Friday, 22 November 2013

Templates available for digital project management

Once your processes and procedures are defined, they can be codified into templates to help guide the next generation of your project managers. They should be refined according to your own business practices and experiences and then they act as efficiently and useful as they can be for YOU.

It’s so refreshing to find templates because they can save so much time and energy, as long as they really suit the way you work. They can cut out major headaches analysing what has proved most successful for you. The sticking point is suit the way you work. You still need to adapt them but they can be strong pointers in a right direction. They can serve as a sounding board for checking if you have analysed your way of working without missing out any of the stages.

Often the processes and procedures you are applying are rooted in your company’s high-level approach to managing projects and these in turn are often affected by your market sector. These approaches often relate to the methodology of waterfall, agile or Prince2 project management processes. Can you identify what you are using? Maybe your company uses all of these for different projects according to the client’s needs. Maybe you use a combination of these approaches in one project – this seems to be a trend because the different approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses. We can’t go into this here but you can look up our blogs on the three different approaches or take a squint at: Project Management Methodologies: How do they compare? by Jean Scheid (19/9/12).

Here then are some templates to look at. Some are free, some are not, some are market sector specific, some are software driven. But they do act as a high-level guide to managing projects. They can be used as a sounding board within your company and/or for refining your own processes. Get other people from your company to react to them. Start a business conversation with them. This will be embryonic training in the raw where you’ll do your own needs analysis. Good Luck.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Content marketing and the print versus infographics debate

We’ve all come across the mantra ‘content is king’ but have we really understood what that implies in the digital world? Yes, we understand that consumers skim and scan online information more than printed mediums. Their behaviour has changed, driven by the need to make faster decisions whilst faced with masses of available data. Another mantra we’ve come across is ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ but that has been hard to prove until now.

Enter the ‘infographic’: a structured visual analysis of a lot of information presented in a visual way. These might look easy to understand and relate to, but they represent a lot of hard analysis of data and the facility to represent this graphically. These are increasingly important skills that have been neglected. Infographics don’t come cheap but they can pay for themselves in the number of people who look at them, the time spent with them and the number of recommendations they get for others to look at them. All these aspects ring the bells for content marketers.

Take for example Accenture’s Infographic of their report for ‘Turbulence for the CMO: Charting a path for the seamless customer experience’, which is based on their survey in 2012 of CMO Insights. We’ll draw your attention to point number 3, 65% of CMOs say digital focus of the company is important but only 7% sat their performance is leading edge. And, point 5 where they want to drive digital orientation throughout the company but 16% meet internal barriers. Equally, apart from those stats and what they mean to us in the digital industry, the medium of the infographic itself is significant. There’s a good deal of synthesis of data presented graphically.

The principle that you need to ‘entertain and educate’ with your content was strongly expressed in the 2013 Content and Marketing Show as discussed in Quba’s blog 12th November, ‘Entertainment, Eyeballs and Personas: insights from the 2013 Content and Marketing Show’.

Doesn’t the concept of infographics (also referred to as data visualisations) meet this principle if handled correctly? Just look at the buzz around Time & Space Visualiser: The story and history of Doctor Who as data visualisations, a book by Paul Smith about Dr. Who that has been controversial for its comedic look and feel (infographic?). Isn’t it designed to entertain and educate?

Where is this leading? Well, Shell Robshaw-Bryan has strong views in her analysis of ‘9 Marketing Insights to Drive Online Success in 2014’, 28th Oct. 2013, where her 9th point emphasises creativity, agility and innovation are needed to grab and hold the attention of audiences. Would infographics fit here? Actually they might help answer some of her other points too – all worth noting.

The rise of ‘Instagram’ and ‘Pinterest’ as social media offshoots is causing a stir in marketing circles too. Instagram is more visually driven while Pinterest lends itself better to sharing visuals than Tweets allowed. There are interesting stats on these at Digit*ally, where more infographics are evident on the Content Marketing page.

However, to be fair, we will try to place the push for infographics in a wider context by mentioning that print content is not dead. Quocirca Insights, November 1st, cover ‘Print Renaissance’, in this digital world. Tangibility, Trust, Retention and Digital Integration are cited as strong reasons for not throwing print out with the bath water. After all, we are print-biased here, as you see, so how could we not promote the balance?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Language? What language?

A long time ago, in a locality far, far away, a group of sixth-form maths students were let loose on the local authority's mainframe computer. Since this was a time when the Beatles were still in the recording studio, there wasn't much choice of programming language. In our case it was FORTRAN 4. This language was designed to fit on punched cards and the syntax was geared to the restrictions that brought.

Actually, it was somewhat amazing that the local council's mainframe ran FORTRAN, since that was the language of the mathematicians and scientists (it had built-in support for complex numbers!). The 'proper' use of the computer was to 'count brooms' and run the payroll, and for that it would have almost certainly used COBOL. As I said, the choice of programming languages in the late 1960s was small. (See the Wikipedia history of them.)

Fast forward to today and while the boxes have shrunk the choice of languages has rocketed (and Fortran is still alive and updating although it has lost its capitalisation, as is COBOL).

I came across several surveys which rank computer programming languages. The way they define is broadly similar (some count SQL, some not ... something to do with infinite loops) but how they get the ranking varies. Here you can find out what's hot and what's not, and possibly tailor your training or hiring policies.

The TIOBE Programming Community Index for October 2013 uses a complicated analysis of appearances in web searches. Their top-5 for last month is C, Java, Objective-C, C++ and PHP, with PHP having moved up one since September to displace C#. Fortran (25th) and COBOL (20th with a bullet) are still hanging in there. also trawls search engine results together with Craigslist postings, Ohloh and Github. Their top-5 ranking is C, Java, PHP, Javascript and C++. The web site engine allows you to try different searches for the ranking, so that using Github alone you get a top-5 of ObjectiveC, JavaScript, Ruby, Java and Python ... reflecting the more hardcore nature of Github.

Finally (in my straw trawl) came Statistic Brain. This particular listing isn't bang up to date but it provides an interesting comparison between Craigslist (listing programmer jobs ie wants) and SourceForge (listing open source projects ie users). The wants top-5 are PHP, SQL, C++, C and JavaScript ... and the user list is Java, C++, C, PHP and Perl. Other lists show that Perl is losing popularity so that ranking should definitely have changed and C# or JavaScript would probably be in that top-5 now.

Do these stats fit your experience? If someone on your staff asks you what to learn next what would you say? A final word goes to Craig Buckler on Sitepoint. He looked at this very question at the beginning of 2013 and concluded
Ultimately, pick technologies which interest you and never stop learning. Programming skills are always transferable and it'll make you a better candidate when a suitable job eventually arises.