Friday, 21 June 2013

Pitches: the changing landscape for iMedia

The Pitch approach to winning new business has always been controversial, but it had become an accepted way of working – part of the culture of agency (creative) and government work. It looks as if this is changing, so is it time to evaluate your approach?

The rationale for doing ‘pitches’ from the client’s point of view, was that they got to see the capabilities and skills of several businesses before they committed money to them. In the spirit of ‘creative’ work, the client wanted to see the potential of the ideas for their business. The rationale for doing pitches from the company’s point of view was the possibility of winning lucrative and profile-enhancing new business.

But, in reality, how often does this happen? The criticisms of the clients involved in the process include: they just used the process to confirm their present provider and drive their price down, they used the process to pick up ideas that they then got a rival of ours to implement. The criticisms of the agencies involved in the process include: we saw the same old pitch from them, nothing new, they weren’t prepared well and seemed inexperienced, they just didn’t seem to take it seriously.

As for the pitching process itself, criticisms from the agencies about the process are: it involves a lot of time and effort that is unpaid and has risky potential return, we can’t dedicate a specialist team for pitches although we need to because we aren’t big enough, we dedicate specialist teams to pitching for new business but the return doesn’t warrant the use of resources. There are more of these criticisms at: MCM2’s blog, The Top 5 Worst Pitch Experiences (10.6.13)

These criticisms are finally having an impact on the way pitches are conducted. Will Burns in The Pitch and its Costly Blindspot (25.4.13) states that the process is no longer giving the clients free access to the ‘best’ ideas. This had been the fundamental principle for the process. He’s found from his research that agencies are saying ‘no’ to the offer to pitch. He advocates clients having help from a pitch consultant to draw up a list of agencies and then having ‘intimate’ meetings/dinners to understand the potential of the agency. This is far cheaper, allows access to the smaller companies, and takes the cost pressure off the agencies. What do you think about that? He advocates agencies getting paid for the work they do: no free pitches anymore. What do you think about that?

If you are still in to pitching, you’ve just time to get to a conference on 17th of July in Cardiff through The Chartered Institute of Marketing, entitled The Winning Pitch: Grow your Business.

Then you might also like a dedicated blog for pitching at ‘Winning Words’.

Friday, 14 June 2013

A question of balance: perspectives

The most powerful way to plan a project involves use of three equal perspectives: business, technology and customer. The customer perspective is often the most misunderstood and misused.
Scott Berkum, 'The Art of Project Management', O’Reilly, May 2005 (updated 2008)
The good news is that we are getting better at understanding the customer perspective and we can continue to learn from others on how to tap into the customer’s reaction. Sheetai Kumari gives us great advice in How to Develop Powerful Psychologically Optimised Websites, May 2013

Her tips include:
  • Identify Persuasion Triggers
  • Place Visual Anchors
  • Address Colour Psychology
  • Devise the Information Flow
  • Implement User-friendly Features
  • Use White Space
Sheeta wants websites to relate directly to cognition through cultural triggers. These, she says, need to be assessed as part of a communication strategy for website design. This is true for other forms of technology platforms too.

User Testing design ideas can resolve conflict in the extended development team and is recommended by Rick Whittington in his blog, How Usability Testing Can Resolve Internal Conflict, May 2013. We've all been there when the cross-functional team pulls in different directions with the technology limitations versus the design ideas, adding in the client trying to influence with their own perspective – a classic project management dilemma.

There can be some confusion for developers in exactly who the customer is for the project. Some label the client as the customer while others feel it is the end user. Where do you stand on this? We lean on the end user perspective.

Yet another take on lining up with the user is explained in Pixel Media’s approach where they state that Alligning content and Analytics to customer intent is key for them as a business.

Finally, just for some light relief, Wabbaly offers some very visual ‘tasters’ for what can be designed with the users’ life-style in mind. Enjoy.

Friday, 7 June 2013

iMedia Teamwork today and what it means for business

The nature of teamwork has changed over the years and today we are more used to virtual teams and cross-functional teams. These terms are now embedded in job descriptions and the skill of working in such a team or managing such teams successfully is sought after. Virtual teams mean a group of people who are brought together for a particular project but do not share the same physical workspace. This might include team members from other countries. Cross-functional teams might also be virtual teams but this term relates more to the mixed skill-set of the people brought together rather than their physical proximity.

In some of the latest team research from Ashridge ManagementIndex 2012-13, (scroll down the page to Published Research),77% of respondents say they are increasingly asked to manage cross-functional and virtual teams.

The benefits and limitations of such teams is analysed in an interesting research paper from Michigan State University which although from 1992, has been cited today at The Team Building Directory under the heading Resolving Conflict at Work. (The sub-heading Cross Functional sourcing team benefits and limitations relates better to the import of the article, we believe.) This paper actually goes further than the benefits and limitations because it looks at factors affecting the teams' performance. Now, these factors are crucial and perhaps more relevant for iMedia. In fact, the benefits are all conditional on factors – so that's a lesson in itself, isn't it?


  • If the team members are selected carefully, the team brings greater knowledge and skill together at one time and increases the effectiveness of the product.
  • If the client gives the right participation, then the product benefits as well.
  • If the team is given the right authority levels, then the product benefits as well.
  • If the team leader is effective, then the product benefits from greater team effort.


  • More time used in reaching decisions
  • Issues over team’s autonomy to make decisions
  • Interference from outsiders trying to influence the team
  • Lack of insight on whether the team is performing well
  • Over-domination of some team members
  • Lack of time

Factors affecting the team's success

  • Selection of the team – type of skill, personal chemistry (personality?), willingness to participate and ability to influence a section of the organisation.
  • Size of the team – the larger it is the more difficult to manage, of course.
  • Access to the right information, tools, materials, budget requirements, management support, client participation (note we have transposed the word client for supplier in this case, to make better sense for our industry.)
  • Recognition of the team’s role and their contribution to success. If there is evaluation by the company, perhaps annually, then their contribution in a team should count.
  • Assigning people to the team that have the requisite skills needed.
  • An effective trained team leader
  • Clearly defined project/task
  • Motivation of team members is significant.
  • Organisational readiness for cross-functional teams
This then leaves us with questions. Are your own teams being effective and efficient and if not why not? If the great majority of teams today are cross-functional and virtual, what conditions should management create to help these teams succeed? Does your company ask and listen to your teams about what they need?

Tough questions with no straight answers. But, only you can answer them for your own company. Do you want more successful projects might be your starting point?