Have you ever been approached by an IS/IT-company that claims it can make your business more efficient and effective?Of course, you are tempted to listen to them since ‘digitalisation’ is the buzzword of today. You are convinced and start a project, but will it really turn out to be as effortless and simple as promised? Well, it could if you do it in the right way and order.
Here are some suggestions for how to do just that.
This is your starting point. Every day you need to remind yourself of why your company exist. What do you do and for whom? Your vision, mission, brand promise, strategy, objectives and goals need to be repeated over and over again. Everything that you do, for instance, a tech project within marketing automation, has to deliver against your vision and mission. This is obvious, but how often do you really map projects this way? How often do you hear tech suppliers take a stance in your reason to exist? On the contrary, they usually want to push their technology which not necessary is what you need in order to grow your business. Their needs, not yours. So, the litmus test to all suppliers should be; ‘how will your solution support our vision and mission?’. Do not waste any time if the answer is not good enough.
Once you have established your reason to exist and your goals, you can think about who you talk to. Why should they bother listening to you? In which way do you improve their lives? Often I keep hearing that ‘we talked to company X today and they said…’. You do not talk to a company. You talk to the individuals in that company. Individuals with different needs, different backgrounds, different ways of thinking, different priorities, different interests, different everything. Try to map your conversations against the personas you are trying to reach. Obviously you have developed personas, right…?
Once you recognise the individuals with their different traits, you have a much better chance to understand what the points of contact between you and them do and should look like. This can be used for developing use cases that form a crucial input to your tech project. This is what makes companies like Apple, Amazon, or Uber so successful. They have it in their DNA.
Content is king, yes, we know. But it is still very unfortunate that tech is allowed to be a limiting factor. A tweet can be 140 characters, video cannot be streamed unless the bandwidth is good enough, image resolution is limited, communication protocols determine what you can put out there, etc. Now you need to map the content against your personas and goals (1 and 2 above). If your persona need a complete description of how to build a space station, maybe tweets are not the right way to go (unless you tweet a link to where the information can be found). If you work in a product company and your customers need manuals, incl. version handling of these, maybe you need an information management system. Maybe they also need knowledge transfer from you to them. The content and the way it needs to be handled then becomes a very straight forward requirement on tech. And, the good thing is that you most likely will have a business case and use cases to go along with the requirement.
This is about all the touch points between you and your audience. Everything from public events, face-to-face meetings, social media, off- and onsite websites, emails, phone calls brochures, advertising, you name it. You need to know you audience (No. 2 above) rather well in order to execute properly with the right offer (No. 3 above). This is a point where your tech project usually runs into deep muddy waters. You need to have it integrated in order to achieve maximum effect. Depending on where you start it can be more or less work. Your email system needs to be connected to your CRM which needs to be connected to your marketing automation system which needs to be connected to your website which needs to be connected to your customer support system which needs to be connected to your CRM which needs to be connected to logistics systems which needs to… and on and on. The thing is that you need to start somewhere. Prioritise! The business critical systems on the inside are usually in place and should not be touched. A big chunk of your IS/IT-budget is probably dedicated to the maintenance of these. Instead, start to work your way from your audience and the most effective touchpoints. This is where your business case is best. The question to answer is how do you want to deliver value to the audience based the bullets above? This becomes the requirement on your tech.
The points 1 to 4 is your homework and foundation before you even start to discuss any supporting information system. You need to document it all because it is vital information to everyone involved in making it happen. The document becomes your requirement specification. It might be very evident to you but does your management, colleagues, and suppliers share the same view? If you enter a discussion about systems before you have ticked off all the bullets above it is very likely that you miss something that later on becomes a point of pain.
OK, ready? Then let’s move on to the final point.
Many times I have seen companies choose supporting tools and systems based on one employee’s individual preference. Someone is recruited to the company and they bring tools that they know, and are used to, rather than choosing what is right for the new company given the criteria listed above. The operating context for the companies is most likely different, suggesting that the criteria needs to be revisited. Keep an open mind as long as possible, do your homework, and you are more likely to have a constructive discussion with your tech guys and management. Remember that engineers are programmed to find errors and problems everywhere. They thrive on it. You have to respect that, yet, your role is to keep on reminding everyone about the business objectives and how you are going to achieve them. Finally, you might get the support you are seeking. Then make sure that the supplier you are choosing really understands you, your company, and your reason to exist.
To summarize, at the end of the day it is all pretty straight forward. You will get out what you put in. If you take your starting point in the tech itself, and set the objective to optimise the utilization and maintenance process of that tech, that is what you are going to get. However, it says nothing about if it is the right thing to do in order to fulfil your business objectives. If you instead take your starting point in your business mission, and set the objective to optimise that, chances are significantly greater that your tech investment will end up delivering real value to your business.