A few days ago, a request from an internal communications manager appeared in my LinkedIn stream. According to what she said, she needed help to build an intranet.
Immediately 500 offers appeared from designers, programmers, etc. who proposed to put together complete and complex interdisciplinary teams to solve her need. Even the client herself seemed to be convinced that she needed such complexity.
In the middle of that tangle of proposals, I asked her if she really needed all that. She had not told me what functionalities the intranet would have, nor how it would be updated, nor the number or levels of users, etc. Those were relevant data because, I told her, there are platforms that can solve an Intranet in times, costs, and capacities a thousand times more convenient than what an army of PLs, designers, and programmers can do in months beginning from scratch.
Platforms developed for years by top-level teams. That have constant upgrades, that compete with others for being the best, with great customer service, etc. Platforms that can be deployed in minutes at a very low cost.
One of those platforms could be the solution or not but the crowd passed over me. It was as if I had stopped to meditate at the subway gate at 9 AM. No one heard (read) my comments.
It was a client asking the best way to go from New York to Paris and everyone was proposing to build her a plane instead of buying her an Air France ticket.
In case the clarification was necessary, I co-created and co-directed since 1998 (a long time for digital) a company that includes in its staff programmers, designers, PLs, etc. I know (or think I know) what they are for and when/how much they are necessary or not.
One of the possible interpretations of this kind of mismanagement in cases like this is urgency. But the truth is that there are few situations in which, in our field, the hands should come before the head. There are emergencies where the first thing to do is to plug the leak and then think about how to avoid them in the future. But in most projects, to stop the initial frenzy and to study the options optimizes results, costs, and time.
I believe in a second interpretation.
This client defined what she needed (or what she thought she needed) in digital. She was not obliged to know the alternatives.
A programmer or designer surely knows them all. But most sells man-hours. Many digital agencies may know alternatives but they try to take every possible project before stopping to verify the relevance and logic of what the client asks for (since they run the risk of not being able to make big money in the short term).
Our job is different. To question the client. To know the options. Analyze them and decide.
Be more effective and less frenetic. And, instead of building the customer his own 777, we have to accompany her to the airport.