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Making Client Success Our Success

08-04-21 Natalie Lestini

Learn how studios can closely partner with clients, create supportive team structures, and always stay curious to create mutual success.

At Sparkbox, we believe that you spend too much time at work to be with people who don’t make your life better. When hiring, we’re thinking about the impact team members will have not only on our team, but our clients’ teams as well. And when crafting project teams, we think a lot about putting the right people together to drive toward business needs, objectives, and delivering the most value for the investment.

Web studio work can be challenging and filled with tight deadlines. It can also be rewarding and a great place to learn new things. At the end of the day, our clients—who we consider to be true partners— forge long-term relationships with us because we approach all work with a supportive team, a collaborative mindset, and a learning-focused environment.

Supportive Project Team Structures

The right project team is vital in ensuring project success. Gathering the expertise and knowledge of everyone on the team is crucial and encourages the problem-solving and ideation needed to get the job done. Our team thinks a lot about what the right roles are to foster an open, collaborative environment alongside our partners. Most Sparkbox project teams consist of at least two developers, a UX strategist, a tech lead, a project manager, and a technical director. The makeup of this group can change depending on the complex work our teams are doing together. While it might be easy to understand what the developers’ and project managers’ roles are on a project, what do these other important roles bring to the table?

UX strategists ensure that what we build together is what the users are actually looking for, as well as making the desired feature a usable one that meets business goals. Oftentimes, first-person user research proves vital in providing our partners with strong strategic directions they may not have otherwise pursued. Our strategists work with clients to understand their desired success metrics and ensure that methods are in place to meet those goals. Thanks to usability testing, we helped Resurgent remove complexity for users—increasing trust in the company and the number of successful payments set up went from 40% to 100%.

We also leverage technical directors on each project. They often act as the technical glue—sharing knowledge from other projects or past experience—as well as reviewing next steps while other work is underway to keep the project moving forward. This means we are partnering all along the way to help businesses achieve their strategic goals. Technical directors share their specific technical capabilities as well as their problem-solving acumen to build a quality product.

Our tech leads team up with project managers throughout the project to ensure that we are working collaboratively with client teams on every decision. Our tech leads are vital in providing overall vision, especially at key junctures in the project. They work closely with client product owners to clear code-centered blockers and to help keep work moving forward. The tech lead role is a daily one, ensuring that the client’s technical and business needs are constantly evaluated and met—even if those needs change during the project. Our code reviews, and ultimately the final product we create together are better in large part due to this. Learn how we thoughtfully planned and architected a beautiful, flexible, and sustainable product with Stanford H&S that led to increased delivery speed over time.

Work With, Not Just For

Obviously, our clients know themselves and their products better than we do. And they’ll be maintaining the product even if our team moves on to new problems. Rather than making assumptions based on a project brief, we prioritize frequent feedback loops—often even integrating our teams together to have a stronger technical product. The better we understand the way our partners naturally work, the more we can do to make our workflows seamless and/or recommend easy wins that could benefit them far beyond this project. We will work alongside our partner in their system to architect and develop successful products and mutually mentor to build successful teams.

We built a successful collaborative partnership with Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB). Not only did KUB want to deliver their users a fast, mobile-friendly, modern site experience, but they also wanted to use their website redesign to address and improve several business processes. Sparkbox was able to work alongside KUB’s own development team to both supplement the development effort and also to fill in staffing gaps in areas like user experience and frontend design. This co-development arrangement gave us opportunities to work with the KUB team to level up their tools, technologies, and build processes. The KUB team and the Sparkbox team operated as one dev/ops team from the beginning of the project through launch. We conducted the same rituals together, shared the same board, and reviewed each other’s code.

“Sparkbox introduced a culture where you do everything publicly, with dignity and respect. Sparkbox’s active mentorship made our developers better. Sparkbox delivered a great product as well as an informed team.” - F. DeWayne Lane, Lead Developer.

Read more about our work with KUB.

Stay Curious and Continue Learning

We can only help our partners if we dedicate ourselves to our own continued growth and learning. Staying curious and enhancing our knowledge helps teams achieve positive outcomes. By continuously striving to gain new skills, we stay current in an ever-changing industry.

Sparkbox has adopted the task force model to support team members going deep on topics— such as accessibility, security, or performance—and spreading their learnings across the entire organization. This amplifies the learning to help it spread to all team members and projects.

Sparkbox also has a vibrant apprenticeship program in place. We use this as an opportunity to invest in the industry, and we often learn a lot from the fresh perspectives that apprentices bring. And a good deal of these apprentices go on to become developers at Sparkbox, continuing to learn and grow.

We feel strongly about how we mentor at Sparkbox. Everyone on our team is mentored and is ready to mentor so that our team’s expertise and knowledge can be regularly shared. Mentorship adds a variety of perspectives to our team and overall output—it’s a refreshing energy that leads to the excitement of continued growth, and it’s infectious. Even simple solutions, such as pairing internally or with clients, play a large role in sharing, iterating, and improving. We helped Aperian attract new customers while improving the stability and maintainability of their platform. And in the process, we were able to help Aperian grow an internal team and take full ownership of the new GlobeSmart platform and its development strategy.

Client Success is Our Success

Web studios have to work to create a sense of connection with clients. We believe that our success is defined by our client’s ability to reach their goals. We’re mindful that having a shared positive partnership is critical.

At our core, we are passionate people humbly dedicated to making the best products we can with all our partners. Their success is our lasting impact and our true north at Sparkbox. It is a value that enables us to do good work in a joyful way.

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A portrait of Vice President of Business Development, Katie Jennings.

Katie Jennings

Vice President of Business Development