Setting measurable objectives
This section introduces the approach used by Digital at the RNLI, but it can be just as successful when applied to offline projects too.
The mechanics of measurement
We don’t do anything particularly new around measurement, but we are looking to be consistent and rigorous in how we make decisions and track progress. Fundamentally, we’re eager to learn and data allows us to do this. At the start of each project, we try to nail down the following:
Each project should begin by defining the objectives behind every significant piece of work and relating these back to the RNLI’s core mission. This prevents ‘scope creep’, which can lead to project delays and expanding budgets. A key part of this is focusing on the classic SMART elements of objective setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. These objectives need to work for the whole project team in order for all elements of the project to be aligned.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
These are main quantifiable figures that the project seeks to impact: the ‘measurement’ element of the project’s objectives. A project might explore many metrics, but not all will be KPIs. For example, a high-street fashion retailer might be interested in counting footfall (the number of people entering the shop), browse time, the average number of items tried on per customer, and the average number of items in a basket. These are all important ‘leading metrics’ that indicate the effectiveness of individual steps in a user journey. But the KPIs will be revenue and, ultimately, profit.
It is only by understanding the objective that you can set useful KPIs. These KPIs can be used directly to measure progress, clearly demonstrating whether your objective has been met.
This is the process of understanding your past performance and current situation. When combined with user research, competitor analysis and knowledge of best-practice, it allows you to plot a course to meet your objectives.
For example, if a direct marketer is tasked with increasing catalogue enquiries by 50% from one year to the next, they will only know if this is feasible by looking at historical data. Equally, if a new online retailer wants to estimate revenue, then they could use industry data about e-commerce conversion rates as a benchmark and the basis of their traffic acquisition spend. That’s because this data will allow them to estimate how many site visitors they will need per sale.
Benchmarking against your project KPIs gives the best insight during a project and provides actionable data going forwards.
As well as understanding KPIs and targets, it is vitally important to understand who will actually use your product or service. We use a number of tools to get into the mindset of users, including user stories, persona creation and customer journey mapping. These tools help us empathise with users and focus on the removal of pain points and the creation of ‘delighters’ that encourage engagement. They also help us create clear parameters for success.
But no matter how carefully we plan or think we know our audience, it is never as good as testing ideas with the real thing. We therefore look to engage with real users wherever possible.
Project retrospectives and innovation
We’re always changing our approach in order to make projects more efficient and our digital experiences more impactful. We do this in two key ways: through project retrospectives and by trialling new tools and techniques.
At the end of every significant project, the whole project team is invited to conduct a ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ retrospective. These informal, positive and constructive sessions focus on successes and areas of improvement that we then share for use on future projects.
New tools and techniques
We make great efforts to try new techniques and pilot new tools. For example, some of the biggest advances we’ve made in collaboration and prototyping have come through testing new user experience applications. Trying new things in a coherent and structured format lets us accelerate our progress and closes process gaps highlighted in the project retrospectives.
Get in touch
If you would like to know more about how we work or have suggestions about tools or practices that could help us refine our approach around measurable objectives and user feedback, then please get in touch.