Whether you are briefing internal teams, software providers or digital partners, getting the brief right is pivotal in getting the right result. With the planning period for digital projects intended to be undertaken in 2023 now underway, this article takes you through the main things to be aware of when getting your requirements down on paper.
1. Define how you want to work
With such a lot being written about Agile and other project methodologies at the moment, it’s important to describe how you want to engage as clearly as possible.
Digital Transformation can act as a catalyst for wider organisational change. Tell your suppliers if you’ve got the green light to introduce collaborative working but don’t know how to do it. Lots of digital transformation enablement partners have experience with this. Most established businesses don’t have any experience in truly collaborative working. It is only through asking the right questions, knowing who you need to talk to and how to provide reassurance to management at key points that the right conditions for Agile projects are created.
Similarly, if you want to award a project with a fixed scope and timeframes to a supplier just to increase your departmental output, it helps if suppliers know from the outset. This avoids suppliers asking questions that demonstrate their strategic capability when all you want to know is whether they have availability.
2. Define how you want to buy
Be clear on how you want suppliers to respond, whether it’s an open tender or a less formal Request for Proposal.
We’ve lost count of the number of potential clients who want to have Open Tenders and have initial chemistry sessions… until 30 suppliers want to speak to them all within two weeks. If you do want to have exploratory conversations but have to use a tender process, consider engaging before you are constrained by fair and proper procurement processes.
Similarly, if it is a two-part buying process, telling suppliers will mean you don’t get lots of 100-page documents which try to include everything that you could ever want to know at the first stage.
3. Don’t Overscope
Normally digital transformation involves software products or agency services that you don’t know that well. It’s important to know when to stop your own scoping.
Our experience has been that customers who try to define too much, struggle to achieve anything at all. One project we were involved with a few years ago, had been restarted twice because of over-scoping. The client had 9 definition documents, written over 18 months, covering seven business systems, all spread over 400 pages of A4 (written in size 10 font with not enough pictures). Even a team of geniuses would struggle to work in this way.
A better approach is to make the main requirements as clear as possible. Communicating software versions and what they do will also give experienced transformation partners enough to understand broadly what is needed.
4. Identify what success looks like
Whether it's leads, sales, operational efficiencies or simply adapting user experience to support a new brand roll-out make it clear.
This can be very complex or simple. We’ve had clients in the past who have specified targets for ‘channel shift’, where they move sales from telephone-supported enquiries to pure eCommerce. We’ve also had big clients who have simple targets, like increasing market share by 5%. It always helps if goals come with measurable targets.
A lot of the time achieving big results like improvements to market share requires lots of partners working together. If suppliers know this early, it makes a big difference in how they suggest engaging with your organisation and supplier network.
5. Be prepared to communicate a budgetary range
Whilst it isn’t always advisable to publish your budgets, it is a good idea to know the ballpark you are in. The alternative might mean that you need to renegotiate budgets after appointing suppliers and potentially have to choose cheaper suppliers previously discounted on quality grounds.
We always try to make sure there is a shared understanding of what the budget is as part of the buying process. There are lots of ways of controlling costs if budgets are tight, such as agreeing on what work can be done by the client-side team, phased deliveries or removing nice-to-have functionality. This normally forms the basis of a more constructive conversation based on getting optimum value for money. Top Tip: This gets better value than just asking suppliers to knock 10% off the bill.
There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. If you are struggling we’ve got plenty of resources you could use to help, including this digital project planner which has been used by a number of our clients to brief in completely new projects and system upgrades.
Planning a digital project and need help? Get in touch, our team of experts are here to help you succeed and we’d love to hear from you.
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