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Marketing and journalism: one and the same

I have a bachelor's degree in journalism.  If I met my former
classmates, they would frown at my career in marketing, thinking that I had
gone on the dark side of force, so to speak. 

I think they're wrong. In my mind, journalism and marketing are not quite
different. What changes is the audience and the product. Let's face it, the
more papers a story sells – or the more viewers a TV newscast gets – the more successful
the journalist seems to be. And if a newspaper does not have enough readers,
the content is the first to be blamed.

Marketing and journalism are about reaching out to people

For the marketer, the audience is  the
clients, actual, and future, for the product we are selling. We want our
clients to know about our company and our product, or at least interest them
enough so that they will check it out. 

Journalists want to reach their market as well, except they call it an
audience. They're still the same humans, and what they provide is information
and opinion. Journalists want to reach people so that they will read […]

By |2008-03-19T13:00:00-04:002008-03-19|

From users to fans

You know when your user base is turning into fans when people start making tools to improve your product. They are so committed to your product, they are willing to improve it themselves. 

To the creator of the product, this is one of the most rewarding gestures a user can make.

Jason Skowronek has been using AceProject for a long time, and, as he explains on his blog, he needed to be able to reuse user licenses. For example, when someone leaves the company, he would need assign that user license to someone else.  Currently, in AceProject, Jason would has the following choices:

  • Rename that user (and keep the former employee's history attached to the user)
  • Delete the user (and loose all the time sheets, discussion forums posts, messages this user created), and create a new user for the new employee
  • Increase his user license to be able to create more users.

It turns out Jason wanted none of those choices. So he wrote this nifty SQL procedure that "In a nutshell, will re-assign all relevant […]

By |2008-03-17T18:02:00-04:002008-03-17|

Master projects and templates galore

Since we are in the final testing stages for AceProject 4.5, I thought I
would show you how easy it is to work with project templates in

Once we start using a project management tool, as more and more projects are created and completed, a need arises for project templates, also called master projects.

It's very useful to be able to import another project's structure into the new project: no need to reconfigure task groups, statuses, priorities, etc. However, once we have that, wouldn't it be nice to also be able to import the template project's documents as well?

And what about tasks? For repetitive projects, it saves a lot of time if you can avoid recreating the same tasks. Once you've imported the template project's tasks, you may want to adjust the task date according to the project dates, so the first task starts on the same day as the project, and so on.

That was the easy part. 

Now comes the real challenge: it would be interesting to be able to dinamically connect a […]

By |2008-03-14T13:00:00-04:002008-03-14|

Do you taste your own medicine?

Our colleague Jason from 37signals had a very interesting blog post lately. His post was elegantly summarized in this sentence:

"By building products we want to use, we’re also building products that millions of other small businesses want to use."


Getting a taste of one's own medicine can be an very humbling experience. Granted, not all products can be used by their makers (think industrial products). Nonetheless, both the creators and the sellers of a product would benefit from using their own stuff, if only to understand how easy (or how hard) it is to use it.

In the software business, we often see interfaces that were built by people who never actually use the system. The way the system works is logical, but it simply doesn't make sense from a usability point of view. For example: confirmation pop-ups (are you sure you want to close this window?) are more a nuisance than anything else. Honestly, how often do you actually read the text of those windows? Those things are so annoying we […]

By |2008-03-12T13:00:00-04:002008-03-12|

Customizing software

Ever since AceProject has been on the project management software market, we have been receiving request for cutomization.

Most organizations will shy away from custom work because they find it too complicated or too time-consuming. However, in the project management industry, I have yet to see two companies managing their projects the same way. Or track time the same way.

We have seen the custom work business grow steadily over the last 3 or 4 years. In our experience, it's been a great way to build long-term relationships with our clients. We work closely with them before, during and after the work is completed, to make sure they get what they pay for. On their end, our clients get exactly the software they want. On our end, we get to be inspired by the features they ask us to add to their AceProject account.

Sometimes, we decide to add the feature to the standard system and the client gets a rebate on the development costs. Sometimes, we'll implement the feature later on in the standard system, with […]

By |2008-03-07T14:00:00-05:002008-03-07|

The never-ending spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are very useful: they can contain formulas, sort data and have all sorts of bells and whistles to them. Spreadsheets can hold a lot of information, in a relatively small space. Spreasheets are convenient.

Say you want to organize an event at your organisation. You make a list of everything you need to do, with due-dates for each task. The spreadsheet works, it helps to make you feel in control of the situation.

Now you need other people to help you with this event. What should you do? Add a column to your spreadsheet with the name of the person assigned to the task, and send the spreadsheet to everyone involved, so they can see what they need to do. 

This is where it becomes tricky.

As each person updates the spreadsheet, multiple versions of this spreadsheet exist. Who has the latest version? Is there even a latest version of it? The spreadsheet sarts being emailed around between the different members of the team. They add status information on their tasks, questions, requirements. The spreadsheet grows.

Soon enough […]

By |2008-03-05T14:00:00-05:002008-03-05|

Renting software: peace of mind for a monthly fee

It was not so long ago that web-based software was not deemed trustworthy. What if the Internet service was down? What about the files, would they be safe?

I remember disliking Hotmail because it was web-based only. My inbox size was limited, access was not always possible and there was so much spam!  Ten years later, I'm in love with Gmail, because it's web-based: I've got more inbox space than I could ever need, it's always on and the spam filter is amazing.

What changed? From web-based distrust to a growing interest and need for web-based applications, even the business world is getting onboard. There are several reasons why software as a service is becoming so popular:

  • No need to maintain software on users' workstations. This takes a huge load off the IT team's work. Software on user workstations requires permissions to be managed and needs to be updated regularly. When the hardware is upgraded, it also takes time to reinstall all the software. With web-based software, all the IT team has to worry about […]
By |2008-03-04T20:00:00-05:002008-03-04|

Meeting clients

We are back from a 3-day trip to Seattle, where we met our client, AT&T.

It is so refreshing to meet clients face-to-face! With a web-based business and communications at the level they are now, we tend to forget how much more we can get out of meeting with someone in person. There is so much to learn from someone's non-verbal communication: attitude. facial expressions and reactions, gestures, etc.

Now that we have met the team we work with at AT&T, we have a better understanding of who they are as persons, and this will help us serve them better. We have a feeling that wen now them as persons, and so do they. When we talk and email, we'll be able to imagine the person we are talking to. 

Meeting clients puts the human back in customer relations. 



By |2008-02-29T14:00:00-05:002008-02-29|

Project management: democracy, autocracy or dictatorship?

Who makes decisions in your project management team? Do you have a dictator, a group of decision-makers, or does eveyrone on the project participate in the decisions?

Democratic project teams: the quicksand trap

Taking everybody's opinion into account is a great idea, it opens up new avenues of thinking. It's good for creativity and solving problems. However, if decisions are put to a vote, there is always the risk of taking the wrong decision, because not everyone in the group has a 360-degree view of the problem. For example, if the team is composed of a majority of developers and only one person who represents the interests of the clients, should the client representative's vote weight heavier in the balance?

Another issue with democratic decision-making is the quicksand effect: discussions can end in a stalemate. Where does the team go from there?

Autocracy: distribute blame, dilute merit

This is project management by committee, where only a select few take the decisions, not the whole team. While this decision-making style can be more proactive than a democratic style, it is […]

By |2008-02-27T14:00:00-05:002008-02-27|

Marketing and making sense

It seems to me marketing is about convincing people to buy a product. In so doing, should it not tell people something that makes sense?

Especially in business-to-business marketing, I don't want to insult my reader's intelligence by telling them a bunch of nonsense. Do they really care about how great I think my product is? Maybe they do.

I think what they care about is what my product can do for them, for real. How much time will they save? How much more money could they make? How much easier will their life be with the product?

I understand that it may be difficult to make precise statements in reply to those questions. But in the end, that's what most of us want: more time, more money, less difficulty.  Which translates in more happiness.

I firmly believe we can market products concisely, clearly, without resorting to complicated statements.

Marketing should make sense.

By |2008-02-25T14:00:00-05:002008-02-25|
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