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Top of the Traps

Trap #7: Designing for your CEO

November 25, 2019

One of our local rivals has a question on their client-engagement survey: “What Smartphone does your CEO use?”.

Any digital agency project manager will immediately realize why they do that, and it’s a pretty smart move. You see they’ve seen plenty of carefully-researched, strategic digital projects de-railed at the last moment, because the organization’s CEO took a look at it on their Blackberry Classic Q20.

Everyone on the digital team was clear about which browsers and devices they would be supporting, and this particular model does not represent a rounding error on the end-user analytics, but it doesn’t matter, because this is the only end-user that really counts at this moment in time.

It’s not just devices. I’m a CEO. Do you know how I got to be one? Well I’m not shy in coming forward with opinions. You ask me to feed back on something, I’m ready to go with feedback. Oh you want considered feedback? I don’t have time for that, I’m an executive.

You know what else I’ve got? Ideas - so when you show me your carefully-crafted digital project scheduled for launch next week, I’m not going to pat you on the head for a job well done. I’m more likely to ask you why it’s not Spanish bi-lingual. Oh - you think that’s unreasonable? You don’t get to be CEO by doing what’s reasonable. I’m including Artistic Directors here by the way.

It’s quite easy for digital teams to start high-fiving each other, because they’re being user-centered, using all the latest techniques and jargon, getting lots of validation from their piers, and feeling really good about where they’re going, but totally forgetting to take management with them.

Congratulations you played yourself.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Engage early and engage often.
    One of the most frustrating things about engaging with upper management, is that they have plenty of opinions, but seem strangely reluctant to take decisions. They seem to sketch out a world of possibilities, and leave you to join the dots. Here’s the secret; management are asked to take decisions all day long and they are tired of it. So stop asking for feedback, but keep management appraised of the decisions you are taking. If one of those decisions is directly in opposition with their strategy they’ll let you know, and you can course correct. I suggest you present monthly if possible. Keep it really quick and top-line. “We’ve decided our top three goals are X”, “We’re aiming to increase Y by Z in-line with our mission”

  2. Take note of feedback.
    When you get opinions and feedback regardless, take note, and think about how you are going to pay lip-service to them in your next presentation. If the CEO said they don’t like dark backgrounds, find a page with a light background and screen-shot that one for your presentation. If the CEO said it needed to be dual-language don’t laugh that off as unattainable, figure out a range of options and coverage, from telling the user to try Google Translate to guesstimating the true cost of doing it properly. Be ready at the next meeting to drop in those considerations, and tie them back to their original request. CEOs might have temporarily forgotten their previous feedback. If you showcase the ways in which you’ve taken it on board, that will help fend off new, entirely contradictory feedback. And whilst CEOs might be ready at all times with ill-founded opinions, they usually respond well to well-researched options. So come back with evidence.

Trap #10 Building a Monument
Trap #9 100% Digital Coverage
Trap #8 Divide & Conquer
Trap #7 Designing for your CEO’s smartphone
Trap #6 False Prophets
Trap #5 Post-it Fetishism
Trap #4 Building not Buying
Trap #3 Buying not Bodging
Trap #2 Bogus User Stories
Trap #1 Cutting Against the Grain