to keep an eye on the calendar. When you’re working with an agency, staying on schedule is doubly important, since they plan their time based on your shared deadlines. If you’re late getting them information or answering their questions, they might not have time to integrate your input once you finally send it over, which will slow down the entire process. Keep in mind that investing a few hours at the right time can save you lots of time in the end.

Take it a step further

Lastly, the most important thing when working with an agency is to have faith in them at every step of the way. Even if you know your product best, keep an open mind to suggestions and comments from the agency experts. Feel free to share your best practices with them, or make theirs your own.

At NOVO, every new partnership is a learning opportunity and we think you should see it the same way.

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