Pragmatic 45: Not Part of the Plan

14 November, 2014

CURRENT

Managing features and requirements on your project is difficult and scope creep is your constant enemy. John and Seth explore classifying features, dealing with client requests and making it all work to a plan for internal and external projects.

Transcript available
Welcome to pragmatic it's all part of the plan is a weekly discussion show quantifying the practical application technology exploring the real-world trade-offs with great ideas are transformative products and services can change allies nothing is as simple as it seems this episode sponsored by harvest harvest lets you time your tasks wherever you might be doing them and easily analyse your timesheet track billable or nonbillable hours antennas and invoices for your clients with both PayPal and Stripe immigration checkout harvest get harvest or one word.com and sign up for a free 30 day trial and start tracking your time and invoicing others simply and painlessly wants a 30 day trial is up use a coupon code pragmatic checkout and you receive up to 50% off your first but hurry because this offer expires on 15 January 2015 as observers also sponsored by mandrel mandrel is a transactional email service that easily ties on your website and apps when you need to send one-off emails like responses password resets acknowledgements and so on visit NAND RI LL.com and sign today 103 and use the promo code pragmatic to get 50,000 free email transactions per month for six months normally is a 12,000 month that's four times the normal amount in a great deliver track and analyse using email infrastructure from mandrel wasn't one of them during the show I am your host John Geagea and enjoys day by my guest host Seth Clifford Hayden Seth and Jill are dancing to have me back no I thank you for coming back are before we dive into the today's topic I just want to work quickly do a little bit of preshow blurb are is now possible to see the list of topics of recovering the show in coming weeks and months@exhaust.com/topics if you're not a member you will be able to see Gillespie if you sign up you elevate on the existing list and also suggest whatever topic you'd like covered on the show be locking in episodes whether two-headed time and people can see the topic and cohosts or guest host I had time so they can tuna know what to expect go check out also started releasing an equivalent to the after dark/after show/B-side thing is when you recall I am calling it addenda its attack distortion.com/pod casts/our addenda so go check it out I saw some iTunes and research were in there as well are and finally if you enjoy the show and haven't yet rated in iTunes feel free to do so always appreciated was very much appreciated are also change servers recently and up a new VPS updates are now located in San Francisco so should be a little bit zippy than before and are in the clinical craft and it's all nice and squeaky brand spanking virtually new because it's virtual anyway the go was very funny them on that okay so arm this observer an interesting topic that's are that you want to talk about Seth and it was has to do a lot with how design is shall we say I'd like say guided but is not so much guided it's more arm a little bit believable but shoved around by different interests shall we say like you're well there's marketing and advertising and obviously the customer as well but I thought it might be interesting to sort of look at how how we focus women being pushed around by the all the different competing demands when we tried to deliver something we reckon you I think there is probably planning aside about their arm gets it's one of those things that we had can add chatted about prior to the shell several weeks back and I think that anything that depending on where you work in with whom you work you either have a great handle are necessary struggle with that area constantly battling it and there is a is a very is a tough line you need to drive as a person working in a creative field when other people are actually paying you directly for it but also influencing your creativity and you have to come compartmentalise how you feel about that to perform at your highest levels I think there's probably a lot of interesting directions we can go with well I think what would like to start is I'd like to start by thinking about how we divide this up are so when you got when developing a product in and I guess so the designers for either our lip which are classified as either a single individual or entity and lie NMSA lichen and entities like a treat like a truly honestly single point of authority so I guess that sort of the way differentiators you can still develop something for an entity that has one overriding voice whereas you can also have an organisational customer such that CEO you have 5678 different people that you're trying to satisfy so I think there's a there's a bit of a difference when cytosol customers and organisational customer sort of effect a little bit about how you go about pleasingly please server this just might help instead of breaking is down a little bit arm also think it's worthwhile breaking down the design being the internal or external organisations and unemotional bit dishy but I mean honestly if you drop reasoning in-house for your own internal needs arm you which you are aware we both sort of done but a lot of the work that we done predominantly has been for external organisations and when you doing things in houses it's you know you can sort of bend rules and changed change the way your you can change your direction a lot more with a lot more agility and I and a little bit more free will there whereas if you've got an external customer is a very different story becomes more of a negotiation so I thing is worthy of breaking down as well arm I don't and I guess you could break down further in terms of if there's money involved but that's probably beyond the scope of this really so okay I'm thinking about what's our matrix like a quadrants note I mean I can magically plug a thing in the back ahead I mean like a 2 x 2 matrix whereby you can look at elements of the designers being intimate fermentation as being straightforward or complex I realise that a simplification but I mean let's just say that there something that some of the party wants what does manifest the customer therapy or if it's if it's are if someone wants something form a marketing perspective and saying all this be really marketable feature we gotta have this irrespective of what kind of feature it is it could be either straightforward or it could be arm it could be complex and I guess my point is that that would be one axis and on the other axis of the matrix we would we could say well is something could be completely independent feature and I was doesn't affect any other features in any way it's very very isolated has its own level it is again billed as Ambleside doesn't affect anything else or it could be very interdependent such that if we add this feature can affect one or more other features of this product so if if if you think that I am matrix as well as sort of trying tease this out about is are the four quarters the matrix can do the whole straightforward and independent which is totally easy someone says to you how young we will add this is really straightforward feature and is completely knock on effect the rest the product is like a snappy thing is yet again a problem it's easy but when things get a bit more complicated when psycho or maybe a straightforward feature pronounce interdependence on a second quadrants like okay well now we need to consider all the different interdependencies we don't Wanna know effect like yes okay the customers of the marketing guys a gobby blue is blue is pleasing to the eye was that he was a committed little studies and about different shades of blue is that Microsoft or Google someone did a nylon elaborate think it's one of the steel now and he was and they gave they cannot with blue being the most pleasing coronet for it was a prolonged background, while the wallpaper is something that is that and then there's the complex and in a complex and independent third quadrant where you got something the problem is very it's it's complicated to implement might take a fair bit of time and that comes back to ER cost schedule prioritisation and you can put a person at a way that for a long time and serving as a result but because it is independent they consider do that on their own and is that and finally the fourth quadrant where everyone is angry and that is if it's complicated and it is and has a lot of interdependencies and SI are okay now what I do and usually does the ones we are not having to say no because it's tight while you got a fixed budget we affix Maritime is too complicated and steamy dependencies I'm sorry but we just can't accommodate that half a no we think I think that's as good a place to start is only that they think that probably encapsulates most of the Kaiser decisions resided up cool so I guess the thing is the easiest position you can take it one as a design lead is to say I take the uncompromising position and I say know what if as lead designer I don't want or is not the contract is not happening nice easy way anyone can say no it's not the control and care you but the problem is that if you want take that path you just you knock and have very many happy customers it is not in organ to get repeat business in order to get a good reputation and it's easy but it's night it's it's easy for you on paper but it becomes less easy feel sustained enough to sustain a Hanover heavy going for you exactly and it will hurt you in the long term so that the reality is I've worked with organisations like that and there are some aspects of the organisation that I may or may not currently be involved with that I have the some of those aspects in common in certain areas only but Yates it's front and as frustrating as hell because you realise that you know that no one owns doing themselves favoured by taking an uncompromising attitude so I'm not recommending that for a second but I guess the thing is I also honour I see the flipside of that in the flipside is I Wanna I want you to develop a product for me and I have to give you an idea of what I want but I can't design it all and think it through all upfront comfort every single requirement down on a piece of paper such that we have a complete map from start to finish of everything that I want you to create for me because it's only happening in your head and you'd well be limited by your own head limited by the space in your brain is any summit you can think through and if it is a summit you can write down at the time of writing a contract and so while you know he is kind of what we want it's this is what we was an end result sort of nearby County all the little details and this is when things get tricky because an uncompromising position you know you so say welding as this is a grey area now site while you said you were give SR vitamin A messaging or something as part of the feature set in the app I will know that wasn't it didn't explicitly say that it was or wasn't in song I count that as scope creep and can help you so I guess the point is that you need to be able to tweak design a little bit in some small ways as you go along and whether or not you know me I say scope creep here unfamiliar yourself with IC thing that I did pick up in North America because I work not for a while and there's my buzzer bingo but the point is armed yes II think scope creep is rising is a bit misunderstood so rather than me jabbering about how would you describe scope creep scope creep is as phenomena that occurs when you may now let's let's assume you have as requirements for the thing you're trying to build and the business requirements and can't do this in these five areas but the five areas may not be as well-defined as they probably should be or there may be aspects to elements of those areas that are as well-defined as they should be in as you building the product in our what let's say for argument sake let's say it's the unites of cut the contact page and a website and in there in the first meeting you say well what you want is pension essay we think you will get out of this mess out a woman were given and this will be a static page and will put up some information and people will see you now earn email can't identify numbering address and that's great everything is okay great and we move onto the next thing and you build that page and you start doing other things and somewhere down the line the client looks adding those we are thinking that maybe we should have Google map and aggression and you like okay so how important is that you and SA world is pretty important is because of this is really hard to find and you go okay well we think we have time and schedule for that we say will be absolutely honest owners out of that but if you say you think you do then you either the smart thing to do is say okay were adding this we need to re-evaluate how this impacts the other stuff delivery now committed to by you you add it and everybody is happy and you go okay we know we accompanied them there happy that snaps those big deal and then a week later some egos you know we had another meeting about this and what we would actually like is our this is proprietary kind of street you thing we actually have a partnership with are a company that does this kind of thing with Street view by that think they have any PA and you like okay well now were talking about you far more than the static content we had initially agreed 19 more than the Google Maps integration that we talked about last week and it just becomes this anything where people keep needing into arcing and what they actually thought they wanted maybe there by its night equate what's the topic of discussion that we can sell you end up taking a static HTML page that was supposed to be taxed and putting on these kinds of things and an athlete a super stupidly simple arm example but it's the kind of thing that starts out simple and continues to balloon and Alana kisses you have a really complex feature that is very well documented and somebody says it will really be great if it is one other thing and you like well it would be great but unfortunately I wanted thing means to my weeks of engineering in another week of QA and now it could be anything that is added to the project along the way that swells both the overhead involved in project management development design QA and then finally you know how long it takes to deliver that feature and it happens all the time and it's one of the toughest things to deal with in a client service industry because you want them to be happy and you want to please them but to do your best work you need to be very mindful of one that is happening and you need to be very forthright in describing what is happening to them in and letting them understand that we recognise are you doing we hear you saying we want this to be a thing that you can have but you can have it now begin we can feed it in later we can talk about when it is an appropriate time to add this order if you really must have this then were gonna compromise and find something else in the project that isn't as important now that we can draft and use the time for that so it's it's that kind of scenario that we usually face okay Corso when arm and I have had similar experiences and in different contexts as well and I think that's a pretty good definition of scope creep I guess are the way I Woods the way I would say it is so scope previous new functionality beyond the original scope such that's an hour if it was omitted is not implemented in the products arm would still meet the original design intention and Salvador ever falls inside the category that you consider to be scope creep and I guess when you one is more of a more curious questioning else's when you do when you do quote when you quote for a job or factor your rates do you include an allowance for I hate to say scope creep in that context that miscellaneous general and say we know what we can handle maybe a week or two of additional tweaking here and there is a buffer and then once as clients gone and as I I have to admit of my happiness and I've AC have done that on some fixed price quotes either hexagon said you know what I got buffer here of X number of weeks of engineering hours to to account for arm like for example if I could have a expected on quoting to I will put in a lot more time because I know that there's gonna be creep beyond what is in a spec is it something that you did you have come across generally speaking we tried to plan as accurately as passable we don't really show we are really buffer things I can't because we can't appoint thankfully where we are very arm very tuned into the conversation is upfront and getting the documentation we need and yelling everything down and sell we plan specifically to the features that need to be built and certainly sometimes things take longer and that's that's a different issue by we are not really like add time in that way because we do a lot more upfront research on what we think it will take to deal this feature is that feature of the southern future and then in our hostility test those things and had make sure that there are functioning properly so that we we can have a conversation leader and say you know we are on time one schedule these are things that we've agreed to build in our we want to accompany you but we either need to move things around in the saddle or read push to be oriented in Alec you have those those ladders that you can push with clients and say if you go to bed is immovable then we need to have a conversation about what is important and what is important to ship my idea FUD is flexible and we can have another discussion about adding other things and let I think it's important and it's important tonight have too much of that wiggle room because it forces you to be extremely focused on what needs to get done and in what timeframe a new as you as you do this more you learn to have the scar recessions earlier with clients and you learn to be as clear in your language as passable because when you don't adequately describe to them how this is affecting the overall product and project then there are not then I can definitely that's free you'd explain to them so I think a lot of people do build in that kind of time just to light from that and there's nothing wrong with that its night it's I wouldn't label that is Lake in our some kind of weary nefarious behaviour because you understand what is being asked of you and if your business requirements are flexing are they not know what the wine images have a conversation with them and say look and get say it's gonna take this much time because we don't know what you guys like you and I think that's perfectly acceptable till but it's it's all part of having those conversations early and in clear language so everybody's unseen hand now one of the other approaches that are that they take you name my my specific line of work is they will do a your wallet what was sometimes will repeat will refer to as a as a budget price and set old they will have a very brief framework of a specification and it'll go out to market and say you argue come back with a budget budget quote in the budget: very wide percentage answer be like in a plus and -35+ -20% whatever and you put in that value without with a median expected value and are now a positive eye I can over underwrite and go then dull dull do a short list from their development design will be further and then go back and say right now we want your fixed price quote money as fixed price quoting you in in in engineering I can in construction industry which is now very different industry from developing software that are even so are I think of video as you sailing it is a valid approach to do that but you have to be very careful that you don't look like you're putting in way way too much buffer otherwise visible you are be competitive and him and and and second of all if they receive a cost breakdown to suppertime the YC of a cost breakdown of of your hours even if it's in part is it is difficult to hide that and a lot of customers will come back and say well hang on a minute was this big miscellaneous things for $10 million I don't I don't agree with that so you but then a course that you've been up against the battle of world do you break down the costs do or do you not and is in a I've five had different managers of said well you issue if they asked four of them assured another was of said flat out know they get one price when I break down our prices we don't care and see if you're hungry for the work and you're up and convening as others will breakdown you will be breaking down with you want to or not anyway arm yet so I guess Sara rather than gone numb to to much more about that are especially very quickly talk about our first sponsor for you in the next section and as harvest limit people listing the show spend their time working on home projects and work projects to any 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the sponsoring pragmatic okay so where were we are sinking amounts okay and to do iOS I want to Melbourne about the difference between arm marketable features and core features and I guess the reasoning is important is that I know I I get the feeling a lot of people don't appreciate enough of the difference and some people look at is an either/or and it really isn't it's simply two different sets and the sets can overlap and is perfectly fine so ice the way I see it is and I'd like you to your takers was but my take is our core features you have to have otherwise you just don't do not have a private you can sell or hand over whereas marketable features you know Michael features essentially are designed more to drive sales and they sound great but they don't necessarily have to be core features and the issue comes it will ideally you will develop when I overlap your developer marketable features that are also core features because you spent time working on 70 core features that are not obviously marketable or don't appear to add much value to the product then it becomes less my blessing mum what was marketable yes many a time on that solid foundation stuff that's a dangerous game to play in some respects because of his dancing well and I will weigh my core functions are not marketable while at the same time your balance that with organise my core functionality otherwise it will not be so saleable all so it's really more the other side of that whether not the overlap not the core features with the marketable stuff is is therefore marketable reasons for marketing reasons and sales purposes and is not really a core feature is not really a huge deal or only addresses a very small subset of potential users spending a lot of time and effort on those is perhaps I would suggest not ideal arm were your thoughts are and I would agree with that I think that probably when determining what the court featuring what's marketable feature it comes down to what the initial ideas like what we will be setting out to build isn't the kind of thing that only a subset of a subset of specific demographic would be interested in will then maybe we shouldn't even be building because the Africa really putting into it isn't probably worth even marketing to this smile now the smile violation by it in more specific terms of how do you balance those things yes sometimes marketable features are your core features I think when you have that scenario wearing your core features are the most appealing to me now that the people that you want to have using your product that's that's the optimal scenario because you can spend all of your time building the things that people are going to love about it and the things that you're going to want to talk about but you now people regular people consumers even just in use in an enterprise setting don't really care most of them don't really care about you now the engine that drives the products that they're using cell your court features if you have in our giant backend that needs to serve this deed and do all this stuff it's it's one of those things where you never again be able to really talk about bad see you have to understand what that product does and potentially reframe what it's doing to to provide value to the people you're trying to reach and you may not have marketable features but you need to create a marketable message that people understand the value of what you're trying to bring to them and that I think comes down to you again the initial idea plus the people that are charged with understanding the product and delivering that message July times the people who are building something are all very can head down and you may have in our London engineers London developers and enterprise managers and people like that the mill is really thinking about what the end goal is they're just trying to deliver in our set of cold on time and that's fine at is very noble because that's how business is done by you that that still needs to exist after the delivery deed and if that product doesn't thrive and you have to wonder why it was even undertaken in the first place cell there is a balance to be struck but I think it really had a lot more to do with understanding the core of T2 reuse that term the core of what you're building and then 90 venue not even building features to appeal to people but building a story to appeal to people because you can take a really boring product and have it appeal to people if you show them you demonstrate the value absolutely is a good point are one of the things that I also found arm as a difference between a product that is in and I guess is the problem what I say successful versus non-successful business not that that that really is quite simple furcation and not really the point when getting out it's more a product that is efficiently created from from inception to delivery and those of the products are focused and I know that I think you we may have we may talk about as previously or all I have on the show but the fan focuses is it's very very important because what I've come across on products that tend to fracture a bit and that they tend to develop too many of these features are Oracle marketable features are core features and stuff people just someone in the group in the team has a great idea and I Goza be great year we did this in rather than spending a week working on the core features that I absolutely have to have or on your core features are also marketable features that the product should have and satisfying all the customers requirements but dog off on a tangent I'll develop this one section so you know what this does one features fantastic and I will become their pet feature unite as a project manager design lead that's your worst nightmare because it's like all about creative energy and all that talent is being directed toward something that either was not sanctioned or not fully sanctioned or not required or not arm not part of not part of the plan and is I found that to be endlessly frustrating and it's like I thought to myself for the longest time will you is that a failing of is a failing of miners in the project management role out my am I simply nots you know how do you manage that Henty balance that because you must unite would ship your foot on the back of their neck and say you will only develop this there is no room for any of your personality and your desires wishes wanting a staff you had your machine churn out code and stop complaining I guess if you're a professional in the longer you do it maybe that's more the case but at the same time I've met a lot of my guess about my problems of work a lot of younger programmers that simply don't read out responded and that there are because they enjoy life and have some degree of artistic flexibility and say you are really want to add this all this little thing it's a great idea and I'm sure the customer like it in ice will only take a few hours year sure but anyway is it just me or if you come across that now that's it's not just you usually in what we do we see it coming more from the client rate sees guard a project that you're working on fur in a large corporation and you have your key stakeholders who all have a different idea of what this thing is supposed to be ordeal and there is usually one person who has a little bit more appalled than the other people and sell that person's desires kind of bubble up a little bit more and a lot of times what you've committed to build on the idea that you've presented and what that person wants are not fundamentally opposed but their own diverging pats and you need to kind of delicately and professionally bring those two powers together to converge again so that you can still deliver the product that you want to build but also satisfied that persons need to have their idea validated and the trick is and when you you know what you what you are saying is more an internal thing like the young developer who wants his amazing code gymnastics to shine through in the product there as I was gonna be that kind of thing that you need to contend with I think that that's that's a very different kind a condition where as a manager you need to understand what that person a minute psychological rate in both cases it's it's understanding the psychology of the decisions being made and reacting to them in a way that is favourable for everybody involved so that the now the business leader at the company once his idea in the Aris that he can trumpet leader and everybody pats on the back it is what a great idea that the young developer wants to show off just what a great developer here she is and you know they both need to be handled delicately because you want the client to be happy and you want your developer to be happy in an productive bite you need to understand the point from which there are cunning and and why why there saying things are saying why they're doing the things they're doing so in the case of young developer you need to cane as convince them that they can apply those seem methods and that seemed had a thought process to a part of the project that actually is important and needs to be built to the detail that there are that there thinking about it and further businessperson you need to show them that hey we hear idea and we love it and this is how we envision it being a part of the product and its it's just kind of you have to can't just guide them back to where you need them to be in at a very tough skill to learn because as a project manager as somebody who's gonna driving a project you want anybody be happy but your bottom line is that you need to deliver on time and on budget sell there's all these kind of tensions that you need to manage and its it's tough and you really need to be you need to be flexible because sometimes things do need to change but you also need to be as rigid as you can be because everybody needs understand that they were all working to get to this point in the future and if were constantly in our injecting our personal feelings into this product as opposed to what the business has required it in whatever can get there and it's connecting others can be gaps and it can be parts that may look great dining work and I'll yeah and I think you you nailed it right there is it's about about limiting how much personality you gets between the programmer and the job that they gotta do and you I just want the great things about having complete our control over what you're doing live you develop in your own product is it you short-circuit that because you can decide you can make those decisions yourself as to okay yeah what we really want this really what I really want this really want that song I just my own priorities via the findings of course desperately not a good reason to do it if you really want to be really self-critical and an honest and fair about it and I think you should probably if you're running your own projects you should run them as though you are trying to convince other developers add that you're on on your team and that as to why you should be adding certain features so I think that's a worthwhile exercise because you should be justifying to yourself why on earth you you want to spend three days working on making a button will just write when it doesn't make a heck of a lot economic sense that say but anyway rather than get into that I guess are one of one of those situations I came across Ian with the with the younger programmer who was trying to reflect their programming skills and I I'm on much of a mention this one before but the story goes that we are doing a scarlet package for AER sewage treatment plant we did I've done you quite a few of those and is in the social planners and think oxidation debts and the ox search has a aeration and the aeration are essentially forces oxygen into the bottom of the tank through findable diffusers and as those bubbles travel up through the tank they get dissolved in the water not all of them of course but to some of them and it raises the dissolved oxygen dissolved oxygen feeds the bacteria bacteria convert the year are the organic matter shall we say into a sludge that then sinks to the bottom and that Sanyo pumped out and treated further and I rather than tears which implies work the point is that this Ghana system had indicates that aeration was functioning so this rather industrious young engineer thought they would do some beautiful code gymnastics as you call them so this nice way of putting your and make them worlds most perfect Skarda bubbles you have ever seen these things were absolutely beautiful to behold because Wally did as I followed a random track between set limits you could programmatically set the limits so that in the echo in the X direction that the bubble would weave its way from the bottom of the tank to the top as it did so adjusted is and doesn't rely because the pressure of the water changes the diameter of the bubble so is the bubble star the bottom the smaller by the time they reach the top and is less water pressure on top the bubble is much larger so yes the bottles actually increased proportionally in size as a travel up the screen to mimic exactly the way bubbles work in a real oxidation debts and are finally just as a little touch to charge to cleverly was when you turned on the actual aeration system are the tank would have no bubbles in it but as you turn it on a waiver bubbles of style the bottom and they would make their way up to the top and fill and fill the tank as a continuous stream when you turned off the aeration the bubbles would stop at the bottom but they would continue to float the ones were still on the screen which is to flood the top of the screen to the top of the tank and then dissipate it was it was beautiful I will admit it was beautiful it took him a week to program that are so 40 court 40 hours of programming now we have 40 hours of programming to waste making bubbles you write so is an object lesson this is not me be my chest saying RG is so clever but it's like I spent I think 30 minutes maybe an hour tops are doing my take on it with probably one 10th the lines of code know they won't is really random tracks they were pseudorandom are no they were not adjustable and no they didn't actually dissipate once you turned off the oxidation but you know what to to the untrained either didn't know what they are looking at the still look pretty while the same and it took me you are a ridiculously small fraction of the amount of time it took this guy and the difference was I wasn't focusing on mimicking exactly the way it is in real life is never really want to be really nitpicky about because it why didn't he didn't mimic the turbulence that is caused because all those bubbles cause turbulence on the surface there is no turbulence in the graphic yummy I could be really really nitpicky about that the point the point of the illustration is that this time that was wasted on a feature that no one asked for known really needed and yes it looked beautiful to the trained eye to the untrained eye no one cared so and that's what happens when you take a week off folks arm to come back to work and realise whatever the really so this is one of my horror stories and if you got the horror stories that in mind I'm sure there are plenty but we've only got a limited time that we can talk today so I gave her enough this wild and and and and on that note about a second sponsor of this episode and that is mandrel now mandrel is a scalable reliable and secure email infrastructure service trusted by more than 300,000 customers worldwide now and asked what is mandrel because most people understand email newsletter showing up your inbox and a lot of them come from MailChimp source mandrel while man was essentially found that the foundation of MailChimp is built on and it's been broken out to its own service for discrete emails rather than a big mailing list to think of the my transactions hence why call a transactional email and exactly how started in the two years leading up to 2012 mandrel borrowed a bunch of mandrel I MailChimp's our best engineers they promised to give back at some point and working in isolation this skunkworks project turned into mandrel which is now the largest email as a service platform on the market with more than 300,000 active customers of which I am one so let's say you run oocyte likely distortion for example any dissent feedback form confirmation emails mandrel can do that tech distortion is a stand because at CMS and runs Ray reforms as a plug-in and you just add the API keeper mandrel and that's it edges work straight away no problem as much new features are on the side arm as I've noted previously with voting and everything in it all uses mandrel as the as the email carrier for that so I have been using standard PHP mailer but since this was to mandrel's been much easier to track and debugging frankly performs better anyway so you can use mandrel percent automated one-to-one emails like password resets welcome messages confirmations and customised newsletters if you want to mandrel is quick and easy to set up and is very stable is been made for developers by developers with an ex with extensive documentation lots of different integration possibilities through the axle API and a service has very high delivery rates weblogs analytics they got all now mandrel's website has well-organised interface it has fixable templates custom tagging and advanced tracking and reporting it's also the only email infrastructure service of the mobile app that lets you monitor delivery and troubleshoot from review might be when you're out about the mandrel is also very fast servers located distribute all round the world and I can deliver your email in milliseconds I titled tech distortion from form submission email shows up within a second of submissions that quick 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I would do it there is one of those phrases and I'd allow seeing being on the show with you seems to bring out lake enterprise be business mouth are sorry hours ago it just as as we then and there was scenarios so long they're just there in there then, being casual conversation but in the context of the discussion like that they discover bubble up Yemen said it is hard to avoid I guess the problem with those sorts of business euphemisms is that once they enter conversational speech in a business environment when you're talking about business you can't help but have them creep in as well and the other thing is that you know that a lot of these expressions have a good solid basis they didn't start out being in a really annoying clichéd phrases they started actually being good phrase with a good purpose insist that because people over use them in use in the wrong context than that sort of watered down the usefulness and then suddenly becomes are the key stakeholder paradigms are shifting through cross pollination or something gone really I still have never heard parking light though I that's how the parking lot out recently I've never come across that when when Casey said that one I was laughing because I can picture it being used in a meeting over and over and over again that you think I never heard somebody is that maybe it's a regional thing but I guess if you are in a Gessner now will know why I'm in her I haven't heard in Australia but I've I've heard it in an North America when I was in Calgary Ottawa diary it was only was a Nortel thing I was figured it was a guy I think was North America the maybes are different regions in North America say that you know that the two were rathole and parking lot rathole sure that that's in here that's in it and is one of the McGrath sure and DO better again that something that you don't hear in Australia that deftly North American meeting expression so you will you be in the meeting and and some golf dogs are not rathole first time I heard that I'm sitting in a meeting going as wide as it is what whole who's what had no idea on how Ament and is then when Somerset parking lot I go to stroll in the parking lot and ice I kid you not the first, the expression I looked out the window what you are looking to find a car park about to get a lot out of the let's table this year that yes I'll go jazz acres that they think is what we hear where we are more than parking lights you know what this is great let's table that the leader which sat on it let's table it will build yet able out of that me and push and put out of them would 90 on the table doesn't mean you talk about it so is the MEI I Phi found that expression to be counterintuitive as well actually because it sounds like if you're because of your tabling a motion doesn't mean you're suggesting a motion to be discussed ice I would have thought they have an idea but we could probably have a hotel about that God please know that… Come for our heads if we do shoot okay so arm yes so get go stakeholders gate anyway are ultimately no arm ago so just as my circle back and I guess maybe then we should probably wrap up but honestly are it comes back to identifying the solid core features and not being pulled too far astray by too many marketing solely marketing based are features and I think that that's that's the key identifying nose and staying focused and that's that's the difficult because Bob online's time is always against you are able to think about it in a time as a people say wow doesn't really some some price can drag on especially if it's something that you're developing yourself for your own purposes but the truth is that if you really are objective of our time is always gonna be against you because it's a competitive market you're not the only smart cookie out there you're not the only company out there if you don't produce something quickly enough someone else can and will inevitably beat you to it and CEO were especially when you developing on platforms about platforms become more popular so back in the early days of iOS in the app store for example there was much less competition worries now there's so many people developing for the platform the platform is enormous yea it is very very competitive so you gotta use your time wisely and you can't just throw it away on a feature that sounds like it would be good for marketing purposes but is really not a core function and you just can't afford being to be sidetracked for any real significant period of time. That is not going to get you to the end of your contract to the end deliverables to where you're trying to get to and do I think that 20 people lose sight of that man might be so great if we could do this Abaddon gap that takes time and time is money but even if even Tom wasn't money time is still a problem time is always against you doubt that time time is the one resource I can get more out of and that is the thing that basically drives me and my decision-making is seen help how long is it going to take me to do these things can a shed I do them is it worth doing in our even none even in terms of projects just in terms of wavelength that's that's one of the things that panic guides MiFi processing in every aspect of what I'm doing and in a unit you tribute value certain things and certainly in business there are things that have a very in our very perceivable value by Yahtzee like he said even if time wasn't money time means you're not doing other things there are other things you could be doing in arguing because you doing this and so ultimately you need into way out what what that time should be allocated to it is an interesting way you that you express that is that our time is the one thing that you can't get more of and it got me thinking that's true because you can go back to a customer with a variation and say how your neighbours extra functionality as the variations can be next to this amount of dollars and usually if it's something I really want and their scope for you than on them on their side of the budgetary fence then you you can get that budget far more easily than you can say I know a few more weeks here this hockey was the head explode is only another month there in that there because my comeback is so that so it's a good point so I guess if I do summarise and assert points and I guess the first thing and maybe this is obvious but I think you need to be very clear exactly who the customer is because some people come to you from within the organisation from within a customs organisation asking for different features core features Michael features doesn't matter our yard essentially pushing the design directions you that it perhaps shouldn't go driving at scope creep you you have to be clear your customer actually is so that you can identify which ones frankly that you can ignore and is I think you need to be very clear in your feature classification so when someone comes in new Newcastle is a cable that's definitely a core feature we absolutely must have that if your clear upfront you know decisively which wants to focus on that's huge I also think you need to be honest about how much efforts can be required in the matter feature in October this another show on previous episodes the bottom line is there's the ability to predict how long some is gonna take and there's the the emotional aspect of being optimistic versus being realistic and that is something that is a learned skill as a very hard to the aids easy for me to save it as hard as a skill to learn about being honest means try to take as much of the emotion out of it amounts to the optimism of out of it look at past history in our even track your his track how long it takes you to develop things to design things and use that as your basis for your prediction and take the emotion out of it and be as honest as you can and when it comes those fourth-quarter activities the ones where I'm those my four quadrant thing I talked about earlier whereby you it's a it's a complex our feature and it's got a lot of interdependencies you'd be brutal in saying no to those fourth-quarter activities because if you are not brutal you will never get there because inevitably you're just you open more and more time on your just never deliver dear have any that you would add to that know I think that I think that summarises it pretty well you know it's it's tough because when you when you are building something for yourself there is any desire I think in most people to want to please that the people for whom your building and that that comes very often in direct conflict with what they're asking you to deal so it's you really it's a it's a really is a balance that needs to be struck between being very aware of what's being required of you in our you have 111 part of that you have one part of I wanted to do Java like this to be successful yet another part that is I know these people are gonna just keep adding things are keep changing things and I need to put my foot down and say hey if you want it for this praise by this deed it's gonna be vesting you can keep enough you can keep changing things in and have everything in flux and it's it it takes a line of time it takes a lot of learning and a lot of experience usually out of many people were agreed doing all these things in our rate out of college it takes a lot of time to to get these skills while in the rate balance so that everybody is happy the product ships and you feel like you maintained in a directional control over night night directional control in the sense that it's what you wanted by directional control and that you skewed it to completion successfully now I agree it's difficult it's I don't think it's definitely a skill that no one is born with it something that that you have to learn unfortunately sometimes it's it's the painful it's a painful learning lesson learning exercise and I sometimes I I sometimes feel bad when I learned some of these lessons and I learn them at a customer's expense and EEO like if if it's is rough because you you look back anything qualified out on this differently I could have saved this amount of time and this massive effort we could without support some features that they would have liked and you know but the good I despise the good news is though most the clients I've worked with have been relatively understanding so you when you're out unless you come in and do something really really and any burn a ridiculous amount of time and yet I take exception to our really doesn't happen very often most clients are pretty understanding and they want to work with you to create to get the best possible results so but definitely something you have to learn it I doubt about that here I think you know if you're if you're approaching at the rate way the relationship with the client you want it to be you wanted to be long-term and in many cases and if you're if you're coming from a place of real earnest desire that you want them to succeed through your efforts I think people people are generally more flexible than than in most people would expect and even if like you said you wish you had done things differently you can save money and put it sort of interest I think people will recognise good clients will recognise the effort that you made and if you if you do those things and have the best intentions I think you now the end product is usually good enough to suit their needs certainly not have kisses they know it could have been a lot worse because sometimes they work with groups but in the past and it has been a lot worse in your results that you think Maynard had been angry could be exemplary to them and if it if it goes up pretty well you can continue working with them helpfully and maybe take the lessons and in our build something better the next time which is in our that's that's the that's a great scenario to BN where you have a good relationship with the client and in our that the future is bright because you both understand each other and what each party once and are willing to learn together absolutely we talked a lot about on this episode about working for clients doing client work in the mid-obvious as the majority of what we we we have done in our careers and and that's fine are I guess something though that's our nickel fish are as is been doing a little bit more of recently though is some more of your own stuff arm could you talk a little bit about that before we wrap up the absolutely further for a very long time we've wanted to build our own products and it's been anything when you do client work it's tough to find the time to build around staff because the client work takes priority appears well appears your bills keeps the business going cell we found ourselves in a position at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year were in a we had a certain balance between client work and availability and we said in an hour time limit and so we decided to form a separate separate smaller companies separate Brown is affiliated with our in our company nickel/con therapy and what we intend for Debbie to be is our product team cell we have in our handful ideas with income working through that we are super excited to be able to finally do this and the only weary of the dealer was actually take a couple of us and completely cut off from client work well together so I haven't dealt with clients myself since February of this year which is in the majority of the year has been spent building in our new process and getting this thing up and going arm and in focusing on a single new product that we can be in a releasing pretty soon and it's been intense it's been a really interesting couple of months it has been a huge change from you all the stuff we talked about but just cannot touch on something that you said earlier in our we had we talked about if your building products it would be in your best interest to be arm really focused iron selling features to yourself to make sure your spending time on the railway and added something that we've really really tried to deal with with dining and intense amount of thinking and planning and every decision that we make within the app that were working on we talk about it and we make sure that it's for the right reasons and the reasons may be because we think it's in our cell feature because we think this will this is something that is quarterly experience that needs to be there and the people understand it or enjoy it for this is now this is a change to the colour that needs to be there to handle the assessor the other thing and we've approached it with the same rigour that we approach arm the claim worked in retail and it's been a really great experience because it it has not been the kind of thing that meanders all over the place with very targeted and very focused in what we want to build and when we wanted build it and the timeframe in which we had do it and sell the real test for us is gonna be in a when we release it had as the thinker forum and of course you know were were putting it out to a really crowded market but we haven't we haven't spent an inordinate amount of time on it so were kinda looking at it as a case study that this is the first time we've done this process we've going down this road and had these things in our panel all working together and it is such a different animal from the client work that we've done that even if it's night in our and an amazing success which of course we offer helpdesk is why when you hear the delight of wearing that we get along the way that I think will influence the next project that we take nine and now it's the as I said it's so different from the stuff that I been used to doing through the past 10 years resell its it's exciting it's terrifying it's in our invigorating insights all those things by its still work and still do the same kind of work just with with a different focus but since were the ones making the calls there is this extra added gravity as to is this the ratings is the wrong thing in our does this even matter will people even notice and it's been a very very strange and wonderful experience you wire sounds I am in its since February and you descended near minutes of that's nearly a whole year now so it's been at a lot of time and a lot of effort yeah I'm in the first the first part of the year was a lot of my time was spent cannily tying up loose ends unclaimed projects that I was affiliated with and also getting the process for this new kind of things started because we never dining and and the end product ourselves so there was a whole lot of planning that we wanted you and we wanted to build a minute sounds super boring but late we related documentation for ourselves to understand what it was that we were trying to deal because we didn't want to just go really do this thing and yet sure cell we bill in our decision gates and product finals and all this stuff and spent weeks and weeks just figuring out how we want to figure things out and if that sounds like incredible waste of time I would strongly disagree because I think the danger that a lot of a lot of individuals and a lot of companies find themselves in is that you don't do enough thinking upfront and now you get to a point where you are three quarters of the way through a product and you not even sure what the direction of Ezra what your planners and one of the things has been great for us is that we've been very clear the entire path as to what we were doing and how we want to accomplish it that in and of itself is extremely freeing because you're not worrying about those things you we are worried about the things that matter are you worried about your code your eBay experience worried about all the stuff you should be worried about night while we even doing this and that it took a while to inner actually start building in our family prototype to delay real production kilobyte once we got there and we felt like you we've we've done all the things we needed to do to get here… And just kind of a fly by the seat of our pants thing we were really planning for this thing to be a long-term arm a viable solution to this thing we wanted you will say how far how much further is there to go before you via word cell until it's all out there I realise that you've done some pronouncing you you we have arm we're getting close rigour and close were were probably in in other very last stages of fixing some last little bugs and things that we want to tweak by were probably gonna submit to the app store are pretty soon and were in a when I have had a D in mind yet but we later can't get it out either the end of this month or at the very beginning of December just because we are not sure without review time along Albion we probably not honour in a release rate around Thanksgiving to those kinds of other stuff that happens so were we getting very close arm the website is up you can see in our little bit about the app and I have started to plan a talk about it a little bit more and which was fine in and of itself because it is a supersecret resell on by your you were pretty were pretty close so you should be seeing it within the next few weeks and say fantastic cool can't wait there very exciting horrible we might wrap it up I think at that point some nice ending else you want to add night think I'm good I write cool well if you would like to talk more of this you can reach me on Twitter and dad John Gigi if you'd like to send any feedback please use the feedback form on the website naturally also find the show notes this episode under pod casts pragmatic if there are topics you would like me to come you can suggest and vote on them attack distortion.com/topics once you sign up for a free account to distortion.com unified pragmatic show on Twitter to see show announcements and other miscellaneous show related stuff I'd like to thank my guest host Seth Clifford for coming back on the show and what's the best way for people to get in touch with you Seth that's probably Twitter Seth Clifford on Twitter and if you'd like to see the work that we do our you can visit you confessed outcome and if you are interested in the new company and the new products you can go till he nearly does come fantastic I also present thank harvest the sponsoring pragmatic if you want to track your time quickly and easily with the ability to quickly turn those timesheets and invoices your clients with built-in support both eight hours) harvest has need checkout harvest and get harvest one word.com and sign up for a free 30 day trial today they don't try was over pragmatic at the checkout also say that hurry because of lies in January but also present so if you're looking to improve your site or at any transactional email liable integrated easily provides tracking and analysis and mental health visit mandrill.com and sign up today should sign up pragmatic to get down free email transactions the first six months or times the normal amount integrated deliver track and analyse email from everyone and our question from Vic in the chat room at source of expert that happy birthday Vic and how his question is how do you know when it's time to ditch unreasonable clients or perhaps another way of expressing that he then says is are where do you draw the line arm while that's first was a very loaded question are ultimately saying that there an unreasonable client arm maybe that is the how to define unreasonable I guess clients that keep changing their minds I would classify as unreasonable beyond that identikit spherical anticline unreasonable arm I know we reckon Seth we've only we've only done it I could count on one hand the number of times it only because in enacting a business you assume that you know you you you need to maintain a client relationship and that's your call cell in it's funny you said something earlier about taking the hardliners a designer into seeing this the words can be and that's not an there's a lot of people that I have seen online either Ray Clark about this kind of thing and taking aside stands and being like I drove my clients and this is what I I know best with a wide that's whether coming to me and I have to wonder if what kind of business they have what kind of repeat business they have and what the relationships are lake or if that's really just kind of bluster and when it comes down to sitting around a table and hashing out ideas if there actually night as in our domineering as they'd like you to think that they are because it's really it's really like any other relationship you have to you have to work at it and it's not gonna be ideal almost nil clients are ideal so you have to understand whether coming from and try to address the needs that they have and if it's really making your life miserable I think you know there's plenty of opportunities to have conversations but in terms of kicking one and just being like you were not working together as SMB only done it a couple of times in 10+ years of business and it's been yes it is an area where the client has been either abusive in no uncertain terms or we are looking at the project and seeing this as this is going to be an abject failure and it is due to this clients in our involvement this is not a healthy relationship for us to having just the way you would in our examine the relationship with a significant other and say you know what this is not good for us that's something you have to do sometimes and it's not a great conversation to have as it isn't a great correlation have in in our personal scenario but it occasionally has to happen but it's usually it's usually something that has to happen over a period of time and you really have to be sure that you want to do it you absolutely and I'm actually when you're describing I'm going back in my mind of the how many times I've actually done that and there were two customers that I can think of in 20 years where we said our we will not do business with you are because you are difficult and usually difficult from the point point of view of non-payment rate and the non-payment comes in multiple forms yea this does the strictest and simplest way to think of it is arm I I've I've asked you of invoice you for $2000 you paid assenting out as the obvious one but no I mean in terms of we can continue to ask for more and more features but when can I pay you anything additional for that and we can withhold funds stuff that you've already actually provided on the basis of this other stuff you have given us in the contract Laurel in in construction contracting Australia's it'll be grey in that respect whereby in some circumstances are then customer can get away with demanding that you provide that as a variation of four additional works and is if they'd if the end customer then does not pay you then you have rights to go and take them to court then of course they start argument how much value is worse than you you're not doing the work at cost plus a minimum percentage and it gets very messy contractually so it's easier for us it was so when I can work with you thanks for playing Sia later enabled of what we've done and we don't expect to get paid was the walk from the contract and is yet as always after a while doing that if you do a few times you are not running because like that into your standard terms and conditions so answering the question it doesn't happen often and it's not a decision you take lightly because it not just it doesn't just affect II think taking a decision like that does not just affect that one client relationship that that can if you're not careful if you do it too often I think that can drive a hardback and drive a market perception of your organisation that you are customer hostile and that will affect your ability to win work without a doubt that you and that is that is a dangerous situation you do not want that so I think is a good question but the reality is doesn't happen very often�
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People

Seth Clifford

Seth Clifford

Seth is CIO of Nickelfish and he also appears on the Iterate podcast.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, programmer, podcaster and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John has produced and appeared on many podcasts as well as Pragmatic.

What Happened to Mastodon? You can reach me on the Fediverse as explained here, just search for me on your instance of Mastodon, Misskey or Pleroma and you’ll be able to follow/remote follow me wherever you are!