Pitch 2.0

Whilst working in agencies for many years, we often discussed how the pitch process felt broken.

Weeks of effort would be devoted to work that would rarely be used – creative responses without relevant knowledge or constraints, and estimates of effort based on assumptions and unknowns. Clients would get back a range of different responses and corresponding costs, rarely comparable. For both sides, a lot of time and effort went into what generally ended up a decision on who had the best slides, or which finger-in-the-air costs most closely matched the budget.

One of the reasons I wanted to work as an independent was to work with clients, enabling them to adopt a different process that was more effective for both parties. I recently had the chance to do this with a great client – smart, open minded, and willing to do things differently. We spent time clarifying the objectives and audiences for the project, and their relative importance. We set clear constraints, and high level user stories that needed to be covered, but steered clear of unnecessary assumptions about the solution. We wrote this up as a brief to provide an efficient handover of knowledge, rather than as a definition of what we wanted someone to build.

Instead of a pitch, we invited 3 agencies that felt a good match for the project to run solution design days with us. We spent valuable time with their strategists, designers, and developers, discussing options, and getting a real feel for each teams’ strengths and weaknesses. We openly discussed the pros and cons of various approaches, and from each session we gained valuable insights. We paid the teams for their time, and the client left with more clarity, and a far greater understanding of how digital solutions are developed. When it came to choosing a partner, the client had a feeling for what each team would be like to work with than is possible from listening to a one hour pitch, or from reading a document.

We made a number of decisions following the solution design days, and clarified some important assumptions. We asked each provider to give an estimate for the remaining discovery work, and for the delivery phase we asked for a team size and cost per sprint. This allowed the client to compare costs on a like for like basis, and weigh this up against the relevant strengths of each team. (As is often the case at this stage, there are still significant unknowns, decisions to be made, and priorities to be set, so asking for a ‘2 week sprint cost’ rather than a ‘final cost’ is more realistic and useful.)

When the decision was made, we had already done the introductions and discussed next steps, we knew how we were going to work together, and what gaps need to be researched and defined. In essence, the client chose a partner they trust to develop a viable solution for the objectives and audiences, and both parties felt ready to get started.

Processes can always be improved, and we have gathered good, honest feedback that will be useful for the next project. Those involved felt that this was a more effective and satisfying way of developing a solution and finding a partner, than crafting an impressive pitch based largely on guesswork. It was also a lot more enjoyable, and we all learned a lot on the way.

We all know the traditional agency pitch process is broken, so let’s not waste any more time and talent on great work that the world will probably never see!

I’d love to know how other people approach finding creative and technical partners to work with, or if you think this might work for you, I’d be happy to discuss and answer any questions.

Beyond Websites

I have been working with a number of charities and social enterprises on their digital strategy recently, exploring where technology can make a difference in people’s lives, beyond sharing information through a website.

It feels as though digital transformation is finally moving from a buzzword to reality, as organisations recognise increasing needs and diminishing budgets.

For me, technology has always been about improving how we experience life in some way – making something easier; providing accurate and relevant information to enable choices; connecting people; enabling us to reach our full potential.

There are a rich variety of inspiring examples – tools that enable the blind to navigate the underground, that map disaster areas for more effective humanitarian relief, that connect those with needs to willing volunteers, and many more. (For more inspiration, i’d recommend following the Tech4Good Award winners.)

In health, education and social care, digital can connect people and provide information to many, when face to face services are only available for a few.

There is a temptation to notice emerging trends and innovation, and look for any opportunity to re-use this learning as we compete for people’s attention. Tinder style matching apps and peer to peer sharing sites have seen fantastic results, but that isn’t the limit, we can do much more!

Awareness of what is possible is obviously important, but people’s needs vary hugely depending on their situation and conditions. This understanding should be our primary source of inspiration.

Organisations and the people they serve are best placed to convey distinct practical and emotional needs, with experts in various fields providing creative and innovative solutions. The most effective ideas won’t follow a template, but emerge when these parties co-create together, always starting with people, and the challenges they face in living their lives.

I look forward to seeing more inspiring examples of technology improving lives, and am really excited about working with passionate organisations and individuals to create our own.

If you are trying to make a difference, and have a hunch that technology might be able to help, i’d love to chat to you,  so feel free to get in touch.