Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

By: David Schuchman
Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

There are a number of approaches to managing a project including lean, iterative, incremental, and phased approaches. Regardless of the methodology used, careful consideration must be given to the overall project objectives, timeline, and cost, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders. Following these 5 P’s when starting a project will help ensure success.

Proper:  Regardless of what type of project you will undertake, there is a proper way to approach and execute each task. There are steps to follow and specific tools you will need in order to complete any project efficiently and skillfully. If you don’t know how to do something, get as much information as you can from reliable sources so that you do not miss any important steps, use the wrong tools, or attempt something outside of your skill set.

Planning: Thoughtful, detailed planning is very important when starting a project. Start by making a list of the steps or tasks that identify what you want to accomplish (scope of work), who will be involved (the stakeholders and roles), and what will you need to make it all happen (the participants, tools and budget). Be specific and research each task so that every detail has been addressed and nothing has been overlooked.

Prevents: It is always a good idea to have a Plan B in place so that you are ready to address issues as they arise.  Establishing a backup plan will prevent costly delays that can occur during a project’s execution.

Poor: If something is done poorly, why bother. Cutting corners to save money will result in a difficult execution and disappointing results. If you think hiring someone else to take on the project is expensive, wait until you see how much an ineffective manager will cost.

Performance: If you keep focused and stay actively involved with each phase of your project, every member of your team will work together to produce the best possible results.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Negotiate to Win-Win

By: David Schuchman
Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

Effective negotiation helps you to resolve a situation where what you want conflicts with what someone else wants. While some believe it is best to negotiate with the expectation of getting what they want regardless of the needs of the other party, the better approach is to get what you want while considering the needs of the other party. Negotiate to Win-Win, not to win.
When you don't expect to deal with the other party ever again, or you do not need their goodwill, then it may be appropriate to play “hardball", seeking to win a negotiation while the other party loses out. Many people go through this when they buy or sell a house, which may be one reason why negotiating a house purchase can be an unpleasant experience. However, this approach is not much good for negotiating with people with whom you have (or expect to have) an ongoing relationship, such as a vendor, service provider, employer, etc.

Playing hardball with someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship may damage that relationship and lead to reprisals later. Using tricks and manipulations during a negotiation to disadvantage the other party will certainly undermine trust. While a manipulative person may not get caught if negotiations are infrequent, this will not be the case when people work together routinely. In that case, fairness, honesty and openness are the best policies.

The negotiation itself should be a careful evaluation of your position and the other person's position, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. In an ideal situation, you will find that the other person wants what you are prepared to give, and that you are prepared to give what the other person wants. For a negotiation to be "win-win", both parties should feel positive about the negotiation once it's over. This helps people keep good working relationships afterwards.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Know Your Audience

By: David Schuchman
Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

Before you say or write anything, you need to consider the makeup of your audience and try to anticipate the type of presentation they want to hear. Salespeople are no strangers to the concept of “putting yourself in the buyer’s position.” It means that the seller (you) will consider what points to present, and your means to present those points.
Do not assume all of the people in your audience have the same perspectives as you. Everyone has different educations, income levels, present life situations. These individual life experiences are what will that form their perspective on any presented topic.

You may have heard the expression, "Open with a joke". It's often what someone hears as a point of advice when preparing for a presentation or important meeting. Opening a meeting or presentation with a joke can be a great ice breaker or put others at ease. Since technical topics can sometimes be difficult to grasp, it can also assist you in grabbing attention or creating a bond between you and your "audience". Be sensitive in a meeting or presentation that your audience will be composed of people who will all have different perceptions. Some may not appreciate your joke.

Knowing your audience — their beliefs, attitudes, age, education level, job functions, language and culture — is the single most important aspect of developing your successful presentation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Hire a Professional Contractor

By: David Schuchman
Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

A consultant is a person that is a subject matter expert who is paid to perform a specific set of tasks over a set period of time for an agreed upon sum of money. In this case, I mean for you to consider when it is appropriate to hire an IT consulting professional for your next important project.
As you approach starting a new project, take stock in the skills, backgrounds and timely availability of the in-house resources already accessible to you. Then, determine the skills and availability that you need to complete your new project on schedule. If there are gaps between those two reviews, consider bringing in consulting professionals. It’s important that the assessment of the skills, backgrounds and availability are performed objectively. An over confident or over ambitious program manager may not see these clearly (or truthfully).

What a professional consultant brings to a project are:
  • Works with you, your team and/or your management on goals and deliverables.
  • Accountability for results, schedule and costs to complete key project tasks. These tasks and goals can be identified and added to the contract, which can translate into significant economies as compared to in-house efforts.
  • A proven methodology and skill set applied to the appropriate tasks.
  • Creativity drawn from a robust base of prior experiences.
  • No significant cost of training or “experimenting” on how to complete the assignment. The consultant will focus on achieving results. Training of in-house staff can be scheduled into the project both during execution or as the final tasks to perform.

Once you determine that you will hire a consultant, you have several options for finding the right resources:
  • If your project involves purchasing a product, consider the vendor. While this may appear to be a costly upfront option (e.g. highest hourly rate), the vendor will provide well-trained product resources that will effectively perform the needed tasks.
  • Large multi-disciplined contracting companies have a variety of technical resources and specialties within their in-house staff. Some specialize in a specific set of technologies. While that can provide good value to your organization, you need to be sure the companies you speak with actually have in-house staff proficient in skill sets that your project needs.
  • An independent general contractor is a consultant who will manage your project and has access to a wide variety of the specialty sub-contractors needed on your project. It is often the case that the general contractor can be more cost effective and flexible as compared to specialty contractors since the team assembled is not limited to in-house resources. In addition, an independent general contractor typically does not have the overhead of larger firms.

Hiring a consultant can be extremely advantageous by helping you plan, manage, and implement your key project goals. The apparent cost may actually be less than the real cost when you consider the benefits gained from hiring a professional consultant for your short-term needs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Keeping Your Email Inbox Better Organized

By: David Schuchman
      Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

Email plays an important role in our daily lives, whether it’s personal or business. And we all get tons of emails whether we want them or not. When we use it appropriately, email is an incredibly useful communication tool. But, many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of email that we receive and need to respond to.
Whether you’re catching up from last week, working through a post-vacation backlog, or just clearing out junk, taking time to organize your email will help you work more efficiently. Not keeping your email organized can create challenges for you during the day, which may compound over time:
  • We can't find that important message: - It's always a terrible experience to miss an important email or not be able to locate a specific message in the mess that we call our “Inbox”. 
  • An overflowing Inbox can be a big distraction: The amount of time and effort to navigate a disorganized Inbox or email account will make you less productive. Spending excess time searching for specific messages will make you less focused on the important tasks and people that you really need to attend to.
  • No longer receive messages: All email accounts have set maximum disk space limit. If emails are left on the email server indefinitely, your email Inbox may get full. Email messages with attachments take up more space than emails containing only plain text. So, your email account will fill more quickly if you have a lot of messages with attachments. Once your email account has reached its maximum limit, your email account will not accept new messages.

Here are some steps to take to get control of your email account:
  • Purging messages: Start by sorting your emails by sender. This will help you identify the messages you no longer need and the ones you have already responded to. Go through the messages quickly and delete as much as you can. But, don’t let yourself get bogged down by any one message. Messages that are candidates for quick deletion are solicitations from vendors, stores or shopping sites, contain expired coupons and invitations, and from senders you don't know.
  • Organize your existing messages into folders:
    • "Follow up" where you’ll file the messages you need more than a few minutes to respond to. 
    • "Hold" for messages that refer to an event in the future, like an invitation.
    • "Archive" for those messages you’ve responded to and want to keep a record of. For additional organization, you can have sub-folders under "Archive" by category, sender, etc.
    • Going forward, move new messages into these categories based on the matching folder, and then get rid of everything else. Once you respond to the "Follow up" and "Hold" messages, delete those too.
  • Create rules and filters: Most email systems allow you to create rules or filters that will act upon incoming messages even before you see them. You can instruct your email system to route messages into specific folders (or delete messages) based on the sender's email address, keyword content, and other criteria.
  • Spam: Flagging unwanted messages in you Inbox as spam will cause your email system to treat similar massages as spam in the future. Check your spam folder frequently. Delete the messages that are truly spam.
  • Trash Folder; Your email system usually moves deleted messages in a "Trash" folder. While no longer in your Inbox, those messages are still in your email system hogging valuable space. Delete the messages in your Trash folder to permanently delete. then and recoup the space Better yet, change the setting on your Trash folder to auto delete.
  • Export and save important attachments: Download and save important attachments to your desktop or server. Then, delete those messages with the attachment from your email account.
  • Tweak your social media profile notification settings: Most social media sites have the ability for you to control the frequency and content for when the sites send you messages. Doing so will reduce the number of email messages you receive.
  • Export messages that you must keep: Doing so will enable you to remove the messages from your email system. But, you will maintain the messages in a file outside of your email system for posterity.
Taking control of your Inbox isn’t a once-and-done job. But, maintaining order doesn’t have to be complicated or a pain. Once you put the processes in place that work best for you, it won’t take long to turn your process into habit.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

About Mobile App Development

By: David Schuchman
      Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

In today’s busy world, people are wondering what really is mobile app development, and what is involved in producing a mobile app for their business. Mobile application development is the process of making or creating a computer application to run on one or more mobile platforms. A mobile platform is the operating system used on a mobile device.

Apple’s mobile operating system is called iOS, Google’s mobile platform is Android, RIM is Blackberry OS, and Windows is Windows Mobile.  Each platform has its own rules and requirements to make and deploy a mobile application. This is very important to understand because when making an application for mobile app development on the various mobile platforms you cannot just make one app and port it over to the next platform. You must recreate the application for each mobile platform.

When deciding which mobile application development is right for you, first consider what your overall goal is. Are you making a game, informational, utility or e-commerce product? Once you know what you’re making, then decide what platform(s) would be best for your mobile application and your targeted user community. Android has a very high market penetration. However due to the various operating system variations, Android development can be more challenging. Apple has a high number users and people are willing to pay for them. However development is more challenging to meet Apple’s requirements on being published.

When thinking about how and why to build a mobile application and begin development, it is important to think about how you plan to proceed.  Consider the following:

  • Set Your Expectation for Success: Is success x number of downloads, x amount of money earned, or x active users? Be realistic.
  • What is Your budget? The average cost of an application can range from a few thousand dollars to over a million dollars, depending on the complexity of the programming and number of mobile platforms to accommodate. It is important to define your budget.
  • What Platforms are You Going to be on? It is important to decide where your market is, what the best way to reach them is, and what gives you the biggest opportunity. Android is used on 46.9% of mobile devices*, Apple iOS on 42.6% of mobile devices, Windows is on 2.7% of mobile devices, and Blackberry and others comprise the remainder of the mobile device market.
  • What are Your Needed Features? Apps are not websites, you need to create good features that people want to use and have a good user interface. 
  • Does the Application Need Internet Access? While internet (or WiFi) access is needed to download the mobile application, consider if the mobile application needs internet access in order to be actively used (e.g. upload or download data). If it does, you need to plan for if/how it can be used when users do not have internet access.

Looking forward, it is expected that a large percentage of mobile application development will focus on creating browser-based applications that are device-agnostic (e.g. responsive web design). Browser-based applications are simply websites that are built to effectively work on mobile internet browsers.

For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.

* Netmarketshare, February 2015