12.21.2007

Picking up the pace...

I am building a content managed web site for a professional sports league including membership portal and online community. I started yesterday and the phase one release must deploy for a specific event in mid January. It feels good to be working on a project with very specific parameters, a fast pace and very few constraints. Because of confidentiality I can not talk much about the client but I will say it is a league with national visibility and the site is going to have many of the features one would expect from MLB or NFL .com.

Sadly, this does not leave much room for blogging. I am hoping to do some research on online communities and do an entry in addition to picking up my discussions on process and pricing over the coming few days.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Ciao,

Jake

12.11.2007

Fingers do the talking...

By: Jake Dimare

A long time ago, before the dawn of the world wide web, there was the Yellow Pages. At the time they were undeniably the best way to find what you were looking for. If you lived in a large metropolitan area...the Yellow Pages were also the cheapest way to make it possible for a 6 year old to sit at the grown up table for dinner without being nose level with the peas and carrots.

I remember Yellow Pages had a popular campaign they used for a long time which included the tag line "Let Your Fingers do the Walking"...in other words use the book instead of walking around trying to find the best store to buy tires or whatever it was you were looking for.

Today things are much, much different. A measurable percent of my day at at work is dedicated to creating new and interesting ways for my business clients to communicate with their constituents online. Long gone are the days when businesses could simply increase the size of their print advertisement in order to get the phone to ring more frequently. Today a persistent, metered approach which includes frequently putting your name out there where your buyers are directing their attention. The one size fits all approach is over.

The Internet and related technologies have also changed the way we communicate with one another. The ease and simplicity with which an instant message, wall post, myspace comment, email, text message or bulletin post can be transmitted and consumed has dramatically increased the number of exchanges between individuals. I am fairly certain this is not a short lived phenomenon.

Because increased communication means increased possibility of some social blunder...For a notoriously distracted and, as a result, sometimes insensitive guy like myself this can only mean I am destined to offend, embarrass or cause discomfort to myself, someone or some group of someones unless I can adopt practices which will limit the ways which I will communicate. Or, as a good friend put it...put my brain in gear before my fingers do the talking!

There are probably a hundred books on this topic, any suggestions? I'd look it up in the Yellow Pages but...In the meantime I will try to remember...keep it light out there! If there are any feelings or adversity involved...a Phone call or face to face is most likely the best approach.

12.07.2007

eyeOS

I came across this application in my travels and felt as though it is very worthy of mention. I can very easily envision using it as a collaboration tool. Eye OS is a full featured online operating system with some very neat applets available with the free public use account. You can also download the entire application for free and set up your own installation for private networks.

Getting started was incredibly quick and easy...all they required was a user name and password!

eyeOS, el Sistema Operatiu de Codi Obert Basat en Web

12.06.2007

When I grow up...

I think I may have found a name for what I want to be when I grow up...

A Ubiquitous Computing Consultant

12.05.2007

Pricing Interactive

By: Jake DiMare

In support of my aforementioned goal to explore the topic of selling interactive services it seems obvious to tackle the biggest piece first: pricing. My approach to determining the appropriate price of any project has slowly changed over the last ten years. The most obvious revisions occurred when I went from a one man show, working out of my basement office to a member of a large team of people, building enterprise level web content management systems.

In the earlier days a new project might be approached in the following manner:

  1. Meet with the client one or more times in order to understand what they want to build.
  2. Go back to the office and mentally roll the concept around until comfortable. (In my case this would sometimes involve sketches on napkins and me wandering around the neighborhood talking to myself.)
  3. Eventually a number of hours to complete the project would emerge from the ether with little or no real documentation.
  4. I would then work backwards writing an estimate which accurately justifies the final cost.

As unprofessional as this method may seem, it actually worked fine. At that stage in my career I was working by myself with accountability to nobody (except my creditors). All which was required to successfully price a project in this phase was a number I felt comfortable with and the customer would agree to. In order for me to feel comfortable I simply had to think about the number long enough to be fairly certain I had ferreted out all the potential risk and mitigated it by adding more hours to the project.

Because this method does not naturally lend itself to low estimates, the projects were not exactly pouring through the door. At the time this was acceptable because a one man team with no scalability has a finite number of hours available to handle the work. Sometimes estimates were wrong on the high side and sometimes they were wrong on the low side but in the end it all seemed to even out. The bills got paid, I learned and my clients were adequately served.

Sadly...or not...those days are long gone. Adding one or more members to a one man team means there are two new requirements: More work and the ability to communicate about the work more efficiently. Also, as projects grow in scope and budget it is very common for the scoping process to involve two or more iterations on the statement of work. It is not uncommon for a smart CFO or other client side counterpart to begin to question the logic when features and requirements are added and removed from the scope of the project.

Of the two new requirements introduced by working within a team of two or more individuals let's take a closer look at the latter: The need to communicate more efficiently. In the context of selling interactive services the official document of record is the statement of work, proposal or other document which defines the scope, schedule and budget. This document allows us to communicate from the client to the project producer what it is we are building, how long we have to build it and when it needs to be complete. I use an SOW so I am going to talk specifically about them.

If the SOW is going to communicate more efficiently then it is important for it to be accurate the first time. What happens when a company generates SOW's which consistently describe applications with insufficient hours available to build them? Well, the truth is a couple of things are going to happen. First, there are going to be a lot of them. A project which has insufficient hours is likely to have a low price. Projects priced low do have a tendency to sell better than the opposite. Unfortunately the resulting boom in sales is short lived. When there are insufficient hours available to complete a project either the client's expectations will to be missed or the company will be forced to do work which has not been paid for. Either is an undesirable result for obvious reasons.

In order to accurately scope a project when drafting a statement of work the sales consultant must be armed with certain facts about the time required to accomplish given tasks. If this information can be communicated up and down the chain from the client to the development team quickly and flexibly through the sales consultant he can feel confident and sell better...which means sell more. I believe the tool which makes this possible is a standard pricing table.

So, in the next installment I will endeavor to break down a standard pricing table and see what can be learned.

12.03.2007

All of who?

Knowing I am member of a classification of people on the planet earth known as 'all'...would I rather justice for all or mercy for all?

11.28.2007

Process Deliverables

By: Jake DiMare

I think I am going to do a series of posts which deal specifically with the process and the various deliverables I use to successfully Shepard all the various stakeholders through a typical project life cycle. I believe this exercise will allow me to think more deeply about my craft and perhaps get a better sense of perspective. This deepened understanding can only serve to make me a more effective project manager.

For the uninitiated, process and deliverables are terms which are very meaningful in the world of project management. A process is basically a map of the steps it takes to complete a project. Deliverables, meetings and milestones are all terms used to describe the actual steps taken.

Today I walk through a process on most software projects which was taught to me by some very brilliant folks at a previous employer. I take each step blindly without thinking too much about what it means because I know it works. I have thought a little about how it works but the simple answer in today's busy market is: "it works fine". Great...this is true...but I am sure I could do a better job. So, at some point...very soon I will begin. I may pick a day a week and dedicate myself to analyzing some aspect of the process and the process as a whole.

Selling Interactive

By: Jake DiMare

I really enjoy the "selling" aspect of my job. When I am helping my clients figure out how to solve business problems with technology based solutions I am a lot more excited about my work. I am a project manager and consultant which means I am often the person a client will talk to when they believe they need a new web site or other web based application developed.

The best part for me is there is no pressure. It is my job to communicate with a person until I understand their problem. Then I collaborate with them to architect a solution to the problem. I believe it is this earliest phase where the most room for creativity actually exists. The client communicates their goals, constraints and requirements. As the consultant I gather all this information and then come up with a plan.

Really...in the final analysis a good sales process is a conversation (dramatically simplified):

Client: I need a web site.
Me: Great! Tell me...what do you plan to do with this web site?
Client: I plan to make money of course!
Me: Ah, you need an eCommerce web site. What business are you in?
Client: I am in the business of selling widgets all over the world.
Me: OK, so we need an eCommerce site with content localization and multiple language support.
Client: etc.

Once I have learned all the requirements I can switch to goals:

Me: OK, we have talked about the requirements...what are your goals? What would you like to see the site help you achieve from a business perspective?
Client: Well, I would like to see web based sales increase 5% over the next year.
Me: Excellent...are you currently open to expanding into new markets?
Client: We would like to further explore this possibility.
Me: Have you considered an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) strategy to increase overall web traffic?
Client: We would like to further discuss this...

If I have done a good job as a communicator I am eventually rewarded with a sale. I see some more process beginning to crystallize...it's early but I have been doing this quite successfully in professional environments for about 3 years now...I will be ready to teach others how to do it soon enough...it will be at this point I need a method or strategy which can be duplicated.

11.22.2007

Giving Thanks

I am relaxing, quite gratefully, with a good friend's family in Maine. I need to call my brother and wish him a happy day. This first season without Mom is bound to bring up a lot of sadness for us both. It's important to remember all the good stuff and celebrate the positive things we learned from Mom.

So today, I am very grateful for the strong power of example my Mother's life was and continues to be for me. Her strength of will and dedication to getting the job done...No matter what...Was the greatest gift anyone could have ever given to me.

Peace!

11.20.2007

The Spirit of 2004 Blog

So, I have another blog enterprise to share with the world...this one being authored by my good friend Adam Silverman. I am lending him editing and technical assistance to make his brilliantly funny sports insight available to the blogosphere...

http://spiritof04.blogspot.com/

Check it out!

10.14.2007

So Fresh and So Clean

Another succesful Sunday at the 394 has come and gone. I seems kind of crazy but I really enjoy cooking dinner and serving it to my friends...the closest of whom are truly more family than friends. Feeding my family gives me so much more than it gives them.

The physical act of cooking is also very rewarding to me for a number of other reasons. I get a great deal of satisfaction from the sheer sense of home which is created by the smells and memories of my Grand Mother teaching me to cook as a boy. I also love to get better at things and I find cooking something which I can improve at continuously. Oh, and there is the rewarding feeling I get when someone enjoys my food...

I bought some new sheets and matching towels for the bathroom and kitchen. It is official, I believe, my favorite color seems to be an earthly, light green. Sage perhaps?







New sheets make me so happy...especially flannel ones.

In the process of cleaning my house yesterday I was able to harvest over $100.00 in change from my desk drawer and other areas...amazing. It was quickly spent on groceries and other necesities.

I am getting some skill taking care of myself in my old age.

9.09.2007

Patriots Super Bowl?

Holy Randy Moss...that is all I have to say about it.

8.30.2007

BetaCat is being doubleplus bad

Kitty greeted me at the door today with a shredded hunk of papertowel dispenser hanging from his mouth. That's strange...I thought...

He's such a funny little kitty. I wish I had more time with him so I could teach him not to be so grabby with his little teeth and claws. He will probably not win too many popularity contests when he is a fully grown sailor with the aggression. Many a friend has been scarred already and he is still so little...

But, he has a certain charm. He likes water...everytime I turn on the faucet he comes running and sticks his paws in the stream. He has also learned to open doors. This can be somewhat shocking if you forget to lock the bathroom door behind you...

7.31.2007

Back track...

If you are reading this you might want to consider a hobby or suicide.

This weekend I am hitting the beach for about the 40th time this summer. I am looking awfully tan. It feels good, I like the sand. Probably Plum Island.

If you want in you know where to find me. If you don't know where to find me email me. Everyone is meeting at my house at 9:00 AM on August 4th, 2007.

Later.

2.24.2007