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4 results returned for "Paul D'Angelo"

Wednesday, Dec 7th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Do You Even Blog?

Blogging. Why on earth do we do it? Do we really have THAT much interesting information to share? Is it really necessary to constantly bombard the internet with more hot takes, insights, and opinions from "experts"? Why does our marketing BOSS Lizzie constantly harass us for new posts, even though I literally just wrote one like, 4 months ago? Does it actually help our business?

While the quality of the content and the resulting noise from so many people oversharing every thought and opinion is a topic for a much lengthier discussion that we can tackle in another post, the act of consistently posting new content is extremely beneficial, and you should all be so lucky to have a star like Lizzie on your team! (I swear she didn't pay me to say any of this.) Posting new content improves your search rankings when bots crawl and index your site, and keywords in your posts can help drive traffic as well.

In addition to the direct benefits, content plays an important role in giving your brand a voice, and can help solidify yourself as a thought leader in your industry, assuming you are on the right side of the above comment regarding quality content and not just noise. So how do you manage to put out consistent insights without recycling the same ideas, wrapping them in different buzz words and adding to the noise? First, create a realistic schedule, and then put a system in place such that you will have a backlog for when people miss their deadlines (it's inevitable). Next, have people write about things they are NOT familiar with, but want to learn about. Sharing your own learning experiences is a great way to reinforce your own knowledge and ensures the content will be easily digestible for most readers.

Finally, embrace the process! Writing content can be a tedious, stressful experience that is to be avoided whenever possible, but it doesn't have to be. Too often the day to day grind of our jobs (and lives) make it difficult for us to continue pursuing knowledge and learning, and I personally think that the role technology has had in putting virtually unlimited information at our fingertips has actually made us less knowledgeable, but we can save that for another discussion. Use the chore of writing for your company as an opportunity to explore new ideas. Who knows, you may learn something! At the very least you will make Lizzie happy, and that's definitely worth it.

Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Wanted: solutions looking for problems

While planning, researching and writing this blog, the following tools were used:

  • Slack to receive countless reminder messages to write this thing already...(Cough Lizzie)

  • Trello to add a card to remind myself when it was due
    Google doc to write it

  • Trello again to gather research

  • Oh sh#t, I put some of those links in Slack too

  • Damn it where did I save those screenshots?

  • There they are, in the Google Drive

  • Ok done, the Google Doc is shared in the drive

  • What? Ok I will Slack it to you too

  • Wait now you want me to post it to Trello because you can't find it in Slack?

Talk about more than one way to skin a pig...

If this sounds like a familiar scenario, then you are not alone. While the boom of productivity tools continues to surge, the market is becoming saturated with an overwhelming variety of options to in theory, help streamline your day. In reality, the glut of "solutions" has created a vast ecosystem of tools that, while often integrated with each other, lack a central home base to help the user make sense of it all. A One app to rule them all, one may say. We've stumbled into a situation where the solution for streamlined processes and increased productivity is more processes and tools than we can effectively manage. Isn't that Ironic? Don't ya think?

So which tools are the best? Does Trello save your documents and tasks in the most efficient way? Is Asana the PM'iest tool out there? Should I Slack? I always hate Slack's delay on mobile, should I have one chat for interoffice and another for mobile? Obviously we have Google Mail, should we use Google Drive too for document storage? Dropbox has such a clean ux, and is awesome, especially for design work. Maybe we can use Dropbox for images/visuals, and Google Drive for everything else...

Rather than bore you all to death with my 2.5 cents regarding all of the options out there, I want to discuss something else. With the level of sophistication required to simply get to market, the incremental improvement between option A and option B is negligible. Instead, I want to talk about how to get the most out of their tools, whatever they may be, because a true craftsman should never blame their tools...who doesn't like a good cliche`.

The first step is to assess what your current needs are, as well as what your needs will be in the future. What is good enough to get the job done now may not be able to support you 6 months down the road, and the switching costs from platform A to platform B are tangible. Additionally, it's tough to find the solution when the problem is not clear. At the same time, begin collecting information as to the options available, and what each is capable of. With virtually every platform employing some variation of the Freemium model, it's easy to simply ignore the paid options. Don't! Assess each option independent of their cost. Remember, freedom isn't free...

Once you have a clear idea as to your needs and the options out there, ask around for some insight from others in your industry, as well as have a discussion with your team to solicit their feedback. Getting their buy-in is critical, but it's also important to not get stuck trying to make everyone happy. Since everyone will have their own preferences, and these will rarely align perfectly, an objective viewpoint is necessary to ensure the best decisions for the group are made.

After you've talked things over with the team, its decision making time. It's important that you don't compromise your solution by prioritizing free over useful. As we discussed earlier, most platforms have some basic free option, and many companies can get by cobbling together a Frankenstein of 6 free tools. However this simply creates more friction and drastically reduces the overall potential impact on productivity. Most paid options are still reasonably priced to say the least, so choosing the best set of tools will pay for itself in time saved.

Once you have made your decision, the most challenging part will be not only getting the team to buy in, but also getting the team to commit to consciously using the tools. There are many different ways to manage the transition from the old to the new, but the most important thing is that you develop and plan and stick to it. Depending on your team's tendencies, the bandaid approach, where you clean house and roll out everything over a short period of time may work best. Gradually transitioning project by project to new tools until your entire current workload is connected is another option. Regardless, consistent effort is key.

If the team does not commit for the long haul, then nothing will seem to work, and your team will begin to look for different tools because the current ones suck. To convey the effort necessary, it's important to provide specific timelines to help manage expectations. In this article by Jason Selk for Forbes, he talks about the myth of habit formation in 21 days and the real challenges needed to create good habits. He references business coach Tom Bartow's model of the 3 phases of habit formation:

Phase 1: The Honeymoon
Fairly self explanatory. You start using your new tool and everything's great. This is so easy! I am CRUSHING it this week. I may as well stay home Thursday and Friday because i'm going to do 5 days worth of work in 3 at this rate...

Phase 2: The Fight Thru
You start to encounter situations where you default to your old habits, rather than the new process or whatever it may be. You are pressed for time, and know that you'd save time if you just went back to what you are used to. Winning 2-3 "fight thru's," where you encounter these moments and are able to stick to the new script is essential for these new habits to take root.

Phase 3: Second Nature
After battling through phase 2, you typically settle into a new routine and feel good, and are on your way to a better life. To ensure you stay on track, they go on to describe 3 common speedbumps that can knock you off course, The discouragement monster(we all know him), Disruptions(my throat hurts and the only thing that seems to help is this whole gallon of ice cream), and the seduction of success(see I was able to sustain it for 4 weeks, I can basically turn it on and off, no need to do this all the time).

Managing change is always a challenge. These challenges only get harder when it entails simultaneously changing multiple habits, and the success is dependant on the everyone buying in. Nobody said it would be easy! But like any challenge, people can change. All it takes is time, patience, and maybe a small miracle or two.

Tuesday, Sep 13th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Ready, Fire, Aim

We've all been there before. You need something asap, and resources are scarce. You've been cobbling together a production ready site with the help of a rotating cast of freelancers and friends, and just need this final piece to get you fully operational. You are so close you can taste it. The final pieces are so obvious to you, you begin looking for help with little more than a 2 sentence overview explaining how you just need a quick fix and that a 2 week should be more than enough time.

You narrow down your search to three potential partners, and explain to them how easy this project will be, briefly outlining the simple quick fixes. When pressed for greater detail, you brush them off, emphasizing the urgency needed and how explaining now will simply slow things down. After a few exchanges over price, you settle on a team you like, and get started.

During kickoff, your team digs a little deeper in to your existing code. During the process, they identify a few issues that you had not anticipated, including some API's that you thought would be simple to integrate with, but in fact are not. You assure them that everything else will be a breeze, and agree on a few areas to begin working immediately. A few days later, those immediate areas also need extra clarification, and you still haven't figured out how to proceed with the previous API issue. As you head into the second and "last week" of the sprint, you find yourself scratching your head wondering how at the halfway point, you suddenly have more questions than answers.

This kind of misplaced urgency happens far too often, and virtually everyone loses in the process. While urgency is a key component in most scenarios, if misplaced it can be a counterproductive force that can cause delays or much worse. With a little patience, more in depth discussions prior to beginning the engagement would've allowed for a greater understanding of what was needed, with potential hold ups being identified earlier and mitigated. How do you protect yourself against such dastardly urges??

Slow down
Whether you are starting a new venture, adding a new feature, or simply behind the 8-ball for a deadline, be sure to give yourself adequate time to think through the problem thoroughly. The moments where you feel there is too much to do to stop and think are usually the times that it is most important to do just that. When in doubt, ask yourself what would Ghandi do? "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one."

Have a plan
You have spent the past 6 months working day and night bringing your idea to life, and you have a deep, intimate knowledge of every facet of your dream. Guess what? Joey Javascript that you just hired most likely is not a mind reader, and it's going to take time to get him familiar with the code, let alone immerse himself in how the platform is going to serve your mission. The clearer the picture you can paint for the team for both the immediate needs and how it relates to the big picture, the more efficiently they will be able to deliver.

Listen to your team
If the oncoming team doesn't have any questions at all, that should immediately set off all the alarms. Anticipate having to spend extra time clarifying issues and do not dismiss any questions or answer them half heartedly. Any Development team worth their code will give their best effort to deliver in a timely and accurate manner, and any questions are to that end. If you are frustrated that the answers seem so obvious and suspect the team is dragging their feet, please remind yourself of the previous revelation that most are not in fact mind readers.

Know when to compromise
You've been working tirelessly to get things just right, so there's no way you were going to give up now right? You can just impose your will on your team to get them to dig a little deeper, and get it to the finish line. While that sounds inspirational, it can also be dangerous. Not only can it create friction between you and your team, delaying launch just to ensure things are "perfect" can cost you valuable time. The sooner you get your product in front of people, the sooner you start collecting real data.

And know when to stand your ground...
Yes I know I literally just told you to compromise, but sometimes you do need to keep pushing for those final details and features. Nobody said this was going to be easy! How do you decide what's what? Ask yourself, is making this feature, functionality, screen etc being x% more perfecter going to lead to a x% greater chance of success of the product? If yes, then adjust your timelines accordingly, and make sure it's right. If not, and your current situation is "good enough", then get your product going as soon as possible, and can continue to refine as you go, armed with additional real user data to help guide you.

Urgency is a tricky thing. While it can narrow our focus and help us achieve great things during intense deadlines, it can also consume us and cause us to completely blow it. You could say that Urgency is to panic, as pressure is to stress, but that's a discussion for another time. For now, just remember to periodically slow things down, especially when you need them to move the fastest.

Monday, Mar 28th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Miniseries Part I: The Courtship

The Courtship
At NYC Devshop, we are fortunate to enjoy great relationships with all of our clients. This isn't just because we are a fun, charming, highly skilled and devastatingly good looking group, although it helps! Rather, these relationships are built through a consistent effort to communicate openly and transparently with our clients, and always work with their best intentions in mind. All of our relationships start out differently, as our clients come to us from a variety of skill sets, technical sophistication and past experiences. To best prepare you, our future collaborators and clients of Devshop, for what to expect Devshop is sharing a 6 part miniseries to walk you through the development process, from first meetings to final handoff, and everything in between.

First Steps:
Episode I of our thrilling anthology outlines the very beginning of our journey; The Courtship. Our clients come to us from a variety of industries and company sizes, with needs ranging from simple add-on features to massive rebuilds. The key to us identifying what your needs are, and how we can help, is what kind of information we are given early on. If someone comes to us with an idea that has not been written down, has not been thought through, and does not include a solid business strategy around it, our options are limited to say the least! The more details that you provide when approaching Devshop, the more accurately we can estimate expected work and the more successful our relationship will be.

Initial Planning:
After the "discovery" phase, we then dissect what information we have to create an initial plan, reiterating what we understand the idea to be and outlining the features needed for us to deliver on our end. This also allows us to provide an initial estimate to you. This number is rarely the final number! It simply serves as a baseline where, for X amount, you will get Y features, in approximately Z weeks. If you are looking to hire a development team, being honest about your budget is an enormous help, as well as an effective way to test trust and streamline the process. No company that wants to stay open for business long will use a high budget to gouge a client, and if your budget is tight, it allows us to scope the project accordingly by "punting" non-essential features to future versions, providing a more workable estimate and preventing sticker shock.

Final Proposal:
After a follow up meeting where the initial proposal is broken down and discussed in greater detail, we go on to make any necessary adjustments and submit our final proposal. We take great pride in establishing our high touch customer service early in the proposal process. Going the extra mile in not just regurgitating what potential clients think they want, but also helping them in vetting what it is that they need and outlining a proposal to build it for them. It is one of the cornerstones of our value proposition. Any company can provide carefully curated referrals and examples of work, however at Devshop we feel actions speak louder than words.

After the final proposal has been reviewed, potential clients typically come running to our office, ready to sign the dotted line, and some even ask if they can name their firstborn Devshop. It's always flattering, however we would never want to burden any youngsters with such epic awesome. Once the administrative work is done, it's time to move on to the next leg of the journey, Episode II, the Kickoff.