When we last left our band of intrepid explorers of employee experience, I had explained our "big tent" strategy of inclusion along with how the cupcake approach to product strategy would be used to counter inclusion's seemingly inseparable compatriot, longer timelines.  We had just successfully avoided the pitfalls of a consensus culture and were now looking forward to identifying and selecting a vendor for a strategy engagement.

Casting our Nets

In developing a Request for Proposal (RFP), we made a choice that later proved to be both prescient and inspired; We stayed vague. It only took a week or two to develop and finalize an RFP that the different stakeholders could get on board with specifically because we made a conscious decision not to specify anything other than a vision of possibility and a high level approach around how a strategy could be arrived at.

  • Vision of Possibility -- Using the same guideposts that helped to divine our path of socialization our RFP for a strategy vendor talks of the promised land at the far end of our voyage. A land with an abundance of positive employee experiences when engaging with daily work tasks, consuming content that is relevant and curated and an interwoven social fabric that binds it all together.
  • High Level Approach -- The basic steps of developing an experience strategy are not uncharted territory. They are in fact, already mapped out: Review existing user research and explore any gaps, audit existing mediums and channels that provide existing or complementary experiences and collaboratively develop a strategy with both the creators and consumers of content and functionality.
  • Deliverables -- The one area where the RFP was specific was in the set of deliverables that would contribute to and define the experience strategy -- the most primary being a concept model for the overall experience and a set of visual comps that will help to drive the momentum and excitement from strategy to design.

In looking to hasten this segment of the journey we have chosen to send our RFP to a set of local vendors already on the approved vendor list, thus completely bypassing the maze of corporate legal departments master service agreements. But the treacherous straits of getting the business sponsors to select a vendor and agree to a Statement of Work (SOW) still lie ahead.

Choosing our Crew

After the responses came in, the various stakeholders reviewed each of the proposals in detail and tried to draw forth the distinctions that would allow us to select the vendor with the best chance for success in our environment. Beyond the easily understood quantitative variable of price lies the qualitative land of perceived capability. Each vendor had a set of impressive use cases for engagements with fortune 100 clients and were driven to find creative ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

While many of the stakeholders had participated in a vendor selection process before, very few had participated in selecting a strategy vendor before and there was some difficulty in understanding what activities and deliverables were implied rather than explicitly called out. We crafted and sent a series of questions back to the vendors under consideration to drive to the proverbial apples to apples choice, but there was still no clear view of which strategy crew would help to steer our ship in the right direction.

Without a clear leader, two vendors made the short list and were invited to give a one-hour oral presentation to our stakeholders. For our selection effort, the real difference between the vendors was found to lay in the quality of the individuals and the composition of the teams. One vendor brought their entire project team to the meeting which for us made all the difference in the world. Getting to meet our team and starting to envision what it would be like to take this voyage together acted as the wind in our sails and propelled us to a final selection. 

Parley With The Vendor

Once a vendor was chosen, a draft SOW was quickly created and our team had to make the tough transition between a dream like proposal and legally binding agreement. Understanding which clauses and numbers are truly consequential and which ones are merely distractions from making forward progress was not an easy effort for our team. With a little hand-holding our team soon got its sea legs under them. An agreed upon SOW with an authorized purchase order quickly followed and the team kicked off our journey with nary a hitch.

Having the employee's interest as our North star, we assembled our research packet for our new crew-mates to study and cast off. An inventory of sites and systems to audit was listed out in a manifest, the full round of stakeholder interviews were scheduled and our 2 week sprint to our first checkpoint was underway. In my next entry, I'll cover how the interviews and workshops played out along with how a surprise platform recommendation helped to accelerate our progress towards the new world.

Editor's Note: Follow the complete Intranet Journey starting with:Journal from an Intranet Voyage: Changing the Conversation.