EMERCE100: What makes a top-notch digital agency?

By 28 April 2021Innovatie

EMERCE100: What makes a top-notch digital agency?

For the tenth (!) consecutive year, INFO ranks among the top 3 of best digital agencies in the Netherlands. Today, Emerce’s special Emerce100 presents its sixteenth edition, in which INFO was named the number two Full Service Digital Agency.

The agencies were judged on knowledge, price-quality ratio, reliability and flexibility. INFO received 5,5 of the seven stars. We’re extremely proud of this.

Click here for the full list of winners in each category.

EMERCE100

EMERCE100 category Digital agency full service large

Now that we’ve been awarded this sweet second place, we’re curious as to what makes a top-notch digital agency. We are convinced that we would never be able to design and build all the high-quality products for our clients if it weren’t for our amazing people. That’s why, for this blog, we spoke with a couple of our INFO colleagues about what they feel makes a good agency and about what makes INFO INFO.

 

Let me introduce our lovely colleagues

We met with four of our colleagues at their home offices and asked them about agency life. Dorien van den Berg, our very first Agile Tester, has been with INFO for the past fifteen years. She’s had different roles, but now focuses on testing the user stories that we work on each day. Additionally, she’s also the Test Discipline Lead. Mexican Abe Garcia has been with INFO for three years and also is a ‘double agent’: on the one hand, he’s one of our Software Developers and on the other, he’s the Discipline Lead for our Front-End team. This means that he’s the team’s expert and supports them during the execution of their daily tasks. Our Delivery Manager, Thalita Kuijper, has been with us for almost two years. She’s responsible for the delivery of the projects that were assigned to her and she makes sure that everyone stays within the agreed scope. Last, but not least, we have INFO veteran and Front-ender, Stef. Stef has been with INFO for a whopping twenty years and has extensive knowledge about a.o. content management systems (CMS).

Thalita Kuijpers

Thalita Kuijper, Delivery Manager

Working agile and the Scope Governance Board

Here at INFO, we work agile in Scrum teams. Dorien: “Actually, I feel that working with Scrum is the way to go when developing software.” In the past, agencies used to work according to the waterfall model, which focused on four pillars: scope, planning, budget and quality. INFO still uses these pillars, but gave them an agile makeover. “What I like about agile working is that you can work on these pillars together with the client,” she continues. Another benefit of agile working as opposed to the waterfall model is that you don’t have to choose between the pillars, but you can use them in a more focused and balanced way.
Of course, agile working is a very good method for getting results, but not really unique in our field. That’s why we added a little something extra to it, the Scope Governance Board (SGB). Thalita: “Of course, we’re working in sprints and the board provides an extra check to see if we’re on the right track and whether we’re on schedule. This is not standard with other agencies.” Moreover, the SGB helps to involve the client in the process. “That makes it all much more transparent,” according to Thalita.

Scope Governance Board: How to stay in control of you Agile Product Development

Customer relation is king

And that transparency that Thalita mentions is crucial for INFO’s success. Dorien: “I think that you build trust by being honest about what you can do, what you can deliver, how it works, the problems that you encounter and the solutions that you come up with for those problems. If you’re being upfront and are able to explain what’s going on, clients understand the situation and are much more prone to agreeing with you. A good relationship and solid partnership are the foundation for success,” she states. “We’re nothing without our clients!”

Customer relationships are another thing that distinguishes INFO from the competition. Usually, the partnership ceases to exist with the delivery of the product. For us, more often than not, the delivery of a product serves as a jumping-off point. Our goal is always to establish a long-term relationship with our clients. Abe: “I’m super close to our clients. We’re constantly updating each other about the progress of the projects that we’re working on together.” And because the relationships that we have with our clients are so solid, projects often tend to go (much) further than the initial product that they hired us for. Stef, for instance works directly with the client and is able to help make important decisions: “The backlog is filled with new plans and it’s always a struggle to decide what to prioritize. Developers are gonna develop, am I right?”

We also invest in our relationships by throwing (digital) parties and merging our teams with those of the customer. The Product Owner is usually provided by the client and (pre COVID) works alongside our team at our office for weeks or months at a time. Thalita: “For Takeaway.com, we reserved a whole room [at INFO’s office]. Because of COVID, we can’t work like that anymore, so now we do everything digitally and that’s working out pretty well so far.”

Abe Garcia

Abe Garcia, Front-end developer and Discipline Lead Front-end

Flexibility

One of the characteristics that Emerce judges us on and we feel is extremely important (and is also paramount to agile working), is flexibility. Stef feels that he’s pretty flexible usually: “I have a client that often needs things to be done last minute and you just have to deal with that. Luckily, I’ve managed it every time so far,” he says proudly. “[Agile working] allows you to be really flexible with what you can deliver and the quality of it,” Thalita agrees. “Additionally, it provides a lot of room for feedback.” For Abe and Thalita, being flexible is a crucial part of performing their jobs properly. Thalita: “I remember one time when we had a very different idea about a client’s MVP. By maintaining a flexible mindset, we were able to come up with a solution that worked for all of us and in the end, it only strengthened our relationship.” For Abe, it was a project with the municipality that took a lot of flexibility: “In the end, everything we accomplished there was the result of compromise,” he says.

Dorien van den Berg, Agile Tester and Test Discipline Lead

Beyond the scope

It was mentioned earlier, but in the eyes of our colleagues, another characteristic of a good agency is going beyond the scope. Abe: “It’s not like we’re doing something else every six months. We always start out with an extensive user research. We want to know all the ins and outs of the user needs and want to learn about the ‘issues’ that they are experiencing. This way, we really get to know our client and their users and it allows us to not only provide them with what they want, but with what they need.” Stef thinks that INFO always goes the extra mile, because we’re all empathic people: “We’re all proactive, empathic, open-minded and result-oriented.”

Thalita also doesn’t mind going above and beyond for her clients: “We’re always looking for ways to help our clients besides what they hired us to do. It often starts out with a small project, which then gradually spills into other areas.”

Stef te Winkel

Stef, Front-end developer

Beating heart

It doesn’t matter how you look at it, everything that we deliver is conceived in human brains and made by human hands. For INFO, our team is our most important asset and the company’s beating heart. So, hopefully, it doesn’t surprise you that when we asked our colleagues about their favorite INFO memory, these all revolved around their colleagues and working together. The infamous trips to Lisboa and Spa were mentioned, as well as the ski trip that we planned last year (just before the COVID outbreak) and the countless parties, dinners and game nights that we hosted regularly. Stef: “I could write a book about all my highlights here,” he concludes laughing.

So yeah, a good digital agency has to be smart, fair, trustworthy and flexible, but what really makes the difference to us, are the people. They’re the beating heart of the company and the ones that make sure that our clients feel that they can come to us for anything, at any time. We’re convinced that we would never have been able to win this ‘silver medal’ if it weren’t for our amazing team. So, thanks guys! You rock!

INFO is one big, innovative, warm and slightly ‘eigenzinnige’ family. Wanna become part of the family? Check our job openings.

 

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