A majority of the digital design services have a conventional ‘services mindset’ where they are hired to do a job—to design and deliver a product. By contract and by conventions, agencies have nothing to do with product’s success, there are no stakes involved, and this is a dangerous alliance IMO.
To say that we provide ‘services’ is a way to excuse ourselves from the ownership and accountability for the outcome of our effort. ‘Services mindset’ gives us a (sort of) license to not to care about product’s success, and it is such a disservice to the product investors—founders, and all stakeholders.
As service providers, we are enablers and facilitators. We are, certainly. The clients hire and the project’s delivery in time and on budget is a win-win for all. There are many agency teams who continue to respond to the founders’ requests for change in scope, revised specifications, and unclear product vision. They service these products beyond months and years because this is their agency business model—to continue working on a project.
This is such an anti-product thinking.
Agencies should educate the founders for a customer-validation driven, faster delivery model. They should design and deliver, but the sphere of impact needs to be widened. The products orbit is totally different and agencies need to operate differently. (Whether startups should or should not outsource their products development—is a different argument as there are merits in either case.)
Industry insights talk about the success rate of startups and they count it on the founders’ failure—clarity in market-awareness, product timing, budget or location constraints, questionable leadership. For all those founders who outsource the product, the services agencies own a big pie in this failure chart.
The agencies path just serves their purpose for today—it may not sustain for tomorrow.
Disclaimer: I own a digital agency, vhite and we advise product leadership on the product narrative, success metrics, on product viability, marketability, pricing strategy, and how the growth may look like in 12 or 24 months after the launch.