Happy New (work) Year!

new year fireworks

For me the start of the new working year is not January or the end of the financial year.

It’s the end of Summer.

Firstly, it marks when (7 years ago) I started to think that the free-lance work I was picking up could be something more than just me.

Secondly, it is the time of year when we, and the people we work with, start to emerge refreshed from the Summer with renewed energy. Ambitions can once again stretch beyond covering colleagues’ annual leave.

It is a time to start thinking bigger!

Reflecting on the year that’s been

It is also when I try to take some time to reflect on where Lagom has been, and where it is going next. A time for chin stroking, and notepad scribbling.

Here are a few of those thoughts about the last 12 months or so…

We executed our business strategy

We’ve pretty much done what we set out to do:

  • Do: Discoveries, user research, and prototyping
  • On: Digital services (websites, data, and transactional)
  • For: Public sector (adopting GDS Service Manual)

All of our work in the last 12 months has been squarely in that sweet spot. Our goal is to be the best in this niche.

We were already pretty good, but we’ve got better this year. Our processes got tighter, and the standard and insight of our user research, analysis, and recommendations continues to improve.

We anticipated pursuing a shift towards discoveries and user research for transactional and data driven services from websites. And that largely played out.

COVID – things could have been a lot worse

When lockdown hit we braced ourselves like everyone else. In those early days it felt like an existential threat to the business. 

And it has certainly had an impact with cancelled and postponed projects. But it has also created opportunities and focus.

Thankfully, we were in rude financial health going into lockdown and we’ve continued to all work and win new, high-quality projects with good clients. 

Being (relatively) small has certainly been an advantage.

But I know we’re not out of the woods, and we count our blessings. Many good businesses have been crippled by events outside their control.

The Lagom team pack a serious punch these days

Charlotte joined the team as our third user researcher this year  (and has been fantastic). That makes us a team of six full-timers, plus our talented and trusted associates.

Six is not big by agency standards, but you can achieve a lot of good stuff with a smart, experienced, and organised team like ours.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done this year, and our growing list of casestudies is testament to that.

We’ve also continued to partner and collaborate with Binary Vision, Helpful Digital, and Torchbox. It is a genuine pleasure to work with such skilled professionals, that share our values.

Ahead of the curve at remote working

Lagom has always been a fully remote working team, spread around the UK and further-afield. It is in the Lagom DNA and largely a response to my cynicism about outmoded and unnecessary reliance on co-located working. A blog for another day.

A remote working strategy has been key to building a strong business:

  • significantly lowers our financial overheads for office space
  • can hire people for their talent, not their proximity
  • strong incentive to join and stay in a role without a commute
  • reduces our impact on the world by reducing travel

… all things I now hear daily in the news.

Competition is getting fiercer

Winning work on the Digital Marketplace is tough. Being a really good fit for something and diligently crafting a submission is far from enough.

We’ve won some seriously competitive tenders this year (and proceeded to deliver great projects). 

And we’ve also failed to get shortlisted on other perfect-looking fits because we didn’t quite hit the mark on a single essential skill that we have in spades.

That’s how it goes. But it is paradoxically getting harder to win work on the Marketplace despite having more relevant experience.

Looking forward to the year ahead

We’ve booked a (virtual) Lagom Team Day in a couple of weeks to lift everyone’s heads up from the billable project work, to reflect on where we want to go as a business and a team.

I don’t expect a major course correction, but it is important we all share and buy in to our goals for Lagom.

I’ll blog again with what we decide.

Until then, Happy New (work) Year! 

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