Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stand by for changes in the pitch process

Will it really happen? There seem to be two movements that might help us with this. The first was the government recognising that small firms are excluded from the pitch process for government tenders through no fault of their own. A great wake-up moment was provided by Fubra - a small website company - that recognised how it could save their government client 97% on the Businesslink website but they were rejected and lost in the bureaucratic detail. See The Telegraph story by Richard Tyler 15.11.2010

Vince Cable appeared to recognise the problem several months ago and then David Cameron has given a personal message to SMEs in February at the SMEhub website indicating that 25% of government tenders should be aimed at SMEs and doing away with the prequalification process for lower tenders.

Is anyone seeing a difference? By the way, there's a contract finder government link in that SMEhub page that some might be interested in.

Also, you are encouraged, if an SME, to voice your views to the OGC (Office for Government Contracts) as part of a wider EU procurement initiative to modernise EU procurement processes at the Win Tenders web site.

The second movement that might have an impact on the problematic pitch and tender process is a new set of guidelines devised by the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) and ISBA (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) and showcased today at the ISBA Annual Conference, The pitching conundrum... a better way?, and at the IPA website in The need for a new pitch process. This will link you to The Marketing magazine for a fuller explanation but you'll have to register there (registration is free).

The pitch and tender process for digital contracts had difficulties over and above normal contracts so I hope the involvement of agency CEOs in the development of these new guidelines have taken that into account. It remains to be seen. We have noted many times how digital SMEs are hostages to fortune in the older style agency pitch processes. But now agencies have had to embrace rather than marginalise their digital colleagues as the sector has become more mature, hopefully these new guidelines will help. Who knows! But watch this space.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Testing your interactive products and services

Testing has become more sophisticated over the last few years as clients recognise the impact interactive products and services can have on their market segment. The breadth and number of tests has increased and although some of the processes have become automated (Watir and Selenium appear to be tools of choice), many more rely on targeted testing of their particular market. This places the emphasis on the front end product testing while the back end (software related tests) are still important since the functionality and reliability of the product drives the responses of the user tests.

Testing every stage of a new product or service is part of the quality process. In project management terms every extra test, over and above a standard set of tests offered by your company, should be costed and budgeted for each project. The importance of dedicated and skilled testers is reflected in the growth of jobs in this field and the increase in salaries they have enjoyed. Because testing has grown in complexity and specialist knowledge, it can command a premium for its skilled labour.

Look at the jobs available for web testing and the skills they seek at The Job Board.

You may need to take stock of the tests you offer as standard. What back-end (software related) testing do you carry out for each platform? What front-end tests do you offer as standard? What extra tests are you happy to manage? When would you bring in dedicated specialists?
To help, we offered 32 different types of test in our listing in Chapter 9 of our book, Managing Interactive Media: project management for web and digital media. But, you need to keep up with the changes.

Take a quick browse of what's on offer from a couple of specialist testing companies, Labspace and Test Partners, it should give you plenty to think about. We give you the links to a Quality list of tests and software functionality tests, but take a look at others they offer too.

User testing has burgeoned. You can even make money from it as test agents need to target certain market segments so they try to build up their online test pool. Know anyone who wants to earn an extra £20 an hour? See Cogapp.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The exploding mobile business market – are you on top of it?

You can't make a convincing business case to your clients about moving into mobile apps unless you have the overview of what is happening. You might well be busy developing the latest 'must-have' app, or extending the web presence and branding of some of your clients by linking their offerings to mobile platforms. But, will this mania survive? Will the money dry up?

Someone needs to keep an eye on the overall market and what's happening. There have been recent predictions by market researchers, and we're not saying they have definitive answers, but, there are some insights worth considering. Maybe, these insights might drive some of your conversations with your clients and get them to think strategically about what mobile presence means to them now and in a couple of years.

This FT article summarises a lot of research findings and includes some analysis of these: Enterprise mobility: Machine will speak unto machine, but will it pay?, Stephen Pritchard, 13th Feb 2011

He reckons that although mobile phone-based apps have caught the present imagination and will grow strongly, it is the business-led thrust that will push consumers in the markets of telematics, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, healthcare and security. There is a dual thrust for employing the better broadband availability and geographical analysis of data via GPS systems. He quotes the European Union's telematics research project 'eCall' where every car in Europe would have the equivalent of a black box and in the event of an incident would wirelessly send information from GPS and impact sensors to the emergency services. See the Wikipedia entry on eCall.

Forrester Research produced several reports into Mobile penetration and the possible market sectors of banking, advertising and media messaging at the end of 2010. See a search on 'Mobile' on their site.

And if you can't put the time yourself into strategy research for the emerging mobile channel, there are companies that have their finger on this particular pulse, so to speak. The Mobile Interactive Group offer to educate your clients for you - but I imagine they'd educate you too if you pay them. They claim they've done all the research and offer. 'Mobile Industry Research and Forecasting', 'Business Analysis and Change Consultancy' (relating to businesses developing a mobile strategy), and 'Mobile Program Definition'(related specifically to the business needs identified in the analysis'. See

The complete mobile picture is built up of device and platform awareness as well as realising the strengths of broadband and GPS because mobile web, cloud computing and embedded data streaming form part of the bigger picture - to say nothing of the features like Augmented Reality (AR) that some tip for the top!

Let's be ready for the next market swing by understanding the consumers' reaction to emerging tech mobile offerings.