Saturday, 26 January 2013

The present e-marketing perspective and its implications

Tablet-driven – that’s the trend for the next few years. It seems that the smart-phones that have dominated the market are due to give way to tablets. The pros for tablets are bigger screens, they offer more variety of use to consumers (watch videos more comfortably, access to web pages designed for them, buy online more easily etc.), better access to corporate data for employees on the move – among others.

The tablet market is hotting up as more companies are offering tablets and their price comes down. There’s a short, sweet summary of research, report highlights and trends in the Rippleeffect, Breakfast Waffle, blog (7.1.13)

And, this analysis is confirmed for the digital entertainment market by Jerome Rota, (10.1.13) in the Netimperative blog.

There’s a far more detailed report on Customer Loyalty and marketing strategy at The Loyalty Although the tablet frenzy is not explicitly noted, there are fascinating insights into changes in consumer behaviour, the value of brand in online ventures, and a ‘What the experts say’, section that consolidates sector information on: Supermarket and Grocery Loyalty, General Retail Loyalty, Financial Services Loyalty, Airlines FFPs and Airport Loyalty, Hotel and Resort Loyalty, General Travel and Tourism Loyalty, Food, Drink and Entertainments Loyalty, Mobile, Fixed Line and ISP Loyalty, Automotive and Fuel Loyalty, Media and Publishing Loyalty, and Loyalty in Other Sectors (mainly public service oriented).

Then we get an in-depth treatment of how e-marketing trends are likely to go in 2013 from Ashley Friedlien, e-consultancy (8.1.13). His 17 pointers offer a wide-ranging romp through aspects of the markets that he finds significant; digital mainstream - the ‘new norm’, digital talent – war, putting effort into cross-channel customer experiences, focus on the long-term rather than just short term, watch digital internationalisation in such uncertain financial times, customer choice for channels settling down, transparently knowing what customers want, content, content, content, mobile maturity including m-commerce, better understanding of the social media market, design and user experience influenced by screen size, native advertising versus other models, digital analysis improving across channels and types of user experience, emerging digital TV spin-offs, bettering email and SEO marketing through intelligence, among others.

So exciting times on the marketing front for 2013. It doesn’t take much to understand the impact across the board for everyone involved in digital. Commissioned products have to achieve business ends and these are dictated by customer needs while marketeers give us the insights between them - for those that are willing to listen.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Outsourcing or cheating

While it looks potentially apocryphal, the story last week of 'Bob' the programmer who came up with an innovative way of doing his job has made for an interesting read.

It all started with a posting on the blog of security firm Verizon telling how a review of logs revealed a connection to China. (Shades of the Cuckoo's Egg as discussed earlier.) Bob's security credentials were being used via a virtual private network while the man himself was sitting at his desk. Since his employer was an American 'critical infrastructure company' they were worried about security, especially since the security keys for the VPN were changed regularly and the Chinese connection had been going for as long as the logs recorded (six months in this case).

Cutting to the chase; Bob had outsourced his job to a Chinese company and he had sent the security credentials over to them. Have a read of the story as also covered by The Register, The Guardian and the BBC ... and also an interesting comment piece from Steve Poole at the Guardian.

The various reader comments range from rage to admiration, with several saying he should be promoted to management. He actually had several such coding jobs and outsourced them all to his Chinese sub-contractors. Bob was seen as a model employee, people ask whether his contract of employment allowed sub-contracting (this is an issue for freelancers as well since the right to supply an alternative is one factor to distinguish employment from freelancing).

Could such a thing happen in your organisation? Would it matter if it did? And what did our enterprising coder do all day (up to the point he wrote a progress email to his employers). Apparently he spent his time online, including watching YouTube videos of cats; something which gave the Guardian the opportunity for a couple of really 'aah' kitten pics. Personally I'm still following Henri.

Bob? Oh ... he was fired.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The time, cost and quality debate continues

The mantra from Project Management states that time, cost and quality are interdependent so that if one of the factors is changed, the others have to change too. This has been used across all types of projects to try and define what a developer will do for a client in a stated amount of time and for a known cost.

This trio has been referred to as the golden or iron triangle. Project Managers of more traditional projects than interactive electronic projects have found it hard enough to apply, but iMedia projects have suffered from:
  • a lack of a clear definition at the beginning of projects from clients,
  • a fast changing environment that forces changes in markets and therefore changes in the products that are offered,
  • faster obsolescence of skills and expertise in the workforce or accelerating costs of expertise in the workforce through new need outstripping supply, because of the volatile environment.
As a result of this last consideration, resource costs become variable and unstable while the end product requirements shift too.

Despite the difficult nature of the iMedia environment, the Time Cost Quality processes are sought after as attributes in many current interactive job descriptions. iMedia management wants these to work and who can blame them. They want their companies to be successful i.e. make money. They want the costs controlled. They want the expended time controlled. But, everyone wants to push the boundaries (quality and creativity) as well. Can we have it all?

Time, Cost and Quality are good principles to start from but they don’t give the whole answer. As we’ve explained before, there are variations offered that try to capture more control mechanisms within a project environment such as iMedia. We’ve noted such variations as scope, stakeholders, Agile programming methods and users in our book and previous blogs (for example here and here).

Sometimes you get a clash of disciplines. The Agile programming explosion that has its scrums and sprints – iterative small developments that are agreed with clients rather than the older sequential development models – has clashed with traditional controls of time, cost and quality because it is iterative not incremental. For an up-to-date perspective on this, see Keith Richards’ white paper on how to integrate Agile with Prince2,December 2012, Prince methodology itself adds in extra control mechanisms but very often they are extensions of the core trio processes. Prince takes a strong stand on defining the project parameters, for example, so that the trio can be applied. As an alternative perspective, it appears that the triplet has expanded to a sextuplet and includes risk, resources and scope for Voyager 8 in his blog February 2010. Can this give better control?

We all know that different markets affect the products. The emphasis on projects to sell, to convince, to brand etc. are more about the users of the product and how they relate to it than what the client or developer think they need. User experience can drive projects more than clients do. Time, Cost and Quality work with tight specifications upfront and strict control of changes but these are so very hard to attain in iMedia particularly when user experience shifts so quickly.

So, the debate goes on. There are so many factors to consider in the mix of stakeholders, clients, team, and users in defining the end product that will serve defined business needs. Always a thorny issue: jelly and walls come to mind! Anyone have a better take on all this?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy Birthday TCP/IP

Is this week the Internet's birthday?

True, by 1st January 1983 every computer on the ARPANET (all 400 of them) had to have switched over the that new-fangled packet-switching (finger-licking) protocol TCP/IP: you know, the one where all the computer networks can talk to each other and it becomes an interconnected network? With one bound communications are freed and the Internet is born ... or at least it's operational. So it's 30 years old today and there's more on the story at The Register.

Of course, there are claims to be 'the birth of the Internet' that predate 1983: 1969 for example. That's when the first node on ARPANET (the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense ... Network) was set up. If such historical things appeal then I recommend you check out the second-best book I ever read involving computer networks, Where Wizards Stay up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon. (The best book? That would be The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll. Moonlighting astronomy professor tracks hacker through the jungle of 1980s computer networking ... all for the sake of 75 cents.)

The 1969 date makes sense of the cartoon you'll find on this page of the ex delicto blog but you should check out the rest of the blog as well. It's a webcomic of law and nonsense and  the nonsense bits remind us all that the legendary (but fictional)  Mr Justice Cocklecarrot is actually alive and well.

A Happy New Year to one and all on the network.