The agency model is dead

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 22 December 2017
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At the beginning of the year I announced it was time for Yoomee to change so we could continue pushing forward with our mission of creating new digital services for vulnerable people. Here's a roundup of what we discovered in 2017.

The agency model is dead

It's time to ditch this dinosaur. The full-service agency model can't keep up with the ever-changing pace of technology. We've done a lot of stuff over the last ten years, and we've changed our team structure many times. But we found that the large team hierarchy that was once key to our success – and had us nicely on track to becoming a £1m agency – was exactly what was holding us back. Building an ever growing, expensive, in-house team with specific, fixed skill sets was not a model that was serving our clients well. So we changed it. We're not an agency anymore.

We've become a collective

We're now a community of designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, researchers, and more. Teams of freelancers come together to deliver specific projects and are bound together by shared values and beliefs which influence the work we do, and the impact we achieve.

We're now able to select the skill sets and people to fit the individual projects, and not the other way round.

This year we've researched, designed and built prototypes, and then partnered with the best technical developers to scale these up to meet our clients' needs. We've done all this as a collective using Agile and Lean Startup principles.

We've always been a social enterprise

From the beginning we built Yoomee as a social enterprise with a strong set of values. Profit is reinvested back into achieving our social aims. We've spent the last 10 years working exclusively in the non-profit sector using digital to support vulnerable people and communities.

Our mission is to help non-profits behave like tech startups, exploit new technologies and approaches for good, rather than for profit.

Build less stuff, test more

We've moved away from in-house software development to focus on research, strategy and design. I've always thought we should build less software, use more services and test more with users. This year we've had a lot of success building and testing prototypes, and then partnering with the best technical developers to scale these up to meet our clients' needs. Making sure that an Agile and Lean Startup approach is adopted by all.

We really love doing Design sprints

Design sprints are still one of the most useful tools we use at Yoomee to help non-profits research and design new digital products. We've been using this approach since 2015 and will continue to do so. This year we've done Design sprints with Time To Change – the UK's biggest movement of people challenging mental health stigma. We've also used the methodology with Doctors of the World and the University of Sheffield to discover new ways of supporting migrants in primary care.

We still start with the people

Understanding how people interact with new technologies and what their needs are is at the core of what Yoomee does. It doesn't matter if we're designing a website, chatbot or telepathic brain interface, it's still essential to get users involved so we can understand what information is needed, how it should be structured and how it's going to be used by real people.

The future is AI and chatbots

What really adds value is discovering new ways of working, and different ways to exploit technology opportunities. To be always moving forward. This year we've been able to use the flexibility gained by downsizing to explore and move into new areas such as Artificial Intelligence and chatbots.

What next for 2018?

We're now much better able to proactively partner with organisations to pitch for innovation funding, rather than be a reactive agency that just responds to big tenders, when it's too late to change the strategy. If you'd like to draw on our experience to help you research, design, test and prototype early ideas, then please do drop me an email on [email protected]

Wishing you all a peaceful break this Christmas. Let me know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. See you next year!

Posted on 22 December 2017 - By Andy Mayer
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