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 , Head of Strategic Research
Those of you familiar with our recent report Membership Organisations: Big challenges, Digital Answers and our accompanying seminar series will know that one of the actions we propose is to digitally enrich the membership magazine.
Our recommendations seek to make organisations think of ways, other than pdf and page turning software, of making the membership missive more interactive, content rich and accessible, as well as easier to distribute.
In our seminar in June, Michelle Richmond (IET Membership Director) told a story about how the IET had decided to distribute its magazine electronically in India as a means of streamlining delivery in order to circumvent a notoriously inefficient and costly postal method. This was a short lived venture since the IET managed to upset their young Indian members who like to leave the magazine ‘lying around for their parents to find’ as a means of demonstrating their membership of a respected international professional body.
Of course the IET were unaware of this self-promotional use of their printed magazine, but their motivations were clear; reduce print and distribution costs and increase efficiencies.
At the same seminar Michelle also revealed that the IET had developed a trial iPad version of its magazine. This provoked debate among delegates around the merits and demerits of the associated cost savings, or otherwise of digital magazine production. (more…)
By , Head of Strategic Research
In my previous blog I described some approaches to getting buy-in from the top to ensure a digital vision is at the heart of your organisation’s future. I promised to describe an approach to producing a digital strategy which would underpin such a vision and the steps that should be taken to ensure that it delivers value to both your members and your organisation, so here it is.
But before I start it is worth noting that although the end game is for you and your organisation to understand the big picture and develop a roadmap for the evolution of your organisation’s digital presence over the next 2-4 years, this doesn’t mean that you cannot start small. Pick off strategically aligned work streams and activities that deliver immediate value to your members, in short ‘think big, start small’ but always have the bigger picture in mind.
So here are the steps. The order in which they are performed might change, and indeed if done properly you may find that your organisation’s business objectives might need to be reviewed and adjusted at key stages of the process. However, they are always the place to start.
1. Review and update organisational business objectives
Circumstances might have changed since the last time your organisation did this. You may have had a groundswell of members coming from Asia, or attrition rates may have increased due to prevailing economic conditions or bad press, so be sure to update them. If you are not in a position to do this yourself ensure that they are clarified to you by senior stakeholders.
2. Conduct or review research (only if it is recent) into members’ needs and online usage
Analyse members’ online behaviour using analytics and user testing. Your objective here is to build up a contemporary picture of how your members are using your digital landscape. You need to understand what devices and technologies they are using to engage with you, what is working, and what isn’t, what is popular and what isn’t. You may also wish at this point to create personas that describe around 5 of your key audiences as typical individuals, their motivations, needs and aspirations. This married with your understanding of their online requirements will help you to understand how you can improve your offer to them.
By , Head of Strategic Research
After our recent membership seminar, I was asked by a number of people if we have any techniques for getting senior stakeholders to take digital seriously and release budget for digital projects.
The answer is yes, and of course the easiest way to secure buy-in and get cross-organisational support is to employ an agency like us to cut through internal structures and politics in a stakeholder engagement exercise that delivers a digital roadmap for the future. However, getting to the point of commissioning work like this is often too fraught with internal obstacles. I can say though that having worked with many very complex and multi-faceted organisations, it is evident that there are similarities between them which can be used as catalysts for change.
Where to start?
A digital vision needs to be owned by the whole organisation, which means it has to have buy-in from the top. However, as we all know it is often difficult to get the idea of a cohesive and holistic digital strategy across to those who are likely to release the budget to produce it. This is to say that unless your CEO is a digital evangelist, you will have to prove the benefits of digital first in order to get the idea of a digital future on the agenda.
director at the IET, entertained and enlightened attendees at our membership seminar last week. Here Adrian Porter tells you what you missed at our first membership seminar.
Attendees at Thursday’s seminar to launch our new sector report, Membership organisations: big challenges, digital answers? were both captivated and entertained by Michelle’s account of how the Institution of Engineering and Technology is embracing the digital world.
In her role as Membership and Professional Development Director at the IET since 2006, Michelle has overseen a real life digital implementation journey that has its roots in the IET’s strategic vision and objectives for the 21st century.
Michelle started her talk by revealing a visualisation of the IET’s strategy, a remarkably concise and instantly understandable diagram that rather impressively represents the consolidation of a ’72 slide deck’!
Despite not being one of our clients, and with us not knowing exactly what Michelle was going to say in her presentation, the resonance between the approach adopted by the IET to their digital development and the recommendations contained in our report was quite deafening. Michelle showed us how consideration of the IET’s strategic priorities combined with an understanding of her members’ life stage engagement with the IET has manifested itself in an innovation roadmap which directly translates into a series of digital initiatives.