Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What tech ‘bad habits’ are agencies advising clients to give up in 2021?

By Barry Flaherty, Head of Strategic Alliances (EMEA), Jitterbit

If you could put your ear to every internal agency meeting, you’d likely hear the same set of challenges in delivering what clients want. Clients that procrastinate, those with poor inter-department communication, ones where momentum keeps being lost to bureaucracy and most commonly, clients with big ambition that somehow ends up mired in data silos.

Everybody recognises the need for ever greater speed, agility and swifter delivery. So what’s getting in the way? We spoke to tech and innovation leaders at some of the UK’s most exciting digital agencies and asked them to shed some light and reveal what tech ‘bad habit’ they are advising clients to give up this year.

From slowing down to speed up, banning unnecessary jargon and untangling the spaghetti junction multiple systems, we got some fascinating responses from Wunderman Thompson UK, Succeed Digital, 4Roads, Monsoon Consulting, 383, RizkMcCayTribe, Jitterbit, Rufus Leonard and Priocept.

Q) What technical / digital ‘bad habit’ do you advise your clients to give up this year?

Brad Smith, Director & Founder, Succeed Digital:
Digital transformation isn’t something you actually ever achieve or attain. It’s a state you are constantly in. The brands that stop evolving and adapting to the climate are the brands that struggle. In summary we need to stop trying to solve the big problems and revert to making noticeable small improvements in digital that when combined contribute to an overall greater experience but allows you to see progress in a much more agile and consistent manner.

Mandhir Gidda, Chief Technology Officer, Wunderman Thompson UK:
What we saw in 2020 was a wide scale market reaction driven by many of our clients to ensure that they had as much market saturation as possible within the digital ecosystem in order to respond to the pandemic. This has seen feature after feature being deployed as competition between brands grew fierce, yet the long term ramifications could ultimately be technical debt and creating almost a spaghetti mess of multiple systems connecting to each other with no clear strategy. In 2021, we’re talking to all of our clients about the mantra of slowing down to speed up. Understand the foundations that now need to be put in place in order to create success for the business, for the people and for the end product. The outcome of this may not initially see velocity of shippable features, but will see the long tail benefit of shorter development times and higher quality outputs.

Sandro Petterle, Technology Director, Rufus Leonard:
I’d say clients should stop managing their infrastructure in 2021. Start paying only for what you use and stop using monolith large platforms that you only use a small part of. Start choosing the best-of-breed for each part of the platform you need. Most importantly, think – what are the real differentiators for your business? Those should be owned by you. You should have a microservices API approach that is narrowly focused on your core business differentiators and use integration platforms to help you accelerate, otherwise you’re wasting your efforts and your budget. Many of our clients needed to evolve their propositions, quickly, to remain competitive in changing markets. Having this type of architecture in place meant they could innovate at speed and were not late to the market.

James Browne, Director, 4Roads:
Data is a currency and businesses tend to throw away valuable data far too often. A digital strategy cannot be developed without fully considering all other aspects of the business that could benefit or be impacted. It’s important to look carefully at the systems and digital tools in place and then extend that conversation into other areas of the business so that every bit of data is managed across the enterprise.

Tadhg Bowe, Magento Solution Specialist, Monsoon Consulting:
Probably not to follow “the path of least resistance”. Instead, put online/digital/eCommerce right at the top of the table for an organisation’s strategy. Not to think of eCommerce as an afterthought or purely an “IT” internal project.

Leon Barrett, Product Director, 383:
There’s too much on the output and not the outcome – that is, taking too long to release value to end users. Related to this is paralysis by inaction – trying to strategise too much about something and not then doing anything at all. Linked in with that is not actually planning and thinking that we’re still in pure reaction mode (related to COVID).

Tracey Burridge, Director, RizkMcCayTribe:
Thinking that digital is static. Clients need to see it as a constantly evolving thing that should run through all elements of your business and brand.

Dan Norris-Jones, Director & Co-founder of Priocept:
The same bad habits that we have been advising clients to give up since we founded Priocept in 2004! These are twofold but related. Firstly, to avoid making their technology solutions unnecessarily complicated – strive for a simple and elegant solution, and introduce new technologies only because they meet a business need, not just because they are new or trendy. Secondly, to avoid technical jargon and to use plain English wherever possible – one of Priocept’s founding values was “never blind with science”, and we aim to make complex technical subjects as easily understandable as possible, for non-technical business people.