When The Important Person has an idea, they usually want to get going and see it fly free. Problem is, not all ideas are necessarily ‘good’.
What they are is a starting place, but without defining the audience, what they want and need, and tying this back to tangible business benefits it’s still just an idea, and money saved at the start may be lost in making repairs later.
Whenever I’ve not been allowed to do research (or at least not had existing research available to me), the project is guided only by The Important Person’s enthusiasm, and often sprawls, drags on, peters out or, when A More Important Person gets to see it, crumbles under their scrutiny.
Research provides the guide toward success and allows you to make informed decisions.
Without it, despite respectable existing business knowledge, you still can’t know they best ways to do things, or even if what you THINK is right, actually is.
1. Clients, project owners and project managers sit down together and plan out peoples’ time without consultation and are shocked, after the plan is communicated, when the people actually doing that work have a different opinion.
2. People ask awkward questions about ‘where’s the brief?’ or wanting to know what the scope is, or ‘how do we know if we’ve succeeded?’
3. Other classic symptoms are projects where the KPIs are delivery-based rather than actual business objectives (e.g. software releases or launches vs. customer acquisition targets for example). Delivery milestones are perfect for measuring progress, but they are not measures of success.
Causes: Even nice people (colleagues or clients) have egos and can mistake good ideas for robust objectives. When “I think we should have a spinny world in the header to show how international we are” becomes the objective rather than “How do we improve repeat visits to our site or customer retention?”
It can also be a simple case of people not understanding the business value of research. It’s easy for those without experience to confuse good research with achingly prolonged survey design, unending customer interviews and ‘analysis paralysis’. All work should be tied to ‘adding value’. All research projects I’ve conducted have either validated existing assumptions and given the green light or, more importantly, unearthed fundamental differences, anomalies, dissatisfaction or highlighted new ways audiences wanted to interact with organisations.
Cure: Sometimes it’s just too late. The plan’s been agreed (not necessarily with your agreement), the budget or timings signed off and you’re told to JFDI. If you can’t get the guidance at the beginning of the project, try and get it at the end (and hopefully as you go along): Test.
Remind people that it’s cheaper to fail in design than in the market place. If they want to make more money (the usual reason) and avoid an embarrassing public failure and expensive re-redesigns, make sure what’s changing or being created is going to work, BEFORE it’s launched.
If it’s not too late, use your experience and, hopefully, previous work to highlight where you changed the thinking on a project for the better by understand what the audience actually wants or needs. Argue your case (nicely).
Prevention: It’s all about risk and failure.
If you can’t understand what the end punter is really trying to do, you risk failure, either by losing competitive advantage or simply in wasted time and money. It’s very unlikely that the ideas you’ve been given to create are so new it’s impossible to get any feedback on them.
So, get involved with the early planning (if you can), why not do some quick-n-dirty research of your own to whip out at a moment’s notice and impress people with your knowledge and guidance?
Building proper research (ANY research) into a project will only make for a better outcome.
If none of this is available you’ve got two choices:
- Walk away
- JFDI … but please, PLEASE, make sure your concerns are documented and reach the people who need to understand about risks and costs and failure