June 04, 2013

Why are you scared?

I far as I know, our marketing project management solution RoboHead is the only one out there that offers a 100% "no hassle" money-back guarantee. Any organization that tries RoboHead on for size and doesn't like it, can receive a full refund as long as they tell us the first 60 days. Seems pretty simple.

So why do we do this?

We know that people are watching every nickel they spend and don't want to make a bad decision. Whether you're a large organization or a small, implementing a system like this will take some time and require some adoption on your part. The least we can do is take the financial piece out of the equation.

Happy to help. :)

February 20, 2013

Thin and Rich

I was thinking about the saying "You can never be too thin or too rich" the other day and it reminded me of many of the marketing project management solutions I run across on a day-to-day basis. This saying doesn't apply to some of them, it seems, in that many of them are way "too thin" (not enough functionality) or "too rich" (bloated functionality).

Your feature set is dictated by your users, your target market, and the marketplace. It's a fine line, especially in the SaaS model where literally thousands of users use (essentially) the same software. Sure, you can have account/client level configurations, but that can become overly complex from a development and support standpoint.

So is a feature that only serves a small percentage of your users worth adding?

Things I'd consider:

How much business does that "small percentage" represent?
Will it help gain new business?
Will it positively impact retention?
Will it give you a competitive advantage?
Are you doing it right?
What's the development effort?
What other enhancement(s) will be delayed if you focus on this one?

I'd be interested in any thoughts - thanks!

January 24, 2013

Why move to the cloud?

I Google'd "move cloud computing" and 32,900,000 matches came back in .15 seconds. So I'm guessing that anything I say has been said before, ad nauseum. And since I'm not really a tech guy (just enough to be dangerous) I can't really provide any technical insights that others haven't provided.

But, I am a business guy and I approve payments, watch the numbers, and know where the money goes. And when you start looking at it from that perspective, it starts making sense.

We started with a ton of equipment (servers, NAS', SAN's, firewalls, tape back-ups, RAIDs, etc.) that we had to buy and then we co-lo'd it in a third party data center, where we paid "rent" on a rack. With a hardware investment in the six figures, not to mention rack charges, a cloud environment can make sense, especially if you have large storage requirements.

So the moral of this very short story is run the numbers to fully understand the true costs of running on your own equipment (and don't forget to factor in equipment replacement every few years, maintenance, spare parts, internal charge backs, more storage, etc.) vs. the costs of cloud computing. You just might be surprised.

December 13, 2012

The Cloud. Defined.

Lots of talk about "The Cloud" these days. The funny thing about it is that it's not new - just the name is. I asked our CTO to define the cloud once and he came up with a very concise definition: "Something that doesn't run on your server."

If you use that definition (which I like) our marketing project management solution RoboHead has been in "the cloud" from a user's perspective since we launched it in 2004. Now at that time it was co-located, meaning it resided in a data center and was running on servers that we owned and maintained, but technically it was "in the cloud" (just without the sexy name).

And then there's what I would call the "true" cloud, where the solutions are hosted from a service like Amazon Web Services where you basically "pay to play" and don't own anything. That's where we now host RoboHead, as well as our digital asset management solution MajorTom, and our review and approval solution, ReviewPad.

So why the move to the cloud? Stay tuned for the next post.

November 10, 2012

Changes over the years (aka "Wow, am I getting old")

Back when I first entered the SaaS (Software as a Service) space back in 2004 (hence the "getting old" feeling) we really had to sell the concept of SaaS. It was new, people sort of got it, but we had tons of objections (mostly from IT) regarding security, DR (disaster recovery), where the data was located (someplace reputable or was it a server in someone's closet). We countered the objections, but it was a tough sell.

It's funny that in just a few years, SaaS has become not only accepted, but very mainstream. We rarely/never have to sell the concept. While we still may have to occasionally give some details on the infrastructure or answer some IT questionnaires, it's one out of twenty deals at the most. And not eight (or nine!) out of ten like it was in the early days.

October 14, 2012

No more DAM jokes. Please.

When I think about Marketing Project Management, I think about not only managing the project but managing the deliverable. But what happens when that deliverable is delivered? Generally you'll need a way to store and share those deliverables, which are almost always some type of digital element(s). And for that, the best solution is some type of DAM (digital asset management) solution.

To help with that dilemma, we offer a digital asset management tool called MajorTom. Just like RoboHead, it's fast-to-implement, easy-to-use, and affordable.

September 13, 2012

Missing The Point

Here's a strange debate. A heated discussion to decide "What's the difference between Marketing and Project Management?". With hard hitting issues such as this now being addressed on the web, I can't wait for the "What's the difference between a steering wheel and a car?" discussion.

Seriously, I don't know who should feel worse, the people that participated in this discussion or me for reading the whole bloody thing. It does make you stop and think that we might have run out of topics to argue.

Okay, enough bashing. I'll offer a suggestion for a valid debate..."What unique project management skills are required to manage marketing projects?"

August 17, 2012

Good Software

What makes marketing project management software different from regular project management software? In the case of many vendors, there isn't much difference. However, well designed specialty software tools for managing marketing projects have the following common attributes:

- Visual deliverables. Marketing projects revolve around items that the buyer will eventually see. Thus, the heart of a good tool is the ability to view and provide feedback on visual assets.
- Low overhead. Marketers manage lots of projects all the time. It has to be fast and simple to establish new projects and easy to manage multiple projects at the same time.
- Best Practices. Some marketing teams have best practices and some don't. A good tool allows a team to capture and refine best practices over time. As Leigh Duncan points out "Marketing credibility is dependent on skills and proficiency, organization and clearly defined process". But, marketing processes are never steady state so you need a way to implement changes as your processes evolve.

In addition to the above, if you can find a solution that is easy to learn and fast to implement, you've got yourself a winner.

July 13, 2012

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

A while back I had the opportunity to attend the Design Management Institute's seminar on Creating The Perfect Design Brief. It was an interesting event. Based upon attendance, it was also a topic that was top-of-mind to a lot of marketing executives at large companies. Although the goal of the seminar was focused on creating a design brief, the meat of the discussion involved how designers can work more effectively with business owners. What I found interesting (although not completely surprising) was the amount of whining in the room. No need to name names, but major complaints fell in to statements such as:

- The business folks have no idea how many projects we are trying to manage.
- Why are business people giving us feedback on design? They don't know anything about design.
- The deadlines we are given are ridiculous.
- Why is the room so cold?

As a provider of marketing project management software, I hear these complaints on a daily basis from prospective clients. And, I'll admit that these gripes are usually legitimate. However, I also get the sense that some of us in marketing could benefit from observing other areas of the corporation for a while. Things could be worse. Here are a few examples:

- Marketing departments always have lots of open projects that were due yesterday. Although lots of "quick turn" projects drive us crazy, there are some benefits. If your client can change his/her mind 5 times during a 5 day project, you should be glad you don't work in the IT department. Most IT projects last over 6 months. Some projects last more than two years. How many times can a client change his mind over a 6 month period? We may not like the fact that the business owner wants to change the color of the email banner, but how much work is really involved to make the change if the entire project is only 5 days long? On the flip side, IT folks must often throw away months of code if the business requirements change. I'll take shorter projects over longer projects any day.

- We don't like it when the client gives feedback on our designs, but think about the poor folks in Finance. They get feedback like "I'd prefer to recognize the revenue this month." The finance team may not like the feedback, but they also have to deal with the conflicts imposed by well defined accounting policies. These conflicts often lead to long/painful discussions where the finance team is forced to reject the client's request. Because of the strict policies, the finance folks often have unhappy clients and there is nothing (legally) that the they can do to make their customer happy.

- Tight deadlines are painful, but at least we often have clear marketing events that dictate an absolute end date for a project. After all, the big Thanksgiving Day campaign is going to be over by December whether it went well or not. However, the sales team may work for months to close a deal and they often have no deadline that is forcing the client to make a decision. I know I've personally waited over a year for a client to make up his/her mind about purchasing RoboHead. Tight deadlines are no fun, but they are usually better than no deadline at all.

So, cheer up marketers. It could be worse! How's that for motivation?

June 08, 2012

Is Marketing Too Vague To Manage?

Seth Godin always has interesting (and sometimes controversial) things to say about marketing. When it comes to marketing project management, Seth wrote on his blog that marketing projects are:

"...almost always vague.
They almost always involve people who aren't your direct reports.
And they almost always use people who have other stuff on their plate."

I completely agree that these are some valid reasons why marketers are struggling, but I also think there are plenty of other challenges. I would add to the list that:

- Marketing projects involve visual/subjective deliverables. Ever heard the feedback "I don't like the way it looks"?
- Most projects have very short cycle times
- Marketing projects require lots of different approvals including approvals from people that often don't know anything about marketing
- Projects come in groups of 10 to 10,000. I've never heard of a marketing department working on just one open project.
- Many marketers lack basic project management skills (they're marketers not project managers)

No wonder MPM is a pain. Should we all just pack it in and take the next couple of weeks off? I for one have some yard work that needs to get done.

Well, before you tell your boss that you'll see him/her next month, I would offer up the following insight...

The above items are all just really good excuses to be lazy when it comes to managing your marketing projects. However, if you add some discipline to your projects, these are obstacles that can be overcome. Here are three basic things to keep in mind:

1) If you don't take the time to gather proper requirements, your project will be harder to manage (btw...this is basically Seth's recommendation, but he is much hipper than I am so it sounds cooler when he says it).

2) You need an effective method for communicating to your extended team (direct team members plus customers, partners, etc.). A lot of people try to use email. I don't recommend it.

3) You need a way to capture best practices so that you won't reinvent the wheel the next time you do a similar project.

On a future post, I think I'll write about why marketing projects are easier to manage than other project types. That should make us all feel a little better. Ok, back to my yard work.

RoboHead

Marketing Project Management Tool
A web solution designed exclusively for Marketing and Creative to better manage projects, schedules, resources, and deliverables.
Aquent Marketing Staffing
The World's largest firm specializing in the placement of Marketing Professionals.  70 of the Fortune 100 rely on us to provide the marketers they need.

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