Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Assessment and analysis aren't just the backside of business

Often we place great emphasis on doing. If we're doing, then we're productive. If we're not doing, then we're not productive.

Or are we?

A family friend, Tommi Huovinen, is one of the principals of Smarp Oy, a Finnish social media consulting firm. (English site here; Finnish site here.) When Smarp engages a client, they take an important first step:

Tarjoamamme viiden portaan prosessi alkaa kokonaisvaltaisella tilannekatsauksella asiakkaan sen hetkisestä sosiaalisen median läsnäolosta ja aktiivisuudesta. Vaiheessa kaksi analysoimme asiakkaan erityistarpeet ja kerromme, mitä sosiaalisen median kanavia yrityksen olisi järkevintä, luontevinta ja tuottoisinta hyödyntää. Vaikutuskanavia on rajattomasti, mutta on ehdottoman tärkeää, että asiakas ei yritä levittäytyä kaikkiin mahdollisiin medioihin vaan valitsee juuri heidän tarpeisiinsa sopivat vaihtoehdot.

Whoops...let's try that again:

The five-step process starts with an overall assessment of the client’s social media presence. In our second step we analyze our client’s specific needs and figure out which social media channels are the most effective and the best fit for them. The possibilities are endless, but it is impeccably important to choose the correct channels and not try to enter them all.

Before Smarp can actually get around to doing anything - in this case, implementing a social media strategy - they have to start by assessing where the client already is. After this first step, Smarp analyzes what they've learned from the assessment. Next, they share some examples with the customer while accounting for the client's "specific wishes, needs, and goals." Only after these three steps are completed does Smarp actually implement anything.

It was the same when I was in product management - other than concepts, no code was committed to paper until after I had written the marketing requirements, and the systems engineers had written the technical requirements.

In the proposals world, I do a number of things before I actually start writing the proposal. One of the biggest steps, of course, is to read the Request for Proposal that the customer has provided to the vendors. If I were to start writing a proposal without reading the RFP, I can absolutely guarantee that I will not win the award.

Now I don't know the Finnish for the words "assessment" and "analysis," but in English both words begin with references to a person's backside. This is fitting, since both assessment and analysis are truly back-office operations, sometimes denigrated by those who do "real work." (Yeah, work boot company whose name I didn't catch when your radio commercial aired, I'm talking to you now.)

But if you don't do the prepatory work, then you're going to get kicked in the backside by your competitors.
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