Friday, 30 November 2012

Are your iMedia Projects out of control?

Project management is all about control: control of risks, control of stakeholders, control of time, cost and quality, control of the cross-functional team of developers, control of the clients and so on. It’s no wonder that keeping a tight rein on all these factors is not easy. Herding cats comes to mind as an appropriate expression! You shouldn’t despair if your own projects are displaying some control issues but unless you have put in place some control benchmarks that all know and agree, then jigging or tugging the reins will have no effect.

After checking up on ‘control’ factors I found a few interesting items that I want to share.

In its survey of web developers, heart internet has come up with 88% believing that clients underestimate the cost of web design. Do you agree? If true, this is a danger point for control for a project manager and unless the client is made aware of the likely costs in a project before they embark on it, you’re in for a difficult time.

Lynda Bourne in Controlling or Influencing? The real use of project controls (Project Accelerator News, 18.11.12) has a take on control in projects worth a look. She insists that control is the wrong emphasis and that it is communication across all the players that changes future behaviour: i.e. gives control. Mind you, she doesn’t believe you can control the future through processes but seems to indicate that future behaviour of people can be changed by communication. A bit confusing, I feel. However, I agree that now there is more emphasis on controlling/influencing the people within the project through communication and we’ve emphasised this in our dealings with stakeholders and cross-functional team considerations (See our previous blogs on these.) Surely it’s a combination of communication and processes that help shape the project environment?

It is hard to define the number and range of projects that have problems, but I reckon that a company offering to step in to help floundering projects is a good indicator that there are enough out there. (See Micromicon Media’s profile You need to remember that it isn’t just you that can suffer financially if your projects are wobbling. Your clients count the cost as well and this affects their future behaviour to iMedia.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A white spectrum to you!

I've been thinking about spectrum this week. Not rainbow colours, and (for once) not even that particular part of light that lies just beyond what we can see and that is called infrared.

My thoughts started with 2.4 gigahertz (or as engineers and regulators sometimes refer to it 2400 megahertz). Apparently, if eight or more people using Wi-Fi on their laptops, phones or other devices should happen to come together on a train on the Shenzen Metro ... the train will stop. This is because this particular frequency band is used by the signalling system.

Unfortunately it's also used by a lot of other things as this band is unregulated ... everywhere. Microwave ovens use it (because water absorbs energy at this frequency and so will heat up), wi-fi uses it and in some parts of the world wireless phones in the home (as opposed to cellular phones) use it ... amongst other things. This freedom of use around the world makes for economies of scale and brings down the prices of kit.

I am surprised that an unregulated band is used for railway signalling. Apparently it's to save time, with the Caijing web site saying line development is faster in China than elsewhere but that the price is insufficient testing. There is also a difficult regulatory environment.

It reminds me of a BBC training course I was on a long time ago where we were told not to use portable tape recorders on the London Underground Victoria Line as they interfered with the trains!

Such stories as this should be borne in mind as engineers and regulators in the UK move towards using so-called white space, which in this case means frequencies that are currently reserved for television but actually have substantial geographical gaps where they are not used. This 'extra' spectrum can be used to extend existing services, such as broadband in rural areas, and provide new ones. The first stage of a consultation, on white space devices, has been published by Ofcom and The Register has a good summary. White space frequencies are different to those used by Wi-Fi and the Shenzen Metro, so they behave slightly differently, especially in how they pass through walls. They are also not the TV frequencies that are being cleared for next-generation mobile phones.

White space devices will need to be careful about which frequencies they try to use, since what is free in one part of the country is carrying BBC One in another. So there will be several databases set up that the devices will have to consult before they start transmitting. Despite there being only one spectrum, Ofcom want several databases; a conundrum devised in the name of competition.

If you would really like to know more about spectrum, and how it is allocated, I suggest you take a deep breath and look at Ofcom's allocation chart. There you will find that '500 kHz is an international distress and calling frequency for Morse radiotelegraphy', as it was when the Titanic went down a century ago, that 2400 megahertz is for 'Spread Spectrum devices, including Radio LANs', and that between 100 and 105 gigahertz lies spectrum reserved for 'Passive research carried out in some countries for intentional emissions of extraterrestrial origin'.

Now there must be some service opportunities in that.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

What exactly are interactive media projects?

The range of iMedia projects just seems to expand constantly and it makes it hard to define exactly what a project type is. No one has to face this dilemma as much as those running iMedia awards. Every year they scratch their heads to come up with categories that match what companies are producing. Similarly iMedia companies scratch their heads to understand which category to put which project in as they usually just define the project by client name.

November is historically the month when many iMedia awards take place in our industry so it’s a good time to review this question. It is fascinating to see how diverse the projects are no matter what the award categories are called. There still seems to be a dilemma about denoting projects according to
  1. the business sector of the client
  2. the technical/media use of the application, or
  3. the creativity of the media use.
That’s the old commerce versus techie versus creative bias that's been there from the beginning. Which set of skills dominates? Luckily there is a better blending and recognition of each other’s expertise now than previously. There is more of a team spirit than conflict of mindsets.

If we analyse the award categories across four of the main players we get a good grasp of the diversity of iMedia project types. Of course, we do need to concede that the organisers have to also pay attention to how to attract the most entries by the choice of category. Here goes then!

BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) is a generalist organisation representing the iMedia industry in the UK. It has 24 awards and splits the categories into Sectors, Disciplines and Premium. The Sectors are clearly business-focused – Branding, Business-to-business (b2b), Corporate, Entertainment, Leisure and Culture, Public Life. The disciplines are less focused and cover business thrust (commerce), platforms (techie), and creative use of the platforms. It’s here in the ‘disciplines’ that the traditional multi-disciplined factions of iMedia appear. Their Disciplines are: Advertising, Community Building, Direct and Targeted Marketing, Educational and Outreach, Engagement, Games, Integrated Campaign, Mash-ups and Data Visualisation, Mobile, Multi-platform, Self Promotion, Social Media/PR, Student and Viral. Their Premium Awards are strongly iMedia creative but also nominate a creative business for recognition of its contribution. For the awards see:

IMRG (Interactive Media and Retail Group) awards naturally have to focus on its membership of retailers, and the categories reflect this. But retailing is a strong, general iMedia sector so they are also represented in other awards groups without being so identifiable. These 15 awards are split across size of retailer probably in recognition that the size affects the budget, use of media and type of solution that the iMedia project can offer, types of platform used and creative use of media positively affecting the bottom business line. See their web site for specifics:

The Chief Marketer offered 27 PRO awards and their bias is marketing iMedia. They have a predominance of ‘promotion’ projects for awards since that business marketing need is being met across various uses of iMedia. They also specify some awards by platform (cross-platform, web, social, mobile, games, video etc.) and yet others by successful ‘event’ staged, and creative or innovative ideas. Check their awards out at

Then we have the Europrix awards that keep an eye on youth and innovation. Their finalists need to be from the 40 countries of Europe and aged under 30. This year the judging will be in Austria later this month and there are six categories divided by ethical subject matter.
  1. Fight Poverty, Hunger and Disease
  2. Education for all!
  3. Power 2 women!
  4. Create your Culture
  5. Go Green!
  6. Pursue Truth!
This clearly suits educational institutions and student projects but it’s good that someone looks strongly to the next generation of iMediaites.

Perhaps then there isn’t one answer to the question posed in the title and may never be. It’s an evolving industry so we can only take snap-shots at particular times for now.

Friday, 2 November 2012

So, there are plenty of bad leaders out there: are you one of them?

It’s a sad fact that most of us have suffered from poor management in our careers at one time or another. You can recognise it when you’re on the receiving end. But once you become a leader of people, as in being an iMedia team leader or project manager, do you consider your own leadership style? Apparently 1 in 4 leaders have a destructive approach to management!
“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”
Northouse 2007
The important word here is influence. But the behaviour you exhibit to influence is pivotal because it drives the reaction in the people around you. This is why the terms leadership style and leadership traits tend to be prominent in the field.

It has not been very acceptable to dwell on anything negative like bad traits and we have been pushed to emphasise the positive in management terms, but I have always learnt from the negative, so I have welcomed the latest neuroscience research conducted by Orion into management with 2000 employees.

You need to work a bit to understand what their terms brain-fried and brain-friendly managers mean, but they makes sense. Brain-fried managers are over-stressed, poor communicators and lack empathy. These behaviours cause negative reactions in employees. Brain-friendly managers exhibit the opposite and therefore produce positive reactions in their employees. The behaviours you exhibit cause reactions first in the brain of others and then in the actions they perform. That’s the cold analysis bit prompted by The Online Recruitment article 11.10.12.

I’d recommend the expanded humourous interpretation on this research done in a Halloween spoof by Leading with Trust, Ten Signs You Might Be A Frankenboss, 28.10.12, as it’s probably more memorably brain-friendly!

Is it worth improving your leadership style? Well, maybe you and the rest of your management need to consider if your work-force are firing on all cylinders or not. That might be the price your company is paying, according to Jan Hills, quoted in Personnel Today, A quarter of bosses have destructive leadership style, 12.10.12

Then as a final brain-teaser ... have you got a mixture of extrovert and introvert mangers? It seems it is a common misconception that introverted people are not management potential according to People Development Team, Are introvert leaders better at identifying unconscious bias?, 11.10.12. The traits of introverts – reflection and criticism – can be beneficial.