Shifting Left and Finding Solutions

By | 2016-11-04T16:57:26+00:00 November 3, 2014|Best Practices, Events, Shot of JUICE, Viewpoints|

The second annual QA Summit for Digital Marketing resulted in an even deeper dive into the challenges surrounding quality assurance. As one of the presenters, Sara Allen had the opportunity to guide discussions and uncover some of today’s most innovative approaches. In her downloadable report, “Three Best Processes to Ensure Effective Communication on a Digital Project,” you’ll find simple ways to ensure effective communication across all members of your digital team and solidify the highest quality end product.

In addition, you’ll find results to her survey, which tapped into the opinions of nearly every ad person, digital expert, and marketing guru in attendance. It’s good stuff.

Three Best Processes to Ensure Effective Communication on a Digital Project

A study published in The Journal of Defense Software Engineering reported that throughout a digital project’s life cycle, on average 56% of issues that arise happen during the requirements stage; and it’s no wonder since all discovery and definition of the project’s deliverable occurs during that stage. The common thread that runs through this requirements stage is either lack of communication, lack of information, or misunderstandings.

On any given team involved in a digital project, a mixture of unique worldviews coupled with different agendas and disciplines adds complexity to the challenges of accomplishing the end goal of creating an amazing solution for the client. To ensure effective communication and help minimize the high percentage of issues that occur during the requirements stage, here are three key “best processes.”

Introduce key stakeholders to each other


In exploring solutions to medical safety issues, Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, proposed adding team introductions to the presurgery checklist. This enables each team member to have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what during the procedure.

In a digital project, full team instructions should happen during the creative kickoff with the client and with the team. Whether in person, on a conference call, or via email, it should be made clear who is responsible for all the various tasks and information. Starting a project by clearly outlining all key stakeholders along with up-to-date contact information ensures that communication channels are open up front.

Ensure alignment of all stakeholders


Ensuring alignment among key stakeholders work to provide 2 very important functions. The first is high-level comprehension across the team—putting everyone on the same page.

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People places an incredible amount of importance on listening. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In essence, when the development team understands the end goal from a digital perspective, a more thorough preliminary discovery can happen. The right questions will be asked. The appropriate information will be requested.

Holding a roundtable discussion and asking questions early on will help avoid most miscommunication, misunderstandings, and any need for further pieces of information crucial to the project’s success. From this alignment comes more effective documentation such as wireframes, sitemaps, and business and functional requirement documents.

The second function of making alignment a priority is to facilitate meaningful relationships with the development team. This pays off in dividends in the long run as historically the development team is not consulted on the project until the hand-off. By ensuring conversation between programmers, account, and project managers, team members grow more comfortable with asking questions to better understand the project.

Create documentation of relevant terminology


With so much jargon, acronyms, terms, and updates within the technology atmosphere, it can be a daunting feat to maintain this information, much less ensure alignment. Providing a glossary of relevant terms at project kickoffs may, and often do, facilitate conversations that lead to a greater understanding of technology, which is beneficial in the long run. By producing a document that lists the key technical terms as relates to that project along with high-level definitions, everyone on the team will have a point of reference to consult while discussing the digital aspects of the project.

In the digital space, many words are interchangeable. For example, one client may use the word “tracking” when referencing the functionality of recording the actions of the user. Another client refers to the same functionality as “tagging.” “Tagging” is a term that can also mean applying meta data to images on a website. Both terms can easily be employed during one project life cycle, so it’s important that the definition is clarified to avoid misunderstandings and to manage expectations.

Ensuring Success

In summary, within the technological atmosphere of where there are over 1,000 programming languages, hundreds of development platforms, and countless machines and devices, we are literally surrounded by an avalanche of change, making quality assurance throughout the project life cycle a challenge. Implementing some best processes, such as introductions, alignment, and documentation of terminology—all of which are fundamental tools that provide invaluable space to properly address the exchange of information among team members—will go a long way toward reducing issues throughout the entire project.

Quality Assurance Summit Survey Results on a Digital Project

Have you ever experienced a situation in which a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge affected the project’s timeline or success?

Not surprisingly, 100% answered “yes.” This lack of knowledge or understanding points to the 56% of issues occurring during the requirements stage. Asking the right questions, understanding the necessary information to request, and being aware of the variables as they relate to different technologies would alleviate these pitfalls.

At what point during the project life cycle do you feel the key stakeholders need to align on a basic glossary?

Over 80% responded that that alignment should take place during the discovery and definition of a project. The remaining 20% suggested at the project kickoff. To hold alignment on these terms enables more effective discussion and planning.

How often do you feel like everyone on the team holds the same understanding of the project and the terminology?

Only 10% answered “often” or “always.” Consider that to navigate a map in a foreign country without a grasp on some basic words in the native language would provide for a very difficult time getting from point A to point B. In this case, if team members working together on a digital project do not have the basic language with which they can communicate, developing a solid solution will be that much harder. 56% of those who took the survey felt that it is only sometimes that everyone on the team holds the same understanding of the project and relevant terminology.

Who should be responsible for ensuring the entire team is in alignment with the key terms?

Almost 80% of those who took the survey felt that the project manager should be responsible. The glossary is produced as a group effort between the developer and the project manager and then distributed by the project manager to the rest of the team and, in some cases, the client.

What is your understanding of the term “tagging”?

71% of those surveyed agreed that “tagging” is the process by which key words or terms are assigned to a piece of information or an image, whereas 20% responded that tagging is another word for tracking. 8% cheerfully confirmed that tag is a game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” or touch them, usually with their hands. The point to this question is that a word or term can rightfully hold a different meaning to different individuals, making it all the more necessary for clarification within the context of a project.

If you would like to download a PDF of this white paper, please provide your name and email address below for a link to the report.

Fill out the form to download “Three Best Processes to Ensure Effective Communication on a Digital Project” report now.

About the Author:

Joan Wildermuth
Executive Director, Chief Creative Officer

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