Agile commissioning

Having committed to deliver SH24 in a highly iterative, agile, designerly way, we needed to commission some external expertise to plug some gaps in our team. Our biggest gap was digital skills.

It was obvious what we needed, it was less obvious how we would find and commission it. Whilst our networks helped to find suitable candidates (both individuals and agencies), the question remained around how we should approach and ultimately commission them – how exactly do you brief and budget for the unknown?  

Despite having completed much of the discovery work, we were still not in a position to pen a traditional design brief – too many unknowns and assumptions to still to test. In essence we know we value interactions, collaboration and experience over traditional processes, but how do you procure them? How could an agency cost constant change and iterative thinking up, to deliver something that has yet to be fully defined?

Writing a request for proposals (RFP) helped us to get around this. We used an RFP as a credentials pitch ‘plus’, allowing us to engage with prospective partners and gain better understanding of them, ostensibly how they work and what skills and experience they had and didn’t have. It also offered us the opportunity to ask some pointed questions about the project – some very technical, some less so. These answers helped us to ascertain just how much people wanted to work on the project, tenacity (both soft and hard skills) and crucially, if they understood our vision for SH24 and how we wanted to work.

Despite the success of the RFP, the budget issue remained, especially as we chose not to disclose our budget. The conclusion we came to is that if you want to work agilely, we’d have to manage our accounts on a more agile basis (albeit a little closer than usual).