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Substance without Style

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¬†“All style and no substance” is something that we have all heard before; uttered by way of a critique, not implying but forthrightly stating that a product, idea or even a person looks the part but this hides an absence of anything to back it up.

In our time we have seen our fair share of this; C.V.’s that are too good to be true and interviews that go so well you cannot believe you’ve found the right candidate (you haven’t). Our particular bug bear is gloriously presented power points which go swish and woosh and fly in and out of focus at the right time. And tell you precisely nothing except that you are really good at powerpoint and animations.

But what of the other way around?

If style over substance is annoying (and it is) what of substance without style?

All modern thoughts in the business world revolve now around the concept of brand, not just the company you work for or the product you sell, but of you, an individual. What do you represent when you walk into a room or stand on stage or present to the board for the first time? All sets of eyes are on you, its your moment to show them (delete as appropriate) why you are worth hiring / not firing / giving a pay rise / about to give a pay rise / promotion etc.

Even at a more mundane level, the first time you are asked to send detailed information to a board member or senior manager is often in the format of an attached document. Which at the end of the day represents you.

So a company selling templates is going to recommend buying good templates?

Yes. But not always.

We have genuinely witnessed many average people promoted, having presented their average work in a brilliant way over brilliant people presenting their work in an average way. Right or wrong, its just what we’ve seen.

Consider the audience, the requirement and the message you are trying to get across.

1. Don’t over do it
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If you have been asked for a no-frill 5 line overview to be sent on an e-mail, we would recommend you produced exactly that.

After all, sometimes less really is more; you wouldn’t over engineer packaging for a single banana now would you?

2. Be clear

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Use our templates, create your own, develop your unique style, use graphics and buttons or anything else you can think of.

BUT if they are there because they are pretty and don’t tell you anything, take them out. Anything that does not add information in an easy to comprehend way that makes immediate sense is a huge distraction will subtract hugely from the rest of your hard work.

3. Be Consistent

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 15.07.09Define what and how you report and show this in the same way with the same criteria each time.

e.g. If you use Red Amber Green ratings on a dial and Amber is always 70% for instance, don’t have another report out there with a different dial and Green at 70%.

4. Take a step back and check it works

Sometimes we get too close to a project and struggle to convey information to those who do not know the ins and outs. Validate it with others to make sure that what you are trying to get across is actually what you are getting across.

It’s easy to get it wrong sometimes!

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Dynamic Status Dials – to communicate project status with RAG on a single page.

Sydney at Night – Zoomed in.

Communicating a large amount of information on any project into a simple,  easier to read and digest format is always something of a challenge. The trick is to focus on the key areas and “zoom” in on them.

We have read a fair bit of conventional wisdom which states that creating the ideal dashboard template should be kept simple (we agree) and that attempting to replicate the most traditional of dashboards in that of a car is to be avoided as it is not necessary. This struck a chord with us as we fundamentally disagreed – after all, cars display the most complex of information in a format which is universally accepted and which in spite of digital advances has remained largely the same using dials with redder bits akin to a RAG status.

So we started to build one and soon understood the reason behind conventional wisdom – making a car dashboard which is fully automated, pleasant on the eye and useful to those looking at it is really quite difficult! Being that difficult is our middle name (well it is documents but you get the gist) we would not take really quite difficult as an answer so persevered and finally late one night we had done it.

You can see our status template with dynamic dials here.

…in all of its 3-colour glory!

We are quite proud of it, but as ever, feedback is always welcome. As an added incentive, the first 5 people who can e-mail us with “How hard could it be” in the title will get a free version to give it a test drive.

Our Status Templates

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Define your Product Rollout Plan

The Rollout Plan Template - Powerpoint Presentation
The Rollout plan Powerpoint Presentation

Planning your Product Rollout is crucial. You need to design the workstreams, and put project controls in place to be sure your rollout stays on track.

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You can see our ready-made, tried-and-tested Rollout Plan Template here.

How to Plan your Product Rollout

Define “Success” – Your Rollout Objectives & KPIs

  1. What does success look like? – you must document this with measurable success criteria.
  2. Once you have this, you can identify some points in the rollout when you expect to be able to measure the “Performance” of the rollout.
  3. You can record these as Milestones, and as KPIs to focus the team on.

Understand your Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies

  1. In order to ensure the best possible rollout, you to understand what might affect your success negatively, and manage each of these factors.
  2. In project management terms, this is your RAID log, and includes documenting and managing your:
    1. Risks
    2. Assumptions
    3. Issues
    4. Dependencies
    5. View RAID templates here
  3. Track, mitigate and manage your RAID items through the Rollout process

Define your Phases & Timeline

  1. With the above points in mind, set your timeline for the Rollout.
  2. Base the timeline on a realistic and achievable timescale, and with your RAID items in mind.
  3. If it makes sense to the whole project, split your timeline into Phases, and name them

Define your Milestones

  1. Along with your KPI points, set milestones so that you can monitor project progress
  2. Be sure to get regular Status Updates, and ensure the wider team and stakeholders get Status Reports

Set out your Workstreams & Project Activities

  1. In Agile projects, and in larger Programmes, your team and activities should be arranged in Workstreams
  2. Each Workstream should represent a team, or a particular area of delivery; e.g. “HR”, “DEV”, “CATERING”, “FINANCE”
  3. Plan the project activities, and the KPIs out into these workstreams, along the timeline
  4. Ensure the Workstream participants have contributed, and helped form each workstream plan

Communicate your Rollout Plan!

  1. Agree the Timeline, Workstream, KPI and Activity plans with your team
  2. Create a Rollout Plan Presentation, with your team
  3. Present to all teams and stakeholders
  4. Give your team and Stakeholders Status Reports frequently throughout the Rollout

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Business Documents UK Rollout Templates

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Product Plan – define your product!

SWOT PESTLE Roadmap Template (Powerpoint)

This Product Plan format communicates high level Launch Plans, Timeline, Milestones and Objectives to executive board stakeholder groups.

Powerpoint Product Plan with SWOT and PESTLE
Powerpoint Product Plan with SWOT and PESTLE – copyright business-docs.co.uk

The Powerpoint Presentation Product Plan template shown here is based on tried and tested template formats, and is designed to communicate high level product plans to Executive Board audiences.

This Product Plan template is suitable for any stakeholder group circulation.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Product Plan – roadmap slide
  3. Product SWOT Analysis

The Product Plan Template can be downloaded now, for immediate use.

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Project Status Report Template

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Everybody needs a good Project Status Report Template. Here at Business Documents UK we provide a selection of Status Report templates that can be used for a variety of project purposes.

Powerpoint Project Status Report Templates

  1. Powerpoint Roadmap with dashboard – has a project status report area.
  2. Powerpoint Product Roadmap Template – has a project status update area.

Visio Project Status Report Templates

  1. Product Roadmap + Dashboard Template – has a project status report area.

More to come soon!

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Powerpoint Product Roadmap

The Powerpoint Product Roadmap – ideal for presenting your Product plans to executive audiences. This design features “London Underground” -style graphics to represent project activity bars.

We’ve just added a Powerpoint Version here, an almost direct port from our Visio version.

This Powerpoint Product Roadmap format clearly shows

  1. Timeline
  2. Legend for Risk status
  3. Workstreams x 3
  4. Activity bars
  5. Project Status Dashboard
  6. Red / Amber / Green RISK status for key Product elements

Other Powerpoint Roadmaps