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Moving toward websites that satisfy customers, please stakeholders, and bring value to the company

By michael.crocker ·
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Don't hire a master plumber to build your house

by michael.crocker In reply to Moving toward websites th ...

<p>No matter how talented a plumber is, they have a limited
view of a house and a limited toolset. It
takes an experienced general contractor, with an understanding of the entire
house and how it fits into the neighborhood to build a house that meets the
needs of the customers. The same can be
said for designing a website. If a
company brings in a team that only knows how to use Microsoft
FrontPage and Macromedia Shockwave,
then the design will be driven by the tools and not the true needs of the
customer. </p>


<p>The website is the electronic business card
for a company. It needs to fit into and
support the marketing message and goals of the business. Creating the design for the website has to
take into account the image of the company, how the site integrates into the
complete marketing plan, and look at ways to prevent the website from becoming
a large cost center. It takes a person
that has the skill to look at the Big Picture and who can see how the website
fits.</p>


<p>A general contractor assembles a team of
skilled professionals after the plans, schedule, and budget are agreed to by
the customer. Work to assemble the team to create or rebuild a website such start
only after the plans, schedule and budgets are determined and agreed upon. Bringing in a developer first, means that all
of your problems are viewed as pipes since they only have pipe wrenches.</p>

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?Email a Friend? especially a Spammer

by michael.crocker In reply to Moving toward websites th ...

<p>After reputable companies became concerned about privacy,
they started to add a privacy policy to their websites and to switch to
an ?opt
in? process for marketing email.  That
meant that the marketing folks could only send you an email if you gave
them permission.  Some clever marketing folks developed the ?Email
a Friend? function to get around this annoyance.</p>


<p> </p>


<p>The function has several names but they all work in a
similar manner.  Selecting this feature,
you are presented with three input boxes. 
You are asked to put your email address, the email address of your friend
and some clever words to send to the friend. 
The function creates an email from you to your friend, adds some
marketing message about how great the product/site/service/etc is on this page,
and adds your comment.  Since the email
appears to be from you, then the marketing folks can weasel around the privacy
issue.  </p>


<p> </p>


<p>Of course this is ripe for abuse and with a few lines of
code can be turned into a great non-traceable spambot or even used to flood an
email and perhaps create a denial of service. 
If the clever spammer puts an email address from an employee of the
company, it adds even more fun.  Since
the company email server sent it out, it becomes hard to claim that someone
else sent it.  In addition to flooding an
email box, a truly angry spammer can also add some very abusive and profane
comments in the little text box.  </p>


<br />


<p>Should this little tool cause an email server to clog and
possible to shut down, then the target may call in the lawyers.  While you may be able to claim that the
person in the ?from? line did not send out the email, you are still responsible
for the misuse.  If you want to appear as
a leading edge technology company or want to sell technology services to other
companies, the bad press alone will cause a large chunk of revenue.<br />
</p>


<p>In a company I worked at, we had one of these popup on a
website.  When confronted with the
potential danger, the marketing person?s response was that very few people use
it and no one has abused it yet.  Some
how leaving a loaded gun on the street and claiming that it was Ok since no one
was shot yet seemed a bit weak.  After a
chat with our legal folks, a quick directive landed on the desk of that
marketing person?s top management ordering that it get removed immediately.<br />
</p>


<p>Somehow adding a function to one company website that is
reckless and dangerous, has no measurable benefits, and is rarely used by the
customers does not strike me as a good idea.</p>

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Bamboo and Project Management

by michael.crocker In reply to Moving toward websites th ...

<p>No, this is not about some Project Management software from China. This is about using a flexible, light weight structure to support the Project Management efforts.  Some people are confused about what Project Management is suppose to do. My approach has been to use it to apply structure and form. While traveling through Asia, I saw people using bamboo as scaffolding for construction work on buildings. Most people see Project Management structure modeled on traditional Western scaffolding, heavy, strong, durable, and complex. My approach has been more aligned with the properties of bamboo, light weight, flexible, and simple to use. That is not to say that it is flimsy or fragile. As with the bamboo scaffold, your Project Management structure gains strength by adding more where you need it. </p>
<p>Ok, it is a great metaphor, but how do we turn that into action? The obvious but often overlooked starting point is to keep it simple. People, especially senior mangers, need to be able to quickly get the message with minimal explanation. While a number have are familiar with GANTT charts and other views from project software, it is not the right answer for everyone. So, I start with a pretty picture on a MS PowerPoint slide. The picture should show everyone, at-a-glance, what projects are underway, top level time based depiction of each phase in each project, and a simple stoplight color scheme to illustrate the project status. Based on that one slide, we have a great deal of information to talk about resources, risks, project portfolio management, and candidates for extra resources or termination. </p>
<p>Of course, there is a large amount of detail and data that needs to be collected and analyzed to create that simple picture. I do not think that this task should mandate using any specific tool. Instead, you should be free to use or not to use any tool or software that makes collecting and updating the information easy. I have worked at places where they had a full time person whose job was to continually update a MS Project schedule. Projects that have short durations or are in a high state of change need a more light weight and flexible approach. </p>
<p>I found that giving the tasks owners a simple template in MS Word or MS Excel provides enough structure for them to easily provide good information. But there is one hole in this system that still needs to be plugged, tracking resources for each task. If you are careful, you can use MS Project to map it out. And this can serve as the building block when you need to show an ?official? project Gantt chart. </p>
<p>Keeping the Project Management structure flexible and light weight, like bamboo, provides the tools to support the work without diverting a large amount of work into changing the scaffolding when the project changes. This approach is even more useful when you are introducing Project Management into an organization. </p>

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Bamboo and Project Management

by CoServe In reply to Bamboo and Project Manage ...

<p>I new what you were talking about from the title. I have a builder friend who spent many years working in India, and he has often talked about the versatility and usefulness of various bamboo applications for cheaply advancing the art of building. He now laments the lack of bamboo resources available to him here (Australia). </p>
<p>So to your point about the reification of methodology as project management. I think your metaphor is apt. So often the real objective of a project, to achieve a desired outcome in the most effective way, gets lost in the complexities of managing this process in accordance with current project management methodological orthodoxy.</p>
<p>Since I left corporate IT some years ago I've worked mainly with small organisations with limited resources and technology budgets. I've often found myself looking for and using "bamboo techniques" rather than PERT or Gannt charts. Most small enterprises are completely unconcerned by divergence from the minutiae of project management orthodoxy, as embodied in the PMBoK and proprietary methodologies like PRINCE2. In my experience, as long as technical competence is evident and the communications channels are open they are generally happy. The underlying methodological scaffolding is of no concern. </p>
<p>Still, as you've also observed, it's wise not loose sight of the formal "Project Management structure". It is possible to employ these concepts as the foundation for doing things somewhat more simply or elegantly. With bamboo. </p>
<p>Anyway, as I've said, I like your metaphor.   </p>

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