One of the foundations of successful client management, especially with customers whom we have worked with for many years, is the concept of ongoing evaluation and review. As we’ve spoken about in the past, digital mediums are unusual in that they allow us to iterate, improve and amend on an ongoing basis without having to reinvent the wheel. The problem is that most customers don’t bother. Most clients are happy to create a website or application, set it loose and let it sit for a couple of years until they are ready to reinitiate. This is an approach that hardly results in successful outcomes.
On the other hand, we have clients who spend a significant portion of their time improving their projects, iterating as they see fit and making advancements to move their business forward. This is strategically very sound and a worthwhile investment. However, it’s also vital for them to step back, take a deep breath and look at what is working and isn’t working.
We call this process “rediscovery,” which is based on the concept that every once in a while, it makes sense to step back to the scenic overlook and have a look at how things are going, and how they can be improved. In our case, rediscovery is something we internally conduct for customers, often without them even knowing this is underway. We use this session as a team to focus on what can be improved, what is working, and finding some new areas of opportunity for our clients. Any good agency that you have on retainer should be doing this on a regular basis, and providing you with massive value as they take their learnings from other customers and experiences and apply it to your situation. However, this is also a practice that you should conduct within your own group, whether it be just yourself or as a team. This post is meant to give you a few pointers and tips as to what to look out for when performing such a session, and what the ultimate outcome should be.
First: The Outcome
It makes sense to first focus on what you are going to accomplish by having this introspective look into your digital world. When we conduct these discoveries, we often times aren’t looking for massive strategic changes. We’re more focused on how the properties align with current strategies and any missed opportunities. So our ultimate outcome of the session is to produce a list of takeaways which can be acted upon quickly to produce positive results.
As such, this list should contain items that are achievable and well-defined. We don’t want to have issues on the list such as “rethink marketing strategy” but rather points that can be immediately implemented, such as “consolidate marketing pixels utilizing a tag management system,” or similar.
As part of a rediscovery, we try to identify 10-15 items or areas of opportunity. It isn’t necessary for you to have any specific number of items or issues to address. It could be 2 or 3, or you could have 20. The point is, generate a list and treat that as the deliverable that is created as part of this process.
The Rediscovery Session
We find it best to assemble a group, if possible, to conduct this session properly. While you can always take the tips and tricks in this post and use them for your own analysis, having multiple people in a room to brainstorm and develop ideas into concrete action items is invaluable. The session can be agenda-driven, or instead just an open exchange of ideas. No matter how you conduct the meeting, it’s essential to begin with at least a quick summarization of past efforts, the overall strategies already in place and a situation analysis which allow for all members to start thinking from a similar position.
Rediscoveries can be much more open-ended than an initial discovery session. You can have a long session or a series of sessions that approach topics in a more specific way. No matter what, remember that the purpose of the meeting is to sharpen the saw, identify new opportunities and recommit to the strategies that you have set. If consensus is hard to build, and everyone seems a bit scattered concerning what the efficacy of the existing approach is, then at the least you can deem the meeting a success in that it identified some critical concerns about the overall direction of your digital initiatives, which would warrant further review.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a free-roaming brainstorm session, and instead would want to focus on an agenda to organize the time you have together, let me recommend this as a good starting point:
Strategic Reinforcement: First, take some time to identify what the current strategy is. This sounds rudimentary, but it often happens that team members are not aligned in what the current thinking is. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and why it happened doesn’t matter. Use this opportunity to remind team members of what it is you are doing and why. This is not a time to relitigate past strategic decisions – so stay focused on providing background only.
Previous Actions Taken: An overview of what you have done leading up to today. This means not just your original project if it occurred long in the past, but also what ongoing improvements have been made in the interim period post-deployment. What changes were made, in addition to why they were made, will further align the team on how they arrived at their current position.
What worked, what didn’t: An analysis of past changes. What worked? What changes were positive? How are they quantified? What didn’t work? Why not? What changes were made along the way to improve the performance of failed experiments? All of these past changes help guide what future opportunities exist.
Areas of Opportunity: With the team now being aligned, what are the possibilities that exist? What new opportunities can you identify and what changes are necessary to achieve them? This is the entire reason you have this session, after all, so use this time to start filling in that list of possibilities, which will serve as that final deliverable.
Technological Advancements: It’s important to notice any changes to the medium during your period of iteration. Are there new tools, techniques or services you can utilize to consolidate your current toolset? Are there new methodologies available, upgrades or other new mechanisms that can make your mission even easier to achieve? Or, at the least, can your workflows benefit from any technological advancements since your last review?
Finalizing a list of takeaways: Based on the outcome of the above discussions, what are the essential items you can identify and work to implement?
The hardest part of rediscovery is putting the list of takeaways into action. The key here is to align your team on the takeaways and their benefits. If you have complete agreement on a portion of your list, then put that list into action by identifying timeframes and implementation strategies. However, if there is disagreement, plan to spend more time on the items that proved challenging to rally support for, as they may need additional consideration.
Rediscovery is an important and essential step to aligning your team towards the future and implementing small, incremental changes that can move the needle for your business. So much of the initial process of designing and developing a digital project is focused on discovery. We’ve published countless blogs, videos, and even hosted a webinar on the topic. However, it’s often forgotten that the core principles behind initial discovery can be utilized on an ongoing basis. Attempt to schedule at least two of these reviews per year, as we find that these events can drive your efforts for many months at a time when appropriately conducted.