This is what we documented when we set out to build a strategic planning and execution solution for small and midsize businesses.
At the heart of the user experience, what we’re designing is visual communication. Big picture planning is not sexy and there doesn’t exist a common understanding of what a good plan is or should include. Most companies don’t do formal planning because it is time-consuming and frustrating when you don’t have guidance. Many companies settle for just setting goals as their compromise.
We set out to create an incredibly easy and powerful strategic planning and execution solution. The best way to do that is to make it intuitive where users can quickly grasp how to create a plan; for the executors of the plan, rank and file employees, they can quickly grasp what the plan is and their role in executing it. This begs for a highly communicative, visual approach.
Planning and execution are all about people collaborating to accomplish positive things in an organization. This application needs to embrace the latest social collaboration trends happening in the marketplace, even on the consumer side. We also have to support real-time collaboration.
The original concept for this app ten years ago was that “social” in the enterprise wasn’t done right because it didn’t marry the conversation to the actual plan people were supposedly following. In the intervening years, this has only marginally been corrected. We now have lots of apps that have been turned social, but they are all isolated from each other. People need to see and understand the big picture plan to truly collaborate effectively. That is still missing in the market.
Everyone is different; they think differently, process information differently, and organize their thoughts differently. Therefore we need an experience that allows for this. We should provide ample flexibility so users can tailor views to what makes sense to them. Often these views enable users to problem-solve challenges. It’s harder to problem-solve when you can’t see the big picture or the problem.
Additionally, the pain we’re solving for in our strategic planning and execution solution is broad in scope and lies on multiple continuums that we ignore at our peril.
- We deal with the big picture plan right through to the nitty-gritty execution details.
- We work with structured environments and messy, unstructured ones.
- At times we need to provide a process and in others, the process will hurt.
- In some cases, users will seek guidance and in others, they will want to do it themselves.
- In some cases, the answers are known and you just need to do something, in others, there are unknowns where users need the space to work through them.
- We want the app to be a platform for a myriad of approaches to think, plan, and execute. We don’t want to tell them this is the process you have to follow
- Have the interface guide as to the process, enough to help, but not too much that they feel controlled.
Simple (to understand/easy to use strategic planning & execution solution)
People don’t like typing, filling out data fields, or mentally taxing efforts (unless problem-solving). Where possible we need to pre-think for them so they can spend their time selecting (clicking) rather than typing, sorting, or organizing. Interviews with members of our target market, small and midsize business owners, constantly used the term “simple” to describe what they desire and how they like to operate.
Online there is an endless supply of good advice on how to run a small and midsize company. The problem is that you have to wade through an even greater amount of useless or self-serving posts to find it. Even then you’re not sure if the advice is appropriate for your business or your situation. Our job is to source it at scale, package it up, and allow users to find the right elements of a plan where they are confident it’s right for their situation. Then the content needs to be simple to follow, with step-by-step instructions you can’t screw up. Instruct, educate, and show what needles should move, so businesses know what to do, why they are doing it, and how it will help.
Instructional (provides guidance/structure)
Strategic planning is probably the most important and least understood process small and midsize businesses deal with. There is no universal understanding of how to approach planning or what best practices are. You can find this in disciplines like engineering, marketing, sales, or accounting, but not for business planning. An important job, maybe the most important job, for us is to provide the structure that owners seek to do the planning and execution monitoring properly. In addition to providing structure to the process owners also seek help in developing the specific plans they want to execute. Owners seek out advisors and online resources to find better ways to do things they are already doing or to do new things they want to try. We need to translate these best practices and provide them in an easy to consume way – a marketplace.