There's a few problems with setting up shop on the web. All of your competitors are right next door. You're in the worst neighborhood, with crooks inventing new tools to break in every day. That parking lot you just built now has to accommodate scooters and semi trucks. Your customers now expect perfect service, or they will just go next door. And there's a guy standing with a bullhorn next to you drowning out everything you say announcing prescription drugs for sale and windfalls from African dictators and widows.
Software is expensive because it is irrational and difficult to build. More than 70 years of mostly-failed software projects evidence this fact. Face it, and your chances for success will dramatically improve. Any client worth working with will accept this, any client who doesn't will pay through the nose when some snake-oil peddling, imprudent shop promises the world and delivers them only mud, budget woes, and unstable time lines. DON'T be that shop; the world has enough of them already. Over time, the world gets wise to who they are.
Results. Return On Investment. Value. How do you measure these things in a website? There's one thing you can easily measure -- cost. Or at least the amount you actually spend to build and maintain a site. The others are far more troublesome to measure.
What are the guiding principles you use to make decisions? Over the past few months, as the Freelock team has grown, I've been spending more time on strategy, while delegating more and more of the day-to-day work to my team. To get us all working more effectively together, I needed to answer that question.
The more I dig into the decision-making process, the more I spend time on planning, the more I have found four key principles emerging that underly most of our business decisions.
Not 4 hours after posting my most recent blog stressing the importance of setting up systems with disaster recovery in mind, fate stepped up and thwacked me. "Oh yeah, think you're so resilient? How about I take down that critical LAN server you haven't upgraded?"
Yes, it's true. While we have really good recovery plans for all our production web servers and sites, we still have two legacy systems that we are not set up to quickly replace.
Well, that's one now. One just failed.
If there's one thing that's constant in the web world, it's change. We've seen huge change over the years: personal pages, forums, RSS, blogs, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, spam, ubiquitous performance attacks, Internet Explorer 10, Firefox going from 0.9 to 22, smart phones, tablets, and more.
Within business, we've seen web sites evolve from static brochures to active content, e-commerce, client management portals, project management, reporting dashboards, customer service management, vendor management, and more.
If you've used a web ontology before, or any other large-scale data repository, you're likely familiar with one of the chief concerns facing anyone in such a position: how do you get your data into the system? Moreover, how do you get large amounts of data into the system with (relative) ease? And if you've used a content management system before, you've likely faced a similar, albeit inverted problem: how do you get your data out?
If you can accomplish these preliminary items without a good deal of effort, you're finally left with the task of transforming the data from one, and allowing it to be recognizable by the other.
If, instead, you haven't used either of these, you're likely wondering why on Earth you would want to.
If you learned how to make decisions before the fall of the Berlin Wall, you might get overwhelmed by decision making today. We used to live in a fairly black-and-white world -- East versus West, Pepsi or Coke, Miller or Bud, Democrat or Republican, ABC, NBC, or CBS.
How do you decide? If you're like a great many people in my generation, one tactic might be to create a list of pros and cons for each of the alternatives, and then compare these lists side-by-side. Ok, great! Let's use that to select a content management system. Let's see, what are our alternatives?
At Freelock we're in the midst of building dashboards for ourselves and for customers, to really dial in our process and let us know where to focus our improvements. Nothing beats having a visual representation of the data you're trying to analyze, and being able to change the parameters, update date ranges, drill down into details, and more.
A couple weeks ago NPR's Planet Money and This American Life had some really great episodes about the broken patent system. These are great stories for people who don't understand why patents are a problem, but they overlooked a couple of crucial points.
As the coordinator for the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission, I direct staff and contractors in projects for the OPTC, including the contractor selection, design and build of the new website. Freelock was chosen and did the work as expected with great results. I heartily recommend them for other work of this nature. Their customer service and personal approach sets them apart from the crowd.Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission