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Let’s Talk Process

At Something Digital, we’ve put a lot of work in over the years to ensure there are no weaknesses in our processes. While building out complex ecommerce, there are several factors  to consider. A few broad buckets being client goals, scope of work, timeline, and, of course,budget. We’ve distilled our ideal project implementation into four phases: discovery, design, develop, demo, and deploy.

Each phase takes coordination from many members of our team, and communication is absolutely essential. We work together to make sure the whole team  understands exactly what the client wants, and we use our individual expertise to ensure that every portion of the project is properly planned for.

See full process chart

Discovery: This phase is paramount to the overall success of the project. Our Business Developers and Business Analysts work closely with the client to establish their goals and functional needs.

Design: After the features are decided, we ensure they  are executed in a way that supports usability, intuition, and accessibility—all while keeping in mind overall budget and of course, making the experience beautiful.

Development: This is when it all comes to life. Our Frontend and Backend development teams review the features documents and designs then implement what has been laid out for them.

Demo: After initial development is complete, we perform a series of quality assurance rounds or “QA” to make sure that the features and designs requested line up with what was produced.

Deploy: Once the team and the client sign off that everything is up to par—pop the champagne! We are live.

Sounds simple! Right?

Well—not so much. There’s a myriad of things that could go wrong, such as the client’s expectations changing mid-project, underestimating how long a feature will take to develop, overlooking design challenges, lack of communication, or simply bad luck. Even with the best laid plans, not everything will go as planned. We always try our best to “plan for the unplanned” by giving ourselves some wiggle room in budget and timeline, but this is not always possible.

With such complex projects and tight turnarounds, we take steps to ensure our five step process is continuously improving.  After each project, we take a step back and review the challenges we faced, and work on ways to prevent the ones that were avoidable. Most of our avoidable problems distill down to lack of communication—often between the design and develop phases, sometimes with threads leading as far back as the discovery phase.

Oh no, what can we do about that?

Communication: This one shouldn’t be a surprise, as I’ve mentioned it as a weakness a few times already. It’s one little (ok, kind of long) word that makes a world of difference in almost every situation. So, how do we fix poor communication? We can start by making time for it. A quick standup with the right questions asked can make all the difference in the long run. 

Ensure that between project phase hand-offs, each team member  understands their mission. Keep in mind that mission may need to be discussed more than once! Don’t assume that because your designer talked with your developer for 15 minutes two months ago that they have all the information needed. Communication is essential on a daily basis. Everyone should feel comfortable asking questions and being accessible to give answers.

Team Bonding: There will always be the extroverts ready and willing to ask anything and everything while sparking up light conversation. But for many, asking questions may feel like a vulnerability and can be quite difficult to do. You are exposing that you don’t already know the answer, or perhaps you don’t want to offend another team member if their documentation wasn’t clear enough. 

When you work to foster friendly relationships in the workplace, people tend to get a whole lot less intimidating. You also need to understand who on your team is the best person to answer any given question. Team bonding is a great way for people to get more comfortable with each other and feel altogether at ease with normalizing communication.

Standardization: This is an efficient way to make sure the same questions or uncertainties aren’t coming up repeatedly. A developer shouldn’t have to ask a designer where an exported file is if the file is always in the same place. Having organization in processes can save a LOT of time, but it takes experience to know where to set these standardizations up. The more projects completed, the easier it is to see areas of repetition and implement ways to streamline.

A more complex example is considering the features of a website. If you notice  multiple clients are seeking the same features , it only makes sense to build those features right into a  base build. Not only will this increase the out of box value of your product, but it will save you development time in the future.

Training: Something we do quite well at SD is provide team members with an allotted training budget and personal goals for the year. Learning on the job is an invaluable experience, but when team members  get caught up in the go-go of it all, they may not have time to fully research the right solutions to their issues. It’s important to look back on where problems are arising and allow the time to fully understand those issues vs understanding just enough to scrape by. Getting the time to take a step back to learn something new and get a new perspective can also motivate your employees to bring fresh ideas to the team.

Cross-Training: When a new employee starts at SD, we give them the opportunity to shadow a variety of roles not necessarily directly related to their position. This is to give them a holistic idea of how the company runs and more insight to who is completing each phase in the process.  

While this is a great introduction, it can be a lot to soak in while starting a new position There are certain roles that overlap more than others, and the more those roles are speaking the same language the easier it will be to communicate (there’s that word again). If a designer has a good understanding of the efforts it will take a developer to achieve a certain task, that will ultimately inform their designs. If a developer is taught basic design principles, it will be easier for them to notice nuisances in design and better line up their implementation to the design goal.

Bring it all together.

Ultimately, you can have the best processes laid out on paper but without the proper resources and team members to carry it all out you will run into problems. Creating the perfect team is ten times harder and twice as important as creating the perfect process. A team with the knowledge to pivot and innovate when problems arise and with the confidence to communicate before things reach crisis is invaluable.

 

Something Digital is here to help! Contact us and let’s talk process.

Katy Martin