Keith Caseys World Of Project Management Software

May 30, 2014 by Phillip Crum | Comments Off | Filed in Podcasts, Project Software Discussions

SUMMARY: Keith Casey Professional Overview

In this podcast, Keith Casey, owner of Casey Software and developer of Web2Project and Phillip Crum of contentmarketingcoach.com discuss Keith’s background in software development. They also discuss the project management software package options available to business owners, as well as the origins and capabilities of Web2Project.

PODCAST EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Keith Casey Overview

Keith Casey: Owner and proprietor of Casey Software in Austin, TX.
Phillip Crum: The Content Marketing Coach, producer of this podcast episode.

Transcript: Overview Of Keith Casey’s World
KEITH CASEY: I’m Keith Casey. I’m a software developer. I’ve been developing software since… let’s see, I got online in ‘96 and started designing and building webpages then. I started doing it professionally in about 2000. I do not have an education in software development, I actually did electrical engineering. I did not want to do software for a very long time. It turns out that I’m good at it, so I decided to go for it. I spent about nine years in Washington, DC, as a contractor for different federal agencies. The Library of Congress, where I was working to answer the ultimate geek question of how much data is in the Library of Congress. And the answer is “a lot”.
PHILLIP CRUM: All of it.
KC: We figured out back in 2001 that if they digitized about 50 terabytes a day, they would keep pace with what was being created. That was before iTunes, that was before video blogging, that was before blogging as a whole.
PC: So is the NSA the realization of a dream?
KC: You know, I’ve heard that one so many times, and unfortunately, it seems like they’re pretty good at it.
PC: So you’re self-taught. No professional academic background, no book-learnin’?
KC: Not at the beginning. I’ve gone back and after I started getting into software development, I went back to my university, where I did my undergrad, and I was already friends with the computer science department head. So I dropped him a note and I said, hey, I’m studying these things, do you have a book recommendation? And I went to a small school, so he introduced me directly to the computer science profs who sent me their syllabi for their classes. Not formal book-learning, but went back to the book when necessary.
PC: Which is probably the best way to do it. OJT, on the job training. Which raises a question: Do you think that a formal – academic is the word I’m looking for – environment for training. Is it a help, or a hindrance, or none of the above?
KC: I think it works really great for some people. That doesn’t happen to be the way I work, but I think in a lot of industries, you absolutely need it. Engineering, medicine, law, you need to go to school. I think for computer science is one of those areas where you probably should go to school to have the connections, the alumni network, all those sorts of things, the formal systemic sort of training, but realistically, you don’t have to. I’m really torn on that one.
PC: Jump in the deep end and learn by doing.
KC: Yeah, pretty much.
PC: So you went from the Library of Congress to project management. You’re in Austin, Texas now.
KC: After I left the Library, I went over to the Department of Justice and I was managing projects over there. I was handling all the risk management for a number of different projects, and that’s originally how I originally found DotProject. We were paying for Primavera at that point, and that was $2,000 a seat. Somebody on my team, amazingly enough for a government worker, said “We should save some money.” They just wanted to save it to spend it on other things, but still, they wanted to save some money.
PC: Re-allocate money.
KC: Yeah, exactly. So I ended up finding DotProject, got involved over there, ended up making it to the core team. We split in 2007 to form Web2Project and I’ve been working on that ever since. Somewhere along the line, I think, 2004, I started my firm. I’ve been running my own consultancy off and on since about 2004.
PC: Where can one find that?
KC: Casey software dot com. C-a-s-e-y software dot com. You can see that’s been online since December, 2004.
PC: For the benefit of those who might be listening or reading, why don’t you define what DotProject is? And what Web2Project has become?
KC: DotProject – now Web2Project is a web-based project management system. It’s built on an open-source back, so it’s built on Apache webserver PHP programming language, MySQL database, and the system itself is open source. That means you can download the code, you can tweak it all you want, you can customize it, you can extend it. It’s like handing someone a recipe, so they can just follow the recipe, they can go with it, or they customize it and add additional things and make it their own. And so Web2Project is all the standard stuff a project management has – Gantt charts, work breakdown structure, time tracking, risk management, all the things you think of when you think formal project management.
PC: So it’s open-source software program something that anybody can use and something that anybody can tweak? Or do you need some sort of special training?
KC: Having a software background is nice. It absolutely becomes necessary when you’re trying to customize how the system works. My vision has been to make it easier and easier to customize it, where you don’t need to have code-level training, where you can say, “I have a project. I manage my project like this.” I don’t think we’ll ever get a perfect one-to-one ratio in how everyone wants to manage a project, but I think we’ll get the broad strokes down and everyone can manage something through it.
PC: So the tweaks that one might need a programmer for, you would like to move the ability to make those tweaks and changes to the user interface, so somebody can click a button instead of having to know some code to make that change.
KC: For some of the core ones, things like when you’ve got a list of fields on the screen, there are the fields that display about the project. Right now, project can display information about the start date, the end date, the budget, the status – whether it’s an open project, or a template, or whatever – and putting all those fields on the screen, I think, shouldn’t require a developer to be involved. I think it should be a general user “Here are the things I care about. Get everything else out of my way.”

PC: Personally, I used DotProject for six or seven years before I figured out that you had parted ways and were now working on a branch called Web2Project. If you would, please define what is a “branch”, and where you are going with Web2Project and give me a big overview about Web2Project.
KC: So the proper term is not “branching”, but a “fork”. A branch is when you work on something temporarily and then you merge it back to the main system. It’s like if you go back to that recipe. You’ve customized it, and you’ve tweaked it to what your preferences are, and you pass those preferences back. Maybe Betty Crocker publishes that recipe with your updates. We went a little bit of a different direction with a “fork”. The difference is that a fork splits off on its own direction and really has no intention of coming back to a main system.
PC: Permanent mutation.
KC: Absolutely. We’ve been working on that permanent mutation for about six years now. Our vision for Web2Project is that it supports real-world business needs. One of the frustrations with dot project is that it had a very – it never really had a clear vision, and so we actually want to reflect the vision of our users and say, “Here’s what people are asking for. Here’s what people are trying to do. Let’s make that easy for them.” That’s not going to take care of everyone’s situation, everyone’s use case, but if we can satisfy 80% of the people 80% of the time, we consider that pretty good. A lot of that last 20% can be taken care of with add-on modules, with customization, with little but tweaking and configuration from there.
PC: The old 80/20 rule. You bet. Interesting. So where do you see Web2Project going in the next two or three years? What’s the plan? Things will change, of course, but what’s the plan? What’s the roadmap look like?
KC: One of the big things on my personal agenda is having a nice, clean API in the system. An API is an advanced programming interface. It’s basically the idea that you can plug other software into it and have it manipulate the data. Think things like time tracking software. Think things like FreshBooks to do invoicing and stuff like that.
PC: CRM programs.
KC: So now when you create a contact in your CRM, it automatically synchronizes through to Web2Project so you’ve got the all information there. When you create a project proposal in Web2Project, it can synchronize back through your CRM to say, “You have these proposals on the table for this person, here is the estimated value of those.”

PC: You are the lord and master of Web2Project at the moment. Tell me about your development team. What have you got, what you can and will you tell me about your development team? Are you flying solo, a Lone Ranger, or do you have a group of folks helping you with this?
KC: Sometimes, it looks like I’m the Lone Ranger on things, but believe it or not, we have a team of five people. We have myself based here, in Austin, Texas. We have Trevor Morris, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s really big into testing, like unit testing specifically, so he’s written a lot of the testing system that goes with Web2Project. We’ve got Benjamin Young. He’s based out of Greenville, South Carolina. Really great guy, works a lot on some API stuff. He hasn’t been super active the past couple years. He’s been with a startup, so he’s been tied up with that. We have Bruce Bodger out of Oklahoma City, who is a fanatical Web2Project user and has been for many years. He does a lot of formal project management consulting and advice and things along those lines. There’s Pedro, who is based in Lisbon, Portugal, who is actually the originator of Web2Project. He invited me to join two days after he started, so I’m actually number two on the team.
PC: I see.
KC: He’s done a lot of the consulting around Web2Project, a lot of custom software development, things along those lines. Those are the formal team members. We’ve got another half-dozen people who contribute patches regularly.
PC: Tell me about your support. What do you have in place? If I’m wanting to use Web2Project, what do you have in place for support? I’m not a coder, I just needed it for my business, but I know a little bit about PHP and CSS, just enough to tweak something, enough to get in trouble, so I can do a few things, but if I have questions, where do I go?
KC: There’s two main places. The first one would be our wiki. It’s a user-contributed wiki just like you’d have for Wikipedia, and it has documentation on every single module within the system. So it has information on “here’s screenshots, here’s buttons, here’s what they do. Here’s what some of the terms mean”. It’s a quick way to get started with a lot of things. There are some training videos that go along with the modules. Visually, those training visuals are a little out of date – we’ve done some updates to the system first, or in the past couple years, but in the meantime, the content there is completely accurate and it’s pretty good to go. That’s on the pure user side of things. If you’re doing to do a little bit of development, or starting to figure out development, or if you run into bugs, our support forum is support.web2project.net. We use a system there called AnswerHub. You can submit questions, people can vote up and down questions, people can answer questions and vote up and down the answers. It works almost identically to Stack Overflow, if you’re familiar with that.
PC: What if I’m not familiar with Stack Overflow. Give me a 30-second… what the heck is that?
KC: Stack Overflow, I think, bills itself as the social question-and-answer site, so they can submit questions and they can say “Here’s what I’m having trouble with. Here’s what I’m trying to do.” You can tag it for easier searching later on. Before it actually lets you submit a question, it says, “Here’s a list of questions that we think are similar to yours. Before submitting yours, does one of these fit?” It really guides you to those existing questions, and then people can submit answers, add comments to the questions, things along those lines. People can vote up and down the answers. And you as the question submitter can come back and say “Here’s the answer that worked for me. Let me accept that.” Once you accept that, the person who actually gave you that answer gets points. You, as the submitter of the question, get points if people vote up your question, so it’s really based on a contributory model. So people can contribute as much as possible and to be as useful as possible.
PC: If there’s something I want or need Web2Project to do, other than what it does out of the box, or there’s no available plug-in or module to add to it, what do I do?
KC: Probably going to support.web2project.net is your best option for now. There are three or four people there I can think of that do contract development based on Web2Project. I do some contract development, but I’m selective on what I do just because of my responsibility to the core system. Going to the support forums would be your first option. Contacting me at keith@caseysoftware.com would be another option. And if all else fails, I can put you in touch with people who are doing things along those lines.
PC: I can have a developer create a module for me to accomplish what I need if it doesn’t exist.
KC: Absolutely. I have written a module development guide, so when you do hire developers, you can give them that guide as a place to start to make sure that 1) they’re doing things properly and 2) that their code is upgrade-friendly so as we continue developing on Web2Project that your module doesn’t break as easily.
PC: Very forward thinking. Very WordPress-ish. I like that.
KC: I’m actually envious of WordPress and their plug-in system and the community they’ve built around it. I emulate them as much as possible.
PC: That’s a good model to follow. Let’s back up to 30,000 feet again and talk about the different categories of project management software. Other than online – let me clear some mental brush here – online and offline software for project management and the old-fashioned way of pencil and a piece of paper. Is there any other way to do project management tracking? I wouldn’t think so, but…
KC: Those are the most common ways. When we were at the Department of Justice, we’d have a Gantt chart that we’d print out of Microsoft Project and stick on the wall and manually update that throughout the week. Like literally writing on the wall. That was at the Department of Justice in DC.
PC: That might explain a lot of things, wouldn’t it? So in the software category, there’s open-source, which we’ve talked about, and then there’s commercial, which is something you can buy off the shelf, so to speak. Is there a third category?
KC: Commercial is kind of broken down into two categories. There’s commercial open-source, and there’s commercial proprietary. Proprietary, if we go back to that recipe model; that is getting the recipe and how to figure out how to make it yourself, it’s the going and buying the cookie off the shelf. You don’t entirely know what’s in it. They tell you, “Here’s how it works, here are the ingredients.” You have to trust them to go with it.
PC: And commercial open-source. Can you give me an example of that?
KC: The project management base, that’s a really good question. I couldn’t name any off the top of my head.
PC: So obviously, in commercial open-source, you’re paying for the software but you can still tweak it yourself.
KC: Absolutely. A good comparison in the CRM space would be SugarCRM, which is a customer relationship management system. And when you buy it, you actually get the source code; you get the recipe so you can tweak it and adjust it to fit your preferences.
PC: That is a good analogy, actually. That’s interesting. Categories, we have commercial, which is broken down into commercial open-source and commercial proprietary. Which of those two are commanding the lion’s share of the market? The commercial market. The commercial open-source or commercial proprietary. What do you think?
KC: Commercial proprietary, by far. There are systems like Primavera, which are amazing in their power but also amazing in their complexity, in what they can do and how they can do it. I believe Primavera was purchased by Oracle a couple of years ago, so as much fun as Oracle is to work with, I can imagine Primavera is along the same lines.
PC: I’m guessing they’re very… what was the adjective you just used?
KC: Complex?
PC: Well, that, too. I’m sure the price structure is complex for that stuff?
KC: Oh, yeah.
PC: Fairly expensive. You have varying sizes of business. Small business, let’s use the government’s definition of 50 employees and under; and then medium, which is 50 to 500 employees, probably, and then large business, above that. A small business, one to 50 employees that needs project management software solution, obviously you want him using yours, but if he was dead set on paying for a solution, is he going to want to go to the commercial open-source or commercial proprietary, and obviously, that’ll depend on his level – if he’s got people or knowledge of coding – he might want to do the commercial open-source. I guess where I’m going with this is does commercial proprietary software fit the small business market?
KC: Yeah, I think it absolutely can because, while I mentioned groups like Primavera, and there’s obviously Microsoft Project, there’s also different flavor of project management where it’s not really Gantt chart project management, more of a to-do list project management, and that’s something like Basecamp. Basecamp works for many thousands and thousands of people, but it’s really about managing to-dos. My main criticism of Basecamp is that, if you have three items, and items 1 and 2 have to be done before you can do item 3, there’s no way to denote that in the system.
PC: I’ve used Basecamp before myself.
KC: It’s fine for a lot of people, but when you start having multiple people working on projects and a lot of moving parts, it gets problematic pretty quickly.
PC: I’ve used Basecamp myself and that’s exactly the way it struck me is that it was just a giant to-do list. What are the differences feature-wise – and I don’t mean from a road-level, but between an open-source software program like yours and a commercial proprietary program. Are there features that are available in these that you can’t get in an open-source software program?

KC: Not usually, but in the case of Web2Project, specifically, I can say that Web2Project’s reporting is mediocre. There’s a number of places we would love to be able to create bigger and better reports, definitely put some graphical elements on it to do some charting, bar charts, things along those lines. The reason we haven’t done that is that we don’t have anyone specifying what those reports should look like. If I had somebody on the team with “Here are the top five things that drive my business, here’s the top five things I need to know,” then we can take action on that within days or weeks. I think that is one benefit or one feature that open-source has over proprietary is that, when we release an update, which I think we should release 3.1 this week at this point, you can usually deploy it within hours or days of it becoming available, as opposed to a proprietary solution. In a lot of cases, it can take weeks or months before you buy the license and you’re allowed to upgrade.
PC: You’re a little more nimble than the bigger players with their committees.
KC: Yeah, absolutely I mean, our marketing plan is basically to get out there and start talking about it. With the flexibility comes a little bit of weakness at times.
PC: The system reporting functionality in Web2Project is not that bad, to my mind, to my eye, but I’ll bet I know someone who can put those top five together for you, he said.
KC: That would be fantastic.
PC: I can do that. What do you think the future of project management overall looks like? Not necessarily what you plan for Web2Project, but just the whole industry as a whole. Is there going to be more players, is there going to be a thinning out? Some major change from this to that? What do you know? What do you think?

KC: According to Wikipedia, right now there’s upwards to 120 different solutions out there. I hope it thins out a little bit. 120 different solutions are pretty…
PC: Daunting.
KC: Ridiculous by most standards. Personally, I think while there will still be high-level project management, that’ll never go away, the coordination-level. I think some of the lower levels of project management are going to dissolve to the background, where we’ve got more and more systems that are tracking our e-mail, that are tracking our time, that are looking at our devices, pulling information out of those. I think a lot of the project management are things we associate with project management now, will dissolve into the infrastructure layer. When you and I are talking, or we’re trading e-mails or we’re trading phone calls over Skype or whatever, a lot of that information will be captured directly in the project management system. We won’t have to go back and log those notes. We won’t have to go back and attach documents because it’ll be tracking our e-mail and it will pull in those documents automatically. I think going that direction has a lot of power because, 1) it’s transparent. You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to really do anything. You just go on about your normal life, and the system’s tracking things for you. But I also think it’s going to be great, or aspects of that are great, because it’ll be more complete. How many times have you exchanged documents with a customer and you later on realize, “Wait a minute. Did I actually back that up? Do I have a copy of it? Did we attach it to their customer portfolio? Where is that?” These things will just sort of happen by themselves, and I think that’s super powerful.
PC: I noticed on television, in some of the commercials, one of them last night during the ball game, that integration with other software programs through APIs and however else that’s done, is what they were pushing. I’m trying to remember who the commercial was for and I can’t, but I recall thinking in the commercial that it was not very well expressed that one program was talking to another, talking to another, talking to the first and that they were all linked up. There was too much marketing speak, but that’s another discussion.
KC: There’s an awesome Austin-based startup in town called Lantern CRM. Their whole thing is that they want to light the path for you and they want to make that path as easy as possible for you to take. They actually do that phone integration, so when you sign up with their service, you get a phone number that behind the scenes just runs to your cell phone or your desk phone or whatever, but you can turn it on and have it record all your phone calls and transcribe all your phone calls and make them all searchable. Now, every time you and I have a phone call, it can be logged in that system and completely tracked. I actually use another system called Contactually, which does that for e-mail. If I wanted to see every e-mail that you and I have exchanged, I can go back to that system and look at it and in the meantime, behind the scenes, it’s pulled in all your social profiles so I can find you on Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn. I can see all the e-mail we’ve exchanged. If it can find your phone number, it goes ahead and attaches your phone number, which it might read from your e-mail signature. We’re going to see those sort of systems more popular and pull things together and aggregate all that information for you. The NSA. Your own personal NSA.
PC: When I grew up, we only had three channels on TV, too. Wow. Things have come a long way. What do you see as the top-selling features of Web2Project? Besides the fact that it’s open-source and you can tweak it yourself, what’s the big advantage?
KC: I think the open-source aspect is the single biggest advantage. I think, just because you can customize it, you can tweak it; you can have that 80% solution and close as much of that 20% as you need. After that, I would say behind the scenes, it’s the architecture itself. I’ve worked on large-scale architectures before. I’ve built all the mobile stuff for Fox News, I’ve built all the website and systems for a professional sporting league, so it’s really built with that stuff in mind. The system is rock-solid in terms of security, in terms of performance, in terms of stability, and it really just works.
PC: It surely does. As a six- or seven year user of DotProject, and I’m not trashing that program, I think it was great, but your system has been rebuilt per your blog, and it is just lightning fast. It is way faster than its predecessor. Kudos to you for that.
KC: From a technical aspect to that, we’ve cut about 35% of the code overall, and we improved the performance on every screen by 10 times and on some screens upwards of 600 times. So it takes 1/600th of the time to load a screen as it did before.
PC: It surely does. Tell me about the modules and, before we cut off for the day, the modules and the plugins – we call them modules here at Web2Project – but tell me about the module programs. What’s available now? Where do they come from? Are they available to anybody? Things of that nature. Modules.
KC: First, there are the core modules, and those are the ones that are included in the system when you actually download it and install it. You get right out of the box project tracking, you get customer company tracking, so you can say, “I have a company X. Under that company, there’s this many projects. Here’s each of the projects.” Out of the box, you also get task management. You can attach tasks to those projects, assign them to people, go ahead and set up dependencies and even set up projects and sub-projects that way. From there, there’s a handful of other things that aren’t used quite as often but are still very popular, like you can attach files to individual tasks, and say, “This file, this contract, this technical document or whatever, goes with this particular task.” And the system will track that throughout the lifetime of the project.
PC: Add-on modules. Let’s talk about the world of add-on modules. How does it work?
KC: There’s the module development guide that I mentioned earlier that will actually teach you how you to plug into the core system to be able to, for example, add things to the calendar in order to have things show up in people’s calendar feeds like in iCalendar like you might get from Google Calendar or from Outlook or something like that. It tells you how to make your module searchable, everything like that. From there, people have developed things like the to-do list manager, which is mine. This is basically a Basecamp clone within Web2Project. There was a call for that because sometimes, even in a major project with formal project planning, you need a simple to-do list. Having a simple to-do list to complement the formal project management methods made a lot of sense. In addition, I’ve put together a risk management module, so you can identify risks with this project, or even this individual task of the project, here’s who’s responsible for them, here’s the impact, and here’s the notes that we’ve taken that go along with this, as we’ve tracked the lifetime of the risk.
PC: Where is the line between “I need to develop a module that does, let’s say, payroll” versus just link up via API with a payroll program like QuickBooks or FreshBooks, whatever your choice is. Where is the line drawn? I’m sure there’s money involved in the answer.
KC: That’s a really good question. Right now, we’re trying to make the API available so you can really take either approach that you want. For add on modules, I see that doing things like payroll and invoicing and everything in the system makes a lot of sense. I suspect that integrating with third parties, that’s where money will be involved, because it’s the 80% rule. 80% of our users don’t use QuickBooks, so I don’t think QuickBooks integration will ever be rolled into the core system. That said, with the API, it can be added pretty straightforwardly and pretty easily.
PC: If somebody has a module developed, as I’m having you do one for me right now, when that module is finished, is it available? What’s the normal rule? There are always exceptions to rules, but exceptions aside, if somebody develops a to-do module or a contact calendar module, a content calendar module, is that module typically available to everybody else, the public? Or is just private to that one client? How do things normally work?
KC: That’s one of the big differences between DotProject and Web2Project that’s really behind the scenes that comes to light in this sort of scenario. DotProject is GPL licensed which means that everything you do for the system has to be open-source, and it has to be freely downloadable and freely distributable. If you distribute to anyone, you have to distribute to everyone. While that’s a great philosophy in some cases, we’re talking about the business world. I don’t believe the vast majority of people can really stomach that. They want their particular tool, their concepts, that’s their competitive advantage. So one of the things we did when we converted over to Web2Project is we changed the license. And there is a whole hour-long discussion on how we did that. But we changed to the BSD license is basically where you develop something on the system, you can do whatever you want with it. You can release it open-source if you want, or you can keep it proprietary and quiet and internal to your organization.
PC: Is there currently a list, a growing list of add-on modules for Web2Project and where might I find that?
KC: The repository isn’t very user-friendly at this point, but we’re working on that. If you go to github.com/Web2Project, you can find a list, I believe the risk management module is on there, I think timecard, flex reports, couple of other ones, and there’s a handful of customized themes on there, also.
PC: Well, sir, this is quite interesting. You’ve spawned about 800 more questions, but we’re going to do that another time because we’re out of time. I thank you very much for your input. This is going to be fun. I appreciate it, Keith. We’ll talk again.

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The Benefits of Sticking to It

November 2, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Today a client of mine emailed me with great news. He is starting to see results from the last 6 months of his marketing efforts. For instance, his sales pipeline is heating up thanks to an educational letter and follow up campaign we worked on—including 2 recently closed deals. He just spoke at an association that serves his target market and landed a client and a lead that way. Plus he is actively getting referrals from his existing customers, which now number about 70.

But 4-5 months ago, things didn’t look so rosey. It is only thanks to a consistent, focused commitment to marketing that he has achieved these results.

While you can see instant results by marketing, it takes time and persistence to build momentum.

Hopefully you have a plan and are sticking to it. Don’t get frustrated. Results come to those who persist.

Some positive thinking guru used to tell the story of a bunch of gold diggers who dug a big hole looking for gold and eventually gave up. Then someone else claimed the land and found a huge supply of gold after digging only one foot more. Keep digging!

Hodgepodge of Lessons Learned from a Busy Week

October 2, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Well, I’m as swamped as I’ve been in a long time, thanks to a business trip to Illinois to work with a University on commercializing a beautiful market maker website and technology for agricultural users. This was a great trip, and here’s a mish mash of lessons:

1. Universities are an untapped market. Many of you who live near universities should consider stopping by some departments to discuss potential projects for outreach to constituents. In two days, this particular university department (agricultural extension) received requests to create a bunch of sites that will become the “go to” sites for a variety of natural resources and recreational research. They can’t do any of this on their own, and need people with good ideas to help create commercialization (e.g. advertising and premium membership) models.

2. Part of the trip involved pitching to a local venture capitalist. I helped develop the business plan and pitch. If you have yet to pitch to a VC or investor, make it part of your goals. It’s fun, exciting, and you get great feedback (or brutal feedback). In this case, the VC thought he knew what we were pitching, but didn’t. Our mistake was going off script instead of sticking with our key themes and “story.” But we also learned that this particular VC has a different mission than our particular venture, and so the fit is not there.

3. During the trip, 2 other prospective clients reached out to me, adding over $50K to my pipeline. When you visit a large organization, try to get visible while you are there walking the halls. In this case, my client sponsor helped me get visible and was very helpful in this regard.

4. Don’t underestimate your value. Sometimes I take what I do for granted, like helping people get organized and move forward to grow a business. But the client found this enormously valuable, and helped me think more about the value I bring, so I can describe it to others. Nothing beats having your own clients tell you how to describe your value to others.

5. During business trips, find time to do other work so you aren’t overwhelmed when you return, as I am now. I just hung out at my hotel room, when I could have done a better job catching up.

Okay, back to work…..

The Importance of Non-judgement and non-attachment in sales and entrepreneurship

September 15, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

The last blog post talked about the importance of failure.

There are two mindsets that makes failure acceptable and bearable, and they are non-judgment and non-attachment.

Both of these mindsets mean that you can go all out to get your business going, or to make a sale—but you stay a bit detached. You don’t judge yourself. You don’t take things personally. You don’t wrap your ego up in how things go, and instead drive to the outcome.

If things work out, great! If they don’t, you observe what happened, learn, make adjustments, and try again.

Many people misinterpret non-attachment to mean that one is passive. That’s not the case. You still move forward powerfully and with full intent. You still give it your all. But you don’t add the junk that so many people add—like tying your sense of personal worth to your success or failure.

A friend and business partner and I recently invested lots of money in a business that didn’t quite work out. I mourned it for a while, and then moved on. He is still kicking himself about the result. What’s the point?

There is a Zen story about two monks crossing a river, when they meet a beautiful naked girl. She asks for help crossing the river. The older monk picks her up and crosses the river, while the younger monk looks on in shock (as monks are supposed to be celibate and avoid beautiful naked girls). A mile or so down the river, the younger monk is still in shock, and can’t stop thinking about the older monk’s behavior. The older monk says something like, “I crossed the river with that girl a mile ago and left her there, yet you still carry her.” I think lots of people still carry their burdens of long and not so long ago.

There is a great book called the Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Galloway that everyone should read—tennis player or not. In it, Galloway talks about a Self 1 and a Self 2. Self 1 is our rational, thinking self. It is the self that gets all wrapped up in ego and judgment. It is the self that causes players to talk to themselves on the court, or throw their racket when they miss a shot. Self 2 is the self that actually gets things done, and hits the ball—without thinking, but simply by doing. His approach is about trusting and developing Self 2.

The same applies to business. The more you can let your Self 2, your non-judgmental and non-attached observer and doer, do the job, the happier and more successful you will be.

Another fine book to read is Money and the Meaning of Life—which gets into our attachment to and judgments about money. How we think about money has a lot to do with our enjoyment and ultimate fulfillment and success.

Failure means nothing. Success means nothing. Striving for excellence and fun—that’s everything (and also nothing).

Hopefully this does not come across as too fluffy or mystical. It is a very crucial point, and a hard one to put into practice.

The Absolute Importance of Failure

September 2, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

A recent post to a blog entry asked about failure and what to do if you have never failed.

I have to confess that I am one of the biggest failures you will ever meet. And that’s a good thing from my point of view.

4 out of 5 businesses or ideas I have fail. (But 1 out of 5 do great; and I’ve learned how to test ideas at low cost).

I’ve failed trying to climb the corporate ladder—at at least four decent-sized companies. And I’ve failed as an employee in a variety of smaller ventures. I’ve been laid off once and fired another time. (But these failures have given me the confidence and desire to go out on my own).

I’ve failed in working with 2 out of 3 business partners. (But the 1 that has worked out has been fabulous!)

One out of 4 clients don’t continue to work with me. (But 3 out of 4 are intensely loyal!)

The vast majority of people who see me speak, read my articles and blogs, receive a direct mail letter, or see an online ad for my programs don’t respond. (But I learn from this and keep testing and improving to increase response).

Get out there and fail! Stop trying to be perfect. Put up a site and keep improving it. Get out there and keep learning and refining your approach. Stop being an A student and start being a B or even C student. Try lots of things and see what works—and then build on that.

In fact, one of the reasons clients come to me is because I have failed so much. I turn that into an advantage: “Mr. Client, I can save you lots of money because I know what DOESN’T WORK as much as I know what does work. Hire me and you’ll avoid making lots of costly mistakes that your competitors make every single day.”

I used to be a perfectionist. I was an all-A student at Harvard. But while that kind of record (which came before grade inflation there) was great for a career in research or academia, it didn’t mean much in the business world. I learned fast that success in business is much different than success in school. It took me a long time to adapt, and get out of the perfectionist trap.

So try things and see what works, and doesn’t work. Learn about the needs of a specific market and solve their problems.

Get out there, try (at low cost), and learn.

Take risks and be ready to fail. When you get good at failing, paradoxically, success will follow.

That’s because you are out there doing something. That can often be enough to take your knowledge to a new level compared to your peers, and then have an insight that brings you great success.

Obviously, you can’t fail 100% of the time forever. You have to keep shifting and adapting, using what you have learned to try new things. Don’t try to fail. But do take risks in which you minimize your downside, learn from your actions, and keep persisting in new and improved directions.

In drilling for oil, you might hit 9 dry wells before you strike the gusher! The same is true in business. You never know if success will come after 1 well, after 10, or—due to the way that statistics can work—after 20.

Just keep drilling! And that means you have to be willing to keep failing.

Avoiding Common Bottlenecks When Implementing ERP

March 4, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Advances in technology have made ERP systems a popular way of optimizing how businesses operate. From streamlining production, HR and accounting processes to analyzing trends and reports, these software suites offer powerful benefits to businesses of all sizes.

However, the overall success of an ERP implementation is dependent on the strategic planning process. ERP implementation is a science and requires a methodical approach throughout every step, from assembling the project team, assessing business processes, setting objectives to developing the project plan.

In order to ease the transition, avoid these seven bottlenecks that can hinder the proper implementation of a new ERP solution.

1. Analyze Business Needs Thoroughly to Reduce Implementation Time
Although ERP suites are often distributed as a bundled platform, the features and modules needed for each business will vary greatly. Thoroughly analyzing business needs is essential in determining the proper features to integrate into the ERP platform.
This will also help to reduce costs and improve efficiency. By determining the business’ needs, the implementation can be staged and executed in the most efficient manner to reduce downtime and provide benefits where they are needed most. NetSuite consultants and other professional consultant services can help to speed up the process while ensuring that every aspect of the business is considered.

2. Conduct Thorough Training and Education
From employees to executives, resistance to change is common in any business. An ERP solution is only effective if it is accepted and used throughout the business. Proper training and education on the ERP platform can help to improve acceptance and reduce the number of errors made when using the new software. This allows your business to achieve results faster and conduct business with greater efficiency. Quick acceptance and transitioning to the new software also allows your business to retire old systems and free up existing resources for other projects.

3. Use Proper Load Testing to Prevent Post-Integration Issues
In most cases, cloud-based and SaaS ERP solutions will place stress on different parts of your business infrastructure than existing on-site solutions. This makes stress testing your new platform essential before deployment. These solutions typically use remote data centers and servers to host the platform as well.
Stress testing prior to deployment ensures that your new system will perform as expected and will allow you to make any needed changes to hardware or connectivity with minimal interruption to daily business operations.

4. Address Customization Concerns before Implementation to Avoid Conflicts
One of the biggest advantages offered by popular ERP platforms is customization. When choosing a cloud-based ERP solution, check with your provider to ensure that your desired customization and personalization options are available. Hosting features, such as multi-tenancy, might limit your options or introduce security concerns. Understanding how your ERP platform is hosted and how it might influence personalization options reduces the risk of complications or delays during the implementation process.

5. Ensure Compatibility with Existing Products
Sometimes, ERP solutions are not the best choice for a specific department or business process. If you intend to utilize existing software in conjunction with a new ERP solution, it is best to ensure compatibility between the products. Many ERP solutions feature API connectivity or allow users to import data from existing software to provide added benefit while still allowing the use of legacy systems. Inability to utilize existing software can delay deployment of the new system, create confusion and interrupt existing business practices.

6. Treat ERP Implementation as a Long-Term Project
Many companies assume that ERP implementation is a quick and simple solution. ERP management services will help to optimize implementation of a new system, however the process will still take time. The time needed to complete the implementation process will vary based on complexity and business needs. By recognizing the extended nature of many ERP implementations, businesses can reduce the risks of exceeding their ERP budget and ensure that the system is integrated properly.

7. Ensure that Proper Support and Resources are Available
Cloud-based ERP systems allow businesses to outsource the majority of their infrastructure and IT needs. However, there will still be times when on-site IT services might be required. By ensuring that proper support and resources are available when needed, your business can prevent any potential delays due to unexpected issues. Familiarizing support staff and other responsible parties on the support structure of your ERP service provider is also an essential part of preparing for a new ERP solution. This will ensure prompt issue resolution should the need for advanced support arise.

By properly researching and planning the ERP implementation, your business can reduce delays, avoid bottlenecks in the implementation process and maximize the return from these powerful software solutions. From conflicts with existing software to inadequate system training, these seven issues are some of the most common issues faced by businesses upgrading to a cloud-based or SaaS ERP solution.

5 Technologies to Turbo-Charge Project Efficiency

February 26, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Keeping projects moving in any business can be a challenge, but with the help of technology, many of the traditional obstacles to efficiency can be overcome.

Some of the roadblocks have always been to create well-laid out plans, transfer documents to multiple people for editing, meet deadlines, and finally, get the proper approvals to get the project moving from paper to reality. New digital tools can facilitate each of these steps.

Tip #1. Start with Proven Templates

Projects of any kind have elements in common: definition, planning, execution, closing, managing, and assessing. In any industry or business, each of these elements will also have typical subheadings such as goals, steps to reach the goals, a timeline, reasons for the steps, procedures, managers, contributors, etc.

Groups with expertise in managing projects have developed template software packages which can help any company, large or small, develop and track a project from beginning to end, including schedules and deadlines.

Tip #2. Provide collaborative document writing and editing in real time

One of the largest bottlenecks in project flow is the development of documents when multiple people are expected to contribute, edit and approve them. Cloud computing has made it possible for any number of people to access documents and create, edit or comment. There are dozens of available document programs. Some are free, while others with more features may be expensive.

Real time commenting and editing keeps the process moving. Contributors will always be assured that they are responding to the most recent edits.

Tip #3. Consider Wiki software for complex documents

Another option for creation and documentation of text is wiki software. Wikis are ideal for documents that are complex and must be linked for easy navigation. Archives, appendices, images and exports are all easily accomplished, even with free software. The editors are simple WYSIWYG design, and users can be granted full or partial permissions.

Tip #4. E-signatures can expedite permissions

Understanding e-signatures and their capabilities may be key to getting a project out the door in a timely manner. Approvals from various managers, and even vendors or contractors might be required. E-signatures are recognized as legally binding. There is a long precedent for the acceptance of electronic signatures, going as far back as telegrams sent by Morse Code. Such signatures were first held binding in 1869. Faxed signatures, which are not originals, are also recognized, point-of-sale signing of electronic pads, and even emails have stood legal testing.

In most U.S. states, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act is the accepted standard for what constitutes an acceptable electronic signature. By attaching a simple software package to project management documents, the required approvals can be obtained securely and quickly. This option can often save days of delay if papers must be physically moved from office to office to obtain needed signatures.

Tip #5. Allow participants to interact in real time

Some project software packages contain built-in indicators of other colleagues presence, and instant messaging capability. This allows participants to interact and discuss aspects of the project whether they are separated by a cubicle wall or an ocean. This ability to interact will enhance the speed of project development and delivery. A true team effort can be accomplished even when partners are separated by distance.

 

In today’s competitive market, moving an idea from a brainstorming session to a design ready for production quickly and effectively, with proper documentation is critical. The speed and efficiency of this process can be the difference between success and failure. Taking advantage of project building technology can turbo-charge your next project.

Project Initiation Phase – How to Initiate a Project

January 14, 2013 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

The project initiation phase is the critical phase within the project life-cycle. It is also called the project pre-planning phase and about stating the basic characteristics of the project. To successfully initiate a project, you need to which basics steps are required to carry out to develop a business case, undertake a feasibility study, develop a project charter and others.

Here are the basic steps of the project initiation phase:

  • Step #1. Create a Business Case. A business case document is the formal start of the project when the project sponsor (or the project initiator) gives a description of the business problem/opportunity. The project is to be initiated to address the problem or provide alternative solutions. The business case document will include the business problem and potential costs associated with the project implementation.
  • Step #2: Make a Feasibility Study. A feasibility study is a research conducted to determine whether the project can be accomplished and to identify the likelihood of the alternative solutions. The feasibility study investigates whether the benefits stated in the business case can be delivered. It also depicts relationship of business costs with the project solutions.
  • Step #3: Develop Project Charter. Once the business problem/opportunity and possible solutions have been identified, your next step is to develop a project charter which is the critical document of the initiation phase. The project charter essentially describes what your project sets out to solve the business problem and what the boundaries of the project will be. It specifies the project vision, goals & objectives, scope & boundaries, deliverables & expectations, project organization and an implementation plan.
  • Step 4: Assign Project Management Team. The project charter is developed so you can proceed with identifying human resources required for delivering the project and achieving its goals. You will need to appoint the management team which will take the primary responsibility for the planning and implementation of your project. The Project Committee should be established and the project manager should be assigned. Then the project manager will work on recruiting the project team and making project assignments. Once the team is recruited and assignments are made, the project initiation phase is almost finished; only one step is ahead.
  • Step 5: Perform Project Review. Your last step to take through the project initiation phase is about reviewing your project. A review stage should be conducted to ensure that the project is successfully initiated – this means all of the initiation activities are completed. Once the project is reviewed, the project planning phase will be.

Standard Types of Project Report

November 26, 2012 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Most companies involved in managing projects often have to use multiple types of project report to establish communication between the managers and the performers. However, every report takes some time to develop, maintain, read and follow up.

Obviously it would be much faster and cost-effectively to use several standard report formats. Standard types of report would definitely allow simplifying the reporting process, minimizing time waste and avoiding misunderstandings between teams involved in project management. Let’s find out what standard types of project report are used most frequently in successful companies. If you need to learn more about reporting and other project management facets, visit the best management guide.

Type 1. Status Report

Obviously the Status Report communicates the general status of the project to the stakeholders. This type of report lets the stakeholders understand the current health of the project in terms of the key constraints – Scope, Time, Costs, & Quality. The Status Report also shows the next steps on the current project stage, the roadblocks to be removed until the stage starts, and the key metrics regarding performance.

Type 2. Risk Inventory

The Risk Inventory report includes a summary of the risks that have been identified, analyzed and assessed at the project planning phase. It shows how the risks develop during the project implementation and what actions are taken to prevent risk occurrence.

The Risk Inventory report gives the reader an idea of the general project state in terms of the risks resolved and risks remaining. It is used to develop the Status Report template.

Type 3. Issue Report

The Issue Report is a summary of the issue log which documents how the project deals with risks that have either come to occurrence or an unexpected event happened. It lists the current issues and links them to related risks.

The Issue Report focuses the reader on what is being actively done to address the issues. It specifies priority per issue and a description of how to solve the issue or how the issue has been already solved.

Type 4. Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is a strategic-level report that provides a solid understanding of the project current state, the benefits it will deliver, and how the project fits into existing business strategies. This document also describes how the project will ultimately improve the bottom-line of the organization.

The Executive Summary report is written objectively with reference to actual performance measures. It is submitted to strategists for review and decision making. The report serves as the basis for understanding the current situation and developing solutions to move the project back to where it should be.

5 Fundamental Documents for a Project

August 9, 2012 by caseydk | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

A good project manager keeps good documentation. That person organizes project documentation in a way that ensures easy and authorized access to document creation, editing and archiving. But how to know which documents to develop and keep within a project? In this article I’m going to list top 5 documents that you, as a great project manager, must keep organized.

The most important project documents are as follows:

  1. Project Charter
  2. Working Schedule
  3. Status Report
  4. Risk Register
  5. Communication Management Plan

1. Project Charter

The Project Charter is the fundamental document that is created at the initiation (conceptualization) stage of a project. This document approves project launch and tells the project manager that it is time to begin team building and work planning activities.

The Project Charter determines the following items:

  • Reason(s) why start the project
  • Business objectives to be attained
  • Benefits to be gained
  • Boundaries and assumptions (which will be analyzed and specified later during the project planning phase)
  • Potential risks and opportunities
  • High-level budget
  • Authorities

The Project Charter serves as the basis for a project plan. This fundamental document states the original intent of work and helps management teams ensure the project does not fall into scope creep. It is a guide for project managers on what goals to complete with what resources and authorities and under what expectations

2. Working Schedule

This must-have document defines the beginning and end of project work and breaks it down into stages, activities and tasks. Each task has a time-frame (duration), resource, and dependency upon other tasks. The schedule serves as the baseline for managing target dates and making adjustments to the project plan.

3. Status Report

This fundamental document keeps everyone informed of how work is being progressed at any given point in time. A status report helps understand the following:

  • What accomplishments are got since the last report?
  • When is the next report on the project to be generated?
  • What are the issues and risks to solve at a given stage?
  • Are there any special needs that must be discussed?

4. Risk Register

Any project comes up with a portion of risk. And that’s why a risk register needs to be created for the project in order to ensure that every possible risk is identified and analyzed and that a response strategy is developed.

The risk register categorizes risks by probability of occurring and also determines the severity of their impact on work results. This fundamental document also refers to action plans that prevent registered risks from occurring.

5. Communications Management Plan

A communications management plan minimizes any misunderstandings between project participants and ensures that information is distributed to right people at right time.

This fundamental document is subsidiary to the project plan. It is developed during the planning stage.