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10 November 2009

Being awesome

By Andrew Clifford

Who do you help to be awesome at what?

I recently read an excellent article by Joel Spolsky on figuring out what your company is all about.

In it Joel recounts some advice about presenting your company mission in the form:

  • We help $TYPE_OF_PERSON be awesome at $THING

This approach is really great for IT because it so accurately describes the role of IT. The only purpose of IT is to help people do things. To deliver any value you must be able to articulate WHO it helps to do WHAT. If you waffle on about "strategic enablement" or "information is the life blood of the organisation", you have lost the plot.

I also really like the strong word "awesome". We need to up our game from "enabling" to helping people be "awesome".

It sounded like good advice, so I tried it on our own business at Metrici, and particularly on our Metrici Advisor service. It was harder than I thought, but it was a very valuable lesson.

Trying to think of WHO we help was hard. Do we help managers, consultants, businesses, decision-makers? Yes, we do, but that is a bit too broad. They do not catch the essence of who we help.

And WHAT do we help them do? Gather information, evaluate, make decisions? Yes we do, but once again that is too broad.

After a bit of head scratching, we looked at the name of our own product and figured out our mission.

  • We help advisors be awesome at giving advice.

This really works for us, and it sums up neatly everything we do.

We define advice as:

  • Recommendations
  • Measures
  • Assurance
  • Evaluation
  • Justification
  • Priorities

The service helps:

  • People who specialise in giving advice.
  • Managers who advise their own organisations.
  • Anybody who investigates and makes decisions, because they advise themselves.
  • Anybody who takes advice.

The advice-giving is awesome because it is:

  • Quick
  • Rigorous
  • Insightful
  • Consistent
  • Actionable
  • Justified

This mission even helps us clarify some misunderstandings.

  • Metrici Advisor is not a survey tool. If you just want a quick opinion survey, use something like Lime Survey. If you want to give advice based on information gathering, use Metrici Advisor.
  • Metrici Advisor is not a process management tool. You can use Metrici Advisor to advise on your processes, or you can make Metrici Advisor part of your advisory processes, but either way Metrici Advisor does not manage the processes for you.

Clarifying our mission also clarifies which parts of the service need to be given more emphasis in our marketing:

  • Reusing libraries of best practice.
  • Driving out effective recommendations using the rules engine.
  • Linking to background information from anywhere in the tool.
  • Producing final reports directly from the tool.
  • Customising the standard materials, rules, analysis and reports for each organisation.

Just playing around with a few words has really helped us sharpen our mission, and given us a powerful tool to explain ourselves to our customers and partners.

Try it yourself, for your business, your services, or your software. Who do you help to be awesome at what?

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