This week we held a webinar on how to create a foundation for digital transformation, presented by Brad, the Director of Enterprise Architecture at Americaneagle.com.
Here, we recap the event, and invite you to listen to the recording.
What Does it Take to Establish a Foundation for Your Project?
Above all, it is crucial that you ensure you understand the problem or opportunity you will be tackling, before getting started.
At the start of a project many of our clients ask questions like “what will it take to transform us into a digital company?” or, “I need a website, how much will this cost?”
While these questions are very important, it is not possible to answer them accurately without understanding the core of the problem that they are looking to solve.
Start by learning how to define the discovery process, and in particular, how to discover the true problem.
Steps to Defining the Discovery Process
The discovery process can be broken into two main sections, with three steps within each.
- Discover the Problem
- Business Requirements
- Market Requirements
- User Requirements
- Define the Solution
- Functional Requirements
- Nonfunctional Requirements
- Transitional Requirements
In this blog post and in the associated webinar recording, we focus on the bold items above: defining business requirements and market requirements. We recently had the opportunity to work with an anonymous major state university, and will use examples from this experience to illustrate the process and give real-life examples of its success.
Step 1: Business Requirements
Business requirements help us understand what to do, and why we are doing it.
Goals, Strategies, Objectives and Tactics (GSOTs)
- Goals refer to the broad or overarching outcome the organization is looking to achieve - (and sometimes touches on “why”, in terms of values, mission, etc.)
- Strategies are approaches taken to achieve goals. They’re a high-level answer to “how”. A customer’s strategy might be to add ecommerce to a site, or create a customer portal.
- Objectives are granular, measurable steps. They enable you to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success.
- Tactics are the tools used in pursuit of objectives. They are tasks you can assign out to be implemented.
- Our major state university client had a goal to broaden online learning,
- Their strategy was to offer live and on-demand classes, online courses, webinars and in-person workshops to complement existing courses.
- Objectives included establishing a new student portal, developing curriculum by a specific date, and offering webinars by a target date.
- Their tactics included finding a learning management system, and integrating it with a student learning portal.
The next step is to hold stakeholder interviews, to uncover different agendas and expectations that might already be set. It is important to include anyone that will be impacted by the solution including executives, employees, customers, etc.
The kind of questions we ask include:
- What processes or tools are broken?
- What are the paint points?
- What disrupts operational flow or impacts efficiency negatively?
- What causes internal or external customers frustration?
- What is working well already?
Our university client set out with an initiative to add ecommerce to their existing solution, but once we met with their stakeholders we discovered that the ecommerce need was not the priority, and that such functionality did exist, but very few of the business units knew how to use it.
Through 28 interviews we found that:
- Users had trouble finding information.
- That there was a huge need for an event management system and learning management system.
- That the inability to manage content without help from the IT department was a major barrier.
- That marketing opportunities were limited as there was no way for teams to co-ordinate or orchestrate their tactics.
- That they had trouble tracking prospective customers.
Once issues are identified we can prioritize them based on level of effort and importance. Those that are high priority and low effort are considered low-hanging fruit, and can be tackled first.
Next, gain an understanding of current business rules.
- Learn what tools, licenses and contracts are in place so they can be leveraged.
- Gain an understanding of existing hosting methods and infrastructure.
- Identify any legal requirements.
- Discuss timeline and budget.
Our university client had already made decisions that put them in the Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) stack. The LAMP stack is representative of a resource pool. It would be costly to change this so we knew one business rule would be to stay within the LAMP stack for any custom work.
Step 2: Market Requirements
The second step is to gain an understanding of market requirements, and find out who presents need and opportunity.
Audience and Personas
- Gain understanding of market requirements by getting to know your customer and differentiating different customer groups. If you operate differently with a particular user type, they should have a different persona. For example if your Sales team would pitch a different operation to that user, or they would go to a different customer service department, then they belong in their own customer group. If users want to be treated differently but you’re not currently marketing differently to them today, that would also be a reason to separate them out.
- Develop fictional personas based on each custom group.
- Listen to motivators and concerns. Hold interviews, and work with surveys, panels, analytics and heatmaps to gain insight.
For our university client, we came up with five different personas. We had determined that we needed a strategy that would enable each type of user to experience the university in a way that supported their goals. By capturing demographic information we were also able to find out their motivators, preferred channels to be reached via, etc.
Next up, find out which of your competitors is providing what, and how they are doing it, using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis.
- What is your competitors messaging?
- How is their offering organized?
- What are their customers saying about them?
- Are there standards in place that we need to adhere to, to meet users’ expectations?
All this information gives us a better understanding of the MVP (minimal viable product) that we must make available to compete.
- We found that our university client had the most content on their site, but very little organic traffic. This meant we were able to optimize for keywords.
- They also had the highest bounce rate, which often indicates that marketing efforts don’t match user intent.
- Across competitors, sites were word-heavy, but with little engagement. The focus on the majority of the sites was not what you could do on the site, but what you could learn. Competitors had not yet made the step towards greater interactivity, which provided opportunity for our client.
- Competitors were not using smart search. On a site with so much content, a guided navigation with facets could give our client the edge.
- Personalization could also push our client into the lead.
Engagement and Conversions
Next, discuss and establish micro and macro conversions. Look for gaps in the user experience and map conversions back to the user types defined with your personas.
Our university client established the following macro conversions:
- Event registration
- Training registration
- Purchase materials
And the additional micro-conversions:
- Landing page hits
- Social sharing
- Sign up for email lists
- View educational and resource content
Developing a strategy
When developing a strategy it’s important to prioritize, define a roadmap and understand stakeholder intent. Look for gaps in the market and opportunities, and strategize how to make your value proposition unique. Plan an appropriate and scalable solution.
The roadmap we created for our university client comprised of three phases. This made it easier to orchestrate and stick to budget and timeline. We prioritized to ensure they saw return on investment (ROI) before phase 2 and phase 3. Their student portal became the envy of competitors, and personalization ensured users found relevant content, quickly.
Build Your Foundation with Americaneagle.com
We leverage our experience to our client’s benefit, and create strategies that are driven by requirements, not tools. Too many businesses choose a tool, and are forced to adapt to its limitations: reverse this thinking, to ensure the tools you choose work to meet your business goals.
Our solutions succeed, with data to prove it. We identify cost savings and revenue-generating opportunities; success means improvements pay for themselves.
We’re a long term partner. We don’t just build your site and walk away. We continue to work with you for your ongoing success and support.
Watch the recording for in-depth insight into how to strategize for your success.