Insights

  • A 5-Step Roadmap for Your Web Development Project

    by Primus Poppiti | Jan 30, 2019

    a 5-step roadmap for your web development project

    So you’re about to start a project to build a new website. And by website I really mean any digital property, such as an ecommerce site, intranet, mobile app, etc. Where do you start? Everyone usually wants to jump in the water and start building right away. But, build what? And why? These are critical questions that will help you compile a roadmap for your project. Roadmaps begin with fundamental high-level business objectives and end with a clear path for development. Below are the five steps to use to build that roadmap for your web development project. 

    1. Document Your Business Objectives

    Treat your business objectives as your bible for the project. These should be high-level, project business objectives, i.e., the business reasons for the project, which should come from the primary sponsor of the project and the various stakeholders and can be distilled from interview sessions at the very start of the project. These objectives should be written in business vernacular, so that anyone in the organization can understand their meaning. Normally, you should have between three to seven objectives for any given project. Once the objectives are defined and approved by the sponsor and stakeholders, every aspect of the project should be tied back to the overall objectives. Each Functional Requirement (see step 2) should connect to one or more objectives. This is a good test of the requirements: if it doesn’t meet an objective, it should not be a Functional Requirement. The rest of the project will flow from them, from UX and creative through development and test cases. You should also be able to determine your Key Performance Indicator (KPI) from the objectives. These also should be directly tied to one or more objectives. Your KPI should be used to determine your measurements for success of each objective. Therefore your success is based on your objectives.

    2. Document All Your Functional Requirements

    The next step is to document all your high-level functional requirements—the “WHAT” your project needs to do. They usually are written with the opening phase of “The system shall” or “The website shall." Similar to writing the objectives, functional requirements should be high-level and in business vernacular, so that everyone working on the project understands their meaning. Requirements should be succinct—don’t make them about more than one thing.

    Requirements are not the “HOW” something will be implemented. Those details should be left to design and architecture discussions. But, sometimes for practical explanation, a note of “how” can accompany the requirements (but not be part of the requirements).

    As noted above, all functional requirements should support a business objective. Now, that’s a nice little bow around this project.

    3. Prioritize and Add Additional Data Elements

    Now that all the Functional Requirements are defined, it’s time to add more data to them. Since there can be hundreds of requirements, this is a good point in time to categorize them. For example, if you are building an ecommerce system, you might use categories like product display, product recommendations, cart functions, checkout process, etc.

    The next vital piece of information is the prioritization of the requirements, which should be set by the business team and approved by the project sponsor. Use simple priorities like high, medium, and low, where “High” is a must have. Use this scale: “High” requirements are critical to the business activities; “Medium” requirements are important but not a business critical function; and “Low” requirements are “nice to haves.” This is a tedious but necessary step that can cause a lot of discussion and dissent among the business team. Provide an outlet for rationale of these comments.

    Optionally, a good piece of information is a high-level of estimated effort. This is somewhat contradictory, since we haven’t determined “HOW” we will accomplish the requirement. But it’s good for the business stakeholders to get a sense of the complexity of the requirements. If you want to add this information, at this point, use a very general estimation scale such as T-shirt sizes (X-Small, Small, Medium, Large and Extra-Large) or the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and 21).

    4. Determine the Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

    In this step, the work you have completed to date starts to come together in a roadmap, which will have multiple releases. The first release in the roadmap is the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The MVP will usually consist of the “High” priority items identified in step 3. But, due to some of the complexities of requirements, some may be removed from the MVP. Contrarily, requirements of “Medium” or “Low” may be added to the MVP if they are less complex or easier effort (low hanging fruit) requirements. This provides some quick “win” within the MVP. This process of determining the MVP should be a team effort but approved by the project sponsor. The requirements that do not make it into the MVP will be placed into other releases of the roadmap.

    5. Build Releases in the Roadmap

    Now that you have determined the MVP, this will be the first release of the roadmap. Now review the remaining requirements. Naturally, “Medium” priority requirements should be in the next release(s). This release(s) should also include the “High” priority, more complex requirements that were removed from the MVP. You may add some “Low” priority requirements that have dependencies in these releases. The final release should include any remaining “Low” priority requirements.

    There you have it: a functional roadmap for your business project. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? If you’d like to discuss this in more detail and see how we can assist you, contact us at Trellist.

  • SharePoint as a Multimedia Communications Tool

    by Todd Metzger | Jun 26, 2018

    SharePoint as a Multimedia Communications Tool
    It can seem like change is the only constant in today’s business environment. The pressures of globalization, technological innovation, and competition continually drive the need for transformation across the organization. Uncovering new business models, revamping and streamlining existing processes, and modernizing technology and infrastructure are the keys to surviving and thriving.

    Leading organizations anticipate the forces that will require these kinds of organizational change. Even under ideal circumstances, significant revisions to your operations, vision, and principles can be difficult to communicate. When you’re an industry leader with tens of thousands of employees, it can seem like an impossible task.

    Executed poorly, organizational change can create chaos that has a real and lasting effect. Employees can lose sight of the company’s direction, their efficiency may plummet in the face of unfamiliar new processes, and morale takes a hit. In fact, according to McKinsey and Company, 70 percent of large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals. It happens when employees are not engaged, management fails to support the initiative, there’s little or no collaboration between teams, and no one is held accountable.

    Managing change correctly and efficiently requires a different approach, one that puts leadership, management, and employees on the same page. It’s only achievable when everyone receives the message about changes at the same time, and more importantly, that they actually hear, internalize, and understand that message.

    This is why tools like SharePoint are so important as a communication tool. It makes the change real for employees, and helps them decipher the signal from the noise so they can truly understand what’s important.

    SharePoint in Action for Internal Communications

    At Trellist, we recently helped a leading global agriscience company embrace digital technology to transform their business model. Such a radical transformation required an equally aggressive strategy for communicating changes to employees. SharePoint, which is globally accessible in the cloud through Office 365, was the optimal tool for supercharging employee communication and collaboration. The primary goals were to help the organization communicate:

    • What it means to be digital
    • Their transformation journey
    • Their digital roadmap
    You may think of SharePoint as a document management and sharing tool, but in this case it was equally adept at enabling consistent internal communications, video streams, and the presentation of interactive organizational charts. The media-rich environment we helped them create improved employee engagement, strengthened their internal communications strategy, and gave their executive team a voice that resonated more clearly with employees.

    Is SharePoint Right for Your Organization?

    Yes, it’s powerful, but it’s not all that it can be right out of the box. In order for SharePoint to truly help you communicate your brand message and strategies in the same way it did for the agriscience company we worked with, it needs the right UX and design to generate engagement and traffic. We’ve helped organizations across a variety of industries implement collaboration tools like SharePoint. If you’d like to explore how we can help your organization, contact us at enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.
  • 8 Web Recommendations for GDPR

    by Primus Poppiti | May 24, 2018
    8 Web Recommendations for GDPR

    For many organizations, the ticking of the countdown clock for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance is growing louder as the May 25th deadline approaches. While many of the world’s largest brands have made huge strides toward compliance, most businesses still have significant progress to make. In fact, a recent survey shows that up to 60 percent of companies will likely miss the deadline.

    Unfortunately, the consequences of this could be catastrophic: fines up to €20 million or 4 percent of a business’ global annual revenue, whichever is greater. 

    At Trellist, we’re recommending that organizations start their compliance efforts by creating a data privacy team lead by a data privacy officer (DPO) to oversee GDPR activities and raise awareness; if you do not already have this in place, do it fast. The DPO should review current security and privacy processes in place and, where applicable, revise contracts with third parties and customers to meet the requirements of the GDPR. They should also focus on these eight key areas of compliance that affects web properties. 

     

    The Eight Areas of GDPR Compliance for Your Website

    The first steps of a complex journey are sometimes the most difficult, and GDPR compliance is no different. Follow these guidelines to help your business fulfill all the requirements: 

    • Step 1: Active Consent. Provide a website overlay that ‘follows’ the user on every page of the website until accepted. Provide an active consent on the overlay and keep that consent for 45 days to 1 year; when the consent expires, the overlay should appear again.
    • Step 2: Clear Cookie Language. Provide a link to the cookie policy that has user friendly language. Develop a separate cookie policy page since the privacy policy could contain legalese. Explain the types of non-essential cookies that you use for ads and tracking, how you use that information, and if that information is shared with third parties.
    • Step 3: Refine Your Data Collection Process. Identify the Personally Identifiable Information (PII)/Personal Data that is being collected and analyze how this information is being processed, stored, retained, and deleted. You will also need to assess the processes with third-party vendors with whom you disclose data.
    • Step 4: Provide an Easy Way to Opt Out. The opt-out process should be simple for users. You can streamline their ability to opt out from non-essential cookies by categorizing types of cookies and providing an opt-in/opt-out mechanism for each.
    •  Step 5: Meet User Requests for Information and Changes. Establish procedures to respond to users when they exercise their rights to request information. Provide a clear way for users to contact you to request information collected, a mechanism for users to provide changes to their information, and have an internal process to correct their information in all locations.
    • Step 6: Communicate a Data Breach. Consider a Dark Site for crisis communication in the event of a data breach; you can make the Dark Site live if and when needed. If a breach/unauthorized access of personal data takes place that is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals,” the public must be notified within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach.
    • Step 7: Communicate Changes. Consider proactive communication to customers to explain how your company is addressing privacy. This can be as simple as emailing customers to explain the new changes.
    • Step 8: Require Parental Consent for Children's Websites. Any website or industry that could cater to children under 16 years old will need to have child-friendly language and require parental consent.  If you do not cater to children, you may need to adjust your privacy policy to move your age of consent from 13 (as afforded under the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)) to 16 under GDPR.
     

    We’ve helped organizations large and small with their GDPR compliance roadmap. Let us help you figure out your next steps: enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.

    Disclaimer: Trellist does not legally represent our clients and we are not providing legal advice. The information conveyed through these recommendations is not intended to give legal advice, but instead communicate information to help you understand the basics of the topic.

  • Accessibility – Philosophy for Teams

    by Supraja John | May 16, 2018

    Accessibility is a philosophy that ensures a wide range of people are able to comprehend the content we create for businesses — even if they do not all access and experience the information in same way.

    This range of people include children, seniors, non-native speakers, and people with physical, cognitive, or sensory impairments.

    Nowadays, due to an increasing number of web accessibility lawsuits, there is more pressure to be accessible. In 2017, there was “an unprecedented number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal and state courts, and few courts [were] willing to grant early motions to dismiss.”*

    But creating accessible websites is not always easy.

    It seems easy to use available checklists of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and Section 508 standards, near end of projects to quickly try to pass QA. But implementing these changes at the end of a project — updating code, design, and content — wastes time and effort, and risks missed deadlines and budget overruns. And in the end, the results may not be helpful enough to improve the experience of the whole audience.

    This can cause businesses to conclude that accessible sites are hard to create, expensive, and even irrelevant to their targeted “normal” audience. But they should realize that there is no “normal” audience.

    Some may be situationally disabled. Imagine the plight of non-native speakers or new parents juggling a baby along with their already time-demanding lives trying to buy something from an ecommerce site. Or consider attendees at a crowded trade show trying to hear a speaker. They would undoubtedly prefer to have the information the speaker is giving on their phones to read at leisure, with the ability to follow up afterwards. And, consider the scenario of a person needing to perform financial transactions or dispute medical charges in a public environment — they would rather use online sites than speak with customer service on phone about their private information. 

    Some may be temporarily disabled. Imagine someone with an arm injury having to navigate sites with a single hand. Or temporary visual or auditory impairments that limit them from consuming videos or podcasts. Imagine suffering from a sore throat which makes them more willing to use online sites and tools to finish their errands rather than talking with someone on phone.

    While it’s tempting for businesses to think that the situationally and temporarily impaired users don’t need to be catered to, some users are permanently disabled. They may be deaf, mute, blind, or physically or mentally impaired. They still have needs and desires to buy a product online or consume information in blog posts, videos, podcasts and other avenues that should be made accessible to them. 


    More accessible experiences benefit people at several levels of disability.

    How does Trellist work with a philosophy of accessibility?

    Trellist shares this philosophy. Team members from various backgrounds such as project management, content, ux, creative, tech, and QA consider accessibility from start to end of a project.  

    To also ensure this philosophy is at the core of the team’s work, an accessibility-focused individual is placed in the team to guide, focus, and educate where needed from project scope till production. Focusing on users with various levels of temporary and permanent impairments helps us derive inclusive solutions that are beneficial to the situationally-impaired users as well. 

    At different stages of each project, we consider various representations of audience. We imagine them going through different disabilities — permanent, temporary, and situational. We try to empathize and evaluate whether any of the designed content could cause confusion to various types of audiences.

    Although there is much discussion among team members on different ways to present content, there is a shared goal which is clear to all team members. Thus, every decision is made in unity despite the diversity — quickly, effectively, and efficiently.

    We derive solutions that are best fit for the audience, project timeline, budget, and the business's goals and needs.

    For more information, please contact us at enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.

    *Vu, Minh N., and Susan Ryan. “2017 Website Accessibility Lawsuit Recap: A Tough Year for Businesses.” ADA Title III News & Insights, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, 2 Jan. 2018, www.adatitleiii.com/2018/01/2017-website-accessibility-lawsuit-recap-a-tough-year-for-businesses.

  • 7 Tips to Optimize Your B2B Product Detail Page

    by Victoria silow | May 09, 2018

    Trellist_Blog_productpages_v2-01

    Think about how you, as a consumer, make an online purchase. You probably know what you want and may have a product category in mind that fits your need. However, there are likely many different products available. So you do a search or visit your favorite online mega-retailer’s website to check out the product options for a potential match. What you find will ultimately influence your decision and make or break the sale for that brand.

    Virtually the same dynamic exists in the B2B space between manufacturers and their end customers, and your marketing efforts should be focused on meeting customers’ needs in much the same way. There are many ways to nurture a potential buyer through the sales funnel, but swaying their decision to purchase your product over a multitude of other options may come down to the strength of your product detail page. Having details about your product gets you in the game as a potential provider, but the strength of those details and the way you present them is ultimately what drives the conversion. Getting these pages right should be among your top priorities as a product marketer.

    These seven tips and tricks will help you identify areas to focus on, with steps you can take to make each of these elements a little better.

    1. Consider search volume when naming products and product pages

      When you’re naming a product and the related product detail page, consider the search volume for the term you’re using. Tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner offer an easy (and free) way to identify closely related words and phrases that may be more popular among your customers based on search volume. Every term in your keyword planner will have a “more like this” button; click it to reveal even more potential keywords to use for your product name and product page title.

    2. Use the right keywords in product descriptions

      These same keywords should be fodder for your product descriptions. They’ll help your pages appear higher in search results and also spark recognition among customers who have those keywords in mind when searching for products like yours. However, always remember to write for a human audience, not a robotic one—even if SEO is an important part of your product marketing strategy. You’ll never out-game the search engine algorithms, so write descriptions that will engage the customers you’ve identified in your 1:1 marketing playbook.

    3. Include FAQs on the page to help users troubleshoot

      You’ve heard all the questions about your product before. Whether they’ve been fielded by your customer service team, discussed at a trade show booth, or expressed through an online contact form, you likely have a list of frequently asked questions at the ready. How does your product work? What comes in the box? What are the dimensions? All of these questions have been answered before, and providing them on the product detail page in the form of an FAQ section is another way to market all of the important aspects of the product. You should also provide an option for asking any questions that haven’t been answered, which is a great way to field additional market research about what’s important to your customers.

    4. Tell a story with videos and images

      Product detail pages are chock-full of information, but they don’t yet replace seeing and experiencing a product in person. The right images and videos can tell your product’s story in a way that helps bridge the gap between the real world and virtual one. These images and videos can focus on features that aren’t apparent in written descriptions, functionality that may not be obvious, or comparisons to existing methods that show how your offering is superior. People love a story, and this is your chance to tell a visual one about your product.

    5. Build the brand promise into the description

      Speaking of stories, the product detail page is also a place to tell your brand story and reiterate your brand promise. Since people may be deep-linking into your page from a search engine, they may not know much about your brand before they get there. The product description is your chance to talk about quality, guarantees, speed, and anything else that may set your product and your company apart from the competition.

    6. Maximize opportunities for conversion

      The product detail page is one of the last steps in the sales funnel, so you should do just that—SELL. Make sure it’s filled with call-to-action language and is clear about what the customer needs to do to purchase, including obvious buttons and streamlined order forms. You should also A/B test the varying colors, sizes, and call-to-action language to see how performance changes. Just be sure to change only one variable at a time to pinpoint what improves performance.

    7. Put away the cookie-cutter content

      Creating content for the product detail page is not the time to cut and paste; in fact, doing so will do more harm than good when all of your products start to run together in your customers’ minds. These pages should be unique and help differentiate the features and function of the product offering. Creating unique content can be challenging if you have a large number of products to define. If this is the case, focus on the top products first, and work your way to less popular products if and when resources allow.

    At Trellist, we help brands define their merchandising strategy and then implement it across a variety of channels, including product detail pages. We’re happy to share our best practices if you need help refining your approach.

    To start the conversation, contact us at digital@trellist.com.

  • GDPR: It Affects You

    by Supraja John and Nick Cohen | May 04, 2018
    Does your company use customer data?

    Does your organization handle customer data? If yes, unless you exclusively cater to non-European audience, you're affected by GDPR. If unsure, then GDPR may impact you.

    What is GDPR?

    GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within the EU.

    It is a result of four years of work by the EU parliament due to the inadequacy of older data protection rules. Safe Harbor Privacy Principles of 2000 and Privacy Shield agreements of July 2016 had privacy components in them and outline respective responsibilities. But, they were not laws.

    Organizations can no longer self-certify without regulatory oversight. GDPR requires the data controller, (i.e. your organization), to have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) role. It also requires your organization as the data controller to provide notification of cybersecurity and data breaches within a set time.

    Unlike its predecessors, GDPR recognizes the importance of privacy in the current era. It was created with the idea that “identity is the new currency in our world” especially in the likelihood of a future cashless society (cryptocurrency anyone?).

    GDPR has three primary objectives:

    • Give people more control over how their personal data is used.

    • Provide tighter controls and tougher enforcement to improve trust in digital economy.

    • Give organizations clear legal environment to operate in, that is identical across EU.

    When is the compliance deadline?

    This regulation was adopted by EU parliament on April 15, 2016. Any organizations affected by this regulation have about 2 years to comply, making the deadline May 25, 2018.

    What are the impacts of noncompliance?

    Failure to comply with GDPR could have a significant impact on your finances. Should a data breach or any other form of noncompliance occur, a fine will be issued at the discretion of your business’s governing body. The amount of the fine depends on a number of factors, such as your company’s history, level of cooperation, data types, and more. Based on this criteria, the fine could be:

    • 2% of annual revenue (not net profit but all global revenues or 10 million euros, whichever is higher) or

    • 4% of annual revenue or 20 million euros (that’s almost 25 million dollars), whichever is higher

    There are other non-financial impacts that noncompliance can have as well. Should a breach occur, consider the effects it would have on your reputation. According to a recent survey, 29% of existing customers would discontinue their relationship with a company following a data breach. With privacy breaches occurring every single day, it is crucial to be proactive by having a crisis management plan prepared.

    How can you get compliant?

    Check back here soon for an upcoming blog post detailing GDPR compliance preparation from Trellist consultants Primus Poppiti (Digital Strategy) and Victoria Silow (Branding and Marketing Leadership). 


    For more information, please contact us at enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.

  • How to Deploy a Corporate Digital Strategy without Turning Tour Business Upside down: Data Access

    by Lori Palmer | Jan 05, 2018

    How does a manufacturing organization deploy a corporate digital strategy without turning its business upside down? For large, enterprise organizations, it makes sense to start with your biggest pain point. In other words, what part of the organization has the most opportunity to improve and impact your go-to-market efficiency? Let's evaluate an enterprise B2B through four distinct lenses:  (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access.

    How much of your data are you leveraging

    Harvard Business Review's recent cross-industry study shows that on average, less than half of an organization's structured data is actively used in making decisions and less than 1% of its unstructured data is analyzed or used at all. (What's Your Data Strategy, HBR.com, June 2017) Increasingly, unstructured data is the majority of new data a business can harness and use to inform its business decisions. Examples of unstructured data include Emails, Word Processing Files, PDF files, Spreadsheets, Digital Images, Video, Audio, and Social Media Posts.

    Establishing a single source of data about customers, suppliers, sales, and products will create the solid foundation needed to provide deeper insights into your business. This foundation enables an organization to achieve compliance, regulatory, quality, and governance standards. Starting with this data foundation, a company can then assess its data integrity, ease of access, and standardization for gaps and inconsistencies. When the gaps are closed, it becomes much easier to provide enhanced data analytics, predictive modeling, and visualization of business insights – all of which are needed to improve competitive position and profitability.

    When Trellist works with its clients on Data Access, the following check list is a helpful tool for a company to self-rank its performance:

    • We have a data strategy in place that is actively managed by a leader or team
    • Marketing and IT work closely together to deploy the best platforms that ensure data is accessible and relevant
    • Our organization has prioritized its data needs to ensure alignment with and delivery of corporate goals
    • Our data and insights are manageable, accurate, and timely
    • We continually look for ways to reduce barriers to data and time delays
    • Leadership is confident in its decision making as it is underpinned by robust data
    • Our governance policy ensures that we keep our customers' and suppliers' data confidential and that we act responsibly
    • The data we track enables a positive customer experience, better product design, robust sales forecasts, and market insights
    • Our platforms are flexible and adaptable for future data needs
    • Our teams find the data they need and spend less than 1 hour/ week looking for "lost" files

    Collecting and storing files is insufficient as a data strategy. Each document will need to be categorized and stored in an appropriate location. Careful attention is then required in order to make finding and accessing unstructured and structured data easy; typical text search may not be sufficient. Version control and archiving of documents will need to be managed, ensuring access to documents remains in place throughout its lifetime. Finally, establishing authorization protocols to access data is needed to protect security and integrity. A way to visualize this is a tidy filing cabinet with all folders neatly organized and labeled so that information is easily discovered. Out of date information is quickly discarded so only the latest version is accessible and files that need controlled access will be kept in the locked drawers.

    In order to leverage unstructured data, it will need to be categorized, parsed for insights, and reformatted so that it can be organized in a way that is searchable. There are multiple software tools to help with this process. These tools provide insights by collating disparate data sources, visualizing trends and dependencies, and creating an easy-to-use dashboard. If you see an opportunity to enhance your data access, Trellist can help your organization transform its data into actionable insights without turning your business upside down.

    Want to learn more? Read the rest of our Digital Strategy for Enterprise B2B series covering topics, such as: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access. If you have questions or would like to learn how Trellist can impact your business with a Digital Strategy, please contact Trellist Consulting.

  • 8 Tips for Making the Most of Your Trade Show Investment

    by Victoria Silow | Dec 19, 2017

    Trade shows are the perfect opportunity to mingle with customers and prospects, soak in thought leadership, and bring home an avalanche of new leads and potentially win new business. If you’re planning to exhibit at an industry event, all of these benefits are possible. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss out on most of these opportunities and watch helplessly as your ROI plummets if you don’t prepare properly.

    Exhibiting at a trade show is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. It starts with building a strategy that rolls up to your organizational goals, supported by tactics that some of your fellow exhibitors may not have considered.

    At Trellist, we’ve helped clients in the Fortune 1000 refine their approach to trade shows to make a bigger impact, from attracting new prospects at the top of the funnel to showcasing their thought leadership in front of industry decision makers.


    Making the Most of Your Trade Show Investment

    The following tips have been taken and distilled down from strategies that have worked for our clients:

    Tip 1: Have Clear Objectives in Mind

    As they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. In order to assess the success of your trade show experience, you must have clear objectives in mind before you ever leave the office. Do you want to position your CEO as a thought leader through a keynote appearance? Is your goal to drive lead-generation through your booth? Are you launching a new product or fielding market research? Regardless of what the goal is, you should have it clearly in mind along with a plan to capture and measure results.

    Tip 2: Market Before, During, and After the Show

    Your marketing efforts for the trade show should start well before the exhibit hall opens. You should be marketing your presence there through the appropriate digital channels—on your website, through email, social, and the other online watering holes where you’re likely to find your audience. If you’re a sponsor at the show, you’ll likely receive an opportunity to reach registered attendees before the show through a blast sent out by the show organizers, inclusion of your materials in attendee bags, and more. Don’t waste these opportunities.

    At the show, make sure you have a publicly posted list of activities and events happening at your booth. This will entice people to come back.

    After the show, the real work of engaging and nurturing the leads you captured begins. Continual outreach is important to help reinforce your company’s value proposition and awareness for your products and services. At Trellist, we’ve helped clients avoid much of the heavy lifting around these efforts by helping them build a nurturing strategy fueled by thought leadership content and executing through a CRM and marketing automation tool.

    Tip 3: Double Down and Cut Out What Doesn’t Work

    There’s no need to attend every industry trade show. We understand that this can be a scary thought for veteran exhibitors used to having a presence at every event, but the alternative is worse: instead of making a big splash at a key show, you’ll be doomed to a lackluster presence at many shows. Rather than spread your budget too thin across multiple shows, the better strategy is to double down on the most important one. Reallocate your budget and use it to capture additional opportunities at that key show that you may have otherwise missed out on.

    No one remembers the bit player who served as the supporting actor in hundreds of movies throughout his or her career, but you can be sure the audience remembers the breakout star in last year’s summer blockbuster. That’s the impact you’re trying to make at a trade show.

    Tip 4: Location, Location, Location

    If you follow the advice in Tip 3 and save your budget for one or two big shows, you’ll have more flexibility with your booth size and location. You don’t want the 10x10 at the back of the hall. Instead, you should target larger booth spaces at:

    • The entrance of the exhibit hall
    • Near show sponsors and other activities
    • Near or in the pathway to bathrooms and food vendors
    • Away from your competitors

    For shows in the United States, the back left corner of the show floor is a dead zone. Visitors are used to driving on the right side of the road and reading left-to-right, so traffic naturally flows in this direction on the exhibit floor.

    Tip 5: Create Energy in and Around the Booth

    It’s human nature that we’re attracted to novelty and things that stimulate our senses. You should keep this in mind when deciding how to build and stage your booth. Tactics like interesting lighting, music, giveaways, and demonstrations will get visitors to linger long enough for you to give your 30-second elevator pitch before they’re off to the next booth.

    A client ran with this idea by including a small oven in their booth and baked chocolate chip cookies during the entire show. The smell was so delicious, patrons couldn’t ignore it. (Of course, the requisite disclaimer is to always follow the exhibit hall rules for what you can and can’t do at the show).

    Tip 6: What Would You Say You Do Here?

    So many companies fall into the trap of making their value proposition indecipherable to casual visitors who wander by the booth. What you do should be clearly stated on your booth, so that it catches the attention of even the shyest visitor who may not want to make eye contact with your booth rep. People cruise around trade show floors with one or two “must visit” booths in mind, and simply pick up treats and tchotchkes at the rest. If you have a billboard-worthy slogan that clearly states “we do this for you,” you just may catch a new customer that would have otherwise walked on by. Make sure that statement clearly indicates how you can help them perform better or solve a common pain point in your industry.

    Tip 7: Get Your Best People Out Front

    You’re at the trade show for a purpose—to drive your business forward. To do that, you need your best company representatives in, and preferably around and in front of, your booth. They should be engaging with visitors as they walk by, breaking the ice with questions and offering insights. While the glitz and glam of the booth can help stop them, your representatives should have a high level of subject matter expertise to properly represent your brand.

    Naturally you’ll think of your top salespeople for this opportunity, which may be the right fit. However, don’t discount the idea of bringing a customer service representative, product designer, or an engineer. Your subject matter experts exist in every department and have something to offer customers. As an added bonus, attending a trade show helps these team members develop a broader perspective on the industry, your competitors, and what matters most to customers.

    Tip 8: Don’t Let Leads Linger

    Finally, make sure you follow up on leads shortly after the show, ideally in the first five business days after you return. This includes both leads that came through the booth and contacts you made with people on a more personal level during networking events and standing in line for coffee. If you wait much longer than a week, the memory of who you are and what you do will fade. Again, to reiterate our point on marketing after the show in Tip 2, your follow-up and nurturing efforts should include multiple touchpoints, since one “thank you for visiting the booth” may not be sticky enough. Customers and prospects need to see your message multiple times in order to remember it.

    Whether you’re a trade show veteran or coordinating your first show, Trellist is here to help turn these general tips into a customized strategy for your organization.

    To learn more about how Trellist can help you get the most out of your trade show investments, please contact Victoria Silow

  • How To Deploy a Corporate Digital Strategy Without Turning Your Business Upside Down: Business Processes

    by Lori Palmer | Dec 13, 2017

    How does a manufacturing organization deploy a corporate digital strategy without turning its business upside down? For large, enterprise organizations it makes sense to start with your most significant pain point. In other words, what part of the organization has the most opportunity to improve and impact your go-to-market efficiency? Let’s evaluate an enterprise B2B through four distinct lenses: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access.

    How to deploy a corporate digital strategy

    For this article, we will explore Business Processes, specifically focusing upon a business’ primary objective of getting product to customers. This includes quoting for new business, order processing, production scheduling, inventory management, and shipping. For brevity, this article will not explore secondary processes such as onboarding new employees, regulatory reporting, and the like.

    Order fulfillment is comprised of four key processes: demand planning, inventory management, supply chain execution, and logistics. Integration of these workflows is critical. The sales order management software must connect with the ERP (financial) platform, which is integrated with inventory management. Packing and shipping details that flow into the logistics platform will be integrated into the system.

    Enterprise systems must be employee-centric where required data is reliable and easily accessed. The solution should also align with corporate goals and accelerate progress toward those goals. Establishing a single, integrated structure will enable your business to:

    • Increase tracking and visibility of orders
    • Automate the workflows between quote to order to ship
    • Tailor business approvals for complex orders
    • Improve margins by optimizing and streamlining the process
    • Calculate sales commissions
    • Deliver on time

    Trellist works with its clients to uncover disconnects between platforms, manual or paper-based processes, sub-optimal software utilization, and errors when completing orders. As part of our discovery process, we delve into the following topics to understand better where we can make significant improvements:

    • Is your information stored on multiple, disparate platforms?
    • Are you meeting your customers’ needs on time and in full?
    • Is your data timely and accurate?
    • Which processes are manual or distributed throughout the team?
    • What is the utilization rate of your CRM platform?
    • Are your reporting tools easy to use?
    • Can any manager self-serve to gather insights?
    • Is your business operating on one version of the truth?
    • Do you have on-the-go access to data via mobile devices?

    Trellist's technology leaders, skilled application developers, and experienced business analysts collaborate with clients from strategy through implementation of transformative technology solutions. Our capabilities span integration of large platforms, application-platform interface development, CRM optimization, data management, and business analytics. We work across a variety of software platforms and can make recommendations based upon an evaluation of your current systems, current and future needs, economics, in-house capabilities, and support strategies.

    The Trellist methodology incorporates a discovery phase to understand your unique business goals and challenges. Discovery is critical to success as it raises the awareness of areas for improvement. The joint project team would then agree priorities that, once solved, will deliver the most value to the business. Trellist can then work up an implementation plan with key milestones and the associated resources needed to achieve results. This approach to a solution provides continual improvement over time, which is less disruptive to daily operations.

    Using a consultative approach, we guide our clients on how best to scope your digital project’s requirements for maximum value. Once the project is underway, this consultation will keep the project on track and quickly address issues through robust internal communications and change management principles. If you see opportunities to improve your core processes, Trellist can deliver digital solutions that will bring value to your business—without turning it upside down.

    Want to learn more? Read the rest of our Digital Strategy for Enterprise B2B series covering topics, such as: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access. If you have questions or would like to learn how Trellist can impact your business with a Digital Strategy, please contact Trellist Consulting.

  • Why Migrating to the Cloud Improves Website Performance

    by Nick Cohen and Primus Poppiti | Nov 17, 2017

    For many organizations, the benefits of migrating all or part of their infrastructure to the cloud is no longer in doubt. The looming questions, however, center around how and when to do it, and exactly what should be moved to the cloud or remain on-premises. Done right, you’ll reap the performance enhancements and cost-cutting that the cloud promises; done wrong, and your migration will break key parts of your infrastructure and bring the business to a screeching halt.

    As a best practice, your migration strategy should include the following components:

    • A plan to assess your current performance and requirements, step-by-step details for the actual cloud migration, and a way to manage and optimize once you’re there.
    • A method for capturing the data for the apps you want to move before building your plan.
    • Deep analysis of that data to ensure that your performance meets requirements—which will make the migration seamless for your customers.

    At Trellist, we see many organizations consider a move to the cloud for their website or ecommerce site at two key points in their history:

    1. When it’s time for license renewals.
    2. During a brand refresh or brand rollout.

    Both milestones are good opportunities to reassess and consider migration. Since the cloud allows you to scale up and scale down your available resources to meet your performance needs in real-time, it’s a better option than incurring a fixed cost of a new license for systems you may not need—plus the maintenance and security issues of maintaining your site on-premises. If your brand is undergoing a refresh or rollout, it’s also a smart option since the cloud can help you provide a better customer experience and customer service.

    The Cloud Gives Marketers More Control

    The right solution can be transformative to your business. As both Microsoft—and—Sitefinity certified partners, the team at Trellist is helping marketers navigate the intersection of marketing and technology to find the right platforms for their brand, without being bogged down by the minutiae that often create a roadblock to successful migration.

    We’ve seen marketing teams use the cloud to unlock their workflow. There are new waves and versions of content management systems (CMS), empowered by the cloud, that essentially eradicate internal workflow processing bottlenecks—even for globally-distributed teams. By moving this workflow from an on-premises environment to the cloud, it reduces traffic internally. It can still be done with a single sign-on, so it looks like your environment and implements the same security protocols. This makes it easy for your team to use the CMS to do everything a marketer needs to do to support an ecommerce website—from managing content and tracking traffic to analyzing performance and shaping the customer journey.

    cloud migration optimizing performance and marketing for eCommerce

    Migrating to the Cloud in Action: Two Examples

    At Trellist, we help organizations move to the cloud to support a variety of business goals. The following two examples may help you envision your own cloud migration and how it can help you reach your objectives faster and more cost-efficiently:

    Trellist has been the prime developer for an international swimsuit company, increasing online revenue over the last 5 years by over 400%. As their online revenue grew, there was increased demand on their internal infrastructure, where they hosted both enterprise systems and the ecommerce website. We helped to stand up a new cloud environment and successfully migrated the ecommerce website and its processes to this scalable environment. We established a secure and seamless method of data transfer between the ecommerce website and the enterprise systems, which are still hosted on premise. Moving customer-facing applications, like their ecommerce system, provided a scalable model without additional need for internal IT resources while reducing infrastructure costs.

    Trellist is also the prime designer and developer for a new corporate website and ecommerce site for an international aerospace parts and chemical compounds distributor. The new websites will be hosted in a cloud environment to reduce costs and gain scalability as the websites grow. We helped to build a new cloud environment for the new websites, scalable to the business’ demands. We also set up and configured all Sitefinity website content management software and deployed the new website into this environment. Together both the cloud environment and Sitefinity provides a seamless experience for their internal, international marketing team to make updates to the website and market to their end customer.

    Is a Migration to the Cloud in Your Future?

    The most effective cloud migration will be the one that meets the specific needs of your organization. The beauty and promise of the cloud is its scalability, always-on availability, better security, and streamlined workflows for your team. If you’re at one of those key inflection points in your organizational history—either a license renewal or brand rollout—it may be time to consider migrating your websites or ecommerce sites to the cloud.

    The two use cases highlighted here are good examples of the benefits you can expect when working with Trellist for your cloud migration. Some of the benefits are inherent to the migration itself—such as better scalability and security, seamless content management for your team, and the reduced costs associated with no longer managing your resources on-premises. However, the real value will never be realized without the right migration strategy, implementation, and ongoing optimization.

    It’s like having a fast race car ready to tear around the track without someone who knows how to drive it. If you’re ready to move to the cloud, Trellist can help you realize its promise for better performance and an unparalleled customer experience at a lower total costs of ownership.

    To learn more about our approach, contact Nick and Primus

  • How to Deploy a Corporate Digital Strategy Without Turning Your Business Upside Down: Customer Interface

    by Lori Palmer | Sep 27, 2017

    How does a manufacturing organization deploy a corporate digital strategy without turning its business upside down? For large, enterprise organizations it makes sense to start with your biggest pain point. In other words, what part of the organization has the most opportunity to improve and impact your go-to-market efficiency? 

    Digital Strategy for a B2B Enterprise

    Let’s evaluate an enterprise B2B through four distinct lenses: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access.

    In this second article of a four-part series, we will explore the Customer Interface. Within your business, this includes Sales, Marketing, Product Managers, Applications and Technical Support, Customer Service Representatives, and similar titles. When we interview our clients to discover their pain points, we find they are able to describe the companies they sell to and have sufficient data to analyze their own sales performance. They are also able to describe the market, competitors, and macro trends that impact their position. However, access to—and analysis of—unstructured data that provides insights into the customer buying process is often limited.

    Being able to analyze your customers’ purchasing behaviors and interactions can guide your touch points at every step in the sales process. Providing insights and value at each stage can not only set your offering apart from competitors but also lead to up-selling, cross-selling, increased loyalty, and stickiness for your brand. Medallia’s analysis quantifies the value of exemplary customer experience and shows how it can double your revenue when compared to a poor customer experience. See The Value of Customer Experience, Quantified August 1, 2014, HBR.org.

    Our goal is to help you realize an unsurpassed customer experience that delights and achieves loyalty through knowing, fulfilling, measuring, and continuously improving real-time service that creates customer value better than your competitors. Here are some topics we ask our clients to rank when we are considering how best to digitize their Customer Interface:

    • Focus on the customer first and prioritize customer experience in aligned marketing and sales strategies.
    • Real-time customer data is available to us.
    • Utilize personas and journey mapping to understand purchasing behavior, define the content, and determine in which channels to engage our targeted audiences with a value proposition that resonates.
    • Digital strategy includes the important value chain players & partners.
    • Content marketing is the cornerstone of our campaigns and varies based on customer/prospect activity, i.e. their position in the buying process.
    • Technical questions on product application, pre- and post-sale, are quickly addressed and captured for future analysis.

    Understanding the depth and utilization of the above capabilities provides a foundation upon which to build. A digitally enabled Customer Interface delivers accurate information in a timely manner, is easy to use, and provides your customers the opportunity to self-serve–all of which enhance their experience with your organization. If you see opportunities to improve your customer experience, Trellist can help you optimize the use of your tools and platforms, as well as ensure culture adoption through change management, business process development, and data analysis. Our recommendation is to start with a self-funding pilot project that tackles a critical internal need to ensure that quick wins can maintain momentum and adoption. Our next article will explore how to digitize Business Processes in order to deliver value.

    Want to learn more? Read the rest of our Digital Strategy for Enterprise B2B series covering topics, such as: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access. If you have questions or would like to learn how Trellist can impact your business with a Digital Strategy, please contact Trellist Consulting.

  • How to Deploy a Corporate Digital Strategy Without Turning Your Business Upside Down: Operations

    by Lori Palmer | Aug 24, 2017
    How does a manufacturing organization deploy a corporate digital strategy without turning its business upside down? Where is the best place to start? How long will this take and what’s the price tag? How much revenue lift can I expect? At Trellist, we are asked these questions on a frequent basis from our clients. The answer, as you probably expect, is “it depends.”

    Corporate digital strategy for a b2b enterprise

    Let’s first define a corporate digital strategy as a means to establishing a unified, connected information system that enables an organization to access one version of the truth. This system encompasses content on your products and services, customer buying insights, product availability, manufacturing capability, and new product development information. Unfortunately, there is no blueprint that works for every organization as the complexity of operations, internal skills, and market conditions vary greatly. However, there are best practices and methodologies that can be followed to ensure you get value from your investment. This series of articles will explore how to organize—and stay on task—for future success with your digital strategy.

    For large, enterprise organizations it makes sense to start with your biggest pain point. In other words, what part of the organization has the most opportunity to improve and impact your go-to-market efficiency? Let’s evaluate a manufacturing B2B enterprise through four distinct lenses: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access.

    In this article, we will explore Operations. Most of our clients agree that a digital strategy for their manufacturing operations will be critical to maintain competitiveness. Their senior leadership is also aligned to this viewpoint. What is missing? A cohesive vision and an executable strategy. Let’s get started on where your opportunities might be so you can build up a set of actions that will underpin your vision and ultimately deliver value to your company.

    At Trellist, we work across a wide variety of software platforms and are able to make recommendations based upon an evaluation of your current systems, future needs, economics, in-house capabilities, and support strategies. Here are some preliminary topics to explore:

    • What platforms are you currently using across the organization?
    • What is the existing level of connectivity and compatibility?
    • Can your platforms provide you the insights your managers need to make decisions?
    • What are your monthly, weekly, daily, and real-time data needs?
    • Is the system easy to use? Does it require your employees to become “power users”?
    • Does your manufacturing platform connect with marketing, sales, and new product launch platforms for seamless customer data integration?
    • Are your platforms expandable and adaptable for future needs?
    • Is there consistency among the data within your systems or are there multiple systems providing competing insights?

    Having smooth connectivity across processes can reduce costs during production as well as enhance your position as a supplier. Your customer experience can be significantly impacted by on-time delivery of a high quality product. Moving to cost leadership quickly via automation can also deliver value in a competitive market. However, even more compelling would be to analyze a product’s entire life cycle for hard evidence of profitability at every stage. This is where the magic happens. Analyzing this data will provide insights into design cost, scale-up cost, time to market for a new product, comparisons between “as designed” to “as made,” and value in use vs. earlier product versions. These moves will drive you toward better asset utilization and market responsiveness, i.e. performance factors that far outweigh variable cost improvements.

    If you believe Operations is the area where you can gain the most go-to-market efficiency, the first set of actions you take will depend upon your answers to the above questions. Our recommendation is to start with a self-funding pilot project and then tackle a critical need to ensure the quick wins can maintain momentum. Our next article will explore how to digitalize the Customer Interface to deliver value.

    Want to learn more? Read the rest of our Digital Strategy for Enterprise B2B series covering topics, such as: (1) Operations, (2) Customer Interface, (3) Business Processes, and (4) Data Access. If you have questions or would like to learn how Trellist can impact your business with a Digital Strategy, please contact Trellist Consulting.

  • Setting the Foundations: Why Discovery Matters

    by Kris Kuss & Marc Icasiano | Aug 03, 2017

    The case for a robust discovery process before beginning design/development projects.

    Imagine a house that’s beautiful from the outside but, once you cross the threshold, you find the floorplan is all wrong, the rooms are too small, and the windows are too high to reach.  

    It takes time and thought to develop the layout and “experience” of such an interior so that it meets the expectations and needs of the people who enter. No matter how spectacular the exterior is, if the internal experience doesn’t deliver, the whole thing is a failure. 

    It’s the same in our business. We’d be doing a disservice to our clients if we started design and development without defining the experience they want to provide. That’s why it’s important to undergo a robust discovery process that sets the stage for smarter design and development choices. 

    The objectives of this discovery process are to:

    • Understand the brand
    • Understand the business
    • Understand the audience

    Once we understand a client’s brand, business, and audience, everything from that point forward aligns with the client’s unique needs; there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

    The discovery process informs Business and User Requirements, the Customer Experience Strategy, and the Brand Platform. The benefit of this is that the different members of the team contributing to the final product remain aligned and grounded in consistent foundations. At each stage of the design and development process, we can refer back to these guidelines to ensure we are remaining true to what we set out to do.

    Understanding the brand, business and audience ensures that the project goals are fulfilled across all design aspects

    Having guidelines and constantly checking back with them produces a better end product. Clients directly benefit from this process of constant validation, since it ensures that:

    • Clients are making the most of their budgets and not paying for features they don’t need.
    • Everything in the final product has a purpose that fits their unique needs.
    • Goals and deliverables set at the beginning of the project are met at the end.
    • The final product fits into the client’s overall communications strategy; reinforcing a consistent customer experience across all channels.

    We have found that the last point is particularly valuable to our clients because the results of the discovery process can be used for reference in future endeavors. The customer experience strategy, in particular, can serve as a foundation for other cross-channel communications: email campaigns, landing pages, extranets, print pieces, and any other customer touchpoints.

    In addition to ensuring the success of a one-off engagement, the discovery process has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond any single initiative. It’s also an opportunity for clients to take a step back and see their business from the eyes of their customers. With this perspective, it is clear how the house’s floorplan should be laid out, how large the rooms should be, and how the windows should be placed.
  • Three Ways to Connect With a Millennial Customer Base

    by Claire Concowich | May 05, 2017
    trellist_blog_615x425_042717

    Millennials are a growing segment of consumers—making up more than a quarter of the US population—thus forcing marketers to change their game in order to stay ahead. They’ve completely reshaped the marketplace. Check out some of our best tips for keeping up with these 83.1 million consumers:

    1. Their smartphone is everything; information has to be readily accessible via mobile
      The quickest way to lose a Millennial audience is a bad mobile experience—poorly designed apps included. The 86 percent of American Millennials who own a smartphone spend an average of 18 hours on their device each week. Meaning, when they are struck with the notion of researching a product, the phone comes out and they start Googling, checking out social media, or texting trusted resources—friends, family, or that one trend-setter who always seems to be ahead of the curve.

      The key is to convey your message quickly and effectively, otherwise interest will be lost. Clean, responsive touchpoints accessible anywhere, anytime is the crux to locking them in after initial interest.

    2. Hell hath no fury like a Millennial scorned
      Social media and mobile technology have changed the communication landscape: not only are you able to lose a customer as a result of tone-deafness, but that loss now has a domino effect that simply did not exist before. For example, United Airlines stock dropped $1.4 billion in one day after the ‘passenger removal’ video took over social media. Pepsi had to pull its recent television ad, featuring Kendall Jenner giving a police officer a Pepsi.

      Large scale, viral disapproval isn’t the only thing brands need to be wary of. With popular social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Google, etc., Millennials are actively sharing their feedback and checking these sites for reviews from their peers when making decisions about travel, product purchases, and everything in between. It’s not enough for brands to say they have the best product or the lowest prices, now their customers have to say it for them.

    3. Millennials don’t want to be “sold” to
      Traditional ads are no longer resonating with the millennial audience. Millennials are cautious, educated, savvy, and motivated to learn more. In fact, their appetite to learn more is to your advantage. Engage them in the conversation. It takes effort to build trust, so don’t take it for granted if you have a loyal fan base.

    Once Millennials feel like a partner, they are eager to share and promote products and services of value. Brands such as Netflix, GoPro, Wendy’s, and Pampers have built entire communities using social media. They know the best way to resonate with Millennials is to engage with them—an engaged audience is an invested audience, after all.

    Millennials don’t have all the answers, but they do know how to find them. Making sure your brand/company/service is accessible, trusted and forthcoming is the secret to reaching success in this marketplace. Millennials don’t want to be openly sold to, they want to be informed and educated about their options. By continuously engaging Millennials with innovative and relevant information that adds true value, you gain their respect and their business.

    Sources: Phoenix Business Journal, Pew Research CenterFortune, Business Insider, MarketingCharts


  • 3 Visual Design Techniques That Drive User Journeys

    by Marc Icasiano | Apr 26, 2017

    Trellist_3Design_blog_625x415

    A big mistake that people make when creating websites is that they separate the visual design efforts from the UX (User Experience) and content development. They see visual design as putting paint on a finished piece of pottery—something you do at the end to make it look pretty. This approach is missing the power that visual design has to engage users with a website’s narrative.

    1. Use white space to control the focus

      White space is the visual space between objects and blocks of text. Websites used to try to cram everything onto the homepage “above the fold.” This antiquated approach forces users to do the work of finding your story—like a puzzle that they needed to put together themselves. Instead, we use progressive disclosure. This technique presents fewer choices at the beginning of the user journey and opens up to more varied options once the user provides input and proceeds down the path. White space plays a large part in doing this effectively.

      By increasing white space and reducing visual distractions, we force the viewer to focus on one thing at a time. We can then control the order and pacing of information, avoiding choices that disrupt the flow of our narrative. When the user decides that they want more in depth information, we start reducing white space, creating more information dense pages, and providing a wider range of interactive options.

    2. Use visual hierarchy to keep the user on their path

      Visual hierarchy is the art of controlling what a user looks at first, second, third, etc. When done well, the user will intuitively and effortlessly progress through the path we have set for them.

      Users will generally look at the largest objects first. That said, there are many other ways to give text or objects prominence. For example:

      • Warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) attract attention—they tend to “jump off” the page—whereas cool colors (blues and greens) tend to “stay back.”
      • It’s human nature to focus on what’s different. If most of a webpage is text, even a small photo will draw our attention. If most of a webpage is black and grey, the one thing that is blue will get our attention.
      • Images of people—especially of faces—always draws our eye.
      • Shapes or patterns that point, even subtly, move our eye in that direction.

        By using all of these techniques and others, in combination, we give the user a natural flow of how they should be absorbing the information on the page—leading them to a well-defined choice of digging deeper into the story or taking a specific action.

    3. Use “surprise and delight” to keep users engaged

      From a UX perspective, consistency is king. Web designers generally provide a unified, predictable experience so that users don’t become frustrated or confused. However, as any good storyteller will tell you, throwing a few twists here and there will help keep your audience engaged. If the story goes exactly as they expect, users start to lose interest. So, as designers, we search for opportunities to inject “surprise and delight” into our narrative. For example, can an interactive element make the experience more customized or give the user a sense of control over the content? Will an infographic explain an important point better than words alone? Will a case study or testimonial add human interest? Will a video or animation tell a more dynamic story? When a user knows that the next click might bring something fun or unexpected, it creates more urgency in taking the next step.      

    The most effective websites are built with considerations for who the audience is and how to lead them towards specific actions. By using smart visual design techniques, you can create websites that are both beautiful and hard working.

  • LinkedIn Gets a Facelift

    by Elyse Altiere | Feb 17, 2017

    LinkedIn recently got a fresh new look. The social networking site says it’s the largest redesign since its inception. The company hopes users will find the new design more intuitive and easier to use. LinkedIn claims users were apparently “overwhelmed” by the old design.

    Here on the Trellist Insights Blog, we wanted to share what we’ve seen so far as it relates to the changes on both individual LinkedIn Profiles and LinkedIn Company Pages.

    Individual LinkedIn Profiles

    When it comes to individual LinkedIn Profiles, we’ve noticed an overall simplistic design to engage more members. Searching for people, jobs, companies, etc. is more streamlined. The toolbar puts greater emphasis on actions users can take. Messaging has been revamped and is a lot like Facebook Messenger and now includes a pop-up window.

    Banner images are displayed even more prominently and have changed in size. Insights are also displayed more prominently related to who has viewed your content. There’s more emphasis on enhancing your profile, including tips on how to make the most out of your profile. 

    LinkedIn Company Pages

    There are some fairly significant design changes for Company Pages. First, LinkedIn updates appear more prominently on the page. If you’re a page admin, LinkedIn showcases a quick look at analytics. Page visitors have the ability to select “Updates,” ”Overview” and “Jobs” via tabs.

    LinkedInFacelift_screenshot

    Page admins still have the option to display a background image to highlight their company/brand, however it’s smaller in size and appearance from the previous version. There’s also an option to update an image under the “Overview” tab that highlights the company’s “About us” section. Last, but not least, when sharing an update, targeting is more obvious in the dropdown menu. 

    LinkedInFacelift_TrellistLIScreenshot

    We’ll be tracking our personal profiles and the Company Pages we manage to see how these design changes will impact overall engagement. If you have anything to add, we’d love to hear from you.

    To learn more about our approach to managing social media, be sure to contact us at socialbusiness@trellist.com.

  • Better SharePoint User Adoption through Design

    by Jennifer Kenderdine | Jun 07, 2016

    SharePoint helps teams collaborate, whether they’re made up of 100 people in one location or tens of thousands of people located across the world. Out of the box, the tool can help users communicate internally and collaborate on projects by storing documents, collecting information, and sharing it with segmented groups. What users interact with is a secure website that gives them the freedom and flexibility to be more productive no matter where colleagues are located.

    However, SharePoint’s look and feel out of the box and can often leave much to be desired, leading to low adoption rates across an enterprise. A hard to navigate website that doesn’t look and feel like  what users have become accustomed to can make or break a company’s SharePoint deployment.

    While Microsoft has made—and continues to make—great strides with the user interface, users still struggle with SharePoint’s out-of-the-box user interface. What differentiates a SharePoint site that is hard to navigate and underutilized from one that truly impacts collaboration and productivity is great design and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) work.

    As users across an enterprise move through a SharePoint environment or site, it helps if the navigation, data views such as charts or spreadsheets, reports, content and forms are branded consistently. Think about your own experience: For example, when navigating through an online store where a payment page looks different than a product page might give you pause, cause a little bit of confusion, or even make you lose trust in the site and abandon your purchase.

    The same goes for SharePoint.

    With the help of a SharePoint developer, a UI/UX expert, an experienced graphic designer and a set of brand standards, you can design a SharePoint site that’s focused on the user.

    The right mix of creative design and technical knowledge can enrich SharePoint and make it even more user-friendly. Enhancements to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, client side object model (CSOM), REST, JSON, and .Net can, for example, incorporate various branding elements or change the way forms look on a page.

    List views are widely used across SharePoint to display different types of information, from news items, to documents available for download, to events, and more. The out-of-the-box functionality uses a large un-formatted table to display the title, URL, a description, notes and filters. This bare-bones table includes all the information an administrator needs to properly organize data and set up filters; however, the initial display is completely unbranded and anything but user friendly.

    But with the right design, some user interface skills and a bit of JavaScript, traditional list views are designed to show only needed information like a linked title and description. Additional features like filtering are displayed at the top of the page (and also designed to incorporate branded “filter” buttons), instead of within each table entry, making the list of resources much more user friendly. Rather than a interacting with a very wide table which users must scroll left-right and up-down to navigate, the experience is much better.

    BEFORE:

    SPblog1



    AFTER: 

    SPblog2

    Likewise, lists of links, which are also displayed in an un-formatted, unsightly table with several fields, can be styled to appear as a single list of destinations you’d find on a homepage. These are just a few examples of how you can customize SharePoint for your organization.

    BEFORE:

    SPblog3

    AFTER:

    SPblog4

    With all of the customization options, it’s easy to over-customize. There are, however, times when the out-of-the-box functionality for a part of SharePoint works well and doesn’t need to be customized. For example, Alerts that notify a small group of people when part of a workflow is completed is standard within SharePoint. It’s not necessary to overdevelop or over-design this functionality unless user needs dictate something different.

    To make the best use of SharePoint and ensure it’s adopted across all groups in an enterprise, it’s best to have a good understanding of how it’ll be used and which parts of SharePoint should be modified, as well as which parts work well out-of-the-box. Determining the mix of standard functionality with unique, branded elements will help you get the most out of your SharePoint investment and ensure maximum user adoption.  

  • Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 as a Learning Ecosystem

    by Jennifer Kenderdine | Jul 29, 2015

    microsoft 365 and sharepoint as a learning ecosystem

    Our post was published in a recent issue of Learning Solutions Magazine...

    Benefits of Microsoft SharePoint as a Training Tool

    Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most prevalent, effective and extensible content collaboration solutions utilized across a range of industries. Users appreciate the security, control, accessibility, business integration, ease of use and the wealth of tools integrated into their SharePoint intranets and extranets. Because SharePoint is robust as both a content management system and a collaboration tool, it's easy to imagine the benefit it could bring as a natural training resource. Since it is already integrated into many businesses, SharePoint is especially valuable as a tool to implement training when a Learning Management System (LMS) is not in place, when the investment in an LMS is costly, or when there are other limitations to implementing an LMS within the business environment. Typical limitations of a traditional LMS include awkward user interface functionality, challenging content management tools, and compatibility for limited content types. Unlike most LMS’s, SharePoint is an extensible collaboration platform, so it is very well suited to be leveraged as a learning ecosystem.  

    Selecting a Learning Ecosystem for a Blended Learning Approach

    What is a learning ecosystem? A learning ecosystem is a hub for collaboration and learning. It contains learning content as well as other tools for learners, instructors and business units. Often, additional tools include ways for learners to interact by posting questions, conducting discussions and gathering feedback. Learning content can be accessed and assignments can be uploaded. Instructors can add pertinent content through a blog or send out information via email. In short, it’s a virtual classroom. Because SharePoint includes tools that match the needs of an ecosystem, it’s an obvious choice.  

    An effective learning ecosystem creates a learning environment that meets the needs of the adult learner. Addressing learner needs can be accomplished by using a blended learning approach, allowing students control over their learning, and providing social interaction. It can be a challenge to find a platform that can support this environment. SharePoint’s built-in Out of the Box (OOTB) features support the learning ecosystem without creating the need for additional modifications to the platform.

    What Adult Learners “Expect” from a Learning Experience:

    • That it mostly be Learner-directed (I should be able to do this/find this information myself)
    • That it acknowledge and build on the Learner’s experience and prior knowledge
    • That they will learn what they need to know and be able to deal with real life situations that are contextual
    • That it be learning that is life-centered, task-centered or problem-centered

    Creating the Ecosystem

    STEP ONE
    The first step in developing an ecosystem in SharePoint is to take an inventory of your content. In order to be sure everything is accessible, it’s important to understand what is compatible with this platform. For example, SharePoint is compatible with any Microsoft file (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Visio). SharePoint will also support several video file types such as AVI, MPG, MP3, MP4, OGG and WMV. PDF files, which are universally accessible and cannot be easily edited, are also frequently used.
    As part of your inventory process, you should first make a list of all of content and file types and who, in general, will be using it. Make sure to consider all of the ways you want to communicate or involve your learners. Will you need notifications, email, a scheduling system, contact information? It is helpful to make a list of things you need the ecosystem to support. Then, talk to the SharePoint expert in your organization to see how it can be used to create a custom learning ecosystem that matches those needs.

    STEP TWO
    Once you determine what files you will add to the ecosystem along with your general minimum requirements, you will need to decide how you can use SharePoint as your virtual classroom. It’s best to work with a SharePoint administrator or developer to establish the user and functional requirements up front. You may also want to consult a user interface designer to make sure the home page and navigation are intuitive and easy to use. 

    As part of the requirements-gathering process, you should establish who will need access to the content and types of access they need; this is a foundational step in the development and curation process and key to how SharePoint works best. Levels of access may differ depending on the type of content, what the user is going to need to do with the content and how much they should have access to. You can work with your SharePoint expert to determine the roles for access and what level of access applies to each. Think of this as a process where you are sorting the content into buckets, where each bucket contains content that is relatable to a particular user group. Rules are put into place to determine who needs to see what content, and how they should be able to interact with it. The groups will likely include learners, instructors, administrators of the site (and possibly administrators of the content) and the business leaders. 

    STEP THREE
    SharePoint supports adding new content and allows for collaboration through several built-in features.

    SharePoint Libraries and Lists: As you build your ecosystem, there are many ways to add content to the SharePoint environment.  Document libraries can house Microsoft Word or text files, as well as accommodate Excel and PowerPoint files. Excel spreadsheets can also be integrated into a SharePoint list so each row of the spreadsheet becomes a separate item in the list. You can place videos and other media content into an asset library. Understanding what types of lists are available to you in SharePoint and how they can be used is very valuable during the setup process.

    SharePoint Collaboration Features: One of the great advantages of the SharePoint platform is its multitude of built-in collaboration features. Some of the features that can be leveraged for your ecosystem include: Announcements that can be forwarded to email, calendars for tracking important dates, discussion boards for learner interaction, blogs for instructor-added content, libraries for accessing content and uploading assignments, lists of links to web resources, surveys for feedback, contact lists for curriculum and more. It’s even possible to create a library for completed assignments that tracks delivery (due date), includes assessments and allows comments to be added. The learners would then be able to open their corrected assignments, receive their assessments and read feedback from one location.
    Using SharePoint’s OOTB features gives users enough functionality to develop a successful learning ecosystem with a short deployment time and low maintenance cost. There are, however, opportunities to modify SharePoint based on your unique learning needs.

    Customizing SharePoint

    While SharePoint’s OOTB functionality is robust enough to develop and implement learning and training programs, it can also be customized to add features. This type of customization, including design, build and integration, typically requires a more experienced developer. 

    Here are some common learning ecosystem requirements that may need custom solutions or other tools: 

    • Testing, scoring and reporting (Captivate has built-in tools that can be leveraged)
    • Learner progress reports
    • Performance tracking
    • Web/page analytics (SharePoint’s OOTB version includes basic page analytics)

    Ongoing Maintenance and Efficiencies

    After you’ve successfully deployed a learning ecosystem through SharePoint, it’s important to keep the content up to date. Edit the content regularly so it remains evergreen and usable, and move older content to an archive location (library, list or folder). Consideration should be given to content that is out of date and will not be reused, but be cautious about deletion because deleted files are not recoverable. A SharePoint expert can help you develop an overall maintenance plan for your ecosystem. To efficiently build upon your learning ecosystem, your current site can also be saved as a template so it can be reused for additional topics, courses or groups.  

    Often times, there are few outlets inside companies for learning content, and platforms are dictated by the IT department. With the prevalence of SharePoint as an intranet, workflow tool and more, using it for all of your learning needs keeps it accessible and makes it easy for users to consume your content.

  • 6 Considerations Before You Build A Mobile App

    by Primus Poppiti | Mar 20, 2015
    6 considerations before developing a mobile app

    It’s no secret that, after years of predictions, we have reached the era of mobile Internet. In 2014, comScore, a leader in digital big data, reported that more than half (52%) of digital media consumption is through mobile apps.

    That means that if your organization is forward-thinking, it’s very likely considering deploying a mobile app to better reach your customers. However, it’s important to stop for a moment and think strategically; building an app for the simple sake of building an app, can do more harm than good.

    With that in mind, here are five strategic considerations to think about before you launch that mobile app project:

    1. Know your customer.

      Customer profiling is a critical first step in this process. An organization must understand its audience before it starts to build something with them; after all, the point of an app is, at some level, to increase engagement with customers. You need to understand what they do on their smartphones. What are their media consumption habits and behaviors? Additionally, it’s important to know basic demographic information such as age, gender and geography. As you dig deeper, a picture of their lifestyle begins to emerge. This enables you to build the use case scenario for how they’re going to use your app.
    2. Know your device.

      There is a significant difference between mobile phones and tablets. A mobile phone is typically used for tactical tasks – the user is going to one or two screens, posting something to a social network, answering email or taking photos. Tablets are a more leisurely device, which allow the user to consume more content. And, of course, the introduction of so-called “phablets” (larger smartphone devices) has blended these two arenas. You need to consider what information you want to present to the audience, and therefore, the best device for displaying your content.
    3. Craft your features.

      A successful app is a mobile tool, not simply a reiteration of content that can be found elsewhere. The features on your app need to provide value to the user. It’s vitally important to consider the feature set that will work best for your users. We recommend doing some prototyping. Get real customers to start to test the app, use it and provide you feedback. There are a number of tools you can use to make this happen.
    4. Be interactive, and be short.

      Look at the features, and look at the time users are spending. Generally speaking, mobile apps need to be tactical in nature. Remember, this is not a book, and it’s not a movie. Part of the reason for this is bandwidth considerations, but more importantly, it is the bandwidth of the people you’re targeting, i.e., their attention span. You have to tailor app content to this reality.
    5. Allow for user customization.

      One size does not fit all. Different people consume information in different ways. The best apps provide users a lot of options to do things the way they want, when they want it. You have to acknowledge the consumer’s mindset, and allow them the opportunity to select the information they see and the rate at which they’re going to consume it. This is a matter of timing and volume.
    6. Make it human.

      People want to feel that the message is being directed to them. They enjoy that personal feeling, and they expect it on their devices. For instance, “I just did something, why didn’t the app say thank you?” If it was a person, the person would’ve said thank you. The app should speak to the user as if it’s a human. Your mother was right – being polite can help you win friends.
    Interested in learning more? Contact us at enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.
  • SharePoint 2013 Delivers Data to Any Device

    by Jennifer Kenderdine | Dec 12, 2014

    sharepoint 2013 across all devices

    Mobile device use is increasing at a staggering rate—one look around just about any setting will confirm this. People are more connected than ever, and by 2018, Internet traffic from wireless and mobile devices will surpass traffic from wired devices1. Because of this, IT architects must consider all of these mobile devices and their users when planning environments that will deliver and exchange critical business data.

    But how do you push critical data with rich, dynamic, interactive content to the challenging (read small) scale of the mobile universe? That’s where Microsoft SharePoint 2013 enters the scene. SharePoint 2013 is the constantly evolving tool for collaboration, document management, sharing and publication of data, business process creation, web content delivery and more.  While the last release, SharePoint 2010, presented some challenges to responsive web design, SharePoint 2013 has made it much easier for web designers to brand and design their sites. These new capabilities enable you to create user friendly interfaces across the panoply of mobile operating systems.

    The Increasing Need for Mobile-Friendly Data

    Much of the current workforce is roving—they access documents on the go, use tablets to sell products and services to customer, and are finding that laptops are burdensome tool used solely when in the office or at home. If you’ve made critical business data available to this workforce-on-the-move, your organization needs to acknowledge this trend and design sites for easy reading and navigation while keeping resizing, panning and scrolling to a minimum. Your SharePoint content must be more mobile device friendly: available and convenient for your workforce and customers no matter what device they bring to the table.

    Building a Dynamic Solution for Every Device

    Deploying a strategic solution to render the SharePoint sites across devices without losing functionality and content can be done using new web design techniques.

    • Apply responsive web design principles to provide an optimal viewing experience across devices. The responsive design methodology, when planned correctly, provides a single design approach (a single master page) versus multiple designs for each device. Develop the SharePoint design keeping mobile first in mind and utilizing the pillars of responsive web design:keep the design fluid (I.e. a grid system), integrate use of flexible media, and use media queries. When used properly, the elements in the page rearrange themselves to fit the current resolution as the browser window is resized from desktop, to mobile, and back again.
    • Build to the design, not to the device. The site’s functionality and content should be the same, regardless of the size of the screen.
    • Leverage web designers and consultants who are a crucial component for a successful SharePoint implementation. The person with the right skillset will understand how to employ HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript/JQuery libraries and other web tools to create a responsive design for your SharePoint sites through branding, page layouts and web parts/apps.

    Though deploying your responsive web design requires several new considerations, it provides a single, easy to manage solution for the “bring your own device” dilemma. Users will have access to the SharePoint content across their devices and the information is truly at their fingertips. With easier access to this information, productivity increases, SharePoint adoption is higher and users are more satisfied. This leads to an increase in ROI.

    The Opportunity with SharePoint 2013

    SharePoint 2013 natively supports many mobile browsers, and much of the web tooling that designers use regularly can now be leveraged within the SharePoint 2013 framework. The support for responsive web design, integration of universal web technologies (JavaScript/JQuery libraries), and design tools like Dreamweaver and Web Expressions continues to evolve and grow, giving businesses ever-increasing opportunities to leverage the growing mobile workforce and customer base.

    Trellist can help you deliver your critical business data to users, no matter what device they’re using. Learn more about our experience with SharePoint from this client success story. Then, connect with us on Twitter @trellist and reach out to us at info@trellist.com.

    1 Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2013 – 2018 http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/ip-ngn-ip-next-generation-network/white_paper_c11-481360.html

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