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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher’

Part 2: Win the Engagement!

Published by Christopher Daily on April 14th, 2011 - in Business Musings, IMO

Thinking more about my Win the Engagement post, I came up with a couple of quick thoughts:

This applies to every aspect of business. Think about Amazon and how they win the engagement with the media business. My oldest son is into music. He likes obscure (to me) artist that you can’t find at just any music store. He likes vinyl 7 inch records as well. Good luck walking into a Target or BestBuy to find those. Instead, I logon to my Amazon account, and go down his prioritized wish list selecting items until I have reached my limit. The only way Amazon could make it any easier is for them to perform a Vulcan Mind Meld on my son, and ship the presents to my house. Another example is Apple’s iTunes Store. You point and click at software, music, or movies, and it updates your favorite i-device.

This is more critical than ever in today’s economy. Over the last few years, the amount of discretionary dollars we have to spend has declined. A lot of people would respond with “What are discretionary dollars? Does anybody have them?” So as folks make purchasing decisions, they look for the best possible bargain for the amount of money they can afford to spend.

The companies that continue to flourish are the ones that embrace this philosophy as part of their DNA. Again, Amazon, Apple, etc. Pressure from global competitors with lower cost structures dictates we Win the Engagement.

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Win the engagement!

Published by Christopher Daily on April 13th, 2011 - in Business Musings, IMO

There are tons of how-to books on Amazon and thousands of websites that will outline how to run a successful consulting practice. Ok, maybe not tons, but there 1,360 books in the Kindle Store alone. The books range from starting a consulting firm, thinking like a consultant, implementing like a consultant, and executing like a consultant. You can find out how to triple your consulting income or create a million dollar consulting business. There are secrets, demons and bibles. With that many books, the authors obviously were creative in the titles chose in order to attract buyers.

Let me save you the time and money of buying even one of those books. I believe they could all be summarized by this one phrase: Win the Engagement! This statement was uttered by Josh Lindemann in a conversation about how we continue to build on our successes at Ambassador Solutions. Great line, but how do you do this?

When a client requires an expert, this type of an engagement should be fairly straight forward. The client should believe they have gotten an expert who provides more value than what the client is paying. This seems like common sense, yet I am continually amazed at how this is not the case. The important concept is “client shoud believe”. We, as consumers, only purchase products which we believe we will get more value than the cost of the product. Businesses are not any different. As a firm providing “experts”, our course should be straight forward. We should hire the best possible candidate we can for the hourly rate, and we will win the engagement. If it were that easy though, everyone would be running consulting firms. Resumes don’t always tell you enMost peoplewould view the challenge is finding the truly best person for the job.

Winning the engagement in a custom development project is far more difficult. Many projects are fixed bid, and are under estimated.  Clients may think they know what they want, but they often change their mind when they actually see it.  Rare are the delivered solutions that provide the client a better Return On Investment than the original. Anyone who has been in the consulting or software business for a while has participated in projects that, in hindsight, it would have been better off losing. Most of the time, the client has to listen to the whining about how much money is being spent or lost. IMO, you win the engagement by living up to your commitments, and doing so in a professional manner. 

You must Win the Engagement!!!!!!!!

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Are you a creature of habit?

Published by Christopher Daily on April 9th, 2011 - in Business Musings, IMO, Scrum, Software Development

Most of us are creatures of habit. We have favorite restaurants, favorite clothes, and favorite hangouts. If you doubt my statement, why are there Starbucks on every corner and McDonalds at every exit off of the interstate? Because, even when we are 2000 miles from home, we know what to expect at McDonalds or Starbucks. When I was traveling internationally, we would temporarily step back into America by getting a Big Mac or a Starbucks. So why am I rambling on about this? How does this apply to business? Why do you care?

Software organizations can’t be creatures of habit. Think of businesses that have continued to operate as they always had. Newspapers and magazines have been slow to move into the digital world, while websites like the Drudge Report have revolutionized how we get our news. Network news organizations have had similar issues. Digital Corporation, horse and buggy manufacturers, Studebaker, Packard, and Xerox are examples of businesses that didn’t adapt.

In software development organizations, most organizations continue to use a Waterfall approach. We have continue to use the Waterfall approach even though the evidence is mounting that there are other approaches that may be more efficient while delivering a better product to our clients. These approaches have names like Extreme, Scrum, and Crystal. Adoption of these new approaches has been slow in Indianapolis, though I can guess why.

My educated guess is that midwestern values continue to detour our thinking around new approaches to software development. Most of the business leaders and businesses in the Midwest have their roots in the manufacturing. Assembly line thinking dictates knowing exactly what you are buying, what the cost will be, and when you are going to get it. The fallacy is that most businesses don’t really know exactly what they want. If they do know what they want from a software system or a website, by the time the system is completed, the business environment and requirements have changed. If businesses did know what they wanted, we would never need a change request.

Software organizations in the Midwest complicate matters by not educating our clients on the new approaches. Projects are drawn up as fixed bid contracts. Sometimes, projects are executed as an “agile” project.  To some development teams, an “agile” project means a project without documentation.  Note: An “agile” project should only produce documentation that adds value.  Documentation that doesn’t add value is not produced in an “agile” project. 

Without an educated client, scope is allowed to change without CRs and the required corresponding approvals. When the project ends up over budget, clients respond with “we didn’t approve those changes”. Guess who gets stuck with the cost?

I have used Scrum in development projects without specifically labeling it Scrum. To avoid acting like a lunatic, software organizations need to do something different. Here are a few simple steps to take to start being “agile”:
1). Get some training. There are a number of companies that conduct CSM and CSPO on a regular basis. Choose a class that is being run by a Certified Scrum Trainer.  Professional trainers are also usually Scrum coaches, and have real world experience.
2). Hire a Scrum coach to provide counsel and advice throughout the project. While this type of consulting is expensive when you consider the hourly rate, the impact of having a coach will save money and time across your teams. (See #1 above.)
3). Apply the principals of Scrum that you were taught in your training. The CSM should ensure that the Scrum team adheres to the principles. Include your Scrum coach occasionally in your daily Scrum meeting, providing guidance and coaching following.
4). Remember that your organization may have it’s own project reporting standards or best practices. Management may be used to those standard reports. In addition, they may not understand what Scrum is. To help your organization overcome the transition, Scrum information may need to be massaged and utilized into any standard reports.

As a creature of habit, you are probably uncomfortable right now. Taking a different approach like adopting Scrum seems as though it is a big step. In reality, it is a series of small steps (sprints), giving you more opportunities to take stock of where you are and correct as needed. Scrum also provides transparency by providing functionality that can be deployed sooner which can provide an Return On Investment sooner. Providing transparency and the ability to correct mistakes while they are small reduces the overall risk to the project. Reducing the risk across all of your projects will result in more projects on time and on budget.

So are you a creature of habit?
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It’s been a year.

Published by Christopher Daily on April 3rd, 2011 - in Business Musings, IMO

As I was watching Butler roll tonight, I realized that today is the one year anniversary of my departure from Experian. What an experience it has been. What have I learned?

1). Faith in yourself is an important attribute to have.
2). You can tell who your friends are by who calls the day after you leave.
3). Everyone is willing to help by referring you, by acting as a reference, and just caring in general.
4). If you put in a good effort every day, you are one day closer to your next great adventure.
5). The job market is tough for IT management positions.
6). Everything that happens in life happens for a reason.
7). My family has faith in me.
8). The most important brand is me.
9). It’s cliche, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
10). There is life outside of Experian.
11). Faith in God will get you through.

Not a bad list. I have looked at a number of opportunities over the last year. A few worked out and a few didn’t. Whether the opportunity worked out or not, I capured valuable experiences that I will use the rest of my life.

What I thought was a catastrophe has made me a better person. Thanks Experian.
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I love an underdog. Go Dawgs!

Published by Christopher Daily on March 29th, 2011 - in IMO

I am diverging away from my usually post topics this time.  I love a good underdog sports story. Let me rephrase that. I like how I feel when I watch or hear a good underdog sports story. My favorite sports movies are Hoosiers, Brian’s Song, Invincible, We are Marshall, The Replacements, and The Blind Side.  I’m not a huge Rudy fan and I am not sure why, so I left it off the list. Movies don’t compare to watching the real thing. Ask anybody who has been to a Superbowl, an Indy 500, or a NCAA Final Four. I was in Lexington at Rupp Arena when Villanova beat Georgetown, which is arguably the biggest upset in the NCAA Finals. I can’t describe the experience.  It doesn’t top getting married or the birth of my children, but it is a check on my bucket list.

I am probably what most would consider a “fair weather” fan, as I didn’t root for Butler till AJ Graves took them to the Sweet 16 in 2007.  I didn’t pay much attention last year or this year until their Final Four run started.  Stating the obvious, Butler has been the only Indiana team that had made it past the Sweet 16 round the last couple of years.  We didn’t have anyone else to root for. 

After 2010’s NCAA Championship Game, most people thought Butler would be mediocre at best after losing Gordan Hayward to the NBA.  Butler didn’t do anything to disprove that theory early in the season.  Yet somehow they pulled together as a team, winning their last 13 in a row, including topping a #1 and #2 seed. 

Are we witnessing the NCAA’s version of Milan High School’s run to the IHSAA State Championship? Will Matt Howard be the next incarnation of Bobby Plump?  Stay tuned.

If you have a good underdog sports story, be sure to let me know. I might have missed one.

BTW Check out my post a couple of weeks ago about Hoosiers.

Sorry Ball State and IU, but ………………………Go Dawgs.

Thanks for coming in today.

Passion: Where would we be without it?

Published by Christopher Daily on March 20th, 2011 - in Business Musings

Passion takes many forms in our everyday life. Passion is often a double-edged sword. For the last four days, an example of our passion has been all over our TV screens and iPhones in the form of the NCAA Tournament. It has replaced the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting nuclear disaster in minds.

In this case, it feels like passion is working against us. We were inundated for a week with pictures of waves, destruction, and human suffering. A lot of us went numb watching the 24 hour coverage on CNN, reading about it on the front page of every paper or magazine, or checking out videos on YouTube. Yet many of us escaped by the click of our remote, hoping the problems in Japan will just go away. Unfortunately, the effects of the nuclear problems will be with us for 1000 years. There are probably over 10,000 dead. The number may go higher.

We escape the catastrophe by skipping out of work last Thursday to plunge into our brackets, beer, wings, and endless basketball. When we emerge tomorrow morning for a few days before the next round, the problems plaguing the Japanese people will still be there. The images and stories will be relegated off the front page. The needs of those effected will be there for years to come.

I am a believer in the basic philosophy that you can tell someone’s character by what they do when no one is looking. Over the last four days, no one has been looking. What have you done? Have you made a donation to the Red Cross? Have you said a prayer to your God asking that he help the Japanese people? What can we tell about your character?

Thanks for coming in today.

Inspiration and Wealth

Published by Christopher Daily on March 17th, 2011 - in Business Musings

Inspiration and wealth will come to you if your goal is to help another person solve a problem.

I am a fan of 37 Signals, and an avid reader of the 37 Signals Blog.  This one really hit home.  The message conveyed by this quote is obvious, yet businesses seem to lose sight of why they are really in business. If you work for a company like this, get your resume updated. They may not go out of business, but you will not like working there.  You may not get fired, but you will probably fire yourself.

Thanks for coming in today.


Why do most software projects end up in the ditch?

Published by Christopher Daily on March 15th, 2011 - in Scrum

The IT industry is filled with optomists.  The answer is that simple.

If you have read some of my earlier posts, you hopefully will remember the post “# 1:  Being Agile using Scrum in Waterfall projects“.  Throughout my career of 27 years of being in IT, I have realized that there is truth in the theory that developers are optimists, and can not be trusted to do their own estimates. Most developers have proven my theory. Even some of the best developers I have worked with are terrible at estimating. Upon receipt of an estimate, I will often ask if we are using “Vijay Time”. As you would expect, developer estimates are most accurate if they are made right before the developer is ready to start the work.

What I have come to realize is that the developer estimate, which usually is one of the identified reasons for project distress, is one of many possibilities. If you think developers are the only ones who are optomists, look in the mirror. After more than 50 years of experience, we as an industry still miss deadlines, go over budget, and deliver solutions that don’t meet our client’s expectations. We think projects we are involved with won’t fail. At first, I struggled with how to validate my new theory. My current employer, Ambassador Solutions, does not have the money to engage someone like Walker Research to prove my crackpot idea. I decided to arrive at an alternative approach that might be cheaper.

I checked Amazon searching for the keywords “Project” and “Management”. I then scanned the Amazon listings looking for a title that could help us fix a distressed project. On the day I looked, I had to go through the titles of 464 books before I found a book with a title that was not some kind of project management how-to manual. Pharmaceutical, software, hospital, and construction project management, yet no books on what to do once a project is in trouble. Many of the PM books will devote one whole chapter to distressed projects. The book, title “Catastrophe Disentanglement: Getting Software Projects Back on Track“, was published in 2007.  Given how bad the IT industry is at delivering software solutions on time and on budget, one would think there is a market out there for this type of book.

My research isn’t conclusive, but I think it proves my point. We, as IT professionals, want to think positively. We instruct in the way to run the perfect project. We want to believe that our teammates will do their best in all their efforts, including estimates. Yet their estimates are often significantly low, their status reports don’t reflect where they truly are, and most of our projects end up distressed. How do we figure out a project is in the early stages of distress? Once we figure out a project is in distress, what do we do?

We use Scrum of course. Check out these posts. More to come.

Thanks for coming in today.

Trust or the lack there of?

Published by Christopher Daily on March 11th, 2011 - in Business Musings

On Sunday, I was trying to explain to Princess Amelia (my daughter) why I was struggling about whether I should post a recommendation to Stik for a guy I knew in high school.  Over the years since high school, all of our interactions had been in passing when our daughters’ swam against each other.  I had not seen my former classmate socially, nor had we interacted in business.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my classmate.  He just did not have any chance for him to earn my trust.

I tried to explain to my daughter that trust is something that you don’t want to just give away.  Who you trust is often seen as a reflection of yourself.  It should not be given away freely, but should be earned.  I decided to consider the referral later.

Later in the day, I was starting to re-read Trust Agents.  While reading, I kept drifting back to my conversation with the Princess, and how I managed my relationships in social media.  I often accept Linkedin and Facebook requests if I know the name of the requestor, though I may not have had any interaction with them.  In some cases, I am linked to people I haven’t seen in 40 years.   In other cases, I am friends with someone just because I got their business card at a networking event.  Years ago, I would be related to my family, my friends, and my colleagues at work, and I would be very selective.  I stored those business cards in a pile.

So why it today any different?  It is easy to connect with someone.  At times, it a mere click or two.  Just because you can does not mean you should.  Trust is precious and should be guarded.  The communciation channel (facebook, Linkedin) does not matter.  There are people that you would not go to dinner with, yet you are “linked” to them.   Be selective who you hang out with in person, electronically in social media, and online. 

Trust is hard to earn, and nearly impossible to repair once it is damaged.  Protect it.

Thanks for coming in today.


Why are we suckers for underdog movies?

Published by Christopher Daily on March 9th, 2011 - in Business Musings

It’s 4:41 AM and I can’t sleep. After already putting in my 70 minutes this morning on the treadmill, I am left watching Hoosiers on HBO. I had forgotten how motivating Gene Hackman’s portrail of high school basketball coach is in this movie. Over coming what appear to be huge odds to lead a small school team to a state championship seems cliche. Yet, the movie is factually based on Milan’s run to the Indiana Boys High School Championship in 1954, culminated by Bobby Trump’s game winning shot.

The movie inspires me everytime I watch it. I loved basketball as I was growing up.  From my childhood, I remember watching the Franklin teams of the early 70’s make there run to the IHSAA Final Four.  The highlight of every Thursday and Saturday during the winter was watching the great IU teams of the mid-70’s.  My daughter is amazed that a BSU grad knows the IU fight song (thanks to the lady cleaning Assembly Hall). 

Gene Hackman reminds me of my high school football coach, Dave Conrad (Coach). Coach demanded the best from everyone on his team.  He pushed me in a number of ways, demonstrating confidence in me when I had none. I lettered two years as a 170 pound offensive tackle, often facing defensive players that out weighed me by 40-50 pounds.  Through those four years, I learned to persevere through adversity while striving to do so with integrity.

When you are facing challenges that you think are insurmountable, pull this movie out of the archive or go rent it. Listen to your trusted advisor. Read a motivational book. You can overcome and persevere.

Thanks for coming in today.


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