Strategy has taken on such a broad definition and connotation of power that everyone, everywhere wants to be a strategist. The truth is that organizational challenges are typically not driven by lack of strategy, but rather by misalignment on the execution of and budgetary support for strategic priorities. These issues can be compounded by organizational silos, especially where strategic priorities involve systems that lie between departments – as is often the case with efforts to drive audience engagement. Additionally, strategic goals that can’t be tracked and measured will never result in answers or progress. Making the case for budgetary or other support of cross-organizational initiatives is much easier when those initiatives are aligned to strategic goals and have their own clear and measurable outcomes.
What are the rules in your organization for moving your strategy forward? Governance compliments strategy by creating the path for enabling action. While collecting feedback from all people all the time would be ideal, the practicality of our working days and the time-sensitive nature of activities in the marketing and communications space do not allow for total consensus. Having a governance structure in place that clearly delineates accountability, responsibility, and communication channels work to reduce choke points. Counterintuitively, added layers of process can lead to more organizational agility, rather than less, by empowering everyone with a common vocabulary and rules of the road for moving content and ideas to your audiences.
Strategy & Governance Includes
Strategic Goal Alignment
Are the strategic goals and objectives you’ve outlined for your marketing and communications engagement efforts aligned with the overall organizational goals? Can you create a report that tracks the impact of your email marketing toward these higher level goals of revenue or organizational positioning? Clear alignment between outcomes of audience engagement efforts and broader organizational goals is a valuable tool during difficult decision making and prioritization of organizational resources. Communicating how goals are aligned throughout the organization also translates into clarity of operations and responsibilities among staff and across departments.
Strategic goal alignment helps:
- Clearly articulate expectations and desired end state
- Reduce tension between departments and teams by clarifying responsibilities
- Measure performance across various tactical streams
- Build the internal case for budgetary or other resource allocations
Application & Website Development
What is the last technical project you survived? Was it built and designed specifically to your needs, or built and developed from the lowest price bidder’s software development knowledge? Did you get something exceptional, or something adequate? While technologies continue to change at a breakneck pace, consumer behaviors and needs adapt more slowly and your users are rarely excited to have to learn “one more new thing.” How can you offer the best experiences and modernize efficiently while avoiding technologies that promise more impact but just deliver more maintenance headaches? The key is to ensure the humans who are expected to use the tools are front and center as the stakeholders of the design and build of your technology efforts.
Smart technology investments work in harmony with your existing business workflows, staff time allocations, and staff expertise. Too many organizations are convinced to adopt “best in class” solutions that are terrible fits for their teams, have many extraneous confusing features, and require major investments by staff to use effectively.
Our team has designed, developed, delivered and supported unique business applications for over 20 years. This experience led us to the fundamental truth that technology is easy and people are hard. We work with clients that are ready to have assumptions challenged and break out of a less effective status quo. We will work with you to design and select technology solutions that are “right fit” to your need, not an idealized “industry” standard. We navigate through the technical landscape, focused on your staff, technical, and goal ecosystem. We have a road-tested process for mitigating risk, managing the cost of ownership, and delivering useful, valuable technology to help you bring new capabilities to your team.
Let us help you:
- Diagnose and determine a clear, achievable plan for the why, what, and how of your next technical project
- Guide technology projects using our expert processes for risk mitigation, organizational buy-in, and practical technical design
- Determine the most effective architectures and approaches for delivering value quickly and launching iterative improvements informed by audience feedback
- Create a robust and sustainable engagement platform for your organization
Product & Portfolio Management
Product management sounds like something for, well, a product company. But what tools are in your engagement stack that are not digital? So often budget is allocated to run a project and when it completes there is frustration over the notion that there will be ongoing costs for maintenance and upkeep. However, if you can change the narrative from project expense to product investment, it is easier to help everyone see how the product – a website, analytics framework, asset platform, or marketing automation system – is connected to achieving the organizational goals and not just holding a spot in the digital world of noise.
Moving further, you can take each product and map it into a portfolio of audience engagement tools to help with investment choices year over year. The portfolio view is a layer higher than the products and it ties in information on staff capacity and capabilities to show gaps and needs, annual budget allocations across the portfolio to understand what investments can help you not just maintain portfolio health but increase the overall effectiveness of the portfolio as a whole.
We work with our clients to further ensure there is a direct tie from product to portfolio to organizational goals. This provides great business intelligence and removes doubts about spending on marketing and communications efforts.
Product and Portfolio Management can help you:
- Move from managing one-off project expenses to product investments
- Change the frame from one-time expense to investment that returns on objectives
- Provide a framework for decision-making between adding staff, new technology or changing your engagement architecture
- Provide visibility for the executive office into how your portfolio plays into the overall goals and objective targets for the organization
Wonderful user experiences with technology rarely occur by accident, and just as rarely do technologies age like fine wine. Most organizations don’t have the luxury to solve both their acute current needs as well as to consider how their organization’s mid-term plans will intersect with the likely trajectory of technical innovation or future technologies.
We architect all of our solutions to provide value to your organization as quickly as possible, while at the same time allowing for iterative improvement based on real-world feedback. It’s been our experience that most organizations learn what their real requirements and needs are through the use of the technologies they have, and that the best technical designs take this into account.
Technical architecture that stands the test of time is flexible, modular, adaptable, and designed to allow iterative improvements. We incorporate community standards for structuring data, integrating systems, and delivering content wherever possible to maximize the interoperability of out of the box systems, and focus on the use of open source solutions when designing custom software to ensure that solutions can be evolved or adapted in the future.
Let us help you:
- Collaboratively design a technical approach for your next project that maximizes the value you receive while minimizing the budget and timeline for delivery
- Design integration plans for existing systems and technology infrastructure to share content, data, and support great audience experiences
- Ensure your technical architecture is designed in concert with your staff model and planned business workflows
Facilitation & Consensus Building
Ever been working on an effort that just gets stuck and can’t move forward? Design decisions hit a crossroad, operational tactics are leading to frustration across units, multiple stakeholders and various opinions are not adding up to a resolution.
Sometimes a third party can provide a perspective and driving force to help gain consensus and alignment by facilitating the uneasy discussions – whether those are within a team, across departments, or even among multiple vendors supporting your portfolio of engagement architecture tools and products. We have developed an approach that enables us to drop in and quickly assess the situation from various perspectives, then lead group discussions to reset and align on desired outcomes.
Strong facilitation helps teams:
- Identify the commonalities, pain points and anomalies in perspectives
- Build a shared understanding of goals, objectives and desired outcomes among executive stakeholders and staff
- Develop a tactical plan to reset and complete stalled efforts
Systems Lifecycle Management
Every bit of technology deployed across your organization will deprecate. Can you pinpoint the moment when squeezing a few more years out of a system will cost your organization more than replacing it? Does your organization budget for system recoveries, data breaches, and migrating old systems between servers? Do you analyze the cost of delaying a migration or operating a system that isn’t receiving software patches?
It’s ok if your answer is “no”; many organizations have a difficult time with these questions. Most organizations also don’t consider the lifecycle of the technologies they may be acquiring. Every year we work with organizations that are considering adopting technologies that are either nearing their own end-of-life period, or are not mature enough yet for adoption. That is why we help organizations understand the trade-offs and plan for future decisions that need to be made in order to address these issues and increase value.
Let us help you:
- Strategically manage your technology portfolio to update systems at the most advantageous time for your organization
- Plan technology costs more accurately into your budgets
- Avoid acquiring technologies at the wrong point in those technologies lifecycle
- Understand the return on investment that different technology investments or options might provide
Every major effort is part of a change that your organization is trying to enact. However, it is not always clear what the change will yield and why it must happen now. Change management is about creating impact plans that address the natural uncertainties and anxieties that happen during these times of organizational adaptation.
Communications and impact planning are critical to achieving acceptance and success for new endeavors. Preparing your team for something new is one part tactical training and another part of helping them see the value of the change for the work they are doing–not just that their operational processes are being upended for change’s sake.
Change management helps by creating:
- A tactical, methodical, and efficient approach to change management to increase adoption and acceptance
- Communications strategies for collecting inputs and feedback as well as sharing updates
- Guidance for ways to achieve stakeholder and employee buy-in
Tool Evaluation and Selection
You have a clear need, and you may have identified a few solutions that could work, all the while every salesperson you talk with is confident that their particular solution is your best option. Your colleagues from other teams and departments want to have input and make sure you are not missing any single possible opportunity. A VP in another department wants you to justify using a different system than they are using. Does any of this sound familiar? You are not alone: navigating the wide variety of technology choices seems to always intersect with the internal politics of an organization.
Our team is software agnostic (although we prefer open source solutions if custom development will be required) and we can save time and sanity by helping you discover, evaluate, and “right fit” tools. Our evaluation processes take into account not just your existing systems, staff capacity, and budget, but also the internal pressures that can block consensus or adoption of particular tool choices.
Let us help you:
- Get a deep and organized view of possible new tools and systems
- Consider all possible options, scored and evaluated against your organization’s unique criteria
- Weigh the pros and cons of the best solutions, filtered and prioritized based on your needs
Planning and Roadmap Development
Being tasked with a multi-year effort or a product plan with multiple systems and staff touchpoints can be daunting. How can you be sure what the best next steps are, where the tradeoffs might be and how the work you do will be cumulative and not result in stopping, scrapping and starting over. Development of roadmaps and both product and portfolio level planning will help you get your mind, and hands, around the various elements that will be a part of your journey. This planning and mapping will help build confidence and understand where there might be bumps in the road and what points are most critical for delivering and showing progress to your stakeholders.
Don’t stall out over trying to have the perfect roadmap, we work with our clients to implement adaptable approaches that take into account the realities that will occur, even though we can’t label them at launch.
How this helps:
- Presents a timeline and plan to understand the course of projects or entire portfolios of engagement tools
- Reduces anxiety from stakeholders about expectations
- Accommodates and adapts to changing landscape in real time without losing focus on bigger vision goals
- Provides cost-effective risk mitigation
The truth is, the cheese does not stand alone. All of your systems have data and content that is made more valuable when juxtaposed or intersected with information from another system. Data sharing and syncing requires coordination and process definition to be reliable and effective. An expert in a given technology system will understand how to export data out or import data into that particular system, but rarely are they planning for or designing for organization-wide data sharing.
Our systems integration methodology looks across your entire suite of systems and data warehouses to create content-sharing and syncing maps that clearly identify the data we want to share, sync, and edit system to system. From these data maps we design unified content, taxonomy, and data structures. These standards allow us to minimize the cost of integration by allowing each system to map to a common standard, and to allow us to reuse integration plugins. In the most robust integration models we will also create a series of microservice APIs that facilitate data discovery, enforce content curation of shared content such as taxonomies, and allow systems integrations to register themselves as consuming external data.
We wrap all of our systems integration work with governance and business process planning that ensure that your staff are integrated and communicating clearly, in addition to your content and data.
Let us help you:
- Maximize the value you receive from every technical system you have deployed
- Create great audience experiences across engagement channels
- Nurture adoption of (or enforce) content and taxonomy standards across your organization
- Develop better business intelligence and insights by enabling data from multiple systems to be analyzed easily in one place