This post is revised and republished from Carl’s blog at Crain’s Detroit Business.
Innovation is not exclusively about revolutionary new products or services. Extending an existing offering or improving an internal business process can be an important form of innovation, too.
When I talk with business owners about using software to automate an existing business process, the request usually goes something like this: “We have this clunky process to do X which uses an old buggy application (or spreadsheets or email). It drives the people who do the work crazy. We’re growing and really need to automate the whole thing. Can you help?”
Of course, custom software and even automation is not always the answer. Given the cost of software development, jumping into a project too quickly can doom the hoped-for return. I always start with a few crucial questions: Read more on 8 Questions to Ask before You Automate…
Atomic Object has no dedicated, specialized project managers.
Instead, we have project leads who play multiple roles of implementor, team lead, and project manager.
Benefits of the Project Lead Model
As a designer or developer, the project lead is intimately familiar with the product’s user needs and related features. They know the team’s implementation plan and can creatively consider alternatives if constraints challenge the original plan. By also playing the project manager role, the project lead will be able to anticipate constraints early on and manage the team and scope appropriately.
For instance, let’s pretend you are the project lead, and your team is working on an administrative reporting interface that shows eight key reports related to user conversions and activity. The reports are going to be run monthly by one person. As the reporting interface is being designed, the client identifies other ways their users want to manipulate reports and select data. Read more on Project Leads vs. Project Managers…
Pre-project consulting. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it. Well… it is. But your project is worth the time investment, and Atomic is willing to pick up the consulting tab.
Getting to Know You & Your Project
When discussing your project with Atomic, you’ll meet with members of our Upfront Team — technical professionals with years of real project experience.
We’ll kick off pre-project consulting with a conversation that’s geared towards getting to know each other. We want to understand what your company does, your role in the organization, and the challenges you are facing. We also want you to be comfortable with Atomic and the our way of doing things. Read more on Better Ideas & Better Team Fit with Pre-Project Consulting…
Nondisclosure agreements are legal contracts that limit one or both parties from disclosing information covered by the NDA. They can be used to protect trade secrets, business plans, customer lists, sources — in short, pretty much any aspect of business. They tend to be short and are readily understandable by non-lawyers.
You may be surprised to find that Atomic Object usually doesn’t sign NDAs at the first stage of a potential relationship. We don’t do this entirely from our self-interest, we just think that you don’t really need one, and you’re better off without one. Read more on 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ask Us to Sign your NDA…
Are preschoolers smarter than college students? When it comes to figuring out gadgets and iPhone apps, it certainly does seem that way sometimes.
I heard an interesting piece on NPR several weeks back about this very issue. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that 3- and 4-year-olds use a different process than older children and adults to figure out how things work. In experiments conducted by the researchers, children had to figure out how to operate a specially designed music box. According to the NPR story, “Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go.” For that reason they are often quicker to figure out how novel technologies work.
As we age, we start to expect things to work a certain way. And when new gadgets don’t meet our expectations, we struggle with them. Read more on Why Software Design Matters…
Atomic Object builds custom software for our customers. Because of the complexity involved in building a great software product, software development projects are always more difficult to price than a product.
As a result two different strategies for pricing services, such as building software, have traditionally been used by most companies. These are called “Fixed Price” and “Time And Materials”.
A Fixed Price strategy locks in the total price of the project upfront.
- Static Variables: Scope, Cost
- Flexible Variable: Quality
- Assumption: The estimate and plan are correct and will not need to be changed.
- Risk: On Consultant (Responds by inflating cost; may compromise quality if estimates are inaccurate.)
- Effect of New Information: Causes conflict about what’s covered by the scope vs. what requires a change order. New ideas are rarely incorporated.
In this strategy, the vendor is taking on all the financial risk of a project. They have committed to completing the project for a specific price. If they complete the job early, it’s a bonus for the vendor (and you the client has overpaid), if they don’t then the vendor loses. In order to mitigate this risk, they will want to know all that can be known about this project and the risks before it will commit to a fixed price. Read more on Fixed Price vs. Time & Materials vs. FBSC (Fixed-Budget, Scope-Controlled)…
Sometimes you shouldn’t spend resources on a custom software application. And sometimes, you should realize that you aren’t ready to create a software product.
Atomic Object gets hundreds of inquiries every year from people interested in engaging us to build a custom software application or product. Our ultimate goal is help our clients succeed in their business. That means we occasionally recommend deferring custom software, reducing the scope of custom software, or not building custom software at all. Read more on When Not to Build Custom Software…
First time creating a software product? If you are familiar with creating or selling physical products and are looking to get into the software product space, there are a few subtle differences that you should understand. These differences can make a substantial impact on your planning.
The majority of products that exist in the world today are tangible things. They are all around us from the food we eat, cars we drive, houses we live in, and trinkets we buy. As a species, we have been buying and selling physical products for thousands of years. We have internalized and accepted the economics at play (e.g. variable costs, mechanical failure, etc).
But what about software products? Have people internalized the subtle, but important differences? Read more on 3 Ways Software Products are Different from Physical Products…
Are you thinking about developing the next great mobile app? When creating your business strategy you’ll want to know:
- How many potential app users there are?
- What platform you should develop for?
- What apps have the greatest reach?
- What apps generate the most revenue?
The mobile app market is evolving quickly, so the answers to the above questions change frequently. In this blog post, I will report the most recent numbers, and also provide links to resources that you can use to stay up to date with the information you need. Read more on Developing a Mobile App? Some Numbers You’ll Need to Know…
This post is revised and republished from Carl’s blog at Crain’s Detroit Business.
How should you build your next innovative product or service? One major consideration is whether to do the work inside your company or outsource it. I’ve identified some key dimensions of this problem to help you think through your choice. I’m assuming you have a project large enough to need at least a small team of people, that the stakes are high for you and your company, that time-to-market matters, but is not the overriding factor and that your company is large enough to have employees to consider using. Read more on To In-source or to Out-source? 9 Questions to Ask Potential Teams…