The agency model is dead

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 22 December 2017
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At the beginning of the 2017, I announced it was time for Yoomee to downsize so we could continue pushing forward with our mission of creating new digital services for vulnerable people.

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 from innovating. 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 figure out if something is worth doing, and should be used by all non-profits that are researching and designing 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.

We still embrace new technologies

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.

The future

We now partner with our clients as an internal part of their team – rather than being just another external supplier who chases larges contracts and responds to big tenders. We proactively partner with you to help you pitch for funding and find new opportunities. We work along side you to develop and test new ideas.

If you'd like to build a new digital platform, or enhance an already existing one, then you can draw on our experience. Please do drop me an email on [email protected] to start the conversation.


Posted on 22 December 2017 - By Andy Mayer
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