Enterprise-Grade Collaboration + Inspiration

Assessing the true cost of hiring a creative technology partner.

While much of Aleph’s client work is centered around UX design and web development, we’ve found that our true niche is that of “Creative Technology Partner.” It’s kind of a boring mantle, but it describes concisely what we’re best at: offering a comprehensive approach and wide range of creative talents to an eclectic list of client work. This generally places us in a position to slot into multiple roles, including UX design, engineering, DevOps and high-level consultation and architecture.

If you’re in the process of planning a project that requires a creative technology partner, you’ll likely be presented with a range of options in terms of proposed scope, budget and timeline. When your project’s requirements are more generalized, you may find that range to be rather large. Aleph often finds itself on the higher end of the spectrum of bids on a given project, and we usually have some version of the same conversation about true costs of a project with any potential client concerned about scope. It seemed like a good idea to put some of our main talking points into writing, and thus what you are reading now was born.

Expensive Does Not Equal Overpriced

While it may not sound great from a marketing perspective, Aleph mainly works on projects that are pretty expensive, and we like to be transparent about that. If you are planning a tiered, multi-platform campaign or creative project that has firm deadlines and tough requirements, and the C-level has hungry eyes on it, that sounds (to us) like it will be expensive to do correctly. Not coincidentally, when we talk to folks about these kinds of projects, they often don’t have a firm budget in hand or are looking for help determining the overall scope.

Just as often, we speak to potential clients about projects that start off with a low, fixed budget who will ask us if we can find a way to accomplish what they want within those constraints. It is rare that the budget provided in these cases supports the partnership that we wish to build, and we find ourselves apologetically declining to reduce our ask, even on gigs that we would love to work on. One constant has remained obvious to us for the two decades we’ve been doing this kind of work: Unique, high-value creative work by talented humans costs a lot to produce.

In our case, it’s because Aleph’s real product is partnership. The support we offer to our clients is valuable because we stand beside them in their efforts and vision. We make challenges easier to face, and success easier to measure. If you’re paying anyone at this level to provide anything less, then even the cheapest option is overpriced.

True Collaboration Can’t Be Automated

We’ve found that the single biggest predictor of whether or not a client’s goals are met is how much real collaboration we have room for, both internally and with the project’s stakeholders. A project where collaboration is minimal may take less time to execute, but it usually results in outcomes that are different than what was expected.

You’ll find a lot of “turnkey” solutions to this kind of work. The pitch goes: you provide the loose framework of what you need, agree to a low fixed budget for it, and like magic all your goals are met on time, everyone is happy and the project is a smashing success for all involved. We can’t say definitively that it doesn’t ever work out that way, but we have a lot of first-hand experience being hired to come in and rebuild these kinds of projects, often less than a year after launch.

A true creative partnership can’t be forged cheaply from templates and widgets. It should instead be founded on common ground from which we can all see the summit in front of us. With some time and space for creative collaboration and iteration, we can make all of our work together a great success.

Your Brand is Also a Product

Most of our work is in some way an expression of a client’s brand, and is either directly or indirectly in support of a product. Staggering resources are put towards the product, and rightfully so; it is the lifeblood that keeps your business in the world. Our work for clients is no less vital, and we treat the experiences we design and build with the same gravity of the products they support.

A great creative partnership will keep this paradigm front and center, building the same stability and strength into your campaigns that your product has. It will be a cornerstone of the product’s success in the market and internally. It will always be worth much more than the money you spend on it.

Enterprise-Grade vs. Everything Else

As a company that has provided many years of creative tech partnership to clients with billions of dollars invested in their goals, we’ve seen a wide spectrum of what passes for “enterprise-grade”, from a design and architecture perspective to infrastructure and code quality. The best solutions we’ve found aren’t always the most expensive ones, but they always hit these major requirements:

  • They prioritize stability, security and maintainability over cost.
  • They offer true creative and technical support, in the form of actual humans that care about the outcome of the relationship.
  • They are portable, knowing that the quality of their offerings will build a better client base than vendor lock will.
  • They are honest and truly value transparency.

These are specific values that we cultivate at Aleph, and anything we recommend to our clients will share them. It’s only enterprise-grade without quotes if we can check all these boxes.

What it Really Costs

We find the biggest mistake when it comes to selecting a creative tech partner is thinking that the real cost is right there on the tin. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, the up-front costs you’re budgeting for may seem reasonable or outlandish, but either way the true cost can’t be easily quantified.

“Unique, high-value creative work by talented humans costs a lot to produce.”

Aleph’s proposal process offers honest scope requirements based upon the principles and processes that we’ve written about here. We engage in work that supports our enterprise-grade values and price it accordingly. What we don’t put in our proposal is the approximate cost of selecting the wrong partner for the wrong reasons; in essence you could say that those costs are incalculable, but have the potential to dwarf what you’re planning to spend if things don’t go well.

As you can probably guess, we’re always looking for new creative technology partnerships with clients. The trust that we’ve built with huge enterprises is our most valuable asset, and if you’re trying to get started on any creative enterprise, we’d love to hear about it.