Tag: agile

Geek Pride

geek pride day

25th May is Geek Pride Day and much of our business at weheartdigital is dependent on geeks to get it right #geekprideday! As a digital agency we come across a wide range of projects in many different subject matters and lots of diverse industries.  In a usual day we can be discussing fishing, automotive, social networks, podcasting, sport, video streaming and more.  The context switching requires an agile brain and also makes one rather good at pub quizzes.


So often though, we are introduced to a business which is a Start-Up or an SME with a product already in existence. Usually they talk to us (especially in the latter case) because they need help with their digital baby as production is not going according to plan. We like to help by solving issues, hitting milestones and making things beautiful.


Let’s Think about a Shiny Lean Startup…

Someone has a great idea – to sell something, fix an issue in the world, create a network, improve a widget and disrupt the normal way of doing things.  If they are talking to us, it’s digital, it’s online, it’s an app, or a mixture of all these things.  This is all wonderful; ideas are great, “we will be the next Gates, Zuckerberg or Jobs in 5 years”, we are told.  Business plans, EBITDA spreadsheets, a Lean canvas – all wonderful stuff – has been written and presented.


Then less wonderful stuff starts appearing – “We definitely want it built in an HP and have something with a Red Hat.  And it needs to have WTFAITA system with TWAIN and IPv6 not 4.  We don’t want it in WordPress, we have heard that’s rubbish* and not .NET, we hear it’s more expensive**.  Custom, bespoke out of the box solutions – I hear that’s the way forward.  And HTML6 isn’t it and needs to be repulsive? Its needs to work on all things, including pagers, Post-It notes and my mate Jim’s carphone.”


Ok, slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.


The point is, you wouldn’t go to a vet to get your ingrown toenail removed, or ask a car mechanic to fix The Shuttle.  weheartdigital are here to advise you on the best technical solution to meet your needs. Our team has years of experience, degree level educations in Computer Science and a wealth of projects successfully delivered #geekprideday.


* Approx. 1/3 of ecommerce online uses WordPress and Woo


** no it isn’t, honest


…and the Not So Lean Start-Up

Here are the businesses who have launched, have a digital presence, have a digital agency looking after them and have a great big tick in the box – well done, hurrah, nice work.  You are out there.


But then things can change and your existing digital agency is perhaps no longer meeting your needs. You have grown and changed.  You have staff, you have P&L, hopefully some investors, definitely an accountant and  you want an Rest API, you want an App, you want Google to find you.  You are wiser and start to question your partner agency, why they can’t deliver what you need when you need it?


You are also becoming very digital indeed, you are growing a network of digital people, you meet new suppliers.  All great stuff.  Then you decide it’s time to change supplier – you have found a new, fresh company who will make it amazing, and costs will be slashed, and they still wear jeans to work and go out on a Friday.


You ask your original partner for the code base, it’s your product after all, you paid a 6 figure sum to get them to build it.


‘Nope’ is the reply.


‘Please’ you say.


“Read the contract you signed 5 years ago, section 6a part 2 paragraph 3” you are told.


It’s there, in black and white.  They own the codebase.  You have no right to modify it, and have no access to the source. You own a big fat nothing. To go somewhere else, you need to rebuild it from scratch.


Top Tips when working with a digital supplier.

  • Don’t decide on technology –  focus on the user experience and success criteria.  A decent supplier will recommend the best tech for the job.
  • Get estimates from a few people to get a balance of the costs with an indication of budgets.  These are variable, and sites can be made in many, many ways.
  • Do not sign anything that means you do not own your IP (it might be a good idea to go and check your contract right now).
  • Make sure you have a written statement saying the code is yours and when it gets handed over.
  • Keep the code safe, in the cloud, locally, and on memory sticks.
  • Understand what existing products are part of your solution which aren’t your own.
  • Check under what conditions your partner can withhold the codebase.
  • Check your hosting costs are competitive for the traffic you’re generating.
  • Make sure analytics are part of the build – if you can’t measure it then it’s pointless.
  • Don’t accept that it can’t be done, it can, but also accept there are costs involved and nothing really takes 2 minutes.

Open source and Outsource

It’s been an interesting week overall and one which has made me ponder on two very different topics.

Open Source
I went to a very interesting presentation this week (breakfast at The Ivy darling) to hear about the use of Open Source. It was put on by The Reading Room (thanks btw, very decent of you) where they got the CEO and two clients to talk about Open Source. These days most non nerds think Open Source as CMS – WordPress/Drupal/Magento. Glad to hear at this presentation that its acknowledged that its a billion times more than that. Also, very interesting to hear the views that Open Source is big business, not bedroom coders doing bedroom coder stuff. I pondered on this while walking across London and really couldn’t remember the last time we as a business recommended a CMS, CRM or any other acronym based thingy which wasn’t Open Source. Actually thats a tiny lie, I have told a few people that Kashflow is my favourite accounting system..

One thing I think missing from the evaluation of Open Source is the balance between the fit with the project and the overhead of the bespoke bit to ‘make it work’. Projects need to look beautiful, need to be creative and need to be not constrained by the tech underneath that most don’t care about. When considering a paid bit of software (remember the good ole’ days) due diligence was a massive part of choice and speaking to the vendor’s sales team, tech team and cleaner was normal to make sure it fitted. But with Open Source, just to pick one out of the air, Drupal, who do you speak to? Who will make sure that its architecture is correct? Who will match it up with the Agile board/roadmap, wish list? I guess the answer is the agency pitching to do the work. But then most people can make a square peg fit in a round hole if its their favourite, most experienced bit of software. Oddly, in those days this evaluation was a expensive piece of paid work, now its just part of the pitch…isn’t it?

Thats why I like the model we use, a small core team then huge base of trusted contractors who we can work with and get opinions for new projects. They may be biased to their preferred tools, but they aren’t one unit. So you get a nice balanced assessment. Which does bring nicely onto the other title bit…

This week I have come across two totally separated projects that have fallen to the dreaded over promised delivery of work by out sourced businesses abroad. Most weeks I come across some project that has gone critical and asked to help, but what made me ponder was both were from the same country in Eastern Europe.

When you say outsourcing to most people on the UK (and I guess USA) they have an image of 12 million Indian developers in a terraced house working on green screen monitors making lots of shouty noises. I guess that could be the case, but really? No, not really actually.

“In business, outsourcing is the contracting out of a business process to a third-party”

Wikipedia doesn’t lie…

There is no wording in the above that says ‘must be sweat shop’ or ‘must be Indian or Eastern European’ or ‘must be paid $1 a day’.

So why do they fail so often. Are the coders rubbish? There is the idea that the good ones move to the US or UK to earn proper money, so the ones over there are the [politely] less good. I think that is horse pooh. What about the good ones who have families and whose children are at school and think the idea of living in the west is horrid? So bin that statement, like any team, some members are amazing, some are good, and some are, um, good[ish]

I think most of these projects go wrong because they were on the road to crashing BEFORE people went to outsource. Or, they wanted to get it developed for no money. Or they were clueless at Project Management. Or they had no one on side who was technical to validate, write requirements and check stuff. Its more a case of throwing bombs over fences then moaning that they went off. Its also a case of assuming everyone works the same. There are massive cultural and language differences at stake here, it doesn’t mean someone is wrong or lied or bullsh*tted, it means they didn’t understand, didn’t like to say they don’t know, couldn’t argue with the client. To work like this as product owners we need to respect and learn about the team doing the work. Like you would if they were inthe same office.

Thing is, all of the clients we have at weheartdigitial mean they have outsourced to us. And I have colour monitors and a coffee machine. And we outsource also, to the engineers we use who are not PAYE. And we deliver projects all the time, and have happy clients. Its not because we only use UK based people (we do this not because we feel outside of the UK they are rubbish, certainly not, but because we only use mates we have worked with for years, and feels ‘right’ to us to pass money through the UK economy) its because we check requirements, we communicate and we actively badger clients who don’t seem to be ‘in’ on projects they are paying for.

Hmmm, this sounded like a rant today, I thought this would happen but not in the second post! Teach me for being old.

In summary Open Source is great, but not the golden challis and needs as much thought as non Open Source, and I love Indians.


Digital isn’t just projects…

It’s funny isn’t it, I have been meaning for yonks to right thoughts about this digital space we work and live in. And then, this digital space prompts me to do it. So cheers LinkedIn, thanks for reminding me that I don’t get round to stuff, and thanks for helping me get round to stuff.

Todays thought is possibly a slight rant. When creating/developing and building beautiful things online, the tendency over time is to think of it as ‘a project with a deadline’ or ‘£nnnn.nn revenue which needs invoicing’ or sometimes ‘the thing we have to do for that client who keeps on emailing us’. We, as people who love this digital stuff need to treat ALL projects the way a musician writes a song, or an artist paints a picture and stay focused on what is right, what works and what makes people smile.

When I used to to TV stuff, to make developers think less thats its just code, and more that its a real thing with real users, we would get them to check stuff out on their TV at home, or their mums TV – suddenly it becomes real. Same with web, tablet and mobile (new Acronym maybe WTM), move away from your desk, borrow your partners phone, Chromecast it to a TV, check it out at a mates house, anything that gently reminds you that users aren’t part of the project team and need to just ‘get it’ – the 2 second rule.

Then a project will not just be The Good Enough Line; it will be something to show off, something to be proud of, something to add to your CV.

Rant over, soap box away now…

(As long as we don’t end up with The Homer…)