2013-11-14

Rant: New Media Agencies Should Own Developers

The next day: of course, there is demand for the case of outsourcing.
...this is a bunch of related reactionary thoughts, in a minimally structured fashion, which I'm noting down before I rush off for work.

'communications-service-provider': CSP
'technology-service-providers': TSP

If a CSP views itself as being content-focused, rather than media-development-focused, then sales teams need to communicate clearly with customers as to whose head is on the line if the medium goes down (website offline; other tech bugs; etc.). All is well as long as the customer understands that the risk of new media is the risk of having to manage/development new content (creative campaigns/CS communications/ etc.) on media that are young, changing extremely fast, and high-risk. Unfortunately, end customers of creative campaigns are often software illiterate, and if they have the misfortune of meeting CSPs who pitch new-media solutions without underscoring the technological risk involved in doing so... then the customers are ultimately screwed.

If a CSP-TSP puts its ass on the contract, to handle up-time of media, and if it fails to do so in the following ways (there may be other ways), then the agency deserves to be slaughtered.

INSOURCING:

It's the CSP-TSP's responsibility to build and maintain a development team that survives "bus error" - or "the errors that occur when X staff are hit by a bus" ('bus numbers' being the number of staff that the team can lose before it starts to lose its capability to deliver on mandates).

As for the role of the HR department, agencies that are trying to develop new media, upon which to develop content, can't simply delegate hiring to HR, unless HR knows how to test the competency of potential recruits in terms of their artisanal capabilities as software developers. So the ideal hire for the in-sourcing of a robust technology team is language/platform agnostic CTO: who knows how to hire other developers, who can manually involve herself in troubleshooting unknown systems (the term "alien systems" might communicate more to the average reader), who has the capability to manage and buffer financial, time, and human resources for the development team, and who also can communicate well with the downstream creatives and account managers.

OUTSOURCING:

Otherwise, a separate TSP is engaged. CSPs typically have technology headcount to maintain outsourcing relationships with (a) in the best case scenario, a long-term relationship with a mature TSP that is able to guarantee continuous availability of platforms upon which the CSP is deploying content, (b) in the worst case scenario, a myriad of ad hoc relationships with tool-specific freelances, which is the management of band-aids, really, and (c) something in between (a) and (b).

But it seems that CSP like to cut corners and try to outsource technology work to TSP without hedging contract (read: encashable) guarantees from the TSPs about penalties for failing to guarantee a particular metric of stability in the media that the TSPs are supposed to build and maintain.

Example: CSP trusts the TSP and officially the job has been handed over to "a trusted partner" without any documentation that elucidates the audit of that "trust". What is the TSP's bus number for the current solution? What processes does the TSP have to deal with bus errors? Etc.

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