Journey Planning, The Cure For The Shiny Object Syndrome

By David Stewart, VP, Creative Technology, Karsh Hagan @leuzstewart

When I first got into the digital business we all dreamed of the world where we live in now. It’s why a lot of us stayed in this field. Communications are social, advertising is digital, websites are funnel focused, e-commerce is a standard and connected into operations, and mobile apps are delivering a compelling loyalty experience in context. Or at least, all of this is now possible. I’ve worked with many teams that have taken on each one of these platforms and dealt with a variety of situations where “cool technology” or “shiny objects” were implemented that didn’t really solve a customer problem. But today, we are empowered with technology that surrounds us, and it’s personalized. This is forcing us to look at the customer experience more intently and holistically than we ever have before.

Why Journey plans?

The challenge with this next phase of digital evolution is, it’s no longer something you can easily visually see. Meaning, if every experience is personalized to an individual, you can’t visually see how this is all going to work, it’s just too complicated. This forces us to think even more conceptually about our ideas and how we are going to implement them in a context. To do this, you’ll actually have to think more like a programmer. Luckily, I remember all those late nights of programming, when you had a complicated logic problem you had to break down. So that’s what we are going to do — break it down.

How do I create a journey map?

First things first, we need a framework so we can visually see how these experiences will generally work before we get into a detailed complicated planning. So this is where we’ve started using journey maps. With a journey map we can generalize the whole experience of a segmented group of users at a holistic level. By mapping out their needs on a timeline, what they are doing, thinking, and feeling, and making it visual, we can come up with solutions to optimize their experience within the context of that overall journey plan.

Team buy-in is important

Once we have a journey map, we need to get teams of people on board with what we are doing. This is very important! Once everyone is bought in on the journey map we can then break down the experience to match a complicated decision-making process that can be understood within a framework for the team. You have to get everyone on board so they don’t undo your thinking and slip into “shiny object syndrome”, where people tend to generate ideas that don’t really meet the needs of the user. I call this the “washing machine” — when a group of people constantly rehash the same problem and never really get past that problem at hand, that’s when the “shiny object syndrome” appears, over and over again.

What’s comes after a journey map in a journey plan

Once you are through the “washing machine”, and have your journey map, this enables you to then put logic around how people make more detailed decisions and break down the experience. This gets complicated pretty quickly but if you think about it, we already do it every day. You telegraph your intentions through your behaviors, then somebody responds to your behaviors with responses that match your intention for a need, and you make a decision. So to break this down, we can use decision trees, which basically map this out into a detailed plan. Then we put this detailed plan into practice, and test it over and over again. Email campaigns are a great place to do this, acting as a sandbox to perfect your journey plans.

Turn those shiny objects into pure gold

The future of automated communications is here, and to work in this complex environment you’ll need a framework to ground your experience. So now you have it: go get started, dream up some ideas, put them in a journey plan, you’ll see how quickly you can put context around those ideas and turn those “shiny objects” into gold. In the short term, if you master this, you’ll be able to conquer the rules-based automation experience and excel in this next phase of digital evolution. That is, until artificial intelligence actually arrives. Which is a whole different conversation, and will probably take more than a blog to describe.

But we can keep dreaming, that’s why we all still work in digital.

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