14 Dec, 2020

When you don’t know, what you don’t know

It’s a bit of a tongue twister, but what do you do when you don’t know, what you don’t know? What if you’ve always worked the same way, you have an inkling there might be a better way – but what you do works, it’s a pain and as far as you know, there is no other way - so, you just keep working that way.

Likewise, have you ever hurt your leg, gone to the doctors and asked them to just chop it off? I didn’t think so; you go see them, generally describe the pain point and let them investigate, prod and probe. They then come back with a diagnosis and recommended treatment based on years of experience (good news – you can keep your leg!).

Now you’re probably asking how this transfers to the digital world. Am I on the Christmas sherry a bit early? No, the aspect I want to discuss today is the idea of ‘digital discovery’. There are lots of names for this process – an insight session, digital consultancy, even just commoditised as an ‘audit’ – but ultimately, it’s a pre-project process that helps organisations really get to outline the solution that will help them the most.

There is so much data available today that its easy to see a headline figure and decide we have to rebuild our entire digital stable (chopping off the leg so to speak!). As a broad example, is your bounce rate that high in terms of sector averages, is it a site wide issue, is it a seasonal spike, is there a particular traffic source that delivers poor traffic? And following on from those questions, ask why, why and why! Dig and dig – you might just find two or three small tweaks and changes you can make that actually make a huge difference.

Facilitating a discovery with an experienced agency means that they can add their experience from hundreds of projects, tons of clients and years of delivering success online. They can help you take out pre-conditioned lines of attack (“We’ve always done that…”), avoid internal politics (“The MD wanted it, so we did it”) and help you avoid the latest fad (remember when everyone had to have an ‘app’).

A discovery isn’t a precursor to a large capital project either; actually, it may be the opposite. Yes, you will need to pay for the discovery, but it’s a lot less of an investment than jumping two feet straight into a rebuild; especially if you don’t need it.

A good agency won’t just have an off-the-shelf list of things they check, they wont just give you a print out of the SEO tool they use and claim it’s their advice – they’ll work with you to ensure from their side the right people are in the room (creative vs devs vs BAs etc), they’ll do actual research (competitors, UX audits and Analytics reviews) and they’ll want to spend time in workshops with you asking questions, probing and prodding.

If anyone ever offers you an ‘audit’ or discovery without part of that being asking you questions, discussing with you and your team and finding out more about your wider organisation; just run… run away. Go Google “Free website audit tool” – it’ll save you time on the inevitable hard sell afterwards.

A good discovery process will help all parties get a deeper understanding of the problem, insight into the key stakeholders around the problem (internal vs customers perhaps?), the avenues and routes you could take and the key risks/rewards/investments required for each. It’s “a road map for success” if you like a cliché.

Please don’t just lock discovery down to traditional website and ecommerce projects – with the rise of digital transformation there are lots of ways a good digital agency can help your organisation grow and improve. Digital transformation is a very widely encompassing term – roughly its “The process of using digital technologies to create or modify existing processes” – so nearly everything in your business could be enhanced digitally – pretty broad, huh!?

Those that have met me, will have heard me say how many times I’ve heard clients say “We just do it in Excel…” and that one line has started many wonderful conversations that excite the Pixelbuilders team. This really is about the ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’.

Too often organisations think they have to come up with the solution their selves and then go out an procure it – why not start with the problem. Just outline the problem you’re having – no matter how high level. We don’t know the problem you’re trying to solve and you might not know the best solution if that conversation never happens. So, start that conversation, engage an agency in a discovery project around it and find out what really is the best solution for you.

Ultimately, no organisation is too big or too small to do a discovery – for smaller companies it might help cost-effectively deliver more for less effort and transform an aspect of your business, for bigger organisations it might have meant you didn’t lose a load of COVID-19 test data by using Excel as your data management platform.