Regardless of what kind of technology solution you are looking to implement or the level of digital transformation you are trying to achieve, there is one very important constant that must be addressed in order to achieve success and maximum impact – and that is a thorough understanding of your problem and your goals. And not only do you need to have a clear understanding of them, your digital agency needs to understand your problems before they can design a proper solution.
Conversely, if you are ever handed a proposal that offers a technology solution from a vendor who hasn’t asked for — and been given — a proper download of the WHY and HOW of your project needs, run for the hills. The technology is the tool used to solve your problems and achieve your goals – and it should always come last.
So how does your digital agency understand your problem?
There are six fundamental areas to identify:
1. Tell your digital agency about yourself and your business goals.
Who are you? Of course your digital agency will conduct research on your organization, but is important that they hear about your company – in your own words – to supplement their efforts and ensure that their solution fits your needs. Be sure to share details about your company, how you got to where you are and the story behind your brand. In order to understand where you are going, your digital agency needs to understand how you got to where you are now.
What are your business goals? It is necessary to hear your goals in your own words. The more background information, the better. It’s important that your digital agency has an understanding of where your company wants to be this year and five years from now.
Your digital partner must also identify:
- Who are your competitors?
- What is your key target market?
- What is the most important outcome of this engagement and how will you measure success?
- What does your company need to do, in your opinion, to achieve a wild success?
The aim of your digital agency is to understand your brand on a personal level.
2. What do you want your digital platform to do that it does not do now?
In the case of your website, your digital agency needs to understand the gaps between what you have now and where you need to be. For example, is it important that your site is accessible? Do you need to drive higher conversion? If this type of information is not clearly identified, it can be easy for your digital agency to overlook your needs.
Your digital agency is your partner. Even if you have no idea how to achieve your goals, it is valuable to list out all the functionalities that you would like to have included, and then let them figure out how best to prioritize and build them – in partnership with you.
3. Who is your audience?
It’s imperative that you take into consideration — and be able to clearly identify — who your target audiences are. Your site should always be designed with your end-users and editors in mind, which could be an external audience for certain aspects and an internal audience for others. The way agencies identify this in UX design, for example, is to create a customer profile, aka user persona. A persona is essentially a representation of a given type of user, encapsulating their goals, context, and behavior. This information helps drive and inform the design of the end product.
4. What is your timeline and budget?
Engaging an agency to redesign your website or help you plan your technology roadmap can be a costly endeavor. Understanding your timeline and budget upfront can help your digital agency create something that is reasonable based on these parameters. If your budget or timeline are quite tight, it may be possible to create an iterative approach so your project can be done in different phases, providing you with valuable functionality at each stage.
Your digital partner also needs to know if there is an important deadline that you need to make and why, and to understand what the implications are if you miss this date. The more the business imperatives are communicated, the more likely it is that your digital agency will work in alignment with your business goals.
Also, always keep in mind “the triangle,” which is Schedule, Scope, and Cost. You’ve probably heard of the triangle. You cannot change one without changing the other two. Let’s repeat this one more time – schedule, scope, and cost are interconnected – by changing one, the other two are automatically altered. As frustrating as this reality may be, it’s very important to understand this from the start of any engagement.
5. What do you already have? What is currently working on your site? What assets have you already created (UX, Design etc)?
Provide all of the assets needed upfront. This could be an RFP, UX etc, or a detailed bulleted list of the website requirements. However, when supplying this list, think strategically. You want to make sure that all of the artifacts are in line with your goals. You need to make sure that all of the assets (whether it be designs, content, existing functionality) are the best use of your time and money.
6. Help us understand the key players.
It’s important to know all of the key players and it’s important to explain who makes the decisions. Who is your main stakeholder? Who carries the budget? When there is an escalation, who is the day-to-day point of contact that has the authority to make decisions?
Ultimately, there should be one person dedicated to all decision making and approvals throughout a project (sometimes this is referenced as a Product Owner). Additionally, who are the important individuals on your team – developers, designers content managers, etc. What will their involvement be throughout the engagement? How much time is each person dedicating to this project per week?
So to reiterate what I said earlier, if someone just hands you a proposal without even trying to understand your landscape, put your running shoes on!
At Phase2, we focus on forming, relationships, connections and partnerships so our work can have maximum impact. We ask a great deal of questions because we need to learn your business before we can even start to draft any estimates or engagement designs.
The reality is, learning your business takes time, involvement, and resources from both your digital partner and your own team, but the value of doing so is priceless.