It’s been nearly 6 years since I started the company that is now called PwrdBy. The original goal was to leverage technology to help nonprofits be better nonprofits (ex: raise more money, work efficiently etc.) which has stayed in tact, however, the many <buzzword> pivots </buzzword> we’ve gone through has helped us learn SO much about technology, business, client needs, markets etc. We’ve refined our approach at every turn, getting better and better along the way. One of the things I haven’t done enough of though, is share what we learn along the way. So with that being said, I want to share our latest approach to how we take on clients.

Rather than trying to force fit products into the nonprofit sector, which is so dramatically different from client to client, and even within one “brand” of client. (ex: Habitat for Humanity has 1700 affiliates that all operate with the same mission in mind, but they all approach it 100% differently. LA builds homes while New York repairs homes due to lack of space for new ones.) We’ve turned PwrdBy more into a specialized mobile first agency, and we start by focusing on the specific clients needs. Empathy for how they do what they do and why. Empathy for who they serve and how. Their structure, politics etc.

We call it I.D.E.A. (novel right?…)

I.D.E.A. also pretty much sums up our business model. Each stage of the 4 part process is a place where we establish a business relationship, or strive to.

Stage 1: IDEATION 

When we were meeting with prospective clients, we kept hearing “We know we need to go mobile, we know we want to go mobile, but we just don’t know how/what/why/when.” After hearing this a number of times, we decided that rather than have them come to us with their ideas, we would help them establish the right path, before conversations of building anything came into play. Thats where the Ideation sessions come in.

Ideation sessions are basically guided brainstorming sessions. We establish a group of their stakeholders, typically a blend of executives, employees and sometimes clients of theirs and we host anywhere from a day to a week of these group brainstorms around the biggest business goals, problems and challenges. We focus on who the challenges effect, the metrics behind how solving these challenges could improve the organization and we end up tying these back to problem statements and goals statements that we can map solutions back to. If the brainstormed solutions don’t directly effect the problem statement, than it’s set off to the side as a “nice to have” feature.

After the session, our team gets back to the shop, powers through stacks of notes, post its, charts etc. and maps out a number of potential solutions, business cases around each solution and then creates a proposal for the client based on our findings. It’s actually kind of like being an investigator… and if you make it fun, it can be reallly fun for everyone. The biggest thing about what this stage is striving to do, is solve a problem and define what a successful outcome looks like.

Stage 2: DESIGN/DEVELOP

We only make it to this stage of our process if the client excepts a proposal. This is where we flush out the visual design, user experience, user interface and then onto the actually engineering of the mobile application or mobile first solution we proposed. We’re pretty much an agile shop (though everyone says that and we all tweak how we actually approach things) but we create a work flow in sprints and typically do bi-weekly builds for Product Design and QA reviews. Some of those get to the client, some do not.

Stage 3: EXECUTE

This is a stage where I feel that most products fail without proper support. Thats why we wrap ourselves into helping the client execute their release of the product. We help them think through change management, where and how this solution will be distributed, we help develop training materials if needed, customer support infrastructure as needed, etc. Much like the IDEATION stage… this is pretty much pure consulting. This helps us ensure the outcome we set out to accomplish with the Ideation stage.

Stage 4: ANALYZE 

This is how we close the loop. Once the product has been released into the wild, we track it’s success or failure. Whats working, whats not, what could be working better… did we hit our key performance indicators basically? If not, how can we improve the solution… wait for it… back to IDEATION to define how to make this thing work even better!

From there, like some agency style shops, we really make our money by almost partnering with the client. We’re focused on service based engagements, not gouging for building an application and running away when it’s done.

So there you have it. It’s fairly straight forward, though there is a deep level of complexity and process within each stage… and that is somewhat different per engagement. If you took the time to read this, I hope it helps you think through your approach and how you address client. In fact, feel free to just make it your own. We feel like creating end to end, closed loop systems gives us the best chance to really bring true impact to our clients efforts and gives them the best chance to make the most of their investment in new and emerging technologies.