The Value of Workshops

January 12, 2020

Jake Anderson

Validating Your Idea

You have an idea. You think it’s amazing. Heck, even your mom thinks it’s pretty cool. But how do others feel about it? It can be difficult to tell if you’re truly filling a need that exists versus being excited at the prospect of the realization of your own creation.

There’s a euphoric feeling when someone else–other than your mom–likes your idea, and a sobering feeling when they don’t. This is especially true if you’re looking to invest tens of thousands of dollars into it of your own money.

We’ve heard a lot of ideas. Most of them were actually pretty good. There have been a number, however, that weren’t so great. At least we didn’t see its potential, which is a critical component in building a successful relationship between you and the people turning your idea into a polished product.

There are four things that typically point us towards the unworthiness of a project: building the wrong thing for the right solution, building the right thing for the wrong reasons, misalignment of teams and/or processes, and the potential volatility of a project over time. We’ve experienced each of these types of projects first hand. They either didn’t end on good terms or took much longer than we expected to complete. That makes for unhappy clients, frustrated developers, and many dollars lost.

At the end of the day, we honestly started doing workshops because we no longer wanted to feel these pains ourselves. So in a way, it was a somewhat selfish concept for us to offer. That guilt quickly faded upon the completion of the first workshop, as we found doing so not only addressed the concerns mentioned earlier, but also provided more power and flexibility to our clients.

These can be scary words to a consultancy, since we typically like rigidity and control. What we came to realize is that power and flexibility in the hands of the client–within agreed upon constraints–gave us the best results in the fastest amount of time. This only led to more satisfied clients, happier developers, and less financial risks.

Beyond the pain points mentioned above, workshops help drive a number of immediate results for our clients. It’s these immediate results that often aren’t talked about that we’re going to discuss in this article. But don’t worry, we’ll be diving into each of the above topics in future writings.

Understanding the Costs

Let’s start where most of our clients do–money. When people think of a workshop, they typically think it will help them narrow down a budget and timeline. You might have an idea of how much something will cost, but it’s simply a guess. It’s not a real amount. 

Maybe you’re rolling in the dollars and cost issue an issue, but the time to launch is. Can your idea even make it to market within the timeframe you’re looking at? If you can’t get it there in its entirety, are there pieces you can get there? It’s these types of questions that get clearer answers during a workshop.

The Value Behind The Cost

Seeing big dollar amounts, for most people, is intimidating. It can be hard to separate costs from the benefits. But those who take the time to think critically about these items are usually the ones whose projects far surpass the others.

There may be an employee who’s tasks could definitely be done in a more automated fashion, such as sending out reminder emails or helping people reset their passwords. Maybe that person is you! All we can agree on is that this app is going to do at least the amount of work this person is currently doing.

How much is that worth? Well, it’s no less than the annual salary of that employee because that’s who’s being replaced. But you hope this system lasts you more than a year, right? Right!

So implementing a platform for that cost means you start getting a return on that investment in just one year’s time. And that doesn’t even include the time that frees you or other employees up to drive revenue in other facets of the business, since the time that was spent dealing with these mundane tasks are no longer needed. It also makes them happier employees, which is hard to put a value on.

Too many businesses fail to accurately calculate the value that digital projects will truly bring to them and their business. Failing to do so leads to a lack of insight to base investment decisions on and more commonly leads to emotional flare ups stemming from confusion.

Refining Requirements

There are times when you know this project has to happen, but you’re not certain about its implementation details.

Let’s say you’re running your business and keeping track of important data in a shared Google sheet across the various people at your company. This works for awhile, especially when you have a relatively small amount of people contributing to it.

What happens though when others need to start getting their hands on it. Do you trust them to edit the data and not tear down everything you’ve built to that point? What’s stopping them from putting some letters in a column expecting a number that you’re using for calculations. How do you even go about tracking that down?

In this scenario, you know you need to either build or leverage some type of software to maintain the reliability of your system. What’s not clear is to what extent that needs to take place. Do you need to have different permission levels, such as people who can edit the data but others who can only read? Does the data need to be exportable? Can everyone export it? What impact would having high-level charts and/or insights into your dataset mean for your business? These are the types of questions that most don’t consider when starting a new project or adding onto an existing one.

Building a Roadmap to Success

Each feature or piece of functionality you add to your platform costs you time and money in the form of both upfront and opportunity costs. That means we need to take care of what we add in and when we add it in.

It is in this light that we help build a roadmap for the features that will be on a client’s platform. We can’t tell you how many times people think they need something in order to launch, but they really won’t need it for at least six months. As such, we take the desired functionality and break it out into phases to help them determine the when. We definitely push back here and challenge ideas. Because if a client cannot clearly rationalize the immediate need for a feature, it probably shouldn’t be in there. It’s definitely better to spend a relatively small amount to see if your idea is good before spending lots only to find out it should have never been built.

Another reason we push back is that we might not yet know what features a user wants. There have definitely been times when we launched something we thought people would love, but they never used it.

In these situations, it’s a better use of your money and time to wait on certain features and let your users tell you they want them. That way you’re making a better investment into your product. How do you know what things fall into this category? That’s what we’re here to help get out of you.

Taking Action

You’ve now spent some time with us and you now know what you’re building, how this product will affect your business, and you have a solid roadmap for success. Motivation is high and you’re eager to get going!

At this point, you have everything you need to push forward. Did someone else provide you a cost and time estimate? Cool, how did that compare to LLT’s? Were they able to account for all the edge-cases that came up during the workshop.

While we’d love for you to keep the momentum going with us, we structure our workshops in a way that puts the power in your hands. If you have someone else you think will serve your needs better, go for it. We were happy to get you where you are now. Our goal was and will continue to be keeping you in the driver’s seat. It is your product after all.

Investors/Stakeholders, Here We Come

There are times when people want something they can take back to other stakeholders or pitch to investors. When something exists only in your head, it can be difficult to make people as excited about it as you are.

One of the best parts of a workshop is its deliverables. You walk away with not only a breakdown of what you’re building, its cost, and how long it will take to build, but also a design prototype of how it will look and feel. It’s your idea in as close to physical form as you can get. Now that is something you can use to get others onboard.

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