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Pushing Back On Gatekeeping

Pushing Back On Gatekeeping

Created By: Will Carey

In a market where custom solutions are increasingly becoming standard, how do agencies, studios and software vendors stay competitive? For many, it means hoarding their expertise and choosing very carefully when to wield it or lend it to clients. Gatekeeping knowledge is a business model that’s shown success because it capitalizes on your lack of time and resources, but it’s narrow minded and sets up this ill-conceived notion that our only value is in rationing our shared expertise.

Educating Over Gatekeeping

At Umbrage, we’ve never bought into gatekeeping as a business model. We operate with a growth mindset that assumes the opposite. The more we share – between our experience, our people and our knowledge – the more profitable we are.

It’s for this same reason that we value education and why it’s instilled in every craft at Umbrage from our apprenticeship program to our senior leadership. Our wealth of knowledge and resources along with our people is our product. We want to share, not gatekeep, this information. In other words, what’s ours is yours.

Most clients can’t afford, nor should they plan, to keep agency support forever. They may not even have the time or experience to build their own product team. This is especially true when they don’t have a clear picture of costs or scope and their agency won’t give them one without a host of ifs, ands and buts. Our work isn’t mysticism and it’s not veiled behind some illusive, undefined paywall – it’s a combination of proven techniques and processes that we adapt and bring together to fit the constraints of our client’s organization but also challenge the status quo in the process.

For example, when Cold Bore Technology came to us looking for a partner to help industrialize their operating system for completions in Oil and Gas, we quickly realized that beyond preparing their product to scale, they also needed to build their own fully functioning product team. We made it our goal to be the last vendor they would need to rely on for product development.

Building a Product Team

"The team at Umbrage coached us through our journey to build a product focused software development team."

Matt Steen, COO, Cold Bore Technology

At Umbrage, of course you’re getting software solutions and a team of experts supporting your product but those are industry-standard. We do have a unique approach when it comes to software development but we’re not reinventing the wheel.

As practitioners of educating over gatekeeping, we want to enable our clients continued success through sharing best practices and our deep expertise in product, devops, design, security and data tier scalability. But what’s the point of a product if you can’t continue to manage it after we’ve concluded our business relationship?

By the time we began sunsetting our support with Cold Bore, we had already helped facilitate interviews and began coaching their product team to eventually take over for us. Although it wasn’t our goal to simply find replacements. We recommended that Cold Bore seek out individuals who not only fit in well with their company culture but also brought a product-first mindset, similar to the approach at Umbrage.

Product-first Mindset

"Umbrage brings a product-first mindset that continues to influence our organization far beyond what is expected from a software vendor; helping us focus on long-term strategy while ensuring delivery on our immediate needs."

Edwin Suarez, VP & CDO, SCGTS

We understand that our clients can go to any number of agencies or development shops to get their product built. It’s our product-first mindset and our product-focused teams evangelizing on these methods as true believers that make the difference. It’s why we focus on building infrastructure to support more effective, agile processes and why we don’t hoard this knowledge.

A product-first mindset is rationed in the same way that some knowledge is gatekept. Simply put, it’s easier to deliver a finished product rather than value to a client. It’s the difference between a project being “done” and your solutions being validated. When a project-first approach is utilized, agility is wasted on inside-out goals instead of outside-in goals that prioritize customer value as a key strategy.

At Umbrage, we’re educators first because we believe that bringing our clients in as collaborators in our culture, a culture of inclusivity of information, is the best way to deliver real value that translates to their customers. Gatekeeping as a business model isn’t just bad business – it lacks vision and more than anything else, perpetuates this idea of studios, vendors and agencies being stingy with their expertise instead of leveraging it to solve problems. One client at a time, we’re demystifying product management.

Check out our case study with Cold Bore.

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