By Rob Van Tol, User Experience Consultant
If they ever make a rock opera about developing new websites, consultants like me would bounce in, a la the Spice Girls, asking:
So tell me what you want, what you really really want?
And our clients would respond in Queen-esque falsetto:
I want it all…and I want it now!
Admittedly, real life is less theatrical than that. Sequins are in short supply and the stage is usually a large table in a meeting room, but you get the gist.
An important skill of the consultant at Precedent is to bring together all interested parties, to find out what they really really want, and to marry that to what they can really really get.
In complex organisations this is quite hard. Membership organisations, universities, NHS trusts, central & local government and most financial services companies are often like this. Made up of multiple communities, they often have diverging agendas and different appetites to support digital change.
So marketing might be tasked with building reputation and driving growth, IT with containing costs, operations with improving customer experience and product management with innovating. These are all reasonable goals, but don’t necessarily share the same approach or digital needs.
Reconciling them can be tricky, but it vital in order to create a coherent digital presence for your audiences. When projects go wrong it’s usually because internal stakeholders have siloed agendas.
The simplest solution is still the best: get everyone round a table and encourage them to talk. Talk about their hopes, fears, presumptions, and requirements. If you can tease these out – especially those unspoken assumptions people often don’t think are worth mentioning, then you can go a long way towards reconciling different demands, making commonsense trade-offs, getting agreement and building trust.
Still, getting everyone aligned might take more than a round-table chat with tea and biscuits (note, quality biscuits do improve meetings, fact). So you may need to consider escalating to having one-to-one talks, or even getting divergent opinions to write a position statement.
What I’d be looking for is to make sure people feel that they’ve been heard and that there needs have been accounted for. Doing digital stuff is often disruptive: new (extra) tasks, changes in culture, even changes in the business model.
Airing fears and grievances, and managing risk is ultimately how we square the circle of conflicting wants, meeting limited ability to deliver within time and budget. This is where our project managers step forward, breaking things down to the achievable, and thinking through how to mitigate risks.
It’s a shame there’s not a bit more magic to it, a bit more rock-n-roll; but its really just people sensitively and intelligently listening to each other. Perhaps that’s why the website development rock opera is yet to written. Though if you have an idea for one, or even just a concept album, we’d love to hear it!
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
Lindsay Herbert and I spent a somewhat exhausting, but very fruitful time immersed in all things educational at the CASE Europe conference in Birmingham last week.
This is the fifth year we have been to the conference and as usual we had a very full agenda. In amongst manning our stand in the exhibition hall, attending presentations and speeches from some of Europe’s top educational marketing specialists, hosting a dinner for the CASE volunteers, and networking at the opening reception and the closing gala dinner, Lindsay also presented a case study on the Thrive campaign that she conceived for Cardiff University. It was a very full week. Here are some of the highlights:
The opening reception was hosted by Birmingham University at their Great Hall (below). This was a chance to catch up with old friends and clients as well as meet new delegates. The conference is an increasingly European affair, so while it was great to see so many delegates from Northern Europe, it became clear that Eastern European and African nations are ever more represented. (more…)
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
For reasons that will become apparent I found myself today looking for the origins of the phrase that forms the title of this blog. As is often the case I was distracted by an apparently unrelated news article, this time on the Boy Genius Report (BGR) website.
The item concerned the unveiling of Microsoft’s new tablet device and was titled ‘Microsoft Surface tablet is sincerest form of flattery for Apple’. I was intrigued.
The article quoted Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White writing in a note to investors:
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the compliments from Microsoft poured down like a torrential storm on Apple last night. At the same time, this event indicates to us that Microsoft is still searching for its own identity in the post-PC era, something that has come naturally for Apple with the rise of the mobile internet.”
Of course the question that everyone is asking is whether the Surface is a serious contender for the space that Apple has dominated in recent years. White’s assessment was quite blunt when he said; “we found little in yesterday’s presentation that would convince us that a consumer would prefer Surface over an iPad”. (more…)
By , Senior Designer
Ed Richards tells of the design student mentoring taking place at Precedent’s Cardiff office in conjunction with UWIC and Cardiff Council.
After mulling over the design brief set by Cardiff Council, our students Sarah, Ashleigh, Alex and Harry were given a week to go away and do as much research as possible based around stats, facts and how creative ideas could in some way change people’s commuting patterns in and around Cardiff.
We began with an initial discussion on how we could really hope to change people’s habits. We talked about ideas around awareness on climate change and how by making one small change, it could make a big difference.
However, we knew that using climate change as a hook for people to alter their behaviour in today’s current climate was not enough; people now worry more about their finances and grabbing a bargain than global warming. This fed into the idea that to change people’s patterns we would need to reward them in some way which would make it attractive to change.
By , Head of Research
I remember sitting with the Head of Marketing at a top English university a few years ago talking to her about the challenges she was facing at the time.
One of her grudge bears were technical problems regarding source material. In effect, she wanted the course database to be a single source containing multiple versions of programme descriptions that could be used according to audience and requirement. So for instance, the same source could be used in a printed prospectus, a departmental flyer, on the university website, a departmental website and could be used as the programme specification. Her frustration was that with multiple-person access to this database and in some instances more than one database, descriptions were often changed without notification.
One of her other challenges was an old chestnut that I’d heard before about how to ensure that academics were ‘happy’ with her interpretation of their courses. She cited a conversation with an academic who had asked her to up the marketing-ante with regards to his particular course as his student numbers were low. She said that she wanted to say that it was because “his course was ****, not relevant anymore, and that he had not let her edit in any significant way its description in the prospectus”.
By , Head of Research
I have been working with Paul Hoskins, our chairman, for a while developing some thinking as to why universities do not take better advantage of the commercial opportunities that their research and expertise could offer to businesses.
One of our contentions is that if universities considered third stream activity as core to their broader strategies then it could deliver value back to the university, not just as a source of income, but also in terms of reputation, enhance student experience, better facilities etc. In fact it could touch on every aspect of any HEI’s core offer. Paul wrote an article for the Guardian’s HE network this week, which is a distillation of where our thinking has got to. There is a great quote in the article from one of the 30 or so senior people he interviewed about the subject, who said: “Outside the research framework we have no idea how much things cost. At the end of the year we just add up what’s gone in and what’s gone out and hope we end up with a big fat zero.”
By Adrian Porter, Head of Research
When I arrived at the British Council offices in a South-East Asian capital for my first meeting with the team that would be helping me with a client project to understand the market there, my interpreter, the brilliant Yu Yu Wu, asked me this question: ‘So if these are the questions you want the answers to, why didn’t you just send them to a research house over here and get the answers sent back to you? Surely that would have been cheaper?’ (more…)
By Mark Sherwin, Business Development Director
After a two year, highly enjoyable slog I have completed my Executive MBA at Cass Business School. Despite the air of celebration, I am feeling a certain loss; in a few weeks my identification card will expire, my passwords that give me access to the e-learning environment will become redundant and my only point of contact with the Business School where I have spent much of my ‘free time’ over the last two years could be an entirely new website to me, specifically targeted at me as an ‘alumnus’. Seems in fact I’ve been hooked for some student mentoring and MBA introduction days so in my case things may not be quite so black and white! (more…)