“Trying to create groundbreaking work at a massive company is like steering an aircraft carrier. Slow, arduous and painstakingly time consuming. Perception is a speed boat among these behemoths that breaks through this process with the speed of a cigarette boat!” —Anonymous Client from a DOD company.
We are always approached by huge companies that are smart enough to realize they need more than just great design at the root of their products. It’s designing something special, something unlike anything they can find elsewhere, it’s something magical.
Most of these huge companies have internal creative “start ups” for this very reason, but more on that later. We commend these people at the large companies that see the value in thought provoking design and partnering with an agency like us that inspires and initiates further explorations.
What is difficult to understand is the arduous process it takes to onboard into the vendor system. These companies need to understand and evolve this system in order to help get them to the next level of cutting edge work and game changing products. This vendor initiation wastes time which would and should have been used for the actual project. Users don’t care if the product went to the proper vendor, all they care about is what it looks like, how it works and do I want to add this to my everyday toolbox increasing value to my work/day life!
Let me give you a perfect example of why the large companies need to evolve this archaic vendor system in order to survive the next surge of creativity in the digital realm:
Perception was called to create a cutting edge use case for a data visualization project that fit our specialty of UI perfectly. The project was to take 2 months for an initial discovery phase. Once we received the go ahead we were told that we needed to become an approved vendor in the system to proceed.
This is where it gets fun! The system did not even have a category for the type of specialized service Perception is known for. Unfortunately creating and speaking to the folks that put these surveys together is useless since they don’t know the project specifics. After several grueling days of paperwork and MSA’s longer than a J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy we were told that it’s a 2 month process, corresponding with multiple business units across several continents for vendor approval. Hence the project would have been OVER before Perception could become a vendor.
Sadly the project went to another agency with far less capabilities resulting in a final application that was very underwhelming and left users scratching their heads asking “what was that all about, I’m not sure I even understand the reason for this product”?
Another common occurrence with larger companies is the misrepresentation of the RFP process. After being specifically sought out to work on a specialized project– custom built for us by an innovation UX team– we are then forced into an RFP process by a separate procurement group that we never asked to be part of in the first place.
Recently, a huge pharmaceutical company reached out to us to help them visualize data in a unique way (vague I know). We had numerous calls and face to face meetings, both sides determined it was a perfect fit. We then received an automated email alerting us that we would be thrown into an RFP to be considered for the project as a whole, not just for the specialized vision we were first selected for (because they didn’t have a category in the RFP process that aligned with our specialty).
The archaic process of adding 2 other companies to get a “triple bid” is ridiculous. If you did your research, know you have the right team for the job and the return on the investment is proven then why begin the RFP process? I understand protocols and company systems need to be in place but I don’t understand that these systems and thinking are as archaic as the people who came up with them 25 years ago.
Imagine bringing to market a technology that is 25 years old. It would be unheard of! So why do we have an antiquated system selecting these outside companies that are supposed to bring the future vision to life. This is why Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech giants are out pacing the competition. Don’t be fooled in thinking they only use their internal teams, they use (very secretive) external partners or acquire already existing design shops to enhance the internal team. They see the value in the right partners and move ahead, creating brilliant products and services that exceed expectations.
Internal “start ups”:
Within these large companies, a mini lab or “start up” has been created specifically to tackle the internal design challenges. Unfortunately these teams end up being translators or decoders of what the C-suite wants to see and spends most of their time creating cookie cutter content.
Don’t get me wrong, having an internal creative “start up” team is a good idea but when it comes to architecting user experiences of tomorrow these internal teams are handcuffed by the same corporate structure that does not let them explore outside the lines inhibiting the creativity needed to traverse the outer limits. These teams have shared the frustrations of being too “close to it” and not being able to illustrate a unique vision.
Our best collaborations have happened when we partner with the internal creative teams. Of course no one is going to know the brand and all the design traits better, they also help us navigate the corporate waters swiftly. We essentially become an extension of the internal team providing strategic thinking and creative ideation for the future. During our explorations we often create frames on 2 spectrums: the ones we call “wild” and the ones that are “mild”. Wild are very futuristic and push technology to its limits. The mild spectrum is a “pulled back” approach that can be utilized for products that need to be released in the near future. 90% of the time the final design is a hybrid of a couple of different directions or a release of the product in phases.
These teams understand the enormous value that we bring and together our collaborations craft magical experiences!
When we were asked to work on a top-secret super car it was the internal design team that approached us to come aboard. The executives were a little skeptical because of the secure nature of the project but were willing to meet. After our initial meeting and portfolio of tech design projects they saw the potential in an alliance that would later become award winning.
The executives streamlined the vendor process, getting us onboard within 2 weeks instead of the usual 60 days!
We started the project with the internal team brain dumping everything they had for inspiration, references and wish lists onto us. Once we digested all this we were of to the races. We had scrums every 2 days and in person workshops.
The collaboration was tremendous; each team influenced the other and created a healthy competition of pushing each other past our breaking points, which resulted in exceeding expectations!
I am not at liberty to say what the project is but I can tell you that once the public saw the vehicle it was well received and has been winning awards ever since! You will have to wait and see our announcement once permission is granted.
Perception has been in business for 15 years. In those years we’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) how to maneuver through different departments from executive, creative, engineering, procurement, and legal. Here is some advice for huge companies to keep in mind when searching for a new external creative partner:
Do a little research and know the skill set of the partner you are looking to hire and bring onboard. The best companies showcase expertise on their website, tell you about the team and most importantly describe the process enough to give a good sense of alignment if any.
Knowing internally what you are looking for the external partner to provide back to you. Essentially – What are you buying?
When ever possible build a creative brief that explain in as much detail what you are looking for. We’ve had clients call not knowing what they want to build or not have a written brief, this is when we take a “discovery” phase approach with them to help create that brief and expectations. Once the brief is complete we move into phase one.
If you have a brief created give the external partner to review and within 48 hours set up a call with you to ask questions and get deeper knowledge of what the outcome should be. This is essential and you can use it as a “first date” to gauge if you feel comfortable with the team on the other side. You can sense a lot from one phone call and gauge if it’s a good fit.
Have specific funds already allocated! Clients have called us and we have both gone through “the kicking tires” process only to realize that there was never a specific budget allocated for the project.
If the company is not the right fit for you or the project don’t be shy about letting them know. Leaving a company in the dark about the outcome of an RFP or decision is unprofessional. Believe me, we appreciate getting calls when we don’t get projects. We usually ask why to help us do better on the next one so if you are on the other side then please let them know why they didn’t get the job. It only helps everyone in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to ask if the external partner has time in the schedule and who the team will be on the project. If your paying for the A team then you should have them for the life of the project.
Make sure you are the decision maker for the project or at least one level below the key decision maker. The process of everyone putting fingerprints on the project gets time consuming and very expensive, leading to an unpleasant experience on both sides.
Hope these little tidbits of info we gathered over the years helps.