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If it’s Thursday, it must be Afghanistan

by Matthew Dybwad

Last month I spent a week in Kabul, Afghanistan, volunteering for The International Republican Institute by training local and national political coalition groups on effective ways to leverage an online presence.  It was an eye opening and rewarding experience that I documented with as much detail as I could, security allowing, on my travel blog for the trip.

I’ve always heard it said that teaching is the best way to really learn something, and that was especially true given the circumstances: trainees new to the technology, having to talk through an interpreter, trying to relate concepts in a culturally relevant way. It forced me to boil down concepts and get to the point more quickly, and to frame core ideas outside the context of existing technology.

There is much to take into consideration when building a website, and laying the groundwork by assessing goals and audiences, and establishing measures of success are vitally important. But even given a solid idea what is required, not knowing how to manage the digital vendor/client relationship can bring a project to a prolonged halt and leave all sides claiming the high ground.

Some things are the same everywhere though, and after finishing with high level concepts and best practices conversation quickly turned to difficulties with local vendors with all the groups I trained. The groups complained that sites weren’t finished on time, the vendors complained they hadn’t been given content, and the fingers pointed from both sides.

As I observed at the time,

“It was clear that the process of interacting with the vendors who produced the sites was almost as important to understand as building the site itself, making sure that expectations were clearly set on all sides and timetables worked out in advance to plan for success.”

Luckily we were able to have all parties at the table, and after proposing that clear deliverables from both sides were mated to specific timetables for delivery and compensation, all involved were enthusiastic about moving forward.

The lesson is just as important for industry professionals and seasoned organizations though — having a written road-map that marries accountability of both client and vendor to dates on a calendar is something neither party should move forward without.