Silos and Bands

Some background first; Over the years I’ve worked in few, what you’d call, digital agencies. These are essentially advertising agencies working online. They work with their clients to mainly create banner ads, Facebook Apps & Pages and product specific micro-sites. The holy grail in these agencies is “the viral” campaign.

In these digital agencies there often are few key skill-sets that are intrinsic to the work. These are (broadly speaking); Designers, Developers & Producers. In smaller digital agencies there is usually, next to the Managing Director (MD) who works on the business end, a Creative Director (CD) who manages the production team. In the larger agencies, next to the Creative Director, there usually is also an Executive Producer and a Technical Director.

This is all good of course. Work comes in. Work gets done. Everyone works hard. Everyone plays hard. Agencies grow. People get hired and teams expand.

There seems to be tendency however, that when agencies grow, that silos are created. Designers sit over here. Developers sit over there. Producers sit on another floor, etc. Result; over time, communication breaks down.

When you put a bunch of developers together they want to do development stuff. They want to use software development processes and version control systems because on the Internet they are talking about how important that is. Which it is.

The designers can’t be bothered with any of this. They just want access to a big network drive where they can park their 500Mb Photoshop files.

The producers sort of see the value in having a process but don’t really know where to start with all this. They have the will but lack the savviness of the developers about the details; “A bug tracking system? That sounds good. Set it up!” and then they never use it.

Silos create division.

When you play music in a band you’re not only learning how to play music with other people, you’re learning how to play music with the same group of people. Practice is very important here. Making music with other people can be a bit daunting at times and can cause some friction. Tastes differ and not every bass player plays well with every drummer. A team needs to “click”. It would be easier not to practice playing together and just practice individually. When you finally scored that gig you jump up on stage and tear the walls down, right? I don’t think so..

Just like you learned how to play your instrument (learned to write code, learned how to design, learned your skill) you need to learn how to play in the band, the team, learn to work with other people. If you only play with a bunch of other guitarists you never learn anything about the drums or how to work together with the drums, let alone the singer.

Bands promote communication.

So, rather than having the developers sit over here and designers sit over there, wouldn’t it be better to create a band? Putting together a designer, a developer and a producer. From that point on those people always work together on projects. Over time they learn each others needs and therefore need less communication and less formal process. Each band can work slightly different because people are individuals with individual tastes, and that’s OK. In a band people can work better because they have a deeper understanding of their team mates needs which means they can work faster and produce higher quality work.

Now go start your own band!

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