The goal of process is to facilitate a positive outcome. Not create a deliverable.

I'm obsessed a bit with process. Not because process creates more efficiencies (often times it does the opposite), but because it helps get to the end result I'm looking for time after time.

That being said, I view process a little bit differently than others. I don't view process as a set of rigid steps that must be followed every single time. Instead I view it as a framework that should be interpreted to fit the strengths and style of the person who is using it to help them do their job.

A great example is the creative process we take before we start design on a project. The steps are very defined for the neboweb team. The first step is holding a long discovery meeting to really gain an understanding of the client's business, to grasp the challenges they're facing from a messaging perspective and get insight on the audiences whose opinions they are trying to change. Whether this is a multi-person meeting held in a sky-rise conference room or an informal meeting with the client over coffee, either way is fine as long as the outcome is the an in depth understanding of what we're trying to accomplish.

The second step is a writing a creative brief that summarizes the discoveries we've made and provides insight for the creative team to start concepting. A good creative brief states the context of the project, the communication challenge, the target audience mindset and the key messages we need to get across. In our case we use a template to make sure nothing is left off. There's not much flexibility in the style of document, but the open ended nature of the questions provides all the flexibility you need.

And because we're an interactive shop, the next step is wireframes. This step in particular provides some room for flexibility. If I'm working up wireframes myself, they're going to be essentially a grey version of the layouts with spacing, visual hierarchy and typography carefully considered.

However, I wouldn't expect a marketing manager working on an internal project for his/her company to approach wireframes in the same way. The most important element of wireframe isn't the layout. It's the content, the priority of that content and the key calls-to-action that you are trying to get a user to take. It's more valuable to spend an hour working on the content to be presented in the wireframe and the priority of that content, rather than spending an hour aligning items in Microsoft Visio. A generic wireframe with "lorem ipsum" is nothing more than an empty template that will be discarded as soon as it hits the designers desk.

A word document full of great content that is prioritized based on user goals with highlighted calls to action for the users to take is an infinitely more valuable deliverable than a templated wireframe, or marketing requirements document.

So next time you're thinking about process (or working through the steps of a process), remember that the goal of a process is to facilitate the final outcome you're looking for. It's not to create a series of rigid steps that can be checked off your list each morning. Each step taken is only as valuable as the quality of the product that results from it.

Written by Adam Harrell on April 21, 2009

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