Recently I was honored when asked to write an article for Government CIO magazine. My article, “IT is Not about Technology,” is out and can be read on the magazine’s website…http://www.governmentciomagazine.com/2013/02/it-not-about-technology
The 3 minute video below from TED Talk is a very entertaining discussion about leadership and the importance of your first few followers. It strongly relates to marketing, social media, and creating the viral effect.
In my last blog post I discussed why hiring an off-shore firm to build your software, mobile app, or website will not save you money. However, there are ways to make it work. These tips are not suited for every organization, but they may be suited to yours…
1) Start small. Don’t make your first project with an off-shore firm a large one. Do something relatively inexpensive and safe such as quality assurance testing to be sure there are no bugs in a new software update you had built. Learn how the firm works, how the project is managed, and whether the fit is good.
2) Make sure the firm uses tools such as Skype and Go To Meeting to ease communications, provide demonstrations, and ask questions. Interacting in real time with all parties looking at the same thing can make a big difference. However, balance this with #3.
3) Hire a firm that has a local representative who is from the country where the off-shore firm is based. Being able to have someone serve as “engagement manager” from the firm who can come in, talk to your people, talk to your customers, and get fully immersed in the objectives of both the project and the organization will help considerably. This person can ease communication and project management strains while being better prepared to guide the project in a way that best addresses your needs. Plus, should the project start to go awry you want to have someone you can call into your office.
4) Know the reliability of the firm’s Internet access and electricity. Even the best communication technology is useless when it can’t be accessed.
5) Send your project manager to work at the off-shore firm’s site. Obviously this only makes sense for very important or very expensive projects, but it is critical to ensuring that the development team understands the organizational objectives underlying the functional requirements. You need someone onsite who can answer small, though essential, questions that pop up about the project while the developer is writing code.
6) Be willing to make an investment in a relationship. Finding the right off-shore firm, working out communication kinks, resolving project management issues takes time. But if you start small and are committed to building a relationship with the right firm, then you’ll have greater project success.
On a podcast interview for Radio CEO I said that one of the greatest misconceptions in the software development world is that off-shoring will save money. In the media world of short and pithy statements I couldn’t fully elaborate or discuss the nuances so I’d like to elaborate here.
There are two main reasons why off-shoring development of websites, mobile apps, custom software, and related services does not save money:
1) The increase of Fortune 500 firms (e.g., Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) opening offices in places where people off-shore work (particularly India) has created competition for talent that has pushed salaries higher. All of the best talent is employed and making good money even in U.S. terms. That leaves inexperienced and low quality developers for the firms that are still offering cheap labor. Now this is not true in all countries. For example, there isn’t a big rush for Fortune 500 firms to open offices and hire developers in Pakistan or the Ukraine, but you will have risks such as political uncertainty and lack of legal protections. As the adage goes: You get what you pay for.
2) Project management costs are significantly higher on an off-shore project.
a. There is little opportunity to enmesh the developers in the objectives of the software, which normally results in a client response such as “yeah, this is what I asked for, but it doesn’t do what I need.”
b. Requirement specifications tend to be more fixed in an off-shore project and can’t evolve the way they need to, from close contact among team members. As a result water cooler conversation “revelations” aren’t made.
c. Time differences are brutal. Any team member who is repeatedly doing a 1am call to discuss project nuances will not be at peak performance.
d. Communication is a challenge. Putting aside accents, which may not be terrible even over the phone, I’ve discovered colloquialisms are the biggest barriers to communication among people who share the same language. Something as simple as, “Let’s get this project ramped up,” may leave the off-shore team wondering, “Why does the project need a ramp?” Or, “Let’s take baby steps,” may lead to a horrified, “Take what?!?!” I didn’t realize how often we use colloquialisms until regular conversations with foreigners required frequent clarification. For example, “the client is really pissed right now,” means the client is angry to an American. To someone in India and some other countries it means the client is really drunk.
e. You don’t really know who is working on your team. Recently I spoke with the CEO of an off-shore development firm who said when he was starting his firm from the U.S. the first two organizations he hired from his home country failed to deliver. He finally had to bring on a trusted friend as a partner who was willing to go live in the country to manage the team.
All the problems with the project management side of development alone will result in higher costs for your software, website, or mobile app project. Plus, you’ll be very frustrated.
Understanding all of this can sometimes be difficult for executives because the short-term benefits appear to be high. The CEO may see that the monthly software development costs were reduced by half. The person responsible for off-shoring the work may get a bonus based on the cost savings. Then the final product is delivered and either needs to be fixed or rebuilt from scratch causing all of the original savings to evaporate. Hopefully the person responsible has hit the road. (“Excuse me, please, what do you mean ‘hit the road.’”)
[See an upcoming blog post for how select firms can make off-shoring work.]
KidsHeartGames.com is Tellenger’s new website for our kid-focused mobile apps. The site launched this week to serve as a platform to which we drive visitors for our marketing efforts. Rather than marketing the mobiles apps under the Tellenger brand, we wanted a new brand dedicated exclusively to the development of educational mobile apps for children. Seeing how much my 3-year-old son loves playing with the iPhone and iPad led us to create games that are both fun and developmentally-appropriate (kids may as well learn something when playing computer games).
Right now we have one game, Circus Fun, available on both the iPhone and iPad platforms (two different versions – not just the smaller iPhone version sitting on the larger viewing screen of the iPad). We have many more games in the works. It’s very rewarding to create games that help kids to learn.
We’re starting to do increasing more with mobile technology, so stay tuned for new developments beyond kids games and Apple devices.
When satellite industry leader Americom Government Services came to us with the request to handle their digital presence for the re-launch of their new brand, SES World Skies U.S. Government Solutions (SES-USG), we were thrilled to partner with Bethesda-based firm August, Lang, and Husak to make it happen.
Today, the website — which is based in WordPress and uses a customized theme — launched amid the excitement of another satisfied client.
We’re absolutely thrilled to have been a part of helping The Renaissance Company refresh its website. We provided a new design with an updated information architecture and layout, plus a WordPress platform so they could manage their content.
Further, with a custom gallery we developed, they can manage their photos using their existing Picasa account. Users can also now subscribe to receive promotional updates and blog posts via Feedburner.
If you’re looking to experience Italy in a way you’ll never forget, check out their programs. Oh, and they host wine tastings, too.
I recently had the privilege of working with Backbone, Inc. on a joint project that included service descriptions, press releases, and website development. Never before have I seen a team of people take a few bullet points of limited information and transform it into pages of high quality content that resonates with the target audience. Good writers that can capture key messages are rare. Writers that can then add depth to those key messages are even rarer. Charles Epstein and his team at Backbone are that exceptional find. They possess a unique writing capability that every firm should use for their marketing materials.
With our help, the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service launched its refreshed National Guide website.
We provided them UX and information architecture planning, visual design, and copywriting services that, together, created a more intuitive experience for their unique users.
Of course, it’s always flattering to hear that the client found all the hard work to be an enjoyable experience, as CREDIT’s Director, Deborah Warin, said:
“It was indeed a pleasure to work with Tellenger on this project. Your team was efficient, professional, creative, consistently patient, and congenial – and that was just the process. We are delighted with the product as demonstrated by our engagement with you on the next project.”
But stay tuned, because more work already is underway to introduce additional creative features to the site!
The New Year is off to an amazing start. In the first week of 2010 alone we kicked-off an exciting new government software application project, signed a contract to do web development for a large non-profit, and finalized a contract to evaluate how a satellite company can leverage social media to improve sales and marketing. On top of that a talented new Executive Tech Lead started with us and we were handed a $250,000 contract based on strong work we did for the same client in the past. I wish every week was like this!
And we’re coming off a strong 2009! This past year we doubled our revenue yet again and we doubled our full-time employees. The year was important for Tellenger because we reached a number of important business milestones which seem to have opened the flood gates for growth. The combination of crossing the two years in business mark in July, deepening the complexity of our projects, and increasing the number and kinds of projects we’ve completed successfully has resonated with prospects. I remember the struggles of trying to sell services when I was the only person in the company. Although sales to new prospects are always hard-won, they are a bit easier now with our record of performance.
I’m pleased to report the outlook for 2010 is even better than 2009. We have a remarkable team of highly talented people for project management, strategy, creative design, and technology execution. They’re the lifeblood of Tellenger and make projects a success by innovating unique solutions to client problems and challenges. This has led to the fact that based on bookings alone, we’ll more than double revenue for the third consecutive year. I’m honored and humbled to work with so many intelligent individuals who take pride in their work. They are the reason for Tellenger’s achievements.