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What to expect when onboarding with a new agency

  • By 3chillies

Occasionally as a marketing and IT team you’re going to change digital agencies. It doesn’t happen often – perhaps only every few years – but it can be quite a significant change to make.

There are lots of reasons why you’re working with a new supplier. It might be that the relationship with your old agency has run its course, and you want a fresh approach and perspective. It might be triggered by the need to re-platform and you need another agency with more technical expertise. It could even be triggered by a change in leadership within your team or another event within your organization. Sometimes it might be that your old agency has decided they no longer want to partner with you. Whatever the reason, you’re going to be moving on to a new working relationship.

We’re often asked what is involved in onboarding onto a new agency. In this post we’re going to explore this in more detail, so you know the kind of things to expect if you are going to change agency. Of course, the exact process will differ from agency to agency, but there will be some commonalities.

The three streams of onboarding

Working with a new agency tends to have three streams. The first is really sorting out all the contractual and commercial details, including signing a Master Service Agreement. This can involve a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with procurement, haggling over the contractual small print and finalising the details around payment. Usually its straightforward, but it can occasionally be a bit fiddly, but it invariable gets sorted out. As most of our clients also opt for ongoing support, there will also be the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to agree. Most agencies have a variety of different options – for example most of our clients opt for office hours support but we do offer some clients 24-hour support too.

The second stream is really about getting to know your agency and agreeing working patterns. To a certain extent this will already be under way from any RFI or RFP sessions or interactions that may have already taken place and won’t necessarily have a formal process; for example, you may have a more informal or even social meeting for your digital team and the dedicated agency team to get to know each other better.

The third is about a more formal onboarding process which takes your agency to the point where it can formally take responsibility for the scope of the work agreed in contracts and agreements, which usually will be around developing and supporting your current environment, and formally offboarding from your current provider. This is often the area which is most prone to misunderstandings about expectations, for example around the time that official support can be made or the scope of initial work required to make an environment supportable.

Site review and stating support

For clarity, here is the process that we follow at 3Chillies so we can start supporting you.

  1. Setting up a local environment for review
  2. We’ll need to undertake an audit of your site and CMS. We’ll do this by obtaining a copy of your environment that we can set up locally in order to be able to take a detailed audit and review of the site. We’ll usually need to work with your IT function or have the co-operation of the incumbent agency to set it up – usually it is rare for the latter to be an issue. All agencies know that they need to both onboard and offboard clients from time to time, so it’s in nobody’s interest to get in the way of the process.

  3. Performing the site audit
  4. We’ll undertake our audit and review of the site. We look into multiple aspects such as:

    • where coding isn’t optimal or doesn’t reflect good practice
    • where there are potential performance issues or the risk of performance issues
    • areas of compliance such as cookie management
    • security areas such as SSL or locking down the CMS based on IP address
    • issues with content
    • and more!

    The audit is an important piece of work which has real value for the client. We choose to charge for it, although it is almost always considered a reasonable cost by the clients we have onboarded.

  5. Document the audit findings
  6. We’ll document our findings in a report which are usually classified into Red, Amber and Green priorities. Any issue coded “Red” is anything that we would require to be fixed before we are able to support your environment. Anything “Amber” are issues we would strongly advise to be fixed, although we don’t necessarily need it to happen for us to start supporting you. Anything Green are more nice-to-haves which might be put onto your backlog and perhaps are to consider at a future data.

  7. Walk-through and clarification session
  8. After receiving the report we’ll usually hold a session to walk through the key findings and explain why particular work needs to be carried out and also clarify any points.

  9. Agree schedule for work
  10. After confirming that a client is happy to proceed with the necessary changes to make their environment supportable, we’ll prepare a statement of work and costings to be agreed and signed. Once this is done, we can then schedule the work in.

  11. Set up the environment and completing the work
  12. Finally, we’ll then start the work, first setting up the production, staging and development environment. Again, this may require co-operation from your current provider.

  13. Support begins
  14. Once the work is completed, formal support as outlined in the SLA can begin.

A smooth onboarding process revolves around good communication

Most of the time onboarding is a smooth and even enjoyable process as we get to know the team and get stuck into interesting and exciting work. However, it can be a significant change and there can be misunderstandings or unexpected issues, for example problems identified in the site audit that add to costs. There can also always be the odd bump in the road as everybody gets used to working together.

We find that good communication is at the heart of any smooth onboarding process. We’re always keen to keep you informed if we encounter any issues and equally keen to hear if there are things that we can do better. When there is clear and honest communication from the get-go, then it lays strong foundations for a great future working relationship.

Changing agencies

Onboarding with a new agency is a significant change and it helps to know upfront what’s involved. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of changing agencies or you’re interested in working with us, then get in touch!

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