Own Your IT Systems

Own Your IT Systems

Submitted by John Locke on Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:04

The cloud is all the rage these days, for good reason. And yet we keep having incidents that remind us there are big problems with putting everything in the cloud. Such as the recent celebrity nude photo scandals, ongoing privacy breach revelations, big companies getting hacked, mass credit card number thefts, and more.

As an open source advocate and user, I keep finding myself wondering why so many people trust software services so blindly, rarely stopping to look for alternatives. If it starts with "free service" people can't wait to start putting all sorts of crazy things there.

That's been a fantastically successful strategy for a bunch of online software as a service companies: get people hooked on a free service, and either upsell them to a paid account or sell them to advertisers. But is this good for you, as a technology dependent business or an individual who cares at all about privacy? Not necessarily.

What are the alternatives?

If you dig deeper, past the advertising and the hype of Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) companies, you'll find a really amazing array of completely free, open source alternatives you can run and own yourself. At Freelock, we support our business almost entirely on open source -- not only is our key offering, Drupal, an open source platform, but most of the tools we use for business are as well.

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"May you live in interesting times" goes the old Chinese curse... We've certainly been experiencing our own version of that!

We've done some internal restructuring of the way we run our business. The gist of it is that we're switching, for the time being, to a subcontractor model. As much as we think having in-house employees is a better overall model, we ran into challenges around quality, overruns, and expectations. Overall, time and time again, I found myself on the short end of the stick, absorbing the cost of overruns while the employees were shielded. And thus had little incentive to make the whole process work better.

For years I've been trying, with varying degrees of success, to get the team to work from a project plan on each new endeavor. I mostly got lip-service with very little actual planning.

Now, it's in my contractors' interest to make sure the plan is solid, because that's what they are compensated for and will affect their bottom line.  When the project takes a new direction and the plans need to change, they need to communicate those changes clearly enough to make the case for the client. 

What does this mean for our customers? Much more solid planning.

That doesn't mean a huge amount of time spent analyzing before working a project. But what it does mean is that we start with a stock plan we've already built up, dive straight into what makes your site unique, capture what it takes in terms of development effort, and plan a budget for each piece at the start of the project. We try to keep that as minimal and streamlined as necessary -- but we think it's absolutely crucial to make sure we're delivering the best value.

So we're renewing our focus and entire business around quality and value for the client. We're in the midst of 3 major web site releases, last week and this week, and we think these are some of the best sites we've built. We've streamlined our testing and deployment pipeline, and built tools that let us compare staging sites with production sites using side-by-side screenshots. While our capacity for new work is limited at the moment, we think we're worth the wait, because our results are top-notch.

Know anyone?

We're looking for two different kinds of people. It would be great to find people to cover both of these in the same set of people, but if you know anyone who fits either, send'em our way!

  1. Freelancers/Startups/small companies looking for a desk/office space downtown. We love our space, but at the moment, we don't need all of it. We'd love to get a bunch of freelancers in here renting desks, so we can keep our great Pioneer Square digs!
  2. Drupal/Linux/HTML 5 hardcore technical talent we can bring in for particular projects. At this point we're looking to work with freelancers/contractors who are available to meet regularly in person in Seattle for project meetings, architecture discussions, etc. We still have some big opportunities on the horizon, and we're aiming for more. If you're here renting a desk, it gets very easy to tap you on the shoulder to work out sales proposals for new gigs...

This is a pretty big pivot for us in terms of how we do business. What we do hasn't changed all that much -- we still do mostly Drupal; maintenance and long term partnering with our clients is still our main focus; and we love to solve thorny technical challenges. But the main thing I think our customers will start to notice is the level of quality and professionalism we're adding to the mix, as we incorporate much more consistent planning to the work we do.

We'd love to hear your comments or suggestions!

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