We love to do up-front research, strategy and vision, but in this case our client had engaged another firm to do this work. The firm had some brilliant ideas, insights and long-term concepts, and the book they made to describe and support it was beautiful. But our client was new to web-based product development: they had no Product Managers, only one designer, a development team that had never worked on products (only responding to individual client requests), no dedicated front-end developers, and a huge existing customer base that they’d have to communicate with and roll out to. When they did undertake major projects, they were back-end projects like replacing data storage systems, and they were used to those projects taking 6-12 months to happen. So our challenge was to help provide the organizational, process, and design support to make this vision — massively divorced from the organizational and product realities our client had to start with — into manageable, logical steps that built momentum internally and improved clients’ lives externally.
Working closely with our client, we’ve been able to implement a multi-project strategy, breaking down the long-term vision into projects prioritized according to what’s technically possible, what’s most important to their users, and the combination of the two, a sort of biggest-bang-for-your-buck approach. In doing so, we’ve been able to:
- build faith within the organization that relatively fast, inexpensive projects can have a big positive impact on their business
- use and show research as a way to make specific tactical as well as strategic decisions
- develop first-hand understanding of what value Design brings to their products
- earn the trust of the development organization — that design isn’t going to try to take everything over or make their lives harder
- design, build and release products and get them out to our client’s customers(!)
- contribute to a culture of listening to customers, making improvements that are both efficient and effective, and incremental improvement over time to build on their success
We have been fortunate enough to work with our client over the past year. Together, we’ve released two new and two updated products — quite a record when projects used to average 18 months! And we’re looking forward to working with them in 2013 to continue to build on our momentum.