Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Testing a different hiring approach

August 27th, 2007

After a long deliberation, I decided to change our hiring process. I don’t even open the resumes people send, I invite them to send some code. I send them a problem that they need to solve using whatever language or tool. Giving the fact that code is what we ultimately sell, that sounds like the most sensible thing to do. If the code is good, or promising, then fifty percent of the problem is solved.

The ability to make good judgments is also something I’d like to test, but I have no idea how. That would certainly resolve the other fifty percent of the problem.

Castle Stronghold partners with Mindscape

May 20th, 2007

Castle Stronghold and Mindscape, a New Zealand based company, have signed a very promising partnership. It intends to create business opportunities for both parties. So, all companies from New Zealand that comes to us for software development will be gently redirected to Mindscape. Thus, if you’re in NZ, and want to build something using the Castle Project and want to outsource some of the work or get some professional help, you will be in very good hands with Mindscape.

Hope this is just a small step in a friendly and professional relationship.

Off to Panama

April 7th, 2007

For those who are wondering whether I finally gave up and I’m heading to a sunny beach to have a decent vacation, wonder no more. It’s a business trip. No sunny beaches, only lots of drafts and brainstorms. Yeah, I’m off to Panama to meet a client from Canada. That’s what I call globalization!

About the project, obviously I cannot disclose much. I can only say it’s not my first SaaS project, but it’s definitely the most complex one, due to its dynamic nature. Sure it would be fun.

Business and clients

March 15th, 2007

Clients can drive a business bankrupt, or the “lack of”. I realize that having them might also bankrupt you in no time, unless you do some safeguards.

Almost two months ago we have been booked to start a project, that would last for two-three months and involve two to three developers. High complexity, state of art development, anxious stakeholders. Great! The project was postponed, and then finally canceled due to business reasons.

The client has the right to do that if they feel they are not ready, or that this undertake will not produce the most optimized results due to the lack of specifications or improvements on their own business processes. I sympathize completely with that. But when someone book our time we make ourselves unavailable to other prospects, we hang up phones saying “we don’t have time!”. So a cancellation a few days before a project start really put us in a difficult position.

Now let’s invert the situation. The client come a few days before the project was schedule to start and ask “hey, everybody ready to start?”. If I was an unscrupulous, irresponsible business man I’d say “dude, sorry, I forgot about you. Turned out that more clients knocked on our door, we have accepted their projects and completely forgot about yours. Best of luck and sorry.”

It doesn’t sound right, does it?

So I’m considering approaches to handle these situations, advanced payment, retainer model (which I was just introduced to).

Now on the other side of the fence, we have been involved with a cool (in fact awesome) and huge project. Very promising. With this one we had the opportunity to evaluate their competitors and propose different approaches that would make them years ahead of the competition. We have been involved with this one for a few months, and we’re able to implement in this minuscule time what their team implemented in an year.

Turned out that the project was halted. Thankfully nothing held against us or our deliveries, but was frustrating anyway. It was put on staging server for the first time this week, and we were really working hard to push it to production.

The moral of the story: if you’re not fond of big risks, do not start a business. And btw, for all of you that reached us in the last couple of months, we might have some free time now. :-)

Selling agile is hard, if not impossible.

March 10th, 2007

A prospect call me yesterday. He wanted us to build a system that offered stock quotes, performance, history and whatnot. An ocean of information to investor. So far so good. But he had a deadline “it has to be completed by September”. I said that’s not how I work. He would be able to buy our hours, the system would be build incrementally. Every Friday or Monday he would see what’s been done during the week. He would be able to correct, change priorities, explain more about features. If the time is running out, you could select the main features. “No I want the whole system by September”. Serenity now!

“I had two quotes from companies that guaranteed the system would be done by September”. Great, they can guarantee that? I can guarantee that I will deliver an Island in central pacific with your system, in September, I said. “I can tell you anything in order to have you signing the contract, but that’s not how I work. I just cannot promise that the system can be done by September, we cannot anticipate things in software development, and ought to be surprises in the way”, I said.

And there would be. The system should have an online channel with Bovespa and BM&F. He wanted the system to update the quotes directly on the database, no lag. Imagine thousands of changes per second on several tables, performances being updated and all of this with three thousand users sending their queries. I’m sure we would have to be very creative to prevent timeouts and deadlocks.

I also mentioned that all my team were allocated this month, some of them in more than one project. So I wasn’t sure if I could start the project soon. “You can start the project in August, as long as you deliver it in September”. Ok, my patience doesn’t last forever.

I couldn’t lie to him or promise something that I just don’t know for sure (if the system could in fact be done by September) and he decided to go with one of the others companies, which btw charge more than us. This was a prospect from Brazil, and (un)fortunately I don’t get much of them. I had no problems convincing people from abroad about our approach, but most of them come from a technical camp.

I wonder if selling agile-built-projects is possible at all. At least here in Brazil.

Categories: Business, XP | Top Of Page | 19 Comments » |

OpenLogic is now offering Castle support

March 1st, 2007

OpenLogic has contacted me to join their expert community to offer Castle related support. According to them their customers have asked them to support Castle. This is a good thing. Managers will have another throat to choke if something doesn’t work.

From a business perspective, I think it doesn’t conflict with the kind of support that we, at Stronghold, offer. It has some overlap with the consultancy, but it’s manageable.