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Generating next phase product enhancements

How user workshops and surveys aid in the assessment and validity of concepts

Clients — whether they are a professional services organisation, a multinational firm or an entrepreneur — have their own unique processes and structure. Quite often they have a business strategy, sometimes even a high-level digital strategy and a clear set of initiatives. A development roadmap — one that shows strategy through initiatives and executable products — is rare. But it makes all the difference.

Our client has an international network of users with overarching brand, risk and digital policies, and international consistency of visual identity and content strategy was driven through diplomacy — or as we took to calling it, ‘beer-plomacy’. During our time with them in Frankfurt developing the next phase of the digital roadmap, we drank appelwein and went ten-pin bowling to let off steam together. And in Amsterdam, we went to a restaurant called Modders (Dutch for ‘mothers’), which served traditional local food and where every piece of crockery was different. These informal settings provided the team an opportunity to build rapport and better understand what made people tick, as well as what was really on their mind...

We used workshops to develop, validate and verify the next phase of our client’s digital system development.

As well as being a great way to build up and confirm the initiatives and products required to bring the strategy to life, it brought teams together with the ability to test, tweak and verify the various activities that would bring the digital strategy to life.

We started by developing a governance framework that facilitated two-way dialogue between the global team and the member firms in each market around the world. We then created quantitative surveys, which would be conducted biannually, as well as qualitative interviews that reviewed the types and volume of digital support needs and team resourcing changes. In conjunction with this, we would meet with the international and IT teams to better understand their current roadmaps and priorities.

This data would then be analysed and presented to an annual workshop with representatives from each of the key markets and broken into a number of brainstorming, discussion and filtering exercises. The workshops provided an opportunity to vent, release steam, ideate and prioritise. They created an essential platform to ensure ground-level buy-in of the strategy as well as a commitment to the execution.

Strategies can be broad, all-encompassing and, if not managed, duplicative. Our client was seeking the involvement of representatives across the business — from digital to marketing to IT — to participate in an exploratory, priority-setting discussion on strategic initiatives at local and head office levels. The idea was to consolidate an approach to — and develop a roadmap for — taking ideas to operation. It was important that across the various stakeholders a consensus and co-ownership of the roadmap was reached.

Often, issues or challenges that typically present themselves midway through initiatives can be highlighted much earlier in the process.

Using a combination of upfront research and insights derived from the CMS, we analysed the data to create various areas for discussion on functional improvements, constraints and variables. We initially discussed the idea over a conference call. We then presented the concept and framework via screen sharing with client representatives from around the world. And once agreed, we conducted the survey online and organised the workshop from a distance. We included running surveys of the user base, such as pros and cons of the CMS, quarterly goals, market challenges and potential opportunities.

This set the scene for our workshops, which facilitated a consensus and agreement of co-ownership of the roadmap among all users. Attendees highlighted the problems and opportunities in front of them. Using various models for decision making with large groups we prioritised and agreed the set to take forward for further exploration. We turned around the whiteboards and flipcharts within 48 hours, along with any clear action items, to maintain the momentum.

We’re now three years into this annual arrangement, and international digital brand consistency is at its highest — and we’ve made a few new friends over drinks too.

Titbits and takeaways

Avoid jumping to solution mode on the first or loudest problem raised — it may only be a symptom of a larger or different problem. Work at identifying opportunities that could create real change downstream at the user level.

Define your list of problems, measure and analyse the root causes — then prioritise, and jump into solution mode. A targeted and manageable list of solutions (rather than a million small ideas) will save months on the roadmap process.

Utilise various methods for decision-making in workshops when you need to achieve a consensus amongst a diverse group of individuals along an iterative process.

Involving workshop attendees and broader user groups in the data and feedback processes prior to workshops or the development the roadmap will assist with confirming the validity and accuracy of the assessment.

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