The importance of planning digital projects.

in Gilroy Solutions
by Nick Lee

In writing a number of proposals recently I have outlined the Gilroy process and methodologies and the importance of strategic planning. This is something I feel passionate about detailing because in a saturated world of digital agencies and production houses I think this can often be overlooked by the client and the agency in an effort to reduce costs or timings. However it will undoubtedly have greater repercussions further down the line with poor results or with overall costs increasing.

What a difference planning makes
Great planning will typically lead to great results in any field and recently I have seen this through a passion of mine: cricket. This summer, as any English cricket fan will attest, was a joyous occasion as we became the world number 1 in test cricket for the first time and all off the back of winning the Ashes Down Under. This was a remarkable turnaround for English cricket, especially after the whitewash tour of Australia in 2006-07 and the 51 all out against West Indies only two years ago. In fact, it was in the West Indies when everything was going wrong for England that Andy Flower was appointed head coach. Here the relationship between he and Captain Andrew Strauss began and Flower's meticulous approach, in preparation, planning and getting practices right started.

In 2006-07 when Strauss left Australia four years after England had been whitewashed 5-0, it was fashionable for the press and supporters to yearn for the discovery of a mystery spinner, capable of turning the ball both ways, or a fast bowler of electrifying pace. But as Strauss was quick to point out, England returned two years later with neither of those advantages, merely with a team based upon sound principles. "We have proved it is possible for English sides to win out here and also proved that you don't need a mystery spinner or a guy that bowls at 95mph to do it," Strauss said. "You just need a lot of guys performing well and consistently.”

The tenuous link
In essence Strauss is saying that you can have all the ingredients but without detailed planning and the right management you won’t achieve the best possible result. This is the same in digital agencies, where the winner is the team that best integrates the primary disciplines (HTML, Flash, back end and design) in to the end product (the solution). The best integration comes through the strategic planning and creative direction from the outset of the project. And like Flower & Strauss we at Gilroy are only too aware of this so we ensure that ‘pen doesn’t touch paper’ until we have gone through this process thoroughly in our discovery phase to create a detailed scope of work.

Our approach
First we gather the data necessary to recommend an appropriate solution – one that answers real needs and achieves measurable goals. All too often, digital solutions are developed based upon assumption, not built around quantitative data, resulting in costly ‘fixes’ at a later date. To avoid this, Gilroy focuses on initially gathering all relevant information as well as the user data needed to formulate an effective strategy. This combination of qualitative and quantitative data is crucial in determining the solution that will yield the maximum results. The discovery process is comprehensive and will involve meetings with all stakeholders who will have direct experience with the end product or will be making crucial decisions regarding the project. We gather information including;

•Primary and secondary business challenges 
•Desired outcome/goals
•Preferences for measuring success
•Target audience identification, context and intent
•Content requirements
•Information resources
•Project contacts
•Technology and design standards

We then analyse this information to produce the scope of work which is formulated to include: 

•A detailed requirements and features list
•Comprehensive technical specifications
•Detailed site architecture and wireframes
•Detailed project plan and key milestones
•Creative concepts

The outcome 
The outcome is a blueprint for the project which clearly outlines the production plan and deliverables. Now we don’t break out into the Graham Swann sprinkler dance but we do have a strong foundation to deliver a successful project. Take a look at our website to find out more about our approach.