Uncoordinated Marketing

RFP

An article by a colleague that was written for a marketing newsletter for SMPS SF.

By: Andy McNutt

The RFP process, much like a shag carpet, is outdated and needs a good shaking up. RFPs are typically full of rigid requirements: page limits, text size, criteria to address, a due date, and other senseless directions. It’s enough to drive you insane (or more insane depending on your current situation). Is there any purpose for these requirements except to stifle creativity in the name of expediency for the client?

In the last column I asked what you’d do to make the whole process more interesting. Do you hear the crickets chirping? That was your collective answer. Perhaps I should have asked something more exciting, or maybe you were all just getting ready for the conference in Denver. Either way that opens the field up for me to fill the column with a list of really bad/genius ideas. I take absolutely no responsibility for you following these suggestions unless they work:

Text: Nothing proclaims the authority of your firm quite like Ye Olde English style fonts. It makes your submittal look like it was written by King Arthur. Didn’t Sean Connery play him in a movie? Who wouldn’t want to have Sean Connery on the project? Your RFP will sell itself on that image alone.

Graphics: Clip art is criminally underrated. People make a living developing those images. In the interest of keeping the economy going it’s up to us to use as much as possible. Select graphics that are topical to the paragraph they’re associated with. A rubber duck when discussing a pre-school is fine, a race car when talking about infrastructure is a rookie maneuver.

Project Descriptions: Face it, not every project is exciting. Sometimes the only description you can get from your staff is “Oh no, I’ve been trying to forget about that one” or a “You know, the usual”. Liven it up by writing the description in iambic pentameter. If you weren’t an English major, the default on this is haiku. If that’s still too much of a challenge then just make it rhyme.

Team Resumes: I can’t stress enough how important exclamation points and Random Capitalization are! Your chosen PM doesn’t have just 20 years of experience; he has TWENTY YEARS of Experience!!!! Include their headshot along with a word balloon of an inspirational catchphrase. For PM’s: The Buck Stops Here! For assorted team members: Reach For the Stars!!

The Interview: It could happen, and when it does you need to be prepared. The panel is usually most impressed by coordination so dress your team in a matching uniform. I don’t mean similar ties and jackets. Ever see a Devo video? There’s your inspiration. Stop by the local Army/Navy surplus store so you can also deck everyone out in medals. Explain that it’s for the Great OSHPD Campaign of ’06. Naturally, the PM will demonstrate seniority by wearing a cape and sword. And when it comes time for the Q&A period, forget the typical response of addressing the points that were raised. Engage their interest with interpretive dance. Remember to limber up ahead of time. Pulling a muscle would be a faux pas.

A PDH (Project Description Haiku)

Smoke control testing
It’s so dark in this hallway
Flashlight lost down duct

I didn’t say it had to be good. Just mildly relevant.

American Airlines Debuts Mobile Boarding Pass

mobile barcode

Your cell phone may help you avoid the long lines at the airport this holiday season, as American Airlines is implementing a mobile boarding pass program at select airports. These services have been available for a few years already in Japan and, to a lesser extent, in Europe.

In partnership with the Transportation Security Administration, the airline will enable customers to receive a two-dimensional bar code on their cell phones that will act as a boarding pass. The program is in trial at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and will soon expand to domestic flights from Los Angeles International and John Wayne Orange County airports.

“Customers who choose this option can bypass printing a boarding pass at their home, office, or even at the airport to board their plane. They can go straight to security and then to the aircraft,” said Mark DuPont, the company’s VP of airport services planning, in a statement.

To use mobile boarding passes, customers have to have an active e-mail account and a phone that’s Internet-enabled. When the customers check in via the airline’s Web site through a desktop or mobile, they will have the option of getting a boarding pass sent to an Internet-enabled mobile device. Once the customers are at the airport, they can proceed directly to the security checkpoint where airport personnel can scan their phones.

American Airlines is just the latest airline to dabble in the mobile space, as Continental and Delta have been testing similar boarding pass programs in cooperation with the TSA.

Using cell phones and smartphones to check it was greatly boosted by the 2007 decision by the International Air Transport Association to introduce a global standard for boarding pass bar codes. The association represents about 93% of international air traffic, and all airlines must have bar coded boarding passes — paper or digital — fully implemented by 2010.

The ability to scan these two-dimensional barcodes off a phone is also the technology being used to keep financial and personal information on phones that allow users to make purchases and enter restricted areas at work places.

The obvious risk is that now consumers will need to protect their phones even more since personal and financial fraud can now be perpetrated with a stolen phone.

some information and images linked from Information Week.

Quick Turnaround Usability Testing

quick turnaround
More often than not, a contract will be offered to me just as the client is about to go live with their website, or release their product. This not only requires some focus on the glaring usability issues, but also puts a time constraint on assessment, implementation, testing, analysis and reporting of the usability tests.

Here is part 1 of a good article by Paul Nuschke on Boxes & Arrows about doing quick turnaround usability testing.

It starts with any number of scenarios: Design and development have taken too long to produce a prototype, you need to release in three weeks, and you suspect there may be design flaws. You are trying to incorporate usability testing into an Agile development process. Or maybe you simply want to pare down your process to make it shorter and less expensive.

Completing usability testing quickly is a challenge anywhere but especially in consultancies, which have to overcome additional challenges, such as learning a new application. To assure success on these projects, I’ve developed a quick turnaround usability testing methodology (QTUT) that minimizes the time needed to complete testing. In Part I of this article, I discuss how to make the first three steps of QTUT—Sales & Kickoff, Recruitment, and Preparation—as short and efficient as possible. In Part II, I will discuss the final two steps: Testing and Analysis & Reporting.

Steps in the QTUT Process

Step 1: Sales & Kickoff
Step 2: Recruitment
Step 3: Preparation
Step 4: Testing
Step 5: Analysis & Reporting
Sales & Kickoff

A new client or a group within your company has approached you about doing usability testing. They need the results next week, which works out to six business days from today. What should you do?

Before a project kicks off, we typically have a number of discussions with the client to understand their goals and deadlines for our engagement. However, in QTUT, each day spent in the sales and kickoff process takes a day away from testing and analysis. To help our sales team conduct initial discussions efficiently, we’ve prepared a one-page guide outlining the do’s and don’ts of QTUT.

One critical “do” for our sales team is that they should discuss the method with the client and immediately set deadlines for our testing results. Starting with the final due date, an experienced tester can work backwards to determine the dates for testing, beginning recruitment, and finishing the test plan.

It’s also important to review expectations with the client. For example, current clients typically expect a certain level of quality in our deliverables. When we compress a week of work into one day, delivering a perfect document or presentation is impossible, so simply reviewing the timeline and discussing how we plan to shorten the process is extremely helpful.

Since the project must start very quickly, our sales staff and project team use part of the kickoff as a working session. During this working session, we develop specific goals, learn what types of results will be helpful, develop an initial list of testing tasks, and learn about the users that we need to test the application. We also compile a list of what we need from the client. Depending on the project, we may need:

* Information about users for both recruiting and for writing the test script. For example, do people regularly use the application or do they only use it occasionally?
* Training materials for the application and a subject matter expert who can answer questions.
* Background information, feedback, or previous testing materials that give context to the current design or may help us to write screeners and test scripts.
* Access to a stable application, especially when it is under development.

Sales & Kickoff Tips

* Create a “Do’s & Don’ts” guide to help team members through the process.
* Avoid clients who are rigid, who prefer not to participate in the process, or who want long reports.
* Use the kickoff as a working session to learn about the participants and potential tasks.
* Have a facilitator available with the domain knowledge needed to quickly learn the application.
* Refine your methodology before you have a project.

Recruitment

Before starting the project, you called several of your favorite recruiters to see if they could meet the deadline. You’ve gotten information about participants during the kickoff meeting, and now you simply need to write a screener in less than two hours!

Recruiting quality participants is a big challenge. There are two key components to recruiting: writing the screener and scheduling the participants. The screener is a list of questions used to filter out participants who are not appropriate for your study. Scheduling involves calling potential recruits, asking the questions on the screener, and scheduling participants who qualify and are available.

Because scheduling is time-consuming, it’s critical to write the screener immediately; in fact, we often start and finish the screener immediately after the kickoff meeting. That’s why it’s important to get information about participants during this meeting.

The level of effort required to recruit depends upon whether you’ve recruited similar participants before and whether you handle the scheduling internally or externally. If you’ve recruited similar participants before, you can reuse the same screeners almost verbatim. To facilitate recruitment for new participant types, we’ve built a list of standard questions so that, at worst, we need to write only a few new questions. In addition, we use a screener template that has our facility procedures, location, and contact numbers; the facilitator need only fill in the specific test questions.

External schedulers. We typically use external schedulers, which is particularly helpful for QTUT, because it takes burden off the facilitator. I highly recommend contacting your external recruiters before agreeing to do a study to see if they can meet the timeline that you need. If at least one of your external recruiters cannot meet your timeline, do not hesitate to ask your client for assistance before agreeing to the study.

Internal schedulers. If you do your own scheduling for QTUT, you may have a list of participant leads in house, so writing a screener isn’t always necessary. However, depending on your timeline and your success rate when calling, it’s often necessary to ask your client or a co-worker to make the calls for you.

You might be tempted to schedule testing sessions very closely together in order to complete more sessions per day. However, we find it more efficient to leave time between sessions in order to quickly debrief and begin analyzing what we observed during the previous session (I’ll discuss this analysis method in more detail in Part II). You may also need the extra time to modify the testing script as needed before the next session.

Recruitment Tips

* Start recruiting as soon as possible.
* Create a screener template so that you only need to write the questions.
* Reuse questions from past screeners.
* If you do your own recruiting, ask a coworker to make the calls for you.
* Budget more money than usual when using third party recruiting firms.
* Screen carefully but avoid particularly restrictive screeners.
* Schedule backup participants (“floaters”) to cover multiple time-slots in case a participant fails to arrive.
* Leave time between participants to summarize results and to change the tasks as needed.

Preparation

You’ve started recruiting. You are familiar with the application type but you need to learn this particular application. You need to write the tasks and questions for your test script and you need to clear them with your client.

With recruiting underway, you can turn your attention to learning the application and writing the test script.

One critical note in our sales guide is to avoid aggressive timelines for applications in unfamiliar domains or those which require extensive training. Even if you’ve followed this advice, you will still likely need to learn certain aspects of the application.

It may seem obvious, but you cannot learn an application if you do not have access to it. Often the clients who come to us are still developing the application, so be sure to schedule adequate access to a stable version.

After you’ve had a chance to learn the application, writing tasks and questions for QTUT is similar to a normal study. We rely on client stakeholders more than usual because they help to prioritize testing needs and to identify key tasks. In QTUT, most clients are releasing soon so they’re more interested in finding easy-fix problems than in statistical data or qualitative feedback. Consequently, we tend to focus our effort on creating tasks vs. writing a lot of questions. You also need to consider what you can realistically summarize quickly. For example, if it takes two hours to compile error rates, then eliminate error tracking from your test plan.

We run pilot tests as early as possible because they help us more rapidly iterate and improve the script. Keep in mind that you probably will not have perfected your script when your first participant arrives, so you may need to modify slightly the tasks and questions between sessions.

Preparation Tips

* Avoid gathering data that takes a lot of time to compile and analyze.
* Use open-ended questions such as “Tell me about what you did yesterday at work” and allow time for discussion with the participant in order to learn about them during their session.
* For tasks that require more information that you currently know about participants, use a series of questions to build more realistic tasks.
* Use Likert-style scales to get data if you need it, and rely less on task completion data (as your tasks may often change).

I eagerly await Part 2 and will post a link here when it is published.

12 Quotes on Technology from Barack Obama

super obama
original post HERE.

The historic U.S. Presidential election has come to an end with Barack Obama emerging victorious against John McCain. Obama will become the forty-fourth President of the United States and the first African-American to be elected for the highest office.

* “To restore America’s competitiveness, we must recruit a new generation of science and technology leaders by investing in diversity.”
SOURCE

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“Together, we could open up government and invite citizens in, while connecting all of America to 21st century broadband. We could use technology to help achieve universal health care, to reach for a clean energy future, and to ensure that young Americans can compete — and win — in the global economy…”
SOURCE

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“I will recruit new teachers and make new investments in rural schools, we’ll connect all of America to 21st century technology and telecommunications.”
SOURCE

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“We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet.”
SOURCE

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“As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”
SOURCE

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“Ensuring that the US continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration.”
SOURCE

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“I’ll change the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology.”
SOURCE

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“We will fire government managers who aren’t getting results, we will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money, we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government.”
SOURCE

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Obama said the nation needs to invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and clean coal technology “so the use of coal does not degrade our environment. We can do that if we are investing in the technology, the research and the development.”
SOURCE

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“We must adapt and make tradeoffs among systems originally designed for the Cold War and those required for current and future challenges. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft–which may not be glamorous to politicians, but are the backbone of our future ability to extend global power.”
SOURCE

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Obama said if elected his government would “harness technology to confront the biggest challenges that America faces”.
SOURCE

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Pointing to President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon, Mr. Obama said: “I will set big goals for this country as president – some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist.”
SOURCE

Portfolio Pieces Added to the Site

bad google

I have been a fan of Google and continue to enjoy many of their fine products.

That being said, I had to move my sites from their hosting services as things were too difficult to have and keep creative control over. They changed the nameservers all the time and put up additional advertising and other links that were causing some trouble.

Now I have moved all my domains over to Go Daddy. I have simplified everything by having them all point to the same pages (for now). [updated 7/25/2010]I have also decided to utilize WordPress templates and plugIns to simplify my life. I find that as I focus more on testing and UCD business strategy, I am wanting to spend less and less time on web design and content management.

While the layout is simple and I have not included any of my Flash or Flex interactivity, I have uploaded some of the newer portfolio pieces and would appreciate any feedback about the new colors.

I will be adding additional graphics to the pages at a later time, but I felt the content was important to get up first.