There are almost as many advantages to taking your awards online as there are awards software companies shouting about those benefits. Some of the biggest advantages include 24/7 access for your entrants, downloadable reports and budget savings. However, there are also a few major pitfalls.
Thankfully, avoiding these snags and navigating the best pathway forward is easy as long as you incorporate a few simple risk mitigation strategies into your processes.
Firstly, you need to be sure your online awards platform has been configured correctly for your situation.
Awards Absolute has been called in on several occasions where the awards hosts knew aspects of their online awards were not working correctly, but could not pinpoint the issue. In some of these cases the awards outline (the structure, categories, criteria, scores and judging process) had initially been handed to IT to set up online. What we discovered on digging into the back-end were issues such as incorrect criteria weightings, mismatched judging criteria and incorrect inputs for overall score totals.
Had these awards been launched without rectification it could have been disastrous for the awards host. Imagine the chaos and frustration if criteria was assigned to the wrong category, or the wrong fee was charged to nominees, or if the scores judge's assigned to a specific nominee were tallied incorrectly!
Each element of the online system must be thoroughly cross-checked and tested by several people who are competent in using the awards platform AND understand awards systems.
Secondly, judging support must be seven days per week during the judging window.
Because judges have varying experience with online systems and may have never used the online platform that you have adopted, it is imperative that the instructions on how to access, use and re-enter it are timely, detailed and easy to understand. Experience has taught us that it is also helpful to send regular updates and notes of encouragement to judges to ensure they complete all scoring and feedback tasks within your deadlines and time frames.
No matter how good your instructions, judges will always have questions. And they typically perform their scoring duties outside of office hours so you must also ensure that support is simply a phone call away no matter what the time. Awards Absolute recommends (and offers for our clients) 24/7 support where judges can reach out about any platform questions, advice on judging issues or liaise with a Senior Awards Director so any questions they have about eligibility, criteria or queries about any specific submission are answered promptly.
The third risk strategy is to implement comprehensive auditing procedures to make sure that the right nominee is announced as the winner.
Auditing looks at each judge’s score for each individual question and is pivotal to highlighting calculation errors as well as interpretation errors and judging biases.
For example, here is a situation we often see when providing independent auditing: Three judges are assigned to score a submission. Two judges give an identical or near-identical score while the third judge gives a widely variant score for the same criteria response. Why the difference? In most instances the third judge has merely misread or misinterpreted the information supplied by the nominee, resulting in the much lower or higher score.
The problem is that unless that common scoring variation is picked up during an audit then this particular nominee could end up being announced as a finalist or winner when they do not deserve it or conversely miss out on being recognised as a finalist or the rightful winner. Under these circumstances you have not only robbed someone of their rightful recognition, but if this mistake is discovered at any point in the future then the credibility of your organisation’s awards will be decimated and your organisation could be seen as untrustworthy.
Luckily, when judges meet face-to-face this scoring inconsistency is often (although not always) discovered and sorted out during the ensuing discussion and deliberation.
Sadly that does not happen when the judging process is online as there is no opportunity to identify this circumstance because the software typically performs the scoring calculations automatically to identify finalists and winners. Judges do not see each other’s scores and nor does the award manager, adopting the results offered by the awards software in blind faith. Even when a teleconference is held as the final step to an otherwise online judging process this scoring discrepancy is rarely picked up.
This example is just one of many unfair outcomes that can result from online judging.
Thankfully all the issues outlined in this article can be remedied when you double-check your system, support your judges at times when they need that support, and implement a thorough auditing system that includes rectification procedures.
Why engage an independent awards company? Your nominee's and judge's concerns and questions will be handled by specialists with experience in every conceivable situation, PLUS nominees will see your awards as fair, unbiased and above censure*.
* Findings from commissioned research conducted in line with Australian Market & Social Research Society (AMSRS) guidelines.