Killing the Kickoff
(Part 2)

What Makes A Successful Kickoff Meeting?

Posted by Matthew Farleo on 28th Sep 2019

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?

Continued from Killing the Kickoff (Part 1)

Kicking off a new project with a new client is always exciting, with its hope of success and promise of a strong partnership. However, it is important to not lose sight of the project's goals and that the initial meetings are used to get the information the project started down the path to success. 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?

I’m Sure You’re Wondering Why I Gathered You Here Today...

Once the relevant questionnaires have been finished and the team has spent some time discussing the project to ensure the team is aligned it is time to officially start the project with the Kickoff. Kickoff meetings hinge on the ability to gather relevant information from the clients involved, what this information is will depend heavily on the scope of the project, but for a traditional digital project, we usually are looking to clarify information around the following topics.

The Business Outlook is made up of several individual components of information centered around why the business exists and how it functions profitably. It starts with interrogating the Business Model, or how the business generates revenue. Some examples of business models would be how a hardware store sells hardware, museums charge for admission or a musician sells music and/or concert tickets. Its also important to establish where the digital product will fit within the Business’ Ecosystem, what role it plays in the business model and how it contributes to the business’ success. This information will lead to the digital product’s KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), or the primary quantitative factors that determine if the digital product is a success.

Additionally, during the kickoff, it is important to discuss user groups from a high level, to help establish some direction for the user research, this can be further expanded upon in a persona discovery workshop. Another topic of discussion is other digital products, either analyzing competition’s digital solutions in the target marketplace (Competitive Analysis) or just looking at other digital experiences that were singled-out as products with potential (Experiences We Like). A Competitive Analysis is a high-level look at what the competition is doing in the marketplace and how the potential digital product can either improve on the concept or differentiate itself meaningfully in user’s lives. Experiences We Like is more of an analysis of other digital products and workflows that might have design patterns that can apply to our new product or have an appealing aesthetic that could translate to our application.

Establishing a Partnership and Delegating Roles

Other than gathering information and understanding how the business functions and the digital product’s role within the business model, the Kickoff also establishes the partnership between the production team and the product owners or clients. The foundation of any strong partnership is built on mutual trust that the participating parties will hold up their end of the deal. Understanding the different roles and responsibilities of each member of the partnership is important because knowing what tasks to deliver on will directly contribute to project success. A failure to deliver based on your delegated roles will lead to an erosion of trust. But what are these roles that the project team is responsible for?

Client Role: Industry Expert

Especially during the early phases of the project, the client or product owner provides the role of industry knowledge-holder. That means as the project is starting, the client is responsible for providing crucial business landscape information, how the business makes money and what their industry is doing. This information is the initial foundation that we base our assumptions on when starting the project, but it will be examined through a variety of lenses (user testing) to ensure accuracy. Industry's primary focus is ensuring that the digital product will work well within the business model.

UX Role: Digital Leadership and Expertise

The User Experience (UX) team is responsible for steering the project through the user experience process and leading the project from a place of digital expertise. The UX team is also responsible for testing any assumptions that are being made to ensure accuracy and being the voice for the users within the project team. Their primary focus is creating an interface or application that will work intuitively for the users and solve the user’s problems that the application was looking to solve.

Setting Expectations and Moving Forward

Once the roles have been information has been gathered and the teams understand what they are responsible for during the project, it is important to set expectations for the project and communication moving forward. Generally, this is a high-level explanation of the project’s processes, deliverables, and workshops as well as developing expectations of what the typical turn-around time (how long it will take to review and submit feedback) on deliverables will need to be. This information is important for determining timelines and planning out meetings or handoffs. Providing this wrap-up at the end of the kick-off will lead to a better holistic understanding of the digital process and ensures all members of the project team are on the same page, leading out of the kickoff meeting and into digital project production.