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A user story describing a tool we’d love to bring to life
Thomas Koulopoulos writes these words in his 2012 book “Cloud Surfing: A New Way to Think about Risk, Innovation, Scale, and Success”:
“The cloud is exponential in its impact; it has a multiplier effect that goes well beyond the power of any collection of individual skills. What we lack is not brains but the ability to connect them.”
I’ll prepare the ground for this post by meshing up the thought above with another one from Josh Kauffman on his book “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business”:
“The best businesses in the world find ways to attract the attention of qualified prospects quickly and inexpensively.”
Now having read these statements, I’d like you to picture a day in the life of Mark. Mark is a group creative director in a global advertising agency in Madison Avenue. He manages the work for a group of very known, international brands. But he’s constantly frustrated about the overall quality of his team’s output. He has great people under him, but he thinks that the agency is too slow to find and hire the kind of diversified expertise that he now constantly needs for his ideas (programmers, 3D artists, sound designers, motion graphics experts, icon designers and/or illustrators with a very specific style). It’s just not in the business model of his agency to sustain these hires, and he would only need them on a per-job basis anyway.
Mark dreams of a tool that would help him with that.
Now imagine Mark comes across a tool called “Hand Shaker”. Hand Shaker is a cloud tool that allows Mark to define his current creative problem, starting with defining which client he’s working for at the moment.
The first battle with the agency’s IT team was won already, and Hand Shaker was adopted by him and his team. Hand Shaker is now integrated with the agency’s CRM and time sheeting system, so Mark doesn’t have to input the data of the client from scratch, or worry about manually keeping track of his time in this job.
The first thing Mark needs to do is define the situation at hand. He does that by creating a new “Project”. In this project, which acts just like a case folder. He drags and drops the contacts from the client’s team that are involved in the decision-making of this particular creative project. To lower a bit the communication overhead, Mark also adds in the creative team assigned by him to this “Project”. From now on, major milestone, highlights and important messages around this project will be sent via transactional emails to all people involved. Mark also writes a one-paragraph description of the brief to be solved. He also assigns a category to the project, let’s say “Product Launch”. His agency’s account team has already listed down a proposed budget inside the CRM, so he knows how long his airstrip is for this creative project.
At this point, Hand Shaker starts to do some magic for him. Because Hand Shaker is already hooked up to his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail and IMAP (work email) APIs, it loads for him all the interactions he and his team has had with any of the client’s contacts. The client’s contacts are also loaded with interesting information, because Hand Shaker has reached out for that in those same APIs. Things like Klout Score and latest tweets for each person are also available. He knows automatically who talked to whom, when and what’s the topic and content of the conversation.
Hand Shaker also helps out Mark by automatically looking at Behance andDribbble’s APIs for any projects done for the same client or brand. It does that by looking at the client’s information and searching these databases. It also lists all the people that have worked on these projects, so now Mark has direct access to a range of people with experience on this brand.
The project is at a stage that will need to share with client a Non-Disclosure Agreement and proceed to work on a Statement of Work document. Hand Shaker has an integrated PDF engine that pulls the client data to generate the files for those automatically, already loaded with the client’s information, and based on a template that had to be created only once. For the SoW, Hand Shaker generates a landing page on the web for the client to see and approve. Analytics tracking knows if the client has seen the document or not.
Mark now proceeds to set some project milestones, like meetings and presentation dates. Everyone involved is automatically notified, and a calendar is generated.
Hand Shaker keeps on doing its magic. It knows the client is based in a certain location (based on the address located in the CRM’s contact entry) so it goes snooping in at Sharedesk’s API for available workspaces near the client and plots all the information into a new Google Map (using the Maps API). To this map, any geographical information is constantly added, like the addresses to contacted suppliers or proposed meeting locations.
Mark has now brainstormed a bit about the creative solution to the project, so he updates the brief and writes down in Hand Shaker a few keywords based on the resources he will need: “social media strategist”, “motion graphics artist”. At this point, Hand Shaker gets Mark’s current location and reaches out to LinkedIn, Behance, Dribbble and oDesk APIs. The result is a dashboard of people that might be of help on this project. Hand Shaker’s algorithm here could evolve to start understanding better and recommending users based on a series of factors (in the future).
Mark goes on to shortlist relevant people using a simple Yes/No system. Users marked Yes are automatically sent an introductory email from Mark’s email address, containing a request for a chat and some basic information about the project. A drip emailing program keeps reaching out for users until they make contact.
All along this time, time sheeting has been automatically done using Hand Shaker’s desktop and mobile app widgets. The personnel costs for this project are being automatically tracked and deducted from the initial budget set by the account team, and invoices are generated accordingly, just waiting for the time to be sent out for the relevant client contact. Any important expenses can be added by the team as the project evolves.
Mark selects a few collaborators from the cloud, proceeds to add them into Hand Shaker with a special authorization level, and they are now shown the relevant material they need to get the work done. All working files are stored using Google Drive API, so everyone has access to everything at the same time, from just one cloud repository.
Hand Shaker uses Google Hangouts API to integrate video chatting between remote users, so they can all see their online statuses and chat with a click of the button. And so they do, until the designs, code files, iconography and copy for this new “Product Launch” project is finished.
Mark reviews it all, takes it to the client, and gets a good response from the client. The project is approved with minor issues.
Mark goes back to Hand Shaker and assigns the project as finished. At that point, invoices are shipped out to the client, and payments to collaborators are issued using either Paypal or Stripe API. The funding is debited from the project’s budget, and an hour and expenses report is generated.
Everyone de-briefs on these, and happily move on to create another project inside Hand Shaker.
This essay was originally published on December 1st on Medium
Mecenato is two months shy of the first birthday and we have tons to share
Our very public experiment of crafting what could be the next generation of a communications agency is now ten months old. So in the best “Lean Startup” fashion, I’d like to take you through the assumptions, learnings and validations that we have collected so far.
Here we go:
Physical presence is still necessary;
No Skype, Google Hangout, BBM or WhatsApp will ever solve that. Unless your portfolio is smoking hot and your recommendations come from the best brands in the world, no client will ever start a relationship with you without a strong referral, a lunch, a meeting or a chat over coffee. Conferences play a role here. It’s good to meet potential clients, and you can also use it as a place to gather your remote team for a get together.
Track your cash flow at all times;
The length of the runway, it’s called. Target Monthly Revenue (TMR) andCash Burn Rate (CBR) are probably the most important things we’ve learned so far. Every maker or entrepreneur out there should get to know these things. Check ‘The Personal MBA’ book for a quick introduction to these topics.
Less anxiety, more work, please;
With ultimate freedom comes ultimate anxiety. It’s very hard to deal with this one. We are still learning.
Yet, clients are ready if you are;
You’d think that clients would find it hard to trust an agency that doesn’t have an office, with a staff they can’t see or control. You’d be wrong. Clients are pretty much like meat eaters. They don’t want to see the slaughtering, they just want the juicy steak! As long as you have a good value and show them the goods (at or before the deadline), our experience is that the lack of all the rest has no negative effects on the perception of the agency. We’ve just done a complete interaction design job for a client in Saudi Arabia without ever hearing their voice. The work was entirely managed via a mix of Basecamp, email and our dedicated client area on our own website.
Working with agencies is still the quickest path to cash;
You call it freelacing. I call it interactive consulting. We would be talking about the same thing. Traditional advertising agencies have been our quickest path to cash by far, and working with them on interactive projects for their client’s list has been the easiest so far. The downside of it is that we build no public portfolio of our own. Yes, I do talk about the work we’ve done for Nike, Coke, Nokia, Emirates, HSBC in private meetings, but I can never publish these ideas as our own in our website. This is an issue.
I will be adding more insights and learnings as we go.
I have always been a fan of the work of Rafa Soto and his team at HerraizSoto in Barcelona, Spain. Starting with Ommwriter, a writing tool that has been part of my creative toolkit for more than two years, and was written by Oriol Ferrer Messià , a programming genius I was privileged to have worked with while at Fabrica in Italy. They have just released Notegraphy, a mobile and web application, and I decided to try it out by designing a few interesting business quotes into their template system. These were originally posted in our Facebook feed.