The next chapter in the world of digital agencies

Ben Reineke


The landscape of digital agencies exists for more than 20 years now and has changed multiple times over the last two decades. The first years the focus was on content management. I mean; almost all agencies built their own content management system (CMS), remember?

Although I’m sure that there are still some agencies that use their own CMS, almost all agencies now use CMS, DXP, Marketing platforms, Commerce Platforms, ERP systems etc. built by companies that are specialized in developing those platforms. The list of solutions is almost endless whether it is open- or closed source. With that the focus of agencies changed from building their own platforms to implementing platforms and most of the agencies specialized in a specific solution like WordPress, Drupal, Sitecore, Magento, Adobe, Episerver and so on. And still, the world of platforms is evolving and growing with new solutions with the emergence of new technologies like Micro-services, API’s, cloud solutions and headless technologies. But for now, I would like to focus on the agencies.

Agencies started to organize themselves around implementation of platforms with development teams and mostly based on a waterfall project methodology. But the technology changed, and we entered the next wave of digital transformation and the focus changed. Companies were no longer only interested in having digital solutions but also in the result, what value did digital solutions bring? How could digital solutions help them to make profit. Digital became more and more part of the business operation, and with that they wanted to be more involved in developing solutions, they wanted to be part of the project. The solution: an Agile way of working like Scrum or Kanban. And therefore, agencies started to rebuild their organizations from functional to cross functional teams, based on the Spotify-model; full-service multi discipliner client teams. Large teams built with developers, (UX) designers, marketers, strategists, project managers, scrum masters, business analysts and so on. Digital was (and still is) booming but the digital knowledge on the client side was still limited, so all specialists form agencies were needed to deliver high quality, but most of all, valuable platforms that performed.

That changed quite rapidly over the last, I would say 5 to 10 years. Digital is now (for most) companies’ part of their core business and on the agenda of the management board. Companies have their own digital, IT and marketing departments and have highly qualified staff members. Nevertheless, still a lot of agencies are organized around their full-service multi discipliner client teams, based on the Spotify-model. And as companies have built their own teams (or at least partially) the full-service approach doesn’t fit anymore. We are entering a next chapter in the world of digital agencies, organized around specialties: from full-service to full-specialism. Teams are no longer built based on a full-service approach but built around client needs, objectives and organizational requirements. Agility and scalability have never been so important as today. Companies are looking for agencies that can help built in-house teams and add specialists to their team. Or implement and develop solutions based on their digital strategy. The focus is on delivery, shorten time-to-market and efficiency. The new digital agency is specialized and part of a network organization with other specialist and can deliver real value based on needs, objectives and organizational requirements, and are able to scale fast. 

As far as I am concerned there will always be room for digital agencies as long as they will keep evolving. That’s why I love to work in a digital agency: we are always evolving, changing and ensuring we are ahead of the next wave of digital transformation.


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