The Secret Sauce, Ep. 13: Why Strategy Reports Matter

In this week's Secret Sauce podcast, Account Manager Allison Manley shares valuable insights on building effective Strategy Reports, and why they're so incredibly important for your project.

Account Manager Allison Manley is joined today by... well, herself! She shares valuable insights on building effective Strategy Reports – the document we generate at the end of the discovery and strategy phase of any project that includes the summary of our work, methodology, KPIs, competitive analysis, personas, usability test results, and much more – for your project. In short, they're very important.

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We'll be back next Tuesday with another episode of the Secret Sauce and a new installment of our long-form interview podcast On the Air With Palantir next Thursday (it's a DrupalCon preview special!), but for now subscribe to all of our episodes over on iTunes.

Transcript

AM: Hello and welcome to The Secret Sauce, brought to you by Palantir.net. As always, this is a quick podcast, just a few minutes long, that offers a quick tip on some small thing you can do to help your business run better.

I’m Allison Manley. I’m an Account Manager here at Palantir, and today’s advice comes from ... me! Haha! Today I’m going to talk about Strategy Reports, which is a report that we at Palantir generate at the end of the discovery and strategy phase of any project.

Some agencies refer to these as Creative Briefs, particularly if you’re in design or advertising. And they are essentially the same thing: it’s a report that summarizes all the research and findings uncovered from the discovery and strategy work done at the beginning of a project. It outlines the goals of the project, and then gives recommendations moving forward for the remainder of the project. They can be just a few pages long, or even 100 pages long depending on the depth and detail of the research.

Some items that could be included in a Strategy Report are the following:

  • A summary of the work, and the methodology used;
  • A definition of strategic goals and recommended paths forward, with supporting metrics and data to help drive internal change management;
  • Any Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring project success;
  • Competitive analysis;
  • Documentation of content management needs, governance and workflows;
  • A review of any existing content strategies to recommend how to best manage content moving forward;
  • Assuming of course you’re doing a website, ideas in which the content can be marketed and expanded beyond the web site into additional campaigns;
  • A content migration strategy outlining how content will be moved that will include initial recommendations on time and resources required, and how to minimize the SEO impact;
  • Any results from usability tests or surveys created during the initial phases;
  • Any persona development created from the uncovered research;
  • And it could even include a project schedule with milestones for strategic objectives or completion of work throughout the remainder of the process.

So as you can see, they can include a lot of really valuable information, or as little as you need depending on your project.

Strategic Reports are terrific for a number of reasons. First, they lay the groundwork for the entire team. That could include marketing and communications folks, designers, stakeholders, developers, etc. The report makes sure the entire team knows exactly what the roadmap is for the project going forward, and lays a strong foundation as to how that roadmap was developed. It informs the next phases of wireframing, developing the information architecture, creating designs, and through development as all those people on the team know exactly why they are making each decision along the way when they are creating the final product.

Second, it’s a fantastic reference in case you get lost during the process. It’s really easy on long projects in particular as scope expands, or changes, or new team members come on or off a project, to lose focus on what you’re building in the first place. So when the team starts to feel like it’s straying off the path in any way, go back to that Strategy Report and review the overall goals and why you got there to help you focus back on what’s necessary to complete the project. I wrote a blog post recently called You Don’t Want Fries With That that talks about this particular reason why upfront strategy is so critical to any project.

Lastly, and this reason is more pragmatic, a summary report simply justifies a lot of the upfront research and offers peace of mind! Building discovery time into a project is critical to completing any job thoughtfully. But a stakeholder on the client end may wonder what they’re getting for their money, and they’ll want to see something tangible to justify that expense. A website is an expensive proposition, no doubt, and usually the most critical and visible marketing piece an organization produces. So of course a stakeholder might get concerned if several weeks of research and testing are happening, but they don’t see anything tangible until they see designs or wireframes much later. So summarizing all the initial work into a Strategy Report gives them peace of mind that progress is being made, as well as setting up the rest of the project beautifully for success.

That’s why I love Strategy Reports so much for every project.

Thank you all for listening to this week’s Secret Sauce! For more great tips, follow us on twitter at @palantir, or visit our website at palantir.net. Have a great day!