Recently, a client asked us how they might make the most of our design engagement. We started a staff e-mail thread and came up with these tips that organizations should know to create truly innovative products with an external design firm. As we told our client, innovative products come from companies with one important characteristic—willpower: The perseverance and committed resources to see a breakthrough product launched.
Here are Adaptive Path’s tips for our clients—or yours.
- Effective clients figure out quickly what the vendor/partner is good at, focuses them on that work, and then keeps the quality bar high. They clearly prioritize what’s most critical for the project’s success, and then clear a path downstream.
- Don’t lose sight of the core concept or design principles when solving implementation and operational details. The experience wanders and quickly becomes a ghost of its former self.
- Some clients try to ensure they get the most value by pushing for more wireframes, more scope, more whatever—all quantitative indicators of value. Instead, clients should be pushing hard to get better quality products. Spend your consulting dollars on design work, not just communication (explaining the process and what’s going on to the rest of the organization).
- Provide your consultant with proper resources: Time, information, money, people, passion. Don’t set arbitrary deadlines or withhold crucial information or stakeholders.
- Let go of your internal baggage. Don’t let internal politics get in the way or (worse) manifest in the product itself. Don’t let past fiascoes (especially with other agencies) taint this new project. Focus on the users of your product/service, not yourselves or the consultants.
- Have an executive who is willing to make the difficult decisions that may be internally problematic but are in the best interests of the product and its users. One of the most consistent challenges our clients face is the ability to make a decision and move forward. The possibility of removing options from the table often seems like removing the safety net from the project. Don’t bind your consultant to superficial work by “keeping your options open.”
- The core team should always be dedicated, hands-on, and collaborative. They should work as closely with the designers as they are able and is necessary. Their knowledge is crucial to the success of the project.
- Give effective and timely feedback. Delays between delivery and feedback wreck the iteration process. Funnel all feedback through centralized individual(s) and document and track the design decisions.
- Make the project, especially high-priority projects, truly high priority. Set milestones and make decisions, even unpopular ones. If your business depends on this project, act like it by dedicating resources and the attention it deserves.
- Don’t make all of your cows sacred. Be willing to question how your business works and whether that is truly the best way to operate. It is easy on Day One to say, “Help us change everything. We want a whole new way of doing things! We’re going to change the world!” It is much harder on Day 78 when you will be tempted to say, “We can’t change that. Or that. Or that.”
- Don’t ask for little bits of everything when shown distinct ideas for you to choose between. It’s not a menu.
- Execute. Amazingly, many engagements are smooth, the solution forward reaching and insightful, the client lovely, smart, and fun, but the work never gets implemented.