Why we must be able to build what we design

Chris Walker

3 minute read

Why is it important for us at Friday to be able to build and maintain what we design and recommend for our clients?

Or to put it another way: why does Friday have an engineering department that comprises some 50% of our headcount?

It is important, because in the words of Colleen DeCourcy “If it doesn’t get built, it doesn’t matter.”

You can have great ideas, brilliant designs, but if they’re not deployed to real users – who will break them – for you to iterate and improve, what is the point?

Engineering is one of Friday’s core in-house capabilities. Our engineers bring our client’s digital products and services to life, working in multidisciplinary teams alongside strategists, designers, experience architects, product managers and delivery managers.

Quite simply, customer experience strategy and design cannot exist in isolation. Without the discipline of having to build it and run it over the long-term, how do you know that what you’ve designed – visually or by way of customer experience – is feasible, usable and useful?

I’ve spent nearly 20 years in pure-play digital doing nothing but making stuff — and the primacy of making real digital is a belief we signed up to the day we founded Friday in 2010. The capability to turn strategically led creative ideas into robust digital products and services continues to be a key part of our overall offering to our clients and their customers.

However, this is not just about being able to deploy the products and services we design. Our engineers are involved throughout the project, from discovering the technical capability of the client to deployment and hosting.

Thus they are able to evaluate how technology will support a new product or service; to evaluate requirements for training on new systems, or new call centre capability; to consider how to operationalise the product or service into the existing legal or regulatory environment.

Delivery of target customer experience (TCE) is as much about the technology underpinnings as the visual design and TCE strategy. It’s yin and yang.

Unless you know how to push the technology so that it’s genuinely customer-centric, then you run the risk of releasing something that fails to fulfil its potential, that does not advance your customers’ experience materially. That would be a waste of time and money, a digital project that’s failed.

Engineering supports opportunities. Where we see our clients enjoy the most success is where multidisciplinary teams - design, strategy, delivery and engineering - work to a common goal, where everyone is aware of the imperative to improve the product or service iteratively, not just deliver it.

We have a makers culture in Friday. Our clients benefit where we are able to introduce this culture into - for example - their IT department.

Our engineers work closely with client technology teams to ensure the technology is built to support the customer experience. We share a vocabulary to describe the work, and share an understanding of what are the moving parts. That puts us in a position to translate that understanding into language that non-technical people on the project can relate to.

We host services for clients in an arrangement that’s analogous to insurance: they pay us a fee to make sure their service stays up. If it does, we collect. If it falls over, we pick it up. Things go wrong, because they’re on the internet, so you need a partner who can fix things quickly.

We wouldn’t be able to do all these things if we relied on outsourced engineering. The factory model works fine where the processes and outcomes are rigid, but what we do requires variability. Hence there is real value in imbedding technical capability in the multidisciplinary team, rather than relying on remote procedural arrangements.

If you want to be a proper digitally native agency, you have to understand how digital is built, why it is built the way it is, and how to maintain and improve the product or service.

Chris Walker

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