If you can think it, you can do it. That about sums up digital development in today’s marketing landscape. And with that power of freedom comes unique complexities for any project aiming to be new. Yet, no matter how multifaceted the initiative, there are simple steps at the project’s kick-off that can help build a clear and healthy foundation to streamline whatever challenges lay ahead.

Take the Cat® 360° Advantage project as an example. This is a complicated digital tool we recently developed for Caterpillar. To oversimplify, the marketing tool allows a customer to self-select three offers for a new construction machine. But in reality, the tool needed to intuitively display which offer combinations were eligible for each of the 150 machines. The task was daunting, as the program offered over 3,000 possible combinations.

The lesson we learned in all of the complexity was simple: the start of the project determines its success. Consider these tips when launching your next complex project.

A Smarter Start-up.

Ask Questions Upfront.

Every project has goals, rules and probably obstacles. The more complex, the more critical it is to discuss all important questions before you’ve spent two months in development. This dialogue will not only help content creation, but also project management. By meeting and collaborating up front, the team can set a healthy, problem-solving tone that encourages teammates to reach out for quick help the rest of the way.

With the 360° Advantage tool, the Caterpillar/Simantel team conducted an audit of the program details, took time to aggregate questions, then held working sessions to talk through all topics. This documented session helped us prioritize goals, learn the intricacies of the offers and better understand the customer mindset.

Think Big. Be Flexible. Remember the Customer.

Once you know the project details, approach the whiteboard confidently with one goal in mind: ideate experiences you would want as a customer. The thinking should be open and welcome all ideas. Logistics and how it all connects can come later. Try to come away with multiple options. Even if you love one idea, put a hold on it after a while and consider what other ideas might also work. Near the end of the session, you can revisit the strongest concepts.

Get the Cooks in the Kitchen.

Don’t hesitate to bring your developer into the brainstorming—they can learn valuable background, offer unique ideas and provide unique perspective on whether something is possible or far beyond scope.

The same goes for other team members, like the client, information experts, or specialists like a marketing automation configurator. The larger team should understand that a highly complex project won’t come together overnight, and each member can provide unique input from their perspective on what hits the mark or what concerns are.

For the 360° Advantage tool development, all parties were involved before a single design mockup was created. Throughout the project, this left a positive impact on team interaction, ideation, scope management, and even streamlined review and approvals down the road.

Measure. Optimize. Repeat.

Tracking, reporting and improving should be standard for any project—not a backup plan or even a decision. The decision should be what to optimize and to what extent: whether visuals, the UX, or media, and whether to overhaul or simply fine-tune the project. Have a clear picture of what success looks like before launching and set up tracking to measure those goals. In terms of monitoring performance, plan whether weekly or monthly reviews make sense, or if there’s a milestone date to really dig deep and workshop any future adjustments. Consider a tactic to review qualitative feedback, from surveys or even reviewing social comments. This proved a critical feedback loop for the success of the 360° Advantage tool, as it unlocked the most important optimization we made.

Between a digital project’s start and finish, it’s still likely to face complexities when considering all of the intricate workstreams. But by practicing these simple steps at the start, you’re shaping the project to run as straight-forward as possible—with healthy momentum for team communication, creative concepts and overall performance.

Read more about the 360° Advantage project and how Caterpillar enhanced their unique sale process to drive leads to their dealers.