Kathleen’s White Chocolate Chip Biscotti Recipe

Kathleen’s White Chocolate Chip Biscotti Recipe

One of my absolute favorites to make during the Holiday season is biscotti.  It’s also the most requested!  I found this recipe back in 1997 and over the years have added my own special touch to it.  Happy Baking!

White Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Makes: 2 to 3 dozen

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

If desired:  Melting chocolate and Pink Himalayan Salt

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.    Stir in vanilla.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium-sized bowl; toss with a fork to mix. Add to butter mixture along with white chocolate chips; mix well.
  4. Divide dough in half. Form into a log shape, and place half on prepared baking sheet.  Pat into a 12 x 2” loaf.  Repeat with second half, placing on baking sheet 2 inches from first.
  5. Bake in 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven.  Cool slightly (about 10 minutes.)
  6. Cut diagonally into ½ to 1” thick slices. Place cut side down on baking sheet.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes more at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool on rack.
  7. If desired, melt your favorite dark (or milk) chocolate. Dip the end of each biscotti in melted chocolate, and place on parchment paper.  You may use Pink Himalayan Salt to sprinkle over the melted chocolate before it sets.

Brew up a hot cup of coffee and enjoy!


TIMIT CEO feautured in Voyager

Meet TIMIT CEO Brynn Tornabene

TIMIT’s “NeOn” IT Delivery Model (Part II of II)

In Part I of II, we revisited “offshore”. We reminisced about the evolution that solved many of the initial challenges, and helped mold the delivery models used to outsource IT. Here we will explain what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”, why it has come about, and what it offers.

Let’s start by dispelling any claim by us to turning offshoring GREEN. NeOn is not a color but simply one alternative to traditional “offshore”. Some elements of traditional offshore delivery models present challenges to an ever-changing world. Differing attitudes — liberal versus conservative, Gen X versus Millennials, global expansion versus nationalism, and the speed of change in business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) all need to be factored in to today’s IT delivery models.

NeOn first reflects the changing global economy; labor rates in particular. Offshore IT labor rates dipped into the single digits two decades ago (lowest for BPO). As demand picked up, salaries increased. As more people came to the US to work onsite they came to expect higher incomes, and many stayed getting Green Cards and citizenship. All this has acted to reduce the variance in labor rates between India and the US. At the same time India developed IT Services at an alarming rate, where many IT people got Masters Degrees, MBAs and even PhDs. Great strides in delivery process maturity increased the value of offshore in terms of throughput quality. These factors provided a balance between increasing labor costs and increased value.

While India and other parts of Asia showed great vitality in IT Services an interest to do work closer to home (in the US) arose for various reasons. At first some offshore providers promised a mix of nearshore services which in my experience took the form of a sales office or minimal delivery capabilities. The real capability of nearshore came to fruition over time. Today it’s not difficult to find nearshore success stories, and availability of a growing talent pool.

Before getting into what we mean by “NeOn”, let’s first dispel with the term “offshore”. Let’s call work being done far from where you sit “farshore”. Then it makes sense to call work being done nearer where you sit what has been termed “nearshore”. Farshore and nearshore can be debated in terms of pros and cons until the cows come home. Let’s leave the cows out of this discussion. We like to think of a model that simply takes advantage of all the pros, and avoids the cons. To us that means the “mix” that best suits your specific needs of cost, quality, speed, scale and “fit”.

We believe following the 80/20 rule, “NeOn” is a great option for many businesses. “NeOn” quite simply means – you guessed it – the appropriate mix of nearshore and onshore. Not rocket science, but let us explain some elements of this that may not be fully explained by the term itself.

Touted advantages for US companies using nearshore versus farshore include:

  • Cultural fit
  • Time zone alignment
  • US work styles affinity
  • Agile friendly
  • Lower attrition
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • English/Spanish language skills
  • Lower overhead
  • IP Protection/Legal jurisdiction
  • Quicker startup cycles …

Nearshore is a relative term. It can be Mexico or Latin America for the US, but for Europe it is Eastern European countries. To accommodate preferences and sensitivities, onsite plays as important a role. If you’re located in Europe this combination may be a mix of Belarus, Ukraine or Poland with talent from your home country. So, what about the farshore component? We’ll address that a bit later. Not only does NeOn address preferences and sensitivity, it satisfies the need for speed. Agile development is a methodology that persistently produces short-term deliverables (days or weeks, versus months). Agile depends on an elevated level of team interaction. Working in the same/near time zone makes Agile easier. It also increases the odds of having a similar work culture and language(s). Travel time is shorter and the cost is lower for team integration activities. NeOn benefits can also be measured in reduced overhead costs, improved communications, better cultural fit, and better aligned management styles.

If NeOn provides an effective and efficient IT delivery model does farshore still have a role? Absolutely. NeOn is not a silver bullet, and likely will not provide the total solution for large corporations requiring large volumes of talent, or who have long-established farshore partnerships or operations (their own Global Insource Centers, or GICs). Wherever cost is the most significant factor, farshore still offers the greatest comparative advantage; if we use farshore to mean India and other countries with more competitive labor.

The predominant advantages of farshore today continue to include:

  • By far largest talent pool
  • Best choice for large scale IT Service Operations
  • Most mature IT Delivery Processes (omitting new, smaller companies)
  • Leverage of IT and BPO/KPO Services
  • Experience working with large NGOs (omitting new, smaller companies)
  • Labor arbitrage (declining but still significant on large deals)

NeOn does have some advantages not always available with farshore. NeOn provides a model that works very well with Agile, and where elevated team integration is required. NeOn also provides an answer where there is a desire to do more work at home, or close to home.  Close to home may be at your partner’s US office, which is especially helpful for SMBs who may not have office space available. NeOn is a great starting point, especially for SMB companies that have not outsourced IT, but would like to. SMBs may find it easier to work out the minor kinks of NeOn delivery. Additional benefits can be gleaned by adding a farshore component later, if needed. In this case it is best to segment types of work best suited for nearshore, onshore and farshore to form an effective, and efficient delivery model. Yet SMB companies may find NeOn alone provides everything they need, at a price point that provides both lower costs and barriers to entry.

In summary, NeOn takes advantage of the pros of working closer to home. It’s a great starting point for SMB companies who have little/no experience outsourcing IT. For larger engagements, NeOn can be complimented with farshore to take advantage of even lower labor, greater pools of talent, and more mature delivery processes. Larger companies have, or will find, NeOn adds another option to their existing farshore partnerships and operations.

This blog is based on my many years working with great people pioneering “offshore”/outsourcing (customer side), providing it (partner side), and now co-managing TIMIT Software Development, Consulting and Staffing.

TIMIT’s “NeOn” IT Delivery Model (Part I of II)

Before we get into what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”, let’s first revisit the precursor to “NeOn”. (“NeOn” will be explained in Part II).

I’ll bet some of you have been around around long enough to remember when IT “offshoring” was nascent. In any case you have certainly heard about IT “outsourcing” in some context. My first exposure was in the mid 90’s. Offshoring, as it quickly became known, was new and unproven from a process stand-point. Any major change brings challenges that need to be solved. It’s important to note there was no fault on either side, but simply differences that needed to be respected and worked through. Today these have largely been resolved, or can be effectively managed. The most talked about ones related to:

Each year efforts to solve to these challenges molded new elements of the “Delivery Model”. Each model included key elements of:

  • Mix, or Leverage saw the pendulum swing ratios of offshore/onshore as high as 90%/10%, and in some cases 100% for “Extreme Offshore”. Over time initiatives to swing the pendulum back took on the forms of “Rightsourcing”, “Rural Sourcing”, and in a more extreme sense “In-sourcing” (what had been offshored).
  • Project Delivery key decision to be made was where to place PM authority, responsibility, and accountability. Part of the issue came early on when it was assumed all authority stayed with the customer (onsite). Most of the work was to be done offshore, and process maturity (as measured by CMMI) was usually higher offshore than in the US. Placing authority onsite was like trying to watch the hen house through a concrete wall. Project Management transitioned to a shared approach often termed “Two in a Box” where onsite had a counterpart offshore. Then came Agile; and the evolution continues.
  • Subject Matter Expertise (SME) & Skill Retention was a decision about what is “core” to your business. What percent of SME must be maintained? What skills are critical to “keep in house”? Decisions on these helped to answer leverage percentage, and whether IT correlated strongly to the “secret sauce” of your business; or not.
  • Single or Multiple Source vendor/partner relationships were important in terms of managing delivery and to the value your offshore partner(s) placed on you as a customer. Typically, it was best to start with a single partner to iron out the kinks in the delivery process, and to command the most account value by your partner. Over time and with growth, as measured in people and spend, the advantages of sole source inverted to become problems in some cases. An example of this is that your partner would claim to have everything to keep the competition out. This naturally increased the variance of delivery quality across various domains and/or skills outside your partner’s sweet spot. How many partner’s was best came down to how many you needed, based on a partner’s sweet spot, and how many you could keep interested based on your total spend.
  • Pricing Models first came in variants of Time & Materials (T&M), Fixed-Price and Turn-Key. Even though Managed Services existing for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) this came later for IT Project Outsourcing (ITO).
  • People Management was a decision on who “controlled” the people working offshore. Early on the norm was that the partner paid and managed the people doing the work, within the guidelines of whatever delivery process was agreed to. This evolved to include models of: Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Joint Ventures (in more rare cases), Virtual Captives, Global In-House Centers (GIC) and some other offshoots of these. The evolution of people management is now more generally termed Global Sourcing.

Other elements factored into these models such as partner co-investment, training, and domain and skill Centers of Excellence.

In summary, IT offshoring promised exuberant savings, and came with some real challenges. Misconceptions and challenges have largely been resolved. Key elements of offshore delivery models have evolved to form and effective set of variants. The whole idea of “offshore” has become a practice of global sourcing. In Part II (of II) we will explain what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”.

This blog is based on my many years working with great people pioneering “offshore” (customer side), providing it (partner side), and now co-managing TIMIT Software Development, Consulting and Staffing.

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment III of III)

(Previous segments Segment I of III,  Segment II of III)

To recap from earlier segments I and II, we talked about the critical project success elements of Project Schedule Rigor and Proactive Resource Management. Now let’s finish off with the critical element of Proactive Risk Abatement.

Proactive Risk Abatement is something that is often completely missing, or disguised as a filler page in a budget request as things that may go wrong. Webster’s definition of proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”. The definition of abatement is “the act or process of reducing or otherwise abating something”. Abating risks simply means you want to avoid a risk becoming an issue. It’s not about managing issues – that’s what contingencies are for; it’s about avoiding them.

At GE I learned a process that boiled down to a few simple steps:

  1. Define all the risks you could think of
  2. Decide on scale of one (low) to five (high) both the likelihood that risk might occur (probability of occurrence) and the effect (effect of occurrence).
  3. Decide what actions you could take to abate those risks
  4. Put a “trigger date” on when those actions would have to be executed (to be effective)
  5. Decide how much the actions (if executed on the trigger dates) would reduce either/or the probability and the effect.
  6. Decide what contingency actions would need to be taken for any risks that were not effectively abated (it means those risks turned into real issues).
  7. Document all this as a Risk Abatement Plan and tie the trigger dates to your main Project Plan/Schedule.
  8. At EVERY Project Review confirm that every risk abatement action with trigger dates on or before the review date have been, or get executed.

In summary, going from a simple list of “risks” on a page to a proactive, actionable plan, tied to your project plan, will result in far fewer failed projects. I suggest it makes your project plan more than twice as likely to succeed.

To summarize all segments, IT Projects have had, and continue to have, a high failure rate. Many agree on a 60% rate of failure. Beyond fundamentals of knowledge and experience (and certification if you like) of project management methodologies, we believe paying attention to three key elements improve your chances of success. Applying Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement will make you less likely to fall into the abyss failed IT Projects.



Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.


Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

(Prior article – Segment 1 of 3)

To recap, in our first segment we talked about the critical project success element of Project Schedule Rigor. Now let’s talk about the second of the three — Proactive Resource Management. 

Proactive Resource Management means you have access to resource capacity, with the necessary skills, to deliver what you promised.  Then it’s all about managing the team of resources to complete all tasks. Of course managing also means successfully resolving challenges that could arise from poor estimation, resource churn, and even Murphy’s Law. Rather than assuming you’ll get the resources as planned, I suggest you use a three-step plan to get resources engaged. At an earlier employer I developed what was call a 30-60-90 day resource plan. Depending on the size and duration of your project you may break the steps into different durations. In this example resources we not all coming from local sources where onboarding was predictable. And the projects tended to be six months to 18 months in duration.

The “90” day was a long view of what resources would be needed, sometimes before every last detail was defined in terms of technology and technical skill needs. In a sense this represented a “soft allocation” of resources to the project. The number and general type of resources were defined, and all long lead time activities were started. These could include Visa filings, travel plans, local recruitment, and any specific training that was required.

The “60” day was a threshold by which the long view had been taken care of, and the details of technology and number of resources was firmly committed to. By 60 days you were making a “hard allocation”, or named resources, to the project. All long lead time activities had to have been completed, and any adjustments to resources types or numbers had to be resolved quickly. At this stage you needed to prepare to be ready to deploy these resources on the project within 30 days.

The “30” day was the threshold whereby within a 24-hour notice you must have the resource ready to deploy. This meant all remote resources coming onsite had to have visa, passport and flight ticket in hand. Resources that would be working remotely would have to have all onboarding completed (including training), and equipment and access provisioned and tested. All local resources (external and internal) has to be onboarded, trained and committed.

In tandem with proactively lining up resources, there are well-known challenges that you need to address. The list is long, so I’ll take advantage of a study completed by Entry Software, who is a recognized as an innovator in project manage software. Their study found the three most critical success factors that needed to be addressed includes:

  • Lack of information = lack of process and systems
  • Recalcitrant team members = cultural resistance
  • Unskilled project managers = skills development”

Entry found that by “… addressing these three success factors is critical” (to success).

In summary, managing resources on a project doesn’t start on project day zero. It starts in advance of the project launch date. In addition to managing proactively, it requires you address the critical areas of process and systems, cultural resistance, and skills development.

In the next segment well address the third and final critical element of IT project success — Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for that.



Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.


If You’re Not Using Mobile to Track Customer Sentiment, You’re Doing It Wrong

Customer sentiment: it’s how we keep our finger on the pulse of our customer base and understand how decisions impact the way customers feel about our brand. We can all agree that it’s an important metric and that historically it’s been very difficult to capture a significant volume of responses in a short time period. Because of this, it has been challenging to take action based on this low volume of sentiment feedback.

Mobile has completely changed this reality.

With mobile, you can collect data from upwards of 10% of your customer base. .That’s a massive improvement compared to the less than 1% of customers companies typically hear from with NPS and other customer sentiment tracking methods.

Not only are you able to significantly increase the number of responses on mobile, you’re able to do so quickly. It would take several months to gather that many responses on other channels (like web, in-store, email, phone, etc). This results in an inability to make business decisions based on customer sentiment.

If you’re not using mobile to track customer sentiment, you’re doing it wrong.

NPS mobile survey example

Example of a Mobile survey

Why mobile is the best place to track customer sentiment.

We’ve already covered the basics: tracking customer sentiment on mobile lets you gather more responses faster, which in turn lets you make informed business decisions.

Mobile is the most powerful channel for NPS.

If I told you that you can hear from 50% of your customers, would you believe me? You might ask how long it would take to collect that many responses. Outside of mobile, that would take years. But when using mobile for NPS, it can happen within a few months.

One of our customers, who has an app in the Books & Reference category, received a 51% response rate and over 500 unique responses to their in-app NPS survey in less than two months.

The truth is there is so much more you can do with customer sentiment data.

Here are three ways you can get more out of customer sentiment tracking with mobile:

1. Segment customers to move them up in the NPS scale.
After you gather NPS on mobile, you can start segmenting customers by promoters, passives, and detractors—this opens up a world of possibilities. Create campaigns that are designed for each group’s specific needs. Tailoring communication for these three groups will help move them up the NPS scale. For the customers who are already at the top of the scale, personalized communication with help keep them there.

If Starbucks were to send a free drink to all of their mobile app customers, they could use NPS segmenting to make sure the message about the reward is ultra-relevant. Let’s examine how an in-app Note can be tailored differently to promoters, passives, and detractors:

NPS Notes image

Disclaimer: This is an example of what you can do, not actual screenshots.

2. Target customers based on sentiment.
Segmenting customers based on how they feel about your company makes campaigns more relevant and makes it more likely customers will be receptive to the message you’re trying to send them.

In addition to using Notes (like the Starbucks example above) to send personalized messages, you can also use customer sentiment segmenting to hone your ad targeting.

Promoters, passives, and detractors will respond to the same ad differently, so why waste the money? For example, if you’re running a campaign to drive referrals, detractors aren’t the right audience. Using your sentiment segmentation to target only to your promoters will be more impactful. Create ad copy and promotions that will pull iffy customers back in, and keep happy customers happy.

Over time, you can measure how well your targeting strategy worked by tracking customer engagement. Did passives and detractors start using your app more often? If the answer is yes, then targeting customers based on sentiment worked.

3. Run beta tests with specific sentiment groups.
Consider your mobile customers a built-in focus group. Not only are they actually your customers, you have a lot more background information on their behavior and preferences than you do in traditional focus groups. There’s a lot you can do with that information to optimize your beta tests.

Just like you can segment customers to target them with different messages, you can segment customers to identify who is best suited to participate in beta tests.

Beta testers should be engaged, so promoters are an ideal group to tap into for beta testing. Depending on your app’s privacy settings, you’re able to get even more granular with segmenting based on how often customers use your app, what features they use, etc.

The feature you’re testing will determine who should participate in the beta test. For example: if you’re testing a mobile payment feature, it makes more sense to test it with customers who use your app to place orders (and purchase) instead of testing with customers who primarily use your app just to browse.

Segmenting customers on many levels will help ensure the feedback you receive during your beta test is as valuable as possible.

In conclusion

Using mobile to track customer sentiment allows you to extend beyond knowing how your customers feel about your brand. With mobile, you can effectively move people up the NPS scale, optimize communication, and identify the best groups of customers to participate in beta tests.

Whether you’re in product, engineering, marketing or on the leadership team, tracking customer sentiment on mobile will help you do your job better. In addition to the possibilities above, you’re able to hear from a larger percentage of your customer base than any other channel—and do so light-years faster than other channels.

So, yes, it’s worth saying a third time: If you’re not using mobile to track customer sentiment, you’re doing it wrong.

Do you collect customer sentiment via mobile? If so, what do you do with the sentiment data?? I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments section below!

Source: https://www.apptentive.com

Article Written by: Emily Carrion

6 Ways to Measure Customer Experience for Your Mobile App

Mobile customers are more impatient than ever before in today’s landscape, and an app download does not necessarily mean business for your brand. Staying vigilant on the customer experience and how it can influence your chances of business conversion is key to success.

But how can you measure the effectiveness of your app’s customer experience? Consider the following tips.

1) App analytics tools

Understanding analytics is the primary area to get a clear idea about how your app is getting traction from the users. You have the officially integrated analytics provided by app stores and developer consoles. But you can also opt for an array of third party analytics tools that can provide few more layers of insights on the app usage.

Some metrics can deliver in-depth analysis about your users, and others include time spent in the app, simultaneous use of other apps, user location, user demographics, etc. Moreover, when your app store analytics are not trending in the right direction, these third party tools can work as a backup tool.

Some of the key metrics to track when evaluating app analytics tools include:

  • Number of downloads
  • App usage
  • Lifetime value of the user
  • Retention rate
  • Average active users (MAU and DAU)
  • Session length
  • Average revenue per user
  • User experience and traction

2) In-app feedback

Gathering in-app feedback requires interacting with your app’s customers on a personal level. Instead of exposing their publicly expressed opinions and feedback’s on the app, leverage your app to interact with them one-on-one, and consequently, gather information that inspires action throughout your team. Gathering and acting upon in-app feedback will not only help you maintain a positive public image, but it will also pave the way for a more trustworthy and credible relationship with your customers.

3) Reviews and ratings

App store reviews and ratings are obviously one of the most influential metrics you can use to measure customer experience. When your customers react through rating your app and leaving reviews, it quickly allows developers to understand the customer experience at a deeper level.

Ratings and reviews

If your ratings drop or you are getting unfavorable reviews, do your best to respond to the issue and solve them immediately. The earlier you fix the problem and communicate the solution to customers, the better your relationship can become.

4) Session tracking

Does your app receive only short user sessions? In this case, it might make sense to focus on increasing engagement and time spent in-app. In general, short sessions result from difficulties users experience. Perhaps it’s your app’s UI or functionality, or perhaps there is a bug. Whatever the issue, session tracking can help you uncover it.

To get to a deeper level, you can track your user sessions with across different pages and sections of your app. No matter what you’re tracking, a few key metrics to track user sessions include:

  • Average session length
  • Frequency of sessions
  • Bounce rate of various pages
  • Activity per sessions

5) Customer demographics

User demographics refer to demographic data of the individual customers including location, age, gender, etc. Through demographic user data, you can track different groups and their in-app behaviors to understand usage patterns.


By segmenting customers by in-app behavior, it’s easier to see which target group of customers is most engaged. Such data also helps with your retargeting based on the difference of engagement and experience. You can make your marketing more personal by studying demographic data. When it comes to driving loyal customers and providing personal experiences, demographic data can offer you the right insights.

6) Customer sentiment

Tracking customer sentiment is the best way to understand your user experience. Customer sentiment is the kind of metric that allows you to keep watch on the perception of your app, and helps you respond to the emotional reactions customers have while using your app. This actually helps you bridge the (potentially misleading) gap between user data and the actual sentiment your customers have.

Customer sentiment

As consumers, sometimes we share and talk about an app just because we just need to blow off steam. However, it’s not always the 100% way we feel about the app and the experience it offers, so the data on its face value is often misleading. This is why it is equally, if not more, important to measure and evaluate the emotional reactions and responses of the customers.

A final note

To keep your app’s audience growing, you must go deeper into the data and keep a close tab on what is happening with your customers behind the scenes. The above metrics and tools can play an invaluable role to make your app growing as a business. I hope they will work for you.

Source : https://www.apptentive.com

Article Written By: Juned Ghanchi

The Battle between Native vs. Hybrid: Mobile Apps

Consider these few pros and cons when choosing between a Native or Hybrid app for your business.  To put it simply native apps can be described as insanely customizable yet pricey while Hybrid apps can be launched quickly but may not deliver the same level of user experience.

So which is best for you?

If you are looking to create an out-of-this-world user experience the native app approach is your best bet.  A hybrid app will leave you short due to the constraints of the web browser; or its interface.

Although, if you’re happy with the capabilities of your browser(s) and need your app launched quickly a hybrid app can do this with just one build across multiple platforms.  Hybrid apps are also great in regard to making frequent content updates directly from the web without having to submit new version to the App Store every time you make a change. Native apps require a separate build for iOS and Android, and thus a separate budget.

Now Native apps have the adaptability and support for integration over periods of time and bring the quality of uniqueness to your business! Native features can leverage Contacts, Map, Push Notifications, and other specific features/functions pertinent to your business goals. Not only can you have a one of a kind app you also have the freedom to build and update whenever the time and money is right!  A native app is the way to go if you continue to grow!

So in the end the choice if yours, depending on what your business needs, now and going forward.

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

Who hasn’t heard a research analyst say that 60% of IT Projects fail? Whether you heard that 20 years ago or yesterday it’s still touted as an unsolved problem. So then why? We’ll avoid what would be a much larger discussion of how software development models have changed over the years. From Waterfall, to JAD, to Agile, and maybe now turning back again; let’s instead focus on the elements of project delivery that matter most.

Much focus is given to the process of project management, often referring to PMBOK published by Project Management Institute. Notwithstanding process significance, I’ve seen where knowing how bait a hook doesn’t always result in fish. In the same way, I’ve hired PMI certified PMs that failed miserably at following the established guidelines to successfully execute a project.

So, what elements are key to IT project success, and how do we improve executing on those? Let’s boil it down to the three that I’ve found key to success. They are: Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. In this first of three segments we’;; address Project Schedule Rigor.

Project Schedule Rigor assumes you put together a detailed project plan. Rigor, as defined in terms of strictness by Webster’s Dictionary is “the quality of being unyielding or inflexible”. When we refer to schedule, being flexible means you’re not serious about deadlines. Yielding to unscheduled changes also risks not meeting deadlines. It’s not about being “nice” to all those that want to take the heat off, but about getting it done. Rigor means taking a timely review of progress against schedule. In other words, publicly stating:

  1. What did we get done that was promised by today?
  2. What will be done to catch up before our next review? and
  3. What will we do to ensure we do not miss anything by our next review?

This can be done in the form of “Stand Ups”, Sprint Reviews, or any other method that exposes misses and clearly holds people accountable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done in person or virtually; as long as no one leaves until all three questions are answered fully, and it’s glaringly clear who owns what. In terms of tracking short-term “projects” progress, a “W3” – Who, What and When plan of action works just fine.

In summary, a detailed project plan, and familiarity with the guidelines of great project management are table steaks. The real value comes from executing the plan. Effectively. Being fully prepared only pays off if you stay for the entire game, and apply enough rigor to create a win.

In the next two segments well address the critical elements of IT project success — Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for those.


Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.

6 Reasons why you must have a Business App for your Company or Product

Why a business app?

With the constantly increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, demand for mobile apps is on a rise. There can be many reasons for businesses to develop mobile apps and generate a smarter business model. Let us look at key points in a business app that can help your business grow in the right directions.

  1. Employee Engagement – Having a mobile business app for your work space can bring a lot of inter connectivity and increase rapport among employees. Apart from delegating work and keep record, it can become a social networking hub for all office personnel to connect to. You can host fun office activities, announce achievements, send birthday wishes to each other and basically explore many possibilities that bring everyone close and make them feel connected, thereby increasing productivity.
  2. Consumer Focused – Building a mobile business app for your product serves as an excellent catalyst in connecting you to your target audience and boosting the outputs of your business. The idea here is to build an app focused around the needs of your consumer. For example, if you are a travel agent you can create a ‘nearby attractions’ or ‘best places to see around’ app that gives you results based on your GPS location. You can also create apps that find cabs for your consumers, keeps record of the services you provide to them, generate bills at the end of service, initiate a compulsory review/ rating to get a proper customer feedback and build up a proper connection with your consumer. You can also break out from general norms and develop a game to showcase your skills or engage your audience. Using this factor, you can also increase the return rate of your customers.
  3. Task Management – Coordinating tasks on the go is a tough thing to achieve for most business owners. Sending emails for every single update is a thing of the past and creates major obstacles for employees to communicate with each other, in real time. Developing a business app takes care of this issue. An enterprise app can consist of a ‘Tasks’ section, that can let officials collaborate with tasks and access updates/ reports on the status, based on rank/ hierarchy. This keeps a log of everything that is going on in the office while helping you get much more worth out of your investment.
  4. Customer Support – Customer support is a key factor in helping your business grow in the right direction. Developing a business app for attending customer issues can take care of this matter in a proper way. Clients can post ‘Tickets’ i.e. issues in the form of a thread, which can be replied to by concerned officials. Over the last few years business apps have paved the way for solving bugs and follow up reports, implying the use of the said system.
  5. Apps and Games as Digital Assets – Developing business apps doesn’t limit it to its namely function. You can develop a business app in the form of digital products such as a social media based business app or perhaps an interactive game showcasing the most important aspects of your work. A single well developed business app can prove to be a highly valuable digital asset that showcases info-graphics, videos, slides, eBooks and so forth in an interactive way. This helps your brand name or company get more visibility in respective app stores and increase returns for your business investment.
  6. Mobile App Monetization – There are multiple reasons for you to invest in developing business apps. What most people seem to forget is how an enterprise app helps you monetize. Using native ads or in-app purchases your app can generate a steady if not significant revenue for your business. The greatest thing is, it won’t cost you anything extra at all. Invest once and earn forever.


The right way

Couple the discussed points with the assistance of expert app developers and your business is sure to land on top of the pool. In present times it is not just about developing a business app that delegates your tasks. What entrepreneurs and business managers should aim for is to develop an app that keeps all the branches of an execution plan connected to the single root of goals.

What Comes First, User Engagement Or Growth?

Engagement and growth are two very different things for a startup. Engagement, according to Nir Eyal, who writes about products that move people, is about creating an experience designed to connect a solution to the user’s problems with enough frequency to form a habit. Growth on the other hand is about getting people to discover your product through ripples that have been caused by your product.

Engagement is not growth and vice versa. However, there is an intrinsic link between the two that needs to be nurtured to achieve success in your startup. The starting point for any entrepreneur is in understanding what comes first, engagement or growth, and in focusing efforts on the right priority at the right time.

Move Away From What Feels Like The Right Thing To Do

For any startup, seeing the needle move on growth is more satisfying than searching for how you are engaging users. This is because you feel you are moving in the right direction and seeing tangible results to verify that. Tangible results in the early stage of a startup is something we all yearn, which is why we spend so much time refreshing our analytics screens when starting up!

However, prioritizing growth right out of the blocks at your startup is rife with dangers. Principally, any efforts expended to achieve growth, say of users through acquisition, is not likely to be sustainable. Unless you can ensure users will stay around and refer their friends to your product, any money you spend on scaling will lead to a commensurate increase in churn.

Conversely, engagement actually leads to growth and is a precursor for it. The goal is to keep new clients, not have to replace them month-on-month, and assessing engagement can shed light on how your strategy and decision-making needs to change. Engagement with users affords you the valuable opportunity to refine your product until users love it. Engagement is a tool that should be used by entrepreneurs to get to the “aha” moment. Once this Holy Grail is achieved, you can start focusing on your K factor.

When you’ve got users to love what you do, investing in user acquisition and other growth strategies makes more sense. This approach will ensure that new users coming on board also love what you have developed and act as ambassadors for your product to facilitate growth. High quality engagement leads to high quality growth. The opposite also holds true.

But engaging users as opposed to pushing for growth will seem counter-intuitive to many entrepreneurs despite it being the right approach. In order to carry it out successfully, entrepreneurs need to show a combination of discipline and patience.
Examples Of User Engagement Trumping Growth

You don’t have to look too hard to see that the startup superstar fraternity is littered with examples that prescribe to the view (in practice) of securing engagement before focusing efforts on growth.

Hadley Harris, founding general partner at ENIAC Ventures has previously written about how he believes one of the key differences between Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley (the New York tech scene) is the focus on growth in the Valley as opposed to on engagement in New York. Harris, who invests on the east and west coasts, comments that Silicon Valley startups are more concerned with quickly scaling huge user bases rather than building a real business. Examples he gives include Socialcam, Zynga and Google with Google+.

A good example of a startup that has got engagement credentials to share is Tumblr (acquired by Yahoo!). In a study that was done in collaboration with Millward Brown Digital and Added Value, survey respondents identified Tumblr as the most immersive and satisfying platform.

Another obvious example of engagement is Snapchat. Around the time it received its early funding in 2012, there was already a lot of buzz around how engaged its user base was. Since then, Snapchat has gone on to raise $1.2Bn in funding at a $15Bn pre-money valuation.

Other startups such as Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and Nextdoor all focused on building their user base rather than on pure ‘growth’ that would later lead to monetization.

How To Engage Users For Growth

Accepting that engagement is the right characteristic to focus on in your startup, how can you go about getting this right? The key is learning what your users want and then giving them exactly that.

Massdrop is marketplace startup and an excellent case study on working with core users to shape and deliver your product or service. From very early on the team had direct contact with users on its site to determine what works and what doesn’t. In order to get the best deals for their users, they implemented bold initiatives with vendors and user, which led to short-term pain but longer-term gain with even more engagement.

In addition, product development at the company delivers excellent user response as users are heavily involved in developing new features. This example should be studied across your team to understand and appreciate how a patient and considered approach that places the user at the centre can work to deliver sustainable and real growth.

There are many other ways that can be adopted to extract the right value from your product or service in order to foster engagement such as allowing users to enjoy the experience for example. However it is important to stick true to the values of your own startup when trying initiatives to engage users. Sticking to your core demographic is good advice when trying to increase engagement. This is exactly what The Hunt did, intentionally appealing to young females and shunning what is not its core demographic.

Growth and the pursuit of growth in a startup is extremely seductive. However, unless that growth is a by-product of user engagement, you can expect that the growth will cost you more in the long-term than it delivers in the short-term and will put your business at huge risk. Building your startup from the bottom up and focusing on learning about your users to increase engagement will result in a company that delivers real value, and gives you the satisfaction of real movement on the growth needle.