Why Sharing Value is the Most Important Step in Decision-Making
When an agency decides to join the GeorgiaGov platform, a lot of things have to take place before their new site goes live. Everything from a content audit to reviewing the site’s Google Analytics to creating an information architecture and wireframes, and every other piece in between, all has to be decided upon before content can be published on their new site.
Sometimes, when we start work with a new content team, we face a lot of initial resistance. People usually aren’t familiar with many of the tools we use to evaluate their current sites and don’t understand the need for them. So while we come in ready to work with a list of things that need to be done, they’re left wondering why a new site is needed to begin with.
Unfortunately, this is the type of environment we often enter into when we start new projects with other agencies. And understandably, it’s a tough situation for both sides.
After working on one of our latest projects, the biggest take-away I learned from a situation similar to the one described above is the importance of including your peers, employees and stakeholders in on the value behind your decisions. Whether you include them by asking their opinion, valuing their feedback or negotiating as a team, giving everyone involved a reason as to why a decision was made promotes change, adaptation, and understanding. Too many times decisions are left up to management, but those affected by those decisions never understand the value behind why the decisions were made.
Managing Change and Resistance
Managing change isn’t a new concept. As it is with many agencies we work with, the ones responsible for web content are the same people who have been working with it for 10, 15, or even 20 years. These people know how their site works, they’re familiar with what’s important to citizens and they feel the site is effective as it currently stands. They don’t see a need for change. The decision for change often comes from above; yet, the content managers are rarely given an opportunity to provide input.
At that point, we’re left to convince them of 2 things:
- We want to make your site better and more effective for them, and
- We don’t want to do their job for them.
Yes, we’re going to provide standards that must be met and also suggest best practices that adhere to modern web design; but as long as the guidelines are abided by, the rest is up to you. You’re free to create, edit, and remove content as much as you want — just as you did before. Only now you can do it more effectively and provide more value to your citizens when they visit your site.
We use a lot of different tools and put a lot of effort into evaluating your site. Tools like CrazyEgg show us what links and areas are clicked on the most and Google Analytics provides insight into your most popular pages. So while you might think certain information should be front and center on your home page, a quick review of Analytics can prove something completely different.
These numbers don’t lie; we rely on these tools to make important decisions about your website. So when we get upper management to understand this value, we consider it a huge win. However, once the decision is made to update their website, there’s one important step that is often left out — relaying that value to those who are responsible for maintaining the site day in and day out. They are the ones who need to understand why their old site wasn’t working and why new standards and practices are being put into place. It’s important because they’re the ones who will be responsible for managing their content and taking ownership of the project once requirements have been decided on.
Because communication is often lax around these type of decisions, folks at agencies often look at us as the enemy — as if we we are here to take their place. That’s not the case at all. We need them just as much as they need us. All we want to do is take care of the requirements that we promised and arm content managers with best practices that meet current digital standards. We don’t claim to know their content or understand their business — they are the experts at that, and that’s why they’re important to this whole process.
Buy-in from all members of a project is important in order to be successful, not just with a website but with any project. When our team is met with resistance, we remind folks that the goal of their website is to provide value to state citizens, and that we are there to help them do that with our 3 guiding principles leading the way: users first, content first and mobile first.