Killing the Kickoff
(Part 1)

How to Prepare for a Successful Digital Project Kickoff

Posted by Matthew Farleo on 4th Feb 2018

The success or failure of Kickoff Meetings depend heavily on the information gathered, but what are the most important things to understand to guarantee project success?

After a project has been sold and a contract signed, the first meeting between the client and the production team responsible for building the digital product is called the Kickoff Meeting. This initial meeting is when project requirements are outlined and the production team gathers the important information to get started. A kickoff meeting can be anywhere from an hour to several hours in length, depending on the size and scope of the project. However, in order to maximize the amount of quality information gathered during the meeting it is important to accomplish a few things before a project even gets kicked off.

What Leads up to a Successful Kickoff Meeting?

First and foremost it is important for everyone on the production and account teams to read and understand the contract. Presenting a unified, confident front as to what has been sold and what can be done within the budget is paramount. This will help ensure that your team appears trustworthy and knowledgeable since your expertise is the reason the client is coming to you in the first place. This also allows your team time to identify items that could potentially cause Scope Creep. Scope Creep is the addition of time and effort to build features that were outside of the agreed upon contract. Also during this initial project onboarding, it is important to set an agenda for the kickoff meeting to assure that the team can get the requisite information to make the project a success.

Besides just reading the contract it is important for the user experience (UX) team to do some self-guided research into the business of the client. This can take the form of looking through competition websites, reading industry articles and looking through any analytics data that the client may have. Looking at competition websites will help the team understand industry design patterns and trends and begin to understand what type of interfaces appeal to the industry-specific consumers. Reading industry articles helps put you in a like mindset with the targeted user groups and can help begin to develop and understanding of the user base while looking at analytic data can give you quantitative information and high-level demographic information.

Questionnaires and Pre-Kickoff Tasks

An additional important pre-meeting task is sending out any relevant questionnaires that should be returned 24hrs before the meeting (to allow the relevant team members to examine the information). These questionnaires can vary depending on what the digital project's scope is, ranging from SEO & Marketing to Branding & Design. From a user experience design perspective asking questions to find out who their users are, what their high-level business objectives are and what prompted their need for this digital product are all important to start developing who the client sees as their primary users and reasoning behind the product. As with all digital products, building on empathy with the product owner’s is just as important as building empathy with the users.

Also important to include with the questionnaire are requests for examples of competition websites and other digital experiences that the business team finds engaging or applicable. The competition sites will help the team perform a Competitive Analysis when analyzing the business landscape during the kickoff meeting. The additional digital experiences that the client finds engaging are classified as Experiences we Like and are also used as points of discussion during the kickoff meeting, as thoroughly examining and dissecting different experiences can provide a wealth of information.

Forward unto the Kickoff

As information is provided by the product owners, the UX team is responsible for analyzing it in order to ensure that it is generally accurate and makes sense. They are then responsible for relating that information the rest of the team in order to make an accurate agenda for the kickoff meeting. Again, this helps the team present a confident, unified front as experts in the digital product industry, which goes a long way in building trust and partnerships with your clientele.