Best Practices for Successful Agency Outsourcing

By Jason Swenk on March 8, 2017

If your agency’s workload is constantly in flux you may have considered agency outsourcing… but, giving up control on a piece of a project can be a little scary. Today’s podcast guest is here to explain some of the best practices for managing partnerships and ensuring success for everyone.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 4 tips to successful agency outsourcing.
  • Managing difficult agency partner relationships.
  • When to call it quits with an agency partner.

My guest today is Tim Barsness, founder and President of Fjorge Digital. Tim got his start as freelancer and from there turned his business into an outsourcing agency with a giant network of partners. He on the show to share outsourcing best practices to ensure solid and profitable relationships.

Tim’s agency has handled development for dozens of creative agencies. Over the years, he’s learned what works (and what doesn’t work) in successful agency partnerships.

4 Tips to Successful Outsourcing

  1. Communicate early and often. It’s important to treat an outsourcing agency like a true partner, in every sense of the word. Loop them in on the project right from the start. According to Tim, a lot of agencies don’t involve their outsourcing partner early enough in the process which results in misunderstandings right off the bat. You can avoid this by involving them on client meeting and emails throughout the life of the project.

  2.  Have a plan and stick to it. As you identify the client’s main goal and develop a plan for achieving it, it’s super important to stay on track – especially when there’s multiple parties involved in the process. Tim says there’s huge margin for error and frustration when a project moves from creative to development and there are changes midstream.

  3. Clearly define your terms. Details are everything. Having a clearly defined Statement of Work prior to the start of a project can alleviate potential issues. A great SOW includes everything from timelines and sign offs to number of rounds and revisions. Set up a successful partnership by having everything spelled out in advance. This will benefit both agency partners as well as the client.

  4. Don’t over promise. Make sure everyone on the team knows the value in the statement: “let me get back to you.”. When you’re outsourcing you should defer to the partner when there are questions or issues which involve their area of expertise. Tim says in an effort to the please the client, sometimes an agency will make a promise about something technical and it ends up causing issues for everyone. Instead, say to the client “let me get back to you” and then get info straight from the source to avoid confusion or frustration.

Managing Difficult Partner Relationships

It happens. You’re working with a vendor or partner and all of the sudden they become difficult or unresponsive. If this is the case, Tim advises stepping into their shoes to figure out why. Some people just shut down in order to avoid conflict. So think about what reasons they might have for going dark… Are they unclear on what you’re asking? Have they over-promised or under-delivered? If you can get to the root of the problem you’ll be able to put them at ease and work through a solution.

But what if there is NO solution?

Sometimes a partner relationship goes too far south and you’d love to call it quits but you feel trapped because you’re in too deep. When this happens, you feel like you have no choice but deal with a crappy situation. According to Tim, doesn’t have to be that way…

Asses the overall risk of severing ties. Ask yourself things like: How much is their work negatively impacting the project? Is the client aware there’s an issue? If so, does the client think they’re part of your team? Who’s managing the project/process? Is there a breakdown in communication between the two teams because the PM or AM doesn’t speak in tech terms?

Using clear and direction communication you can usually diffuse a situation before it gets to the point where you’re backed into a corner.

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