Delivering the Right Level of Service – An Experience in Best PracticesMay 14, 2013 No Comments
Featured Article By Michelle Smith, EVP Services, Telerik Inc.
We’ve all heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none”. That is because it is nearly impossible to be an expert in everything. We need to play to our strengths and call for help when needed. It is this individual “expertise” that makes professional services such an important asset within IT operations, development and design.
That said, as experts, it is also important to recognize how your clients work and to do your best to incorporate yourselves into that culture as a way to deliver the best end result. A good example of this is a recent client engagement we took part in with Dan Adams and his team at Advanced Industrial Marketing (AIM).
AIM is respected in the worldwide B2B marketing community for delivering unique insight into the new product development and launch process. Dan Adams is a marketing guru in his own right, spending many years as a marketing consultant for many Fortune 500 organizations.
Based on his years of experience, Dan created a tool, LaunchStar® that guides marketers through the creation of a launch campaign, helping them to choose the best communications channels to take their message to market with the most effective support. At the end of the process, the system generates a high-quality campaign plan document ready to put on a CEO’s desk.
As the business grew, LaunchStar began to feel a bit antiquated, so Dan and his team decided to transform its flagship software solution into a standalone application with a modern user interface and make it available through the cloud.
Wanting LaunchStar to have a professional look and feel, but yet to remain true to Dan’s brand, AIM selected a design firm to get moving on the project. However, Dan and his team were rapidly facing fear and frustration. Rather than the design partner taking the time to truly understand the business, how they operated, what they were passionate about, and how their sales model typically worked, the vendor tried to push them into a template format that was not at all what they were looking for.
Dissatisfied with the track the project was on and frustrated with numerous delays, Dan and his team opted to find a new vendor to support their vision. This time they selected a UX services team that was not only willing to listen, but to take innovation by the horns and run with it. As AIM re-engaged in the LaunchStar project, Dan and his team were immediately impressed by some simple, yet effective best practices:
First and foremost, you must understand the business before you can make recommendations on someone’s behalf. This includes talking to the key decision-makers, those involved with the project and any other relevant stakeholders. As part of this “interview” process, the most important component is listening. Even the most indecisive client has some idea of where they want to go. While they’ve hired you to perform a service, they do not want to be treated like a child. They want you to digest what they have to say and offer recommendations that will guide them down the appropriate path.
Also, take some time to understand the market – competitor positioning is key to getting inside the heads of those around you. You will also gain the trust of your clients much more quickly if they know you’ve taken the time to know and understand their business.
In the case of LaunchStar, Dan and his team were frustrated at the first firm’s inability to understand their business. Therefore, when our group came in, they were immediately excited by our willingness to listen and ‘get in their heads’.
Throughout the engagement, the services team worked closely with Dan and the development team. Some developers were located in Ukraine, making regular face-to-face contact impossible. This was offset by our ability to deliver the UI designs in XAML, a development language that was understood by all. Problems often arise when a designer hands off a pixel design to be built by developers. Things get lost in translation, or are not implemented well. Because we were able to hand the software team actual code, we were able to eliminate a lot of misunderstanding and make the process faster.
In addition, we wanted to be an extension of the internal development team. This meant participating in meetings, taking on added responsibility, and ensuring timely responses to requests. This always-on mentality can go a long way towards ensuring a more collaborative environment.
In a services engagement that essentially involves the overhaul of a company’s flagship product, tensions are going to run high and plans can turn on a dime. By having the flexibility to go with the flow, and again, listen to the client, you can often avoid disasters and overages in time and budget. Talking through an idea, rather than jumping into action – or worse, dismissing it, so that the client feels undervalued- can minimize frustrations and ensure a symbiotic and mutually respectful working relationship.
In the end, we came up with a design that the team was extremely pleased with. In addition, the design was carried through to the LaunchStar website and collateral material including a book and virtual product packaging; this created a coherent visual identity for the product and its promotion. Dan and his team have reported that their customers are very happy with the end result, noting that many have never seen anything that looks this nice and is this functional.
The case of LaunchStar is one example amongst many that illustrates how sometimes, getting back to the basics that carry us through life – common sense, common courtesy and mutual respect – go a long way in getting the desired end result. For AIM, finding the right services team that met their criteria ensured that the project went from a train wreck to a great experience.DATA and ANALYTICS