Mike Cushing / Technology / October 23rd, 2014

Going Beyond "Client-Centered" to True Collaboration

It’s rare that I see something that I just have to stop and read, but Eric Fletcher recently shared a blog post, Making “Client-Centered” More than a Marketing Copy Point, that jumped out at me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by working at 352, but the term “client-centered” feels old fashioned – a vague promise to put the client’s objectives in front of the agency’s ego as it pushes forward through development or marketing initiatives.

Too often, “client-centered” is a descriptor of the work agencies produce, rather than a fundamental aspect of how the agency works.

One of the biggest benefits of our agile approach to custom web development and marketing is that it naturally takes us beyond “client-centered.” With the client participating in daily standups, grooming the backlog with a development team or approving a sprint plan for marketing, it’s easy to ensure that client priorities and input are always integral to our process.


Everyone talks about being client-centered. Those who back up all the talk with real substance are rare. ~ Eric Fletcher

“Client-centered” often means that a team works around the client, rather than with them. The client is kept on the periphery of the process and eventually a team will come back to show the development or marketing work they’ve created away from the client. That’s just gravity pulling them back, not an actual desire to include the client in what they produce.

Placing a client at the actual center of a project – and asking them to provide feedback and collaborate on a daily basis – does more than simply ensure a client’s needs are met; it creates true accountability and ownership of a project within a team.

For “client-centered” to truly be more than marketing copy, it has to be a fundamental aspect of the relationships you build, not just the work you create.

  • Christopher Burns

    I think this can apply to all things. Not only the work we do revolves around the client, but even the way we communicate (skype, slack, hangouts, carrier pigeon, ..), or how we handle our business (specific days for scrum ceremonies, …), or even completely different agile approaches (scrum, kanban, CI, ..). We obviously have our preferences but in the end, we do the work so it best meets our clients’ needs.

    • mikecush

      Yep, I’m always excited to see how flexible our teams can be to work in a way that really suits a client’s needs.

  • Jennifer Fix

    What I appreciate most about our client-centered approach is that it’s not just our client who stays in the center, it’s THEIR clients/customers as well, which is who we’re building for at the end of the day anyway. Great summary, Cush!

  • http://352inc.com Lincoln Anderson

    At 352, I know my clients’ favorite sports teams, favorite bands, kids’ names… Sometimes you can even forget they are clients and feel more like teammates. 🙂 It may seem silly to some people, but it really helps get on the same page, to where we’re not just trying to be people-pleasers, but where we’re all working toward the same common goal and understanding.