Communicating the vision to internal stakeholders outside of the team, and often to external stakeholders outside of the organization, is vital for securing support. The communication needs to happen throughout the project, and be coupled with the process of user research.
Communicating to External Stakeholders
No project exists in a vacuum, and one of the most important tasks for a project leader is to consistantly give stakeholders relevant updates. On one of my projects, RawSolar, MIT’s Grounds personnel had given us space outside of an IT building. Unfortunately, they had not given the IT manager any notice that we would be installing a 144 square foot solar dish in their front yard. When she came stomping out of the building to ask why I had a crew digging a foundation into the grass, I knew that I had just one chance to sell my vision!
Fortunately, the situation was defused, and the dish became such a beloved mascot of the building that I was asked to speak at their spring event.
During the Vehicle Design Summit, for which I was on the management team, we had to explain the project to dozens of potential donors as we sought the funding to keep it alive. I learned that it was vital to understand the viewpoint of the people we were talking to, and use that to guide the relevant points. For example, several of our software sponsors, like SolidWorks and the Mathworks, were excited to have their tools in the hands of the next generation of sustainable vehicle designers.
On the other hand, one individual donor was determined to make sure that we developed as leaders to the greatest extent possible. After meeting with a cofounder and me for three hours in his executive suite, he said “I don’t think that you’re going to succeed, but I think that you’re going to learn a lot”. And then he gave us $20,000.
In both of these projects, public communication was also important. For Vehicle Design Summit, our most important outlet ended up being the Discovery Channel, which sent both Web and HD teams down to cover us. RawSolar was best covered by MIT’s own news service and CSM, whose stories you can here and here
Communicating to Internal Stakeholders
Communicating within an organization is at least as important as communicating to the outside world. The communication needs to be constant and mutli-modal. For example, in User Oriented Collaborative Design and Sustainable Design at Olin, we use sketches and mock-ups to communicate the product vision.
All forms of communication, from a verbal description to a functional prototype, trade off between agility and comprehensiveness. Each has its place, particularly given that there are each dimension of a concept lends itself to a different form of communication, and choosing between them can be difficult. To the right, you can see two methods that we used to communicate a product idea, and over on the product development page you can see a verbal spec and wireframe mockup.
- Extensive concept and product presentation experience, to both internal teams and the public
- Articulated ideas in sketches, writing, mock-ups and verbal form
- Interfaced successfully with many different types of stakeholder
“Matt is a strong communicator and lays out expectations very clearly – and then he exceeds them. (Twice he surprised me with software improvements I didn’t think possible.) He reminds me just how nice it is to work with people you _like_. ”
– Rush Hambleton (see full recommendation on LinkedIn)