Collaboration is the secret to change

Paul Boag

If you want to make real change to your clients website, you need to move from being an implementor to an advisor.

I have been banging on about strategy, management, governance, policies and responsibilities, but how is any of this possible if you are just seen as an implementor?

The problem is that most organisations don’t view their web designers as anything more than creatives and technicians. How then have we at Headscape been able to move from being implementors to advisors?

The secret lies in building a collaborative relationship.

A collaborative relationship

I recently read an old post by Matt Griffin for .net magazine. In the post Matt focused on the importance of collaboration.

Among many other things Matt wrote:

Making [clients] part of the team also helps set up a better mental model for everyone. Clients are on our team. They want what we want: for the project to be successful. When a client gives feedback like “make the logo bigger” or “change that colour red,” remember that they’re not a military general barking orders; they’re a team member offering suggestions. And suggestions are the beginning of a discussion where everyone can bring their specialised knowledge to bear on the challenge at hand.

This kind of collaborative approach shifts the relationship from one of clients and supplier to partners working together towards a common goal.

Matt goes on to write:

That’s earned authority. Every time you show your client that you’re listening to their concerns, including them in the process, and making better work because of it, you earn more of their trust.

If the client learns to trust you, he learns to value your opinion. This is when you can move from being an implementor to an advisor. If you have earned respect he will listen when you explain that having a successful website extends beyond the site itself.

So how do you get to the point where you can start treating the client as a member of the team? Matt tackles that too:

Involving the client as a collaborator from the very beginning of the project allows you to properly set their expectations, and help them act in a vitally important role. It gets their knowledge of their audience and expertise in their field into the team’s collective resources, and gives them an understanding of how to contribute.

By actively involving the client in the process you make it clear that the project is a partnership. You set expectations. Also as a bonus you get to benefit from their knowledge and educate them about giving better feedback.

In short, if you want to build your clients a successful website, you have to do it collaboratively with them. If you don’t you will never address the issues that surround the actual build; strategy, management, governance, policies and responsibilities.