How to Select the Right Digital Portfolio?


The digital portfolio management objective is to determine the optimal resource mix and schedule to best achieve the organisation’s operational and financial goals.

financial_reports

Selecting the Portfolio

  1. Establish the viability of projects based on their strategic alignment, return on investment and resource requirement
  1. Carry out risk assessment and build contingency into the portfolio by integrating contingency planning
  1. Do more with less by systematically reviewing project management processes and removing inefficiencies

One simple way of achieving a primary selection is to rate each project’s alignment to corporate strategy by assessing whether it is:

  1. strategic (contributes to corporate goals)
  2. efficiency (increase output or reduce costs)
  3. operational (to maintain services)

Some organisations use a ‘hurdle rate’ or minimum return on investment (ROI) rate to ensure that projects return a positive benefit.

The final assessment of each project or program could be carried out using the following types of evaluation criteria:

  1. Project Type: is it mandatory (to meet regulatory or operational continuity requirements) or discretionary (to meet business needs, increase efficiency or infrastructure)?
  2. Strategic Fit: is it critical, important, supportive (one or more strategic priorities), tenuous or has no link?
  3. Potential Benefit: the expected net present value of the business benefits (which is likely to be a range rather than an exact figure)
  4. Cost: the expected net present cost of the project (which is also likely to be a range rather than an exact figure)
  5. Non Quantifiable Benefits: any other benefits such as customer satisfaction or business simplification
  6. Resources: are the resources required to deliver the project fully available, partly available or not available?
  7. Delivery Risk: is it a high, medium or low risk and high, medium or low complexity?

The final step is to balance the portfolio by adding or removing projects in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the organisation with the human resources and finance available to it, a simple street light report can help:

  • Red (critical and urgent): immediate action needs to be taken on the recommendations or the project or program is likely to fail.
  • Amber (critical but not urgent): the program can move ahead but action on the recommendations should be addressed before key decisions are taken.
  • Green: the program is on target to succeed but may benefit from the uptake of recommendations.

To be successful an organisation needs to change and evolve in line with the environment and also to take advantage of new opportunities. This means the vision, mission and strategy will change and therefore the portfolio must change to reflect that by re-examining all existing programs, projects and operations and any new potential programs, projects or operations.

Top Components of an Elevator Pitch


The elevator pitch is as important as the business plan, some people call it twitter pitch (but I think 140 characters might be too short).

Bplans explain what components a perfect elevator pitch must have; every single angle of a business plan in a short visionary version is laid out.

Top components of an elevator pitch:

1) Problem:

First you need to be clear about what problem your business will solve; without this there is simple no business. People require solutions to the challenges and issues they face. The definition must be simple and straight forward, so everyone can simply see the pain point:

  • “communication with remote teams can be complex”
  • “completing paperwork for a A&E doctor is time-consuming”
  • “filling out your tax return is difficult”

2) Solution:

When you have defined the problem, the solution needs to be explained. This also needs to be simple and focused.

3) Market:

Who is experiencing the problem you described?; it’s critical that you always keep in mind the persona you are targeting, their problem points, what pressing issues keep this person up at night. If your market is too big, then follow the divide and conquer strategy, segment you target market and prioritise the same.

4) Competition:

To have competition means that there is a market for the problem you are trying to solve, you also need to think not only on direct competition but alternatives. Like a wristwatch company competing with mobile phones, also think how well they solve your target market and which opportunities you have to differentiate your value proposition and positioning yourself differently.

5) Team 

People is far more important that ideas, people is what make ideas work. You need to explain how well this team can work together, what skills are they bringing to your company. You don’t need to have all the team in place but you need to understand what gaps you have and how you plan to close those gaps and when.

6) Financial summary

In here you basically need to clarify your business model; how you create value and how you convert that value into profit. Remember numbers never lie, be hard with your numbers, you need to do sales forecast and expense budget (these are based on assumptions).

7) Milestones

In here you present a high level plan, no need to enter in details but clearly identify large milestones / phases; their ordering, dependencies and when these will happen. This is the operational plan and it will picture your business as real as possible.

This great infographic from Bplans explains each component of an elevator pitch.

7 key components of a perfect elevator pitch

Source: The 7 Key Components of a Perfect Elevator Pitch [with infographic]

In Agile, What to do if Team Velocity is not as you Planned?


If after three or four sprints you notice your velocity is not where you had hoped it would be, do not panic. This might happen, this is why you need to set expectations accordingly and told your client not to trust your initial plans. The good news is that by the time you know about it, you can adjust course as necessary.

Team velocity

Being flexible about scope is the preferred method for restoring balance.

The important thing is to have the conversation and give your client some options. Yes, this may make you uncomfortable, but you can’t hide this stuff. Bad news early is the agile way.

There is one strategy for ensuring that when you do have the “too much to do, not enough time” conversation:

If you can’t deliver a minimalist version of the application with the time and resources you have got, then the plan is clearly wrong and needs to change.

It works like this:

  1. take one or two really important features for your project (something core that goes from end to end through your entire architecture) and
  2. measure how long it takes to build a minimalistic version of those features

Then use that against your remaining relatively sized stories to see whether a minimalistic version of the application is even possible with the time and resources you have.

If your dates are looking good, right on, if your dates are looking bad, great, at least you know about it now.

When you need to change the plan conversation from, It is not based on wishful thinking. There is no need to get emotional, it is just the facts. It is better to know this now than later.

In Agile, How to Handle New Client Requirements?


When your customer discovers what they really want in their project, ask them how they would like to handle it. You can push out the release date or add more resources (which is like saying we are going to need more money), or you can drop some of the less important stories from the to-do list (preferred).

Managing change requests

Don’t get emotional when you have this conversation. It is not your call to make. You are simply communicating.

Your responsibility is to:

  1. make them aware of the impact of their decisions and
  2. give them the information they need to make an informed decision.

If your client really wants it all, create a nice-to-have list and tell them that if there is time at the end of the project, these are the first stories you will do.

But make it clear, the nice-to-haves are currently off the table and are not going to be part of the core plan.

5 Delivery Principles for a Digital Team


Too many of digital projects do not work well, are delivered late, over budget or not fit to purpose. To increase the success rate of these projects, there is the need of a new approach.

1. Put users’ needs first

The products and services you deliver should be driven by the needs of your users, not what suits you as providers. This means you need to invest time and effort to regularly engage with users and the contexts in which they interact with what you produce.

2. Make decisions based on data

Simply stating a user’s needs is insufficient, you need to counsel these needs with sound qualitative and quantitative data, and use that data to make objective decisions about what to deliver and when. Data is not making choices easier, but it will help you to take better decisions.

3. Release iteratively and often

Stop doing ‘big’ releases, these tend to frustrate users and put at risk the organisation. Work Agile, start small with the minimum viable product, test it and release it as soon as possible on a timescale of days and weeks, rather than months or years. Repeat the process many times over, adding to your products and services based on feedback, tests and changes to technology.

4. Keep it simple and consistent

You will do the hard work not to over-think or over-complicate things. Whether a user is new or experienced, task-driven or browsing, they will able to get started quickly, flow through the process with ease and trust the integrity of the results. Keep always usability in mind.

5. Do the hard work behind the scenes

Great digital product or service doesn’t rest entirely on what  appears on-screen. Your work doesn’t stop when you send something live. Care about the running of products and services, from their discovery, development and throughout the time they are operational.

If you want to know what other organisations are doing, the U.S. Digital Services Playbook is a fantastic read.

Agile Product Development


In agile product development is very hard to have the best product right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements is the way to go. Of course, the messiness of trial and error may seem uncomfortable, but action allows us to learn at a faster rate.

In agile product development avoid the paralysis by analysis
In agile product development avoid the paralysis by analysis

The following insightful story comes from the book Art & Fear by David Bayles  and Ted Orland.

A clever ceramics instructor divided his pottery class into 2 groups. One half of the students would be graded on quality and the other half would be grade on quantity.

Thought out the course, the “quality” students funnelled all the energy into crafting the perfect ceramic piece, they studied the right mix of materials, the correct measures, weight, optimal temperature, did an extensive research and produced one “perfect” product.

While the second half students do not care about the “perfect” product, but produced pots in every session non stop.

At the end, although it was counterintuitive to his students, you can guess how his experiment came out at the end of the course, the best pieces all came from students whose goal was quantity, the ones who spent the most time actually practicing their craft.

This lesson is applicable to a much broader view, if you want to make something great, you need to start making. Looking for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process. Do not get stuck in planing and start acting.

All the over-planing, talking are sings that we are afraid, that we don’t just feel ready;  that tendency leads us to wait rather than act, to perfect rather than launch.

* Image credit istock.com

Strategy and Customer Understanding


Your customer experience must support your corporate strategy. You need to work and focus on defining the customer experience that best aligns with:

  1. corporate vision,
  2. target market
  3. value proposition, your products & services
  4. unique strengths (competitive advantage)
  5. financial objectives
  6. core values

Be aware that the wrong customer experience would confuse your customers and send them to a competitor.

In addition to the strategy alignment, your customer experience must align with your brand attributes, you need to guide the activities and decision-making of employees at every level of your organisation, so that they can deliver on your company’s brand promises.

Companies need to understand and get a complete picture of what their customers really need, want and aspire.

Practices to understand client needs:

  1. mining unsolicited customer feedback, customers constantly provide unsolicited feedback about their experiences via emails, call, chats, social media, etc.
  2. conducting ethnographic research, this is simply observing your customer’s behaviour in a natural setting
  3. gathering input from employees, each of frontline employees interact with dozen or hundreds of individual customers and routinely witnesses with good and bad customer experiences.
  4. companies can create “Voice of the employees programs

As an example of a low tech approach, you can place whiteboards in prominent locations for employees to share ideas for improving the customer experience and track ideas from submission to implementation.

Thinking you know what customers want is risky. Most companies neglect to build a foundation of customer understanding before they develop products, services and experiences strategies, and then proceed with costly initiatives.

Employees and managers very often fall into the trap of assuming that what they want is what customers want.

To avoid this trap, you can:

  1. use personas to document who your customers are. Unlike market segmentations, which typically remain nameless and faceless, personas come to life with names, photos and vivid narratives that describe real life scenarios.
  2. once you have developed your personas, you create journey maps that visually illustrate a particular persona’s activities over time. You can plot the entire course of a customer’s relationship with a company or zoom in to just one particular part of the journey

But remember, you end goal is not the personas and journey maps themselves, your end goal is deep customer insights.

Once you complete this part, share your customer insight early and often, use all channels available and meet regularly with employees and business functions for all the company to be in the same page.

Read more: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine and Josh Bernoff. Forrester Research.

Digital Project Management and the 5Ds


The 5Ds in project management is a phase breakdown of large milestones that every project team needs to complete. This model gives a full vision of the tasks and deliverables for each phase.

This process is thought with Agile / Scrum Project/product methodologies in mind.

We call these phases the 5Ds:

Digital project management 5ds

Discovery: validates the business reason to kick-off the project, the benefits can be to revenue growth, cost reduction or risk management. Depending of the benefits these can also be short, medium term or strategic.

  • Define business value
  • Target market
  • Competitive analysis
  • Deliverable: Business Case

Definition: once the management team validates the importance of the project, a clear functional definition is required in order to specify the right set of user, features and business requirements.

  • Define personas
  • User stories
  • Technical dependencies
  • Information Architecture
  • Core functionality
  • Deliverable: User Stories and Product Technical Requirements Document 

Design: gives not only the look and feel to the solution but also aligns user and business requirements with the user experience. Why this is important?, imagine a disruptive user experience, this will affect the engagement and traffic to the Live solution and this at the end will put off advertisers, can you see the picture?.

  • Paper prototypes / sketches
  • Wireframes
  • Usability evaluation
  • Visual design explorations
  • Visual design approval
  • Deliverable: User Interface (UI) Designs

Development: the development, QA and product/user team start working every day, moving stories from backlog to the sprint and working together from technical analysis, development, quality assurance and user validation, this is an iterative process and is the core of the Agile methodology.

  • Architecture design
  • Daily scrum
  • Code iteration cycles
  • Usability evaluation
  • Release management
  • Unit testing
  • Code refactoring
  • Deliverable: Working solution and source code

Deliver: when the final user validates the solution, technical team performs performance testing and release plan, the full working solution is ready to be deployed to Live.

  • Case testings
  • Test reports
  • Build releases
  • Deliverable: Shippable release 

Remember that the project doesn’t finish when is released, the market will give important product feedback and is the job of the Agile product team to constantly improve the product by always aligning user experience and business objectives.

Business Tips From 37signals


Jason Fried is the Co-Founder and President of 37signals, a Chicago company committed to building the best web-based tools possible with the least number of features necessary.

37signals manifesto, as they say “It’s a collection of 37 nuggets of online philosophy and design wisdom. It’s a great introduction to the 37signals’ school of thought and a fun, quick read to boot.”

The book I read first was get it real and you can read it online and I strongly recommend it. This book really goes to the point and touches plenty of decisions that a business must face, even if it’s a large corporation or a small web factory.

My top posts are:

  1. build less
  2. fix time and budget, flex on scope
  3. lower your cost of change
  4. ignore details early on
  5. start with no
  6. hidden costs (new feature process)
  7. from idea to implementation (web app)
  8. epicenter design
  9. Hollywood launch
  10. promote through education

And if you really like this approach, you have to see this video from Jason, where he explains the following:

  1. Venture capitalists rents you time
  2. By pricing you will get great feedback
  3. Innovations come and go, stay focus on usefulness
  4. Focus on what won’t change, things that will pay off today and tomorrow
  5. DIY you have to do it yourself in order to hire or ask someone else to do it
  6. Apologise properly
  7. Nail the basics, that’s the real stuff
  8. Less is more, but make the few things you do really well

Digital Product Management


Almost every new service Google launches is a beta, a test, an experiment, a work in progress. Why? because launching and getting data from the market is the best way to improve a product.

Of course, the market can find errors, but companies must be pleased to get help to find those errors, for the company to fix them and improve the product.

The key on digital product management is iterations. When you launch a product, iteration with a well-defined audience is the best way to learn about the mistakes you made. The internet makes iteration and development on the fly possible.

The objective is to get the product out and then have the users to tell you where it is more important to spend your time.

Marissa Mayer, says “We make mistakes every time, every day. But if you launch things and iterate really quickly, people forget about those mistakes and have a lot of respect for how quickly your build your product up and make it better”.

Sheryl Sandberg, made an error while working at Google that cost millions, so she apologised to Larry Page who responded: “I’m so glad you made this mistake, because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we are just not taking enough risk”.

Dilbert Product Management