What is a CRO workflow and Project management platform & Why your experimentation program needs one

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You’re probably here because you’re interested in learning how to better manage your CRO program and have outgrown your current setup.

Most CRO teams start out using basic project management tools or spreadsheets such as Google docs, Excel, Trello and some are forced to work with Jira because their company uses it.

Let’s be clear about one thing – these tools work. BUT only if you want to save information. A piece of paper could do the same job.

As a CRO however, storing information is only one part of the job and this is where these spreadsheets and project management tools start to creak under the pressure.

Why General Project Management tools and Spreadsheets fail in CRO Programs

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CRO project management tools

Finding information isn’t easy

Conversion Optimizers needs to be able to find information really quickly and easily so they can use it to brainstorm new ideas.Finding information to share with stakeholders is another requirement. Spreadsheets and Google docs, whilst handy in storing the information makes it really hard to find the information easily. Especially if that information is complex or is scattered in multiple systems. This causes CROs to spend their time doing admin activities rather than meaningful work such as idea generation and executing on their experimentation strategy

Not built for purpose

Let’s face it. Trello didn’t start out as a tool to help conversion optimizers organise and document their AB tests or conversion research. Excel wasn’t built to help CROs report their results. Jira wasn’t created to help CROs create ideas and prioritise them using PIE, ICE or PXL.

These general tools have a variety of purposes and are more of jack-of-all-trades and master of none. In the case of Jira, it’s more of a developer centric tool to manage development pipelines tracking bugs and feature building requirements.

No one tool addresses all the requirements of managing an experimentation program which creates a frankin-monster of multiple tools patched together.

A typical scenario would be using Excel/Google sheets to manage idea capture and prioritisation, then creating a card with the experiment brief in a trello (or Trello like) tool and then jumping in and out of the testing tool to pull data out of it. Finally using Powerpoint or google docs to store the report.

This process creates a lot more work for the CRO in the long run

  • Duplication of Effort – Copy pasting information from one system to the other.
  • More effort required to keep everything in sync – You have to ensure that the systems are up to date at all times.
  • Sharing of information is harder

In essence you become a glorified admin of the data rather than the skills you were hired for – idea generation and execution of revenue generating experiments.

The real cost of Inefficient Tools

The Growth Of Experimentation Programs Gets Stunted By Not-Fit-For-Purpose Tools

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Scaling an experimentation program is something that everyone wants to achieve in their organisation.

Growing their team will help them run more experiments and in turn increase their chances of winning tests which will bring in more revenue for their company.

But scale is not achieved with a hope and a prayer.

It requires 2 key ingredients

a) Structure & Process – If you give five people one task, they will do it in five different ways in a manner they deem right. If there are no guardrails in place, it will end up in chaos. This is the paradox of scaling up teams. Growth doesn’t mean you move faster. It means unless you have the right structure in place, you will be worse off and more slower. You can’t plan for structure when you’re going at a 100 mph. Instead plan structure into you work ASAP.

b) Visibility – As a CRO team, demonstrating the value of your work is very important and providing visibility of it allows stakeholders and team members to understand the value you bring to the table.

What should a CRO workflow and Program management help you do?

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Give you visibility of your entire experimentation program

Answers and quick visibility on everything that is happening in real time – what experiments are live? Where in the pipeline is each experiment? Who is responsible for it? What experiments are coming up next week? When did we last run a page testing social proof on the homepage.

Build a shareable knowledgebase of Ideas, Experiments and Research

You should be documenting experiments, ideas and research to democratise the data within your company. The right platform should allow you to seamlessly share information and give people the ability to self serve.

Automate all the heavy lifting

Notifying people can be tedious and monotonous. The right platform should be able to automate parts of your workflow so you do less admin.

Help you scale up

The right platform should serve as a launchpad to help you run more experiments and innovate faster than your competitors. It should not slow you down and remove the duplication of effort and tasks.

When is the right time to switch to a Centralized CRO Workflow and Project management solution?

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The best time was yesterday. The second best time is now.

You might think “But, the tools I have are working

What you have may work for now, but will you be able to maintain that success, and ensure clarity at scale? Will the stakeholders who are pleased with current costs and results accept an unexpected ramp in costs and downturn in momentum when the limits of the current tool stack are hit?

While it’s easy initially to save time by working with familiar tools in an informal reactive approach, in the longer term, this will limit the accuracy and speed at which insight across all areas can be delivered. Manual collation of different data sets, formats and quality will add substantial time and difficulties in reporting. It will not help to achieve closed-loop reporting, it will complicate the automation and sharing of that report data.

A centralized CRO platform investment is not only there to streamline and enhance CRO now, but also to mitigate risk at scale, and to minimize the opportunity cost of moving more slowly and less cost-efficiently. It’s important to understand the sustainability and benefits of an overarching, holistic platform before your team grows, and before that crisis moment hits.

What if you haven’t worked out your processes yet?

This is a common response and in some cases it will be true. But unless this means there is no intention that a team will ever get big enough, or that there will be no process in future; this mindset is really just deferring until the problem is more recognisable, as in the previous two examples. In this situation the CRO program will still need something – there will be the need to keep some records, a need for communication, and a requirement for some process to research, plan, build, run, analyse and plan again. So if the current program hasn’t started out working in a way that will be accountable, collaborative, transparent, consistent, measured – then how will this scale at all? Of course, if there isn’t any process yet at all to map into a workflow solution, then a centralized platform that provides a framework, will help to create a process and workflow.

If the program is being planned to be successful, and the issues with scaling an organic reactive process have been made clear, then the best place to start is working within a system that helps to form the shape it will ultimately need to become.

The full suite of tools, integrations, templates and guidance may not be needed, yet.

But if they are built into the platform you are using to grow, they will be ready when they become needed. The structure of the working process is designed for them to be added, so some of the biggest issues of scaling will be significantly less disruptive. And there will be a longer history of prior testing and results to provide data to help with growing the program, understanding what resources and capacity is needed and developing more successful tests from a larger knowledge base, that is already in the platform from your very earliest work.

But what if the timing is not right and you’re too busy right now?

Real Optimizers optimize everything. (not just websites)

Sometimes, even if you are aware of the benefits of a solution investment, it can be hard to find the time to trial or implement the solution you need – particularly if campaigns are mid-flight! However, in this scenario, the longer you wait, the greater the risk to results now, and throughout the growth of the program.

It’s unlikely that processes, workload or time constraints will ease without a centralized workflow management solution – they’ll continue to scale until true crisis point. At which point, a sudden need to finally address the technical debt of the program tools will mean a marked reduction in test quantity and quality. Just as a crisis happens, it requires a nearly complete stop to address foundational issues.

As such, trialing and onboarding as soon as possible is the best option to prevent a worsening scenario, before it is too late to do this without serious negative impact.


How Effective Experiments can help you with a dedicated experimentation program management and workflow solution?

Effective Experiments is centralised and comprehensive Experimentation Success Platform.

It helps high growth optimization teams manage the full lifecycle of a test and learn program. From conversion research, to managing idea backlogs and prioritisation to experiment planning and collaboration. The platform also integrates with widely used testing platforms like Optimizely, VWO etc and developer tools like Jira as well as general solutions like Slack.

Interested in learning more? REQUEST YOUR TRIAL

CRO program management solution for experimentation