the Birddog Blog
This is a service industry. Birddog is a service company. We provide professional services. Not products. Not widgets that can be picked off the shelf, inspected, weighed, price-checked and paid for at the checkout.
Friday 5th September, 2008
Service companies provide bespoke, specialist, professional services where no two requirements are ever the same. Every client is different, every solution is made to measure. There are similarities, undoubtedly, and processes that can be repeated, but the delivery is unique every time.
So it comes as no real surprise that projects, campaigns and activities rarely go entirely according to plan. In many respects, precisely because each project is so different, the processes and experience that are applied to them are about the only thing that stands between success and catastrophic failure. And we do this willingly – enthusiastically even. Clients and agencies alike wake up every day, go to work and stand in front of their peers to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… (dramatic pause)… The Wheel!” We reinvent the process every day – it’s the same, but different.
And the variety, the ‘challenge’ is what keeps us all going. But the speed of delivery, the uneven playing field, the twists and turns along the way mean that, at best, plans change and at worst, well, at worst it all goes tits-up. Those are the cards we’ve been dealt.
But my point isn’t, ‘shit happens – deal with it’. Nor is this a tale of woe resulting in the aforementioned colonic disintegration. The opposite in fact. If something can go wrong, it will – the important part is how you respond to the challenge.
We’ve just finished a website. It was a big project for an important client and Birddog was expected to deliver everything required to launch the site. Well, the truth is we don’t deliver everything, not by ourselves at least. We outsource components – in this case the HTML geekery required to make the damn thing work. So far, so good.
And then the changes started. Changes of specification, changes of copy, changes of functionality, changes of content, changes of mind. Changes of underpants. Clearly the changes shouldn’t happen and in the blissfully ideal world we all dream of, the project would run without hitch or interruption. But that never happens so it is at this point we reach the crossroads. Down one road is the ‘contract’ – the small print, holding the client to the agreed specification and the end of a beautiful friendship. Down another is the sucking of teeth, the tut, tut, tutting, the client amendment penalties… and the end of a beautiful friendship. Down the third road is the ability to give the client exactly what they ask for and retain the ability to smile. That ‘third way’ is a hard enough road to travel when the requirement is self-contained. When it requires the willing participation of other parties – well that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff.
I’m not usually exposed to the intricacies of project delivery. One of the few benefits of my grey, receding hairline accessorised with deepening wrinkles and furrows, is the ability to delegate, secure in the knowledge that others more deserving will soon have a similar sallow complexion. But I was privileged to witness this one.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I watched a supplier – propeller-heads no less – move heaven, earth and most of the intervening solar systems to help us deliver the website that reflected the client’s ever changing mood. They did it without blinking, without hesitation and without a second thought for their own safety. They responded positively and consistently to every curve ball. And they smiled.
I was humbled. Having been on the receiving end of this positive experience as well as being on the sharp end of many negative ones, we would all do well to remember that in a service industry the ability to provide a service isn’t a differentiator or a mandate – it’s an entry point.
This is a service industry. Birddog is a service company. We’re going to smile more.