Case studies - Part 2: Some solutions
Wednesday, 29th February 2012
Writing case studies is seen as a dull chore which only becomes urgent when a proposal deadline looms, and a mass scramble ensues. So how can you break this cycle and ensure that case studies are readily available?
In my previous post I talked about how organisations rely on case studies (also known as credentials, qualifications or references) to win business, but often fail to implement a sensible process to capture and share them. Writing them up is seen as a dull chore which only becomes urgent when a proposal deadline looms, and a mass scramble ensues.
So how can you break this cycle and ensure that case studies are readily available? Here are a few strategies that I’ve seen work:
- Make it mandatory to write up case studies as soon as work has been won. If users cannot progress with their job until they have provided some key case study details they will supply them.
- Accept that there are different types of case studies with different purposes.
When a job has just been won, a few lines stating the project, value, objectives and team leader are enough for people to find out what’s going on, and know who to contact for further information.
Once it’s nearer completion, a fuller document can be produced for proposals. This can be worked up into glossy marketing collateral as required.
Make it easy to collect information, but only do it once and reuse many times.
- Data entered as a brief description of a project won can be built upon for full external case study and internal marketing use. This could mean a simple online form that auto-fills – perhaps taking data from the CRM system and Active Directory – or it could be the discipline of a knowledge manager carrying out a brief phone interview for each project won.
- Make it as easy as possible to find information. There are so many tools out there with strong search and metadata tagging facilities that it is crazy to run your case study system from shared drive folders with Word documents, managed by an Excel index.
- Leverage local case study systems. The organisation needs case studies to operate so they will be sitting out there somewhere. It could be on a particular individual’s hard drive or the aforementioned Excel spreadsheet. Find this information and the processes that sustain it, and build on it before you go out to the business asking for new material.
- Make it as simple as possible to use the information. Proposals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from PowerPoint to online forms. There may be rules about word count and style. Every proposal is unique. Taking base data and making it bespoke saves an enormous amount of administrative time. Tedium is the act of stripping text from multiple boxes on a PowerPoint slide and painstakingly pasting and reformatting them into Word, and then repeating twelve times.
- Understand what the business actually needs from case studies in order to win new work, and build that into your metadata as early as possible. Do you need a client testimonial? Is it important to show both the value of the contract and the fees?
- Make life difficult for people who misuse case studies. People hoard their case studies because they are worried that they will be rewritten misleadingly, or promised to participate in a project they do not have availability for. It is important that this is not seen as an acceptable practice within the organisation.
Every organisation is different so a combination of methods is usually necessary as there doesn’t seem to be a silver bullet. If you have better ideas, please share them in the comments.