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When is “Good Enough” Good Enough?
29 January 2008, by , in Data Management, 2 comments

My friend and colleague Rob Pitzer at the Smithsonian Institution asked me a great question: "How do you deal with the temptation to keep upgrading your website, when "good enough" would suggest you stop and focus elsewhere?"

This is an issue that we all deal with: How do we know what we've got is good enough and that we can move on? Believe it or not, there's an easy way to answer that, but most organizations won't know the answer. Simply ask yourself: "Has our site (or database, or meeting, or program) achieved its initial objectives?"

Ah, but what were our initial objectives? There's the rub. Because in most cases, whether its programs, products, websites, or databases, the initial objectives were never clearly stated or agreed upon. And without a measurable objective, there's no way of knowing if "we're there."

To answer Rob's question, I would ask "What were the objectives of the website, and have they been accomplished?" Was the purpose of the website simply to communicate information, like a brochure? Was it to allow consumers to buy things online? Was it to allow users to customize their experience?

Once we settle on the objectives, we then have to agree to measurements that prove we've reached those objectives. If the objective was to allow consumers to buy things online, then either they can or they cannot. And if they can, is the experience a good one or a bad one? If it's a bad one, we may need to refine the objective, so that it reads "allow the consumer to buy things online in fewer than four steps."

Without measurable objectives, we can't really say if we've achieved what we've set out to do. And we'll never know if good enough is really good enough.

About author:
  • Great post, Wes. This is definitely an issue I’ve run into before myself: As an editor, it’s very easy for me to get wrapped up in making the magazine I’m working on into a “great magazine” as I define that–which isn’t always what my readers are looking for. (Especially at my last association, where the members were scientists and data people without much interest in graphics and pretty layouts.) The key has always been to remember the objective–to create a great magazine for our members, not just for me. I think at one point I actually wrote that down and taped it to the bottom of my computer monitor!

  • Wes Trochlil

    Thanks, Lisa. Drucker tells a great story in “The Effective Executive” of a government agency that had replaced its longtime newsletter writer with a “professional” science writer. The publication took on a fancy new look, but readership fell. When asked why they stopped reading, one reader responded: “The former writer was writing for us; your new writer writes at us.”

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“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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