The ICA and Pixeltree Team Up to Conduct Product Discovery

With a membership that spans all corners of the globe and credited with creating bylaws and rules that still regulate the majority of the world’s cotton, the International Cotton Association’s (ICA) significance continues over 180 years after its inception. 

Their mission is simple – to regulate the sale and purchase of cotton from suppliers and protect the interests of all parties through shared principles, equitable trading and dispute resolution against uniform standards. 

With 600+ members globally, the ICA harnesses a membership management system to store profile information, membership status and billing, and serves as a cornerstone to their daily operations. 

The ICA’s Challenge

With a growing membership base and a sprawling digital architecture, the ICA have been asking themselves how can we improve our existing membership technology in a way that delivers greater value for members while creating new internal efficiencies with a streamlined workflow.

The ICA’s Vision 

To meet their challenge, the ICA began investigating the development of a modern bespoke CRM system that allows them to improve member engagement, integrate their disparate systems and improve operational efficiency.  

From their initial searches, the ICA was struggling to find a system that met their needs, leading them to believe they needed a custom CRM to be built. 

Having teamed up in the past, the ICA asked if we could help them find the best possible solution.  

But after watching their team use their current system, we questioned whether the ICA need a bespoke CRM, or if there is a simpler solution? 

Having worked with the team on their existing website, we identified a lower cost alternative that would take advantage of existing systems by extending the functionality. But our hypothesis needed interrogating. 

To help their team define their project scope, requirements and to map out the full picture to make the best-informed decision, we’ve partnered with the ICA to spearhead this discovery sprint. 

Why Comprehensive Discovery Matters – e.g., Apple Maps 

Back in 2012, Apple ventured into map and direction services as part of their offering in an attempt to stem the flow of users going off to Google by default.  

But despite fielding 500 million search queries through maps, CEO Tim Cook published an open apology letter, going so far as to suggest rival mapping services. 

Apple Maps Error For The Brooklyn Bridge. Image credit: The Verge
Apple Maps Error For The Brooklyn Bridge. Image credit: The Verge

What went wrong? Alongside the forced change for users and coming up against an established company in Google, they hadn’t properly assessed the requirements needed before launching the feature to their users. 

The lack of adequate discovery and subsequent testing resulted in missing public transport information, misplaced landmarks and bugs that ultimately led to a ground-up rebuild 

The bottom line: Not understanding the needs of users and embedding them into your product can result in missed targets and expensive firefighting. 

Our Approach – Removing the Risk: 

To determine the best route forward for the ICA’s new CRM, we will work to future proof the solution by surfacing the knowledge and requirements from the various departments early, condensing our findings into a single report to inform management’s next steps. 

We’ll achieve this by: 

  • Creating a definitive list of requirements for the organisation via a series of department workshops. 
  • Mapping their existing data structure and flow in a way that will inform how the systems need to talk with each other. 
  • Producing easy-to-understand documentation including user stories, brand guidelines and assets to define the ideal technical solution. 
  • Recommending the ideal path forward for the organisation as a whole. 
  • Formulating a plan, timeline and expected cost. 

Esrin Graham – Communications and Marketing Officer:

“Having worked with Pixeltree for the development of our new website in 2021, we knew they were a team that we could trust to deliver on time and in brief. Pixeltree went beyond what we requested for our new website by offering their own expert advice and innovative ideas after spending significant time understanding our organisation. So when the time came to review our existing CRM and information systems, it made sense to work with a team we could rely on and trust to really understand our complex needs. 

Now in the early stages of our new CRM project, Pixeltree are conducting thorough research into the individual team needs in their usual collaborative and supportive manner. We are confident they will deliver and excited to start working in a new, more efficient way!”

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