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Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

What is Agile software product management – Rich Mironov’s take

In Lean methodology for software and SaaS on January 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm
I went to a great talk on Agile software product management last week hosted by the Software Skillnet.
According to Rich Agile is an umbrella term for various software project management and engineering practices which have the characteristics of being-
  • Iterative and collaborative
  • More frequent delivery of smaller increments
  • Building quality in, not adding it at the end
  • Goal of potentially shippable at every iteration
  • Active user involvement (or customer proxy)
  • Self-managing teams
  • Incremental process improvements

Here are his slides – Agile-Prod-Mgmt-Weds 18th 2012

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Lessons Learnt at the Bord Bia Innovation Workshop I attended

In Advice for Start-ups on January 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

 

Last Thursday I attended a great workshop moderated by PA Consulting and hosted by Bord Bia at their Vantage Programme day.

I learnt a lot from the PA Consulting talk, slides attached for the interest of all small businesses that want to get their “innovation function” functioning.

Bord Bia Vantage Innovation Programme Workshop Dublin 18 Jan 2012 (1)

I helped get the Irish Institute of Training and Development up and running on Twitter last week

In Internet Marketing on January 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I was out with Sinead Heneghan last Wednesday helping get the Irish Institute of Training and Development up and running on Twitter. We also looked at how to measure the impact that their Twitter presence has (using Klout and monitoring click through rates on bit.ly).

It’s a great way to communicate immediate opportunities/news with a large audience of members in an era when email in-boxes are over flowing.

Here are our first couple of Tweets http://screencast.com/t/wBNi4uYJA

Here’s a handy guide from Hubspot on to how to leverage Twitter for your business – HowToUseTwitterForBusiness

Identifying the sweet spot for the services you offer is essential to growth in early stage businesses, here’s my guide…

In Advice for Start-ups on January 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Below is an extract from our former sales manual which I wrote for my business. Up until I wrote this document we had been trying to accept every incoming sales request. As a result was that we were un-differentiated, stretched and our internal processes were not optimal. After adopting the “Sweet Spot” approach we become much more focussed.

Identifying the sweet spot for our offerings

This is the process whereby we identify the type of customers we want to do business with in this business area. By doing this we can save a lot of time on sales quotes that are not going to turn into orders. It also means that we do not take on clients that are going to be more trouble than they are worth.

Guidelines for our ideal client:

  • We want to target clients with a minimum spend of E2,000 per annum.
  • We want clients that typically have some technical ability(i.e. will not be a massive drain on support)
  • We want clients that need us to perform some managed services for them(which are higher profit)
  • Client is in urgent need of the solution (i.e. we want to avoid spending a lot of time on clients that are only browsing or looking to screw their current provider at the renewal date with a cheaper quote).
  • We want to make a minimum gross profit of 50% on all services provided to the client. In some cases we will accept lower than this where we are not involved in much of the work(e.g. backups by Serve Centric).

What industry sectors would our ideal client typically be in:

    • Web developers
    • Media/advertising/PR
    • Software development
    • Web services providers
    • Clients that understand the quality proposition (i.e. that you get what you pay for) and are prepared to pay for a quality, reliable service.

What sectors would not represent our ideal client at this time

  • Slow decision makers/long sales processes such as government departments.
  • Low tech companies with no internal IT function.
  • Single server colo clients with low bandwidth usage and no scope for selling additional services.

 Devising the list of core versus custom features in dealing with sales quotes

 It is commonly accepted that when clients are considering a purchase they indulge their fantasies and dream up everything they would ideally like in the new service. However the client’s customer requirements list will rarely take account of how practical it is or how much it will cost to provide to them.

Therefore when assessing incoming sales quote requests it is important that we have a clear idea in our mind of which of the list of requirements are on our core list of supported items (e.g. hard drives, server space, bandwidth, power) and which are custom (load balancing, RAID 5,JSP, custom software installs etc). Having a core list enables us to turn around sales quotes faster and helps us standardise our offering.

What we need to do is draw up a list of Core Features that all clients would typically benefit from. Any requests that deviate from the Core Features list are then considered Custom Features and quoted for accordingly.

When deciding how to proceed in the case where the client has requested Custom Features the following will decided on whether we provide it or not:

1. Is the client prepared to pay a commercial price for it?

2. How many clients are seeking the same feature? If a lot of customers are requesting the same feature we may need to consider moving it to from the Custom list onto the Core List and pricing it accordingly.

My visit to DkIT Regional Development Centre on the 10th Anniversary of Novation EPP

In Misc, What I'm working on at the moment on January 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

On Thursday (19th Jan) I visited DkIT Regional Development Centre (www.rdc.ie) on the occasion of the celebration of 10 years of the Novation Enterprise Platform Programme at the centre. Garrett Duffy (Enterprise Development Manager at the centre) kindly took time out on a very busy day to give me a tour of the facility.  Some great Irish businesses have come out of the Centre over the years  (Digiweb, Redmere,Barracuda FX and Mcor Technologies to name but a few) and many more are lined up on this year’s Novation programme.

Being in the home town of Digiweb I made sure to catch up with my friend and mentor Colm Piercy for lunch. 2012 looks like being another record year for Digiweb.

At the NEPP celebration I also had the chance to meet Gerry Moan (Managing Director of Constructive Intervention and founder of Smart Start) and hear about this year’s new intake on the Smart Start programme – see www.smartstart.ie . I particularly like the Smart Start professional structure of using competition to gradually identify the best of breed in the start-ups they support on each programme –  http://screencast.com/t/njO24eQeVQc

Innovation Coaches – Coaching for behavioural change needs to be brought down to the personal level

In Design Innovation on January 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

As a member of the Enterprise Ireland Mentor Panel something I feel could be very helpful to increase the degree of SME Innovation in Ireland would be the introduction of a panel of Innovation Coaches.

This blog post outlines nicely what is involved in changing the behaviours of SME owners – with thanks to http://paul4innovating.com/2012/01/04/the-value-of-having-an-innovation-coach/

You go through four stages

Unconscious Incompetence- this is often a self reflection stage where the coach and the person receiving the coaching simply reflect and draw out areas of incomplete knowledge. You raise them from being unconsciously there.

Conscious Incompetence- From these reflections you gain insights, you begin to explore tested tools and techniques, you begin to frame new references that are relevant, you begin to explore and experiment. You are looking for growing confirmation that it has value.

Conscious Competence- As you begin to ‘grasp’ differences this enables the exchanges between coach and person being coached to look at the alternatives with a growing confidence and some ‘matching’ begins to occur. These new conscious understandings begin to become relevant and within the discussions you can see an emerging path for action beginning to emerge.

Unconscious competence- the final part where the impact of what has been learnt, understood, investigated and explored has a real personal impact. It seeps into the make-up of the person and changes there ‘going forward’ behaviour. These see different patterns, they comprehend innovation meaning differently than their original perspective and these ‘new’ competences enter and become more automatic, unconsciously simply occurring, as the way to manage innovation going forward as the value ‘gels’.

Presentation of my Dissertation findings to Minister Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

In Slidedecks from Conferences I have spoken at, What I'm working on at the moment on January 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

        

In December I had a meeting with Minister Bruton (Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) to brief him on findings from my Dissertation relevant to the work of his Department. My Dissertation examined the practical issues involved in the Higher Education-Enterprise Innovation Interface in Ireland using the Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire as a case study.

My recommendations that were relevant to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation included:

  • Introduce Mini Innovation Vouchers: To increase the level of engagement between students, SMEs and academic staff in key engagement enablers such as course projects and assignments it is recommended that a system of “mini” innovation vouchers be established. To a maximum value of €500 students (supervised by academic staff) complete projects on behalf of SMEs with similar processes as exists in respect of Innovation Vouchers.
  • Justification – Such an initiative has the potential to create symbiosis at the interface and create a “tracer die” to measure the engagement objective mechanically. The low value of a voucher should not lead to complaints from providers in the private sector.
  • Linkages with Enterprise Europe Network: To encourage all third level incubation centres to develop closer linkages with EEN. My recommendations at EEN’s annual conference in Warsaw included a similar recommendation to “Focus at developing long term collaborative relationships with “wholesale” producers of SMEs that need the input of the EEN for example third level incubation centres.”
  • Justification –  To avoid duplication of IP creation, to help Irish start-ups leverage relevant IP that is available in Europe and to improve the export growth prospects of start-ups through European partnerships.
  • Annual regional survey of skill needs: That the County Enterprise Boards be given the role of formally identifying regional enterprise skill needs via an annual survey in their county (carried out by an IoT) and that this be formally integrated into the strategic activities of the relevant HEIs and the relevant County Council County Development plan reviews where appropriate.
  • Justification: Will serve to improve alignment of the activities of the HEIs more directly with the needs of SMEs regionally. Has the potential to increase alignment of relevant activities between Enterprise Boards, County Councils and HEIs(a mini Triple Helix).
  • Accelerate the introduction of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – this was a recommendation of Innovation Taskforce and would be helpful in creating increased symbiosis at the interface.
  • Justification: In Northern Ireland this instrument has been successful at creating symbiosis at the interface, it enables academic staff to interact with enterprise on joint agendas (which can subsequently lead to “up-selling” opportunities for the HEI).
  • Assign resources to the entry of students in relevant international competitions: That Enterprise Ireland be given the role of structuring a national framework encouraging high quality entries in relevant international student competitions that are relevant to the image the state wishes to project. EI would identify international competitions (or play a role in creating them), co-ordinate entry across HEIs (to encourage strongest entries) and provide soft resources to the supervising academic staff and students (mentors from the EI Mentor Programme for example).
  • Justification: The winning by IT Sligo of a top prize in Microsoft’s international Imagine Cup competition generated considerable positive publicity internationally for Ireland’s education system and workforce.