Interview with Matt Griffin, CEO of independent digital agency, Deepend
What’s your day job?
I’ve got a few fingers in a number of pies at the moment and just trying to stay abreast of things is a full-time job. My day starts with a quick nappy change (Oscar’s, my youngest son, not mine) and a couple of laps around Centennial Park on two wheels then arrive at work around 8 am. My main remit involves overseeing Deepend, of course, but over the last couple of years I have been focused setting or getting involved in a number of start-up businesses in the online, mobile and technology space.
What type of projects does your company work on – how long do they run?
The great thing about Deepend is the diversity of work we do. There is not a day goes past that I don’t look around and are amazed at some of the things that go on about the place. Today, an interface for a connected appliance, tomorrow a 3D printing project. Typical project length depends on the product lifecycle. When we are working with marketing teams, they are pretty tight timeframes, no more than a couple of months. In other business units, such as product development, the lifecycles can determine the length of contract in some cases it’s years long. We are working on a really interesting project at the moment that won’t launch until 2015 which makes the process pretty drawn out compared to some of the advertising work that we do in other parts of the business.
How did you get started in digital?
I got into digital off the back of product design. There was not much work for product designers in the 90s, so I found my way to London and landed face first in the digital game as it was just taking off. (For those who don’t know me or the full story, I actually landed my first job in digital from a table at Wagamama in Soho, London. It’s a long story so I’ll save that for another time, but suffice to say opportunities arise when you least expect them. You need to make sure your radar is on to spot them when they do.
What’s your current favourite book, website, blog or source of inspiration for your business?
I’ve done a lot of business reading lately; Making Ideas Happen, The Design of Business, Change by Design and the Filter Bubble. It’s probably time I turned to fiction for a bit to broaden my perspective.
What’s the ratio of project managers to developers/producers?
Tough question as definitions change so dramatically dependent on who you talk to and what business they work in. General rule of thumb we use is 3:1 that’s 3 resources (design/dev/social) per PM.
How many staff do you have in total?
We have about 70 across 2 local offices. (And 10 in the States)
Have you introduced in new roles/jobs title in your business – is the nature of your business changing?
We sure have and it sure is.
Deepend’s evolution includes a number of new services such as Brand Innovation, Product Innovation, Ideation, Social Insights and Technical Consultancy. We are pioneering change by being a holistic agency, with the understanding that digital is interwoven in every business unit. For clients, this is an opportunity to leverage the partnership they have with us to support the organisation in every department, through the unique mix of innovation, ideation and technology.
In a clear demonstration of this shift, the team has seen a restructure, with Errol Flanagan joining as Brand Innovation Director, and seven year Deepend veteran Pip Jones, being promoted to the position of Product Innovation Director.
With over 20 plus years of experience across marketing, management consultancy and teaching, Errol joins Deepend with a unique mix of experience in strategy, planning and management. He has held significant senior roles in respected agencies from around the world, including Ogilvy Group, Leading Edge and most notably Wieden + Kennedy where he famously held the role of Nike Planning Director.
Since joining team in 2002, Pip has spearheaded Deepend’s technical direction, providing excellence in development, technical leadership and end user experience. The promotion sees him taking on the additional responsibility of creating industry leading product innovations.
Thanks for the opportunity to spout that!
How do you keep hours and costs on or under budget? How do you maintain profitability on each and every project? Is it a result of project management processes, good budgeting, or initial scoping?
We rarely do. We are always adding the Deepend ‘extra 10%’ which ends up being more like the Deepend extra 50%. It’s our cost and it’s because we don’t settle for ‘good enough’.
What tools do you use to manage time and job tasks?
Proworkflow, Jira, Agile Zen, Internally developed software and of course trusty MS Excel.
Any suggestions on dealing with difficult clients?
Get some new ones. We have some really amazing clients; smart, good-fun, but most of all reasonable.
What’s your or the company’s biggest challenge currently?
The biggest challenge that a business like Deepend continually faces is that we continue to work at the forefront of design and technology. There are so many unknowns in our work we do but yet there is still a corporate pressure to understand costs prior to starting a work. In many cases, it’s simply not possible. We use many approaches to combat this in order to not be pushed into a position where we have to include massive contingencies for things that we can’t possibly predict.
What particular skill set do you look for in your new hires?
Passion and excitement for what they do. I can pick this almost as soon as they walk through the door or the minute they start speaking. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink is a good read for understanding how people can do this, it’s not intuitive it’s called ‘thin-slicing’. Check it out.
How do you ensure that your team is performing well, and focused on the same goals? Do you have any special team activities that you do to maintain a good culture?
Culture is a complex equation that is made up of many things. We have a clear and communicated brand vision that translates at a grass roots level to “Positive Change”. All our internal initiatives are focussed toward that. A weekly pub lunch/pub grub session doesn’t go astray either.