Director of digital strategy at MerchantCantos Rick Sellers says "You don't know what you don't know"
For many organisations, digital in its various guises is now the most important platform – to communicate, to service, to sell. Digital projects are increasingly complex, and their success is business critical – in planning, in delivery, in performance.
Where do you start? For both client and agency, the key is the brief. But how can this be informed and detailed enough to give everyone involved clarity, before committing to specifications, timescales, budgets… and promises to your boss. Projects can’t get internal sign-off without a budget, but accurate budgets can’t be given without detailed information on the project.
A detailed brief - a good brief - takes time and as an agency we see all kinds. In all likelihood, the short email, the one-page Word doc, the five-minute phone (Zoom?) conversation won’t quite cut it. It introduces risk for everyone, jeopardising the final creative, experience, technical or reputational (organisational, personal) outcome. The foundations are laid on guesswork or assumption.
We believe the first brief for any digital project should be to create the brief. Find out everything you need to know first through a standalone ‘Discovery’ phase by, amongst other things, consulting a full range of stakeholders; understanding the competitive landscape and best practice; defining target audiences, their typical behaviour and needs; and, clarifying the possibilities and limitations of the technical landscape.
It’s a bite-size, small commitment relative to the overall project. It de-risks. It facilitates good decision-making. It gives the project the best chance of success. It will make budgets and timescales more realistic.
Depending on the project, Discovery exercises can be relatively quick or in-depth over several months. Way beyond a brief, they can be used to develop a roadmap for your digital ecosystem or a business case for investment. We would encourage all organisations to consider one before
committing to any digital project.
- Rick Sellers is director of digital strategy at MerchantCantos. He advises on all aspects of digital corporate communications and develops creative digital strategies for a wide range of clients including Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, Ahold Delhaize, Naspers, Nokia, Riverstone Holdings and SIG Combibloc.