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helpful tips about engaging with andculture

Anne Parmer
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andculture excels in ambiguity. If you know you need to solve a complicated problem, and know the solution involves the interaction of humans and technology, but you can’t find an off-the-shelf solution, you might need a custom solution purpose-built to solve your problem.

andculture’s partners (that’s what we call our clients, because it really is a partnership) are dreamers, innovators, and extremely talented leaders who have the moxie to venture into new territories where there isn’t a conventional playbook.

Because our work is always an adventure into the unknown, you might have some questions like: How exactly do you procure something that doesn’t exist?

Time - Budget - Scope

Every project is measured across three fairly simply axes: time, budget, and scope. Every partner wants to know “How long will this take? How much will it cost? What will I get for the investment?”

This is where operating as a true partnership is really important. At andculture, we have to work hand in hand with our partners to answer those questions together. Let’s look at each aspect:

  • Time: You may have an idea of timing for your project, but because the solution doesn’t already exist (or you would have bought it), any firm timeline is bound to be difficult. Often we begin a project with a high level and general approach that is refined through each phase of the project.

    It’s like trying to understand the surface of the moon: from the earth (today), we may have one idea, but by the time we build the rocket, define the plan, and finally approach the surface, the granularity of our understanding is so much clearer. At the start of the project, the time it takes to do it will be a range at best, but we will refine that together.

  • Budget: We are thoughtful about estimating our projects and do our best to stick within those budgets, but buying great design or custom software isn’t the same as buying something that is well-understood or clearly defined. Because of that, we emphasize partnership with our clients. The clearer we are on your budget, the better we can right-size the scope (make sure it's as accurate as possible).

    That said, our team pours their hearts into their work and they have extremely valuable experience and skills. andculture exists to tackle the really hard challenges, where you're inventing the future and where you have to nail the design, and it is valuable to have a great partner when you’re walking a new path.

  • Scope: Our approach is to acknowledge that we can’t possibly know everything about your organization and your project when we decide to work together. We have to leave room to learn along the way. Some potential partners want to define the scope clearly before they engage with us; it's understandable to want to know what you'll get for your investment. We work to build mutual trust as we wade into uncharted waters.

    Innovation isn’t easy and creating something new is an iterative and incremental process. We use an agile approach, rapidly prototyping and testing. If you aren’t familiar with an agile approach, it involves continuously releasing workable increments, so that at any point our partners have something tangible and valuable in hand.

    In this way, the scope continues to evolve and each step we take defines the rest of the path. This flexible approach allows us to design and build what we actually should design and build, not what we thought we should build when we signed the agreement.

    We love this organic and co-creative process, which is why we work hard to be up front in the business development cycle. We want you to engage with us because you believe we will add value, and you need to know that the relationship (and scope) will evolve as we work together.

How our process kicks off, explained.

We are super passionate about the end users of a system. If it’s not designed with them in mind, it won’t work. This is human-centered design. Often, our partners aren’t the end users (we’re a B2B company, so we serve organizations that are serving humans). We design for the people who ultimately will use the technology.

So the first step in almost all of our engagements is a Discovery phase. We dive into your organization and aim to understand the humans involved in the system, the business case (why you want to do this work) and what constraints exist in the system. We ask so many questions. Our researchers, anthropologists, analysts, engineers and designers want to get to the heart of what you’re trying to accomplish and to understand who will use the things we build. Throughout that process, our multidisciplinary teams work together so that the right and left brain perspectives of designers and developers are always collaborating with your team.

At the end of that research, we have a much clearer path, which usually includes delivering a report on that research.

This is when it gets really exciting! Now we know where we are going together. The steps might not all be filled in, but we’ve got a working relationship in place so we know how to resolve any issues that arise. We move projects through an iterative and agile blend design of the technology/experience and development. And then we test to make sure we're getting things right, all the while reporting back to you on progress and collaborating along the way.

What you really need to know

Innovation is magic. It really is.

There’s beauty in the clash of perspectives. It’s fun, but not easy, and we are really good at navigating the ambiguity. You have to sacrifice the good for the better and the better for the great. That means leaning into our values:

  • Generosity
  • Curiosity
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Vulnerability
  • Optimism

Without those ingredients, it’s hard to form great partnerships. We are humans, designing digital experiences for other humans. It’s a labor of love and magical and, at the root of it, is a team that’s unafraid to roll up our sleeves and co-create with you. That’s what working with andculture is like.

Final pieces of advice

  • Ask questions — lots of them. We’ve never met a question mark we didn’t like.
  • It may be uncomfortable, but it will be good. The best things come from pushing outside our comfort zones.
  • Remember, the future is coming, and we want to design it with you. Be audacious enough to visualize it with us.