Sure, agencies are on the ball with your website redesign, but when your project is complete and goes into maintenance mode, many agencies simply stop caring. And while many agencies pay lip service to "dedicated" maintenance, that usually means you only have limited access to a single developer that can help you with your site. If that person has a busy schedule or is on vacation, it can take a long while until your issue gets resolved.
Without a dedicated team to help you with that maintenance, you'll often be waiting for somebody to come to your rescue. Who's on your maintenance team, and how long are you waiting?
Why Switching Your Website Maintenance Agency is Important?
If you’re being ghosted or left hanging, we need to talk about your website maintenance and why switching your maintenance providers is easier – and more important - than you think.
Agencies are surprisingly bad at post-project work!
One of the main reasons for lacklustre maintenance support is that there seems to be a clear division between “project” work (like website design and building) and “maintenance” work (everything post-launch).
Many agencies are very project-focused, and for good reasons:
- Projects have a beginning, a middle and an end.
- Projects are often proactively built from scratch.
- Projects have clear expectations, specific goals, and strict deadlines associated with design and launch.
Because of this focus and clarity, it is no wonder that most web agencies often prefer and prioritize project work.
Maintenance, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether:
- Maintenance comes and goes and evolves on longer and vaguer timelines.
- Maintenance is usually delivered ad hoc and often in reaction to an event.
- Maintenance is often reactive rather than proactive.
It is often mischaracterized as rote rather than creative.
Because it is not a set project with a set team and set deadlines, many agencies put less effort and care into maintenance work than project work, to the detriment of both the ongoing maintenance and future evolution of your website.
And proof of this absence isn’t hard to find if you ask yourself some hard questions:
- Do you have a dedicated maintenance team? Like a truly dedicated maintenance team composed of several IRL people ready to respond as quickly as possible to whatever issue you have?
- Are you working with one developer and a frustrating ticketing system - where they’ll get to you when they get to you – because the rest of the team is off doing project work?
Are you being ticketed to death?
We can see how little some agencies care about maintenance in something as apparent as the ticketing process, where the myth of an efficient and "dedicated team" quickly vanishes.
Most web agencies will ask you to email them when you're having a challenge. This is par for the course for most maintenance. Still, with a reactive and slower maintenance process, that email will end up in someone's inbox (not necessarily a developer), who will respond within, for instance, two business days to your inquiry. Instead of responding with solutions, they respond with questions based on your issues. So, you take the time to answer their questions and send them back, which may or may not be re-queued again. Whoever gets your reply now has to track down and send those answers to somebody they think can help, who will potentially either have more questions or start the maintenance work when they get around to having the time to do it, if they're even on the clock. The timeframe from the original email to start work could be five days or more.
Sounds exhausting, right? And it probably sounds familiar too. Unfortunately, this type of ticketing system is what counts as “maintenance” for a lot of web agencies.
So certainly, it's always great to send an email about your concerns, but the critical issues are how long it takes to get anything fixed and who is fixing it.
Here's the rub: solutions can happen quickly if the website maintenance agency cares about maintenance and is proactively set up to respond to requests. A proper ticketing system should have somebody doing triage right away, going through your problem with you, ensuring they have answers to your questions and collecting as much information from you as quickly as possible. From here, it should lead to immediate action, sending that information to not just your "dedicated" developer. Still, to any developer on that maintenance team or support team, work can start immediately. That is how to do ticketing in a way that takes your maintenance - and your entire business - seriously.
Maintenance is not just about fixing bugs!
Maintenance issues - and their consequences when you’re given poor maintenance by a web agency unconcerned with it - can be divided into four key areas:
- Bug fixes – These are custom upgrades to your current platform. While most agencies wait for their client to tell them what they should improve, the ideal approach is that your agency recommends enhancements based on your digital roadmap and strategy. Also, since it's easy to get swept away by the urgent, many essential improvements often stay too long in the backlog - so prioritizing these items is necessary.
- Enhancements and continuous improvements – These are custom upgrades to your current platform. While most agencies wait for their client to tell them what they should improve, the ideal approach is that your agency recommends enhancements based on your digital roadmap and strategy. Also, since it's easy to get swept away by the urgent, many essential improvements often stay too long in the backlog - so prioritizing these items is necessary.
- Proactive prevention - Proactive maintenance functions much like a prevention plan, often related to security updates. These are events and issues your company either doesn't control or have excellent visibility into, but the agency knows about. So web agencies need to be proactive to get behind the scenes and secure your website ahead of time without anyone reaching out to them – hard to do when a "dedicated" team is one person in constant "react" mode. And if you're not preventative and on top of security, you risk website hacks, data leaks or worse.
- Strategic – Yes, the strategy should also be part of maintenance (even though it's conspicuously absent from most website maintenance plans). Maintenance is about the current and future stability of not just your site but your company as a whole. This means web agencies must be forward-looking just as much as looking at what's currently in front of them. In this way, maintenance needs to ensure the evolution of your website stays within your own strategic goals and the broader strategic trends of your industry but can align maintenance to the website, website to strategy, strategy to goals, and goals to industry.
Knowing all of these challenges - and the real impacts they could have on your company – the thought of switching web agencies to do maintenance work may have come to mind. But is this even a viable solution?
Sometimes switching agencies is a smart solution
People often worry that it’s not viable, efficient, or prudent to switch agencies “midstream” for maintenance. There’s a general understanding – though one unfounded - that the agency that built your website is the only one who can support you in maintenance. But that's absolutely not the case.
Think of it this way: it's no different than getting an oil change. Whether you go to Jiffy Lube, a car dealership, or your regular mechanic, someone will help you if they understand the problem.
Switching agencies is not only a viable solution but, in some cases, a very smart one.
When changing maintenance providers, you have to make sure you're picking the right one, and choosing the perfect agency can be challenging, but having a list of what you want and need is a great place to start. Here is a checklist to help ensure your new agency is a good fit for you. What you need is an agency that cares not just about the maintenance work but how it can help the evolution of your website and understands how it fits into the larger strategic goals of your company. Therefore, you will need to be picky and ask the right questions because not every agency is equipped to deal with maintenance outside your standard "dedicated" solo developer and slow ticketing system. Once you've made your decision, you may wonder how to ensure a smooth transition to your new agency; here's a guide that will help you make the transition go smoothly.
Don’t End Up with the Same Problems At the New Agency
If you get to the point where switching maintenance agencies seems likely, you'll need to be forthcoming with potential new partners and share whatever maintenance woes have plagued you with your old partner not to have them repeated. Ask every agency courting you how they're going to prevent or deal with them - these are the priority issues that your new agency will need to understand, and being open and transparent about them means they can be addressed directly.
While you're weighing your maintenance relationships, here are some questions and concerns you should consider so that you don't end up with the same problems at a new agency:
- Websites in place - How does the agency support websites that are already in place (that they haven’t built themselves)? Who and how many experts are doing “dedicated” maintenance work? How long does the agency usually take to respond to maintenance issues?
- Projects vs. Maintenance - A Are they just project-based web agencies? How does an agency connect its project work to its maintenance work? Have they done maintenance takeovers before? Are they trying to sell you more on project work, like a website redesign?
- Strategy - IIs the agency strategic and forward-thinking in a way that aligns with your overall company goals? And not just for one project and its maintenance, but for the strategy and execution of future projects and viability?
It's a competitive field out there, and there is no doubt that many agencies can do the work, have years of experience and have earned all the right certifications - but the biggest issue is the quality of support service that you're likely to get outside of this standard pedigree.
So the final and most important question is: what is the breadth and depth of support you'll be getting?
You want an agency that can fill a multi-faceted partnership role that can take you from strategy through development to execution and then continue to support you with efficient, consistent and proactive maintenance and into future maintenance needs. And suppose it's just maintenance that you're looking for. In that case, you want an agency that cares about your maintenance needs, has a robust system with more than one person tackling your issues when they have the time and knows that maintenance is directly connected to your future health, growth and goals.
Whether full-spectrum project and maintenance work or just maintenance on its own, you want an agency that understands your broader business needs are much more than your specific website needs.
So, where does the agency's uniqueness lie? Is it just in development, or is it in the whole process? If an agency only talks about your website, they need to have a better conversation. The right conversation is about how your website supports your business goals. If they're not asking you about your future, they're only interested in your money, not your company.
This is why, when Symetris takes over your maintenance, we always ask how our maintenance work can help you achieve your strategic goals.
Slow and steady wins the long-term race - the Symetris approach to proactive maintenance
We love project work, too, don't get us wrong. People always come to us in the middle of a redesign, and we're always happy to hear your plans.
Often, however, other agencies in this position hastily – and erroneously, perhaps selfishly – conclude that a full rebuild and a new website is the only solution. But we understand that not every solution is more project work, more money, more of everything.
But we understand that not every solution is more project work, more money, more of everything.
Symetris is going to take a step back. We will audit your existing website and discuss your goals with your stakeholders. We'll take over platform maintenance and focus on the most efficient changes for your best ROI. Realistically, we want to help you leverage what's already there before we make more extensive redesign recommendations for what needs to happen. If it works better for you, it works better for us.
And if all you need is a new maintenance partner, Symetris can make a difference. Unlike your current "dedicated" team or the new agency that will give you another ticket to wait in line, we want to make sure that your means align with your needs, align with your goals, align with dreams, align with...see where we're going here?
Symetris is Here to Help You!
With maintenance takeovers, Symetris can learn a lot about a client and how they work while offering maintenance expertise without the hefty price tag of a full rebuild project. This also allows you to see us in action, experience demonstrable results without biting the bullet on a full project, and be impressed with our commitment. Maintenance work needs time, and we're confident we'll earn your trust when you're ready for future design projects.
Symetris has been in operation for over 18 years and has delivered over 350+ mandates. We hold over 25 certifications, including two Drupal grandmasters, and have supported over 400 sites, some of which we've designed and supported, some of which we just supported. In the last few years, we've successfully taken over the maintenance for over 20 websites; a full quarter of these moved on to do full website redesigns with Symetris, and the rest completed smaller but impactful projects to enhance their websites to better align with the company's strategic goals.
Whether solving your immediate maintenance problems or working with you to build toward your strategic goals, Symetris is always ready with an entire website maintenance dedicated to you.
Get in touch with one of our experts to find out more.