Saturday, October 31, 2009

the purpose of the document

Last time, I gave some suggestions about starting a redesign project. But I ended with the statement that you MUST determine the main purpose of the document first.

Most of the variable data documents I work with are perfect vehicles for marketing or cross selling or transpromo and no whatever you want to call it, they are all the same.

But bear in mind that each of these documents have one and only one main purpose. All other uses are secondary and should be treated as such.

So we agree, don’t we? There is only one main purpose. Let’s say it is an invoice and the company needs to get paid as soon as possible. The example I have included is my own lease invoice (shown above). This invoice (the company shall remain anonymous) has a detail section that consists of one line with the principal, interest and total (top of page 2). This is all the detail information I need to pay the invoice. In fact, this whole bill including my mailing address, return address, due date, etc. would actually take up only about ½ of a page. So it is safe to assume that one side of one sheet of paper is enough to do the job. Yet, there were months when four, yes I said 4, messages (listed as “important”) were included and preceded the detail information. This pushed the detail section to a second sheet of paper. Towards the end of the lease, the detail began appearing on the back of the first sheet, so only one piece of paper was used.

These four messages included: pay on line, pay by phone, in case of accident and remittance. All of these messages are important to a certain degree, but all are secondary to the payment of the invoice. These messages should have appeared after the detail and only those that could fit on one page should appear and in some kind of hierarchical order. Not every message is “important.” Generally speaking only one message is important, while others are “nice to haves.”

The simple answer to why this happened, I would guess marketing may have been involved, no one took the time to determine the purpose of the document, the user and the cost of adding pages, either the back of the first page or the second sheet.

I didn’t even talk about how often and how many of these messages get read. So, determining the main purpose and sticking to it, is critical.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

step one

There are many steps to a successful information document redesign. Keep in mind, the number of steps and the amount of time and detail required will vary depending on the complexity of the document or if there are multiple documents. First, let me say that when looking at an organization total forms and documents, it is always best to start small and build on successful redesign projects. Otherwise, the project may bog down and fail. Often times, we will start with one document or with one area of an organization and the documents that might be valuable within that area.

The first step in any redesign project is to create a project team and establish goals.

PROJECT TEAM - The project team should consist of key players within the organization. Often we have a large group, but a small subset is the day to day working team. The large group, however, needs to include a representative of the key departments that touch the document. This usually will include marketing, IT, legal, regulatory, customer service and more depending on the document. The members need to be people who can make a decision or at the very least, get to a decision maker within their department easily. This ensures two things, the project will keep moving and all departments will have a say and buy in to the decisions.

ESTABLISH GOALS – this is critical since to make the project a success, there needs to be a starting point from which to compare the results. Sometimes I found that this is difficult since most customer service groups don’t have hard facts about the problems with a document. But, there are other possible measurements; production savings, mailing and printing costs, error reductions and service time. All of these are important measurements and will help to determine the success of a project.

And, of course, determine the main purpose of the document.