Aug 27, 2009

Company evaluations from latinamerican customers' perspective

One of the first activities with potential customers is to perform a company evaluation and to present a proposal. My first direct contact with potential customers is often through a presentation on agile-lean and the services I offer. As result, they usually request a quote. I offer them two options: either a rather shrink-wrapped quote or a customized solution that will require a company evaluation. The evaluation has a small cost and 75% of that amount is deducted if they accept my consulting services.

Paying for an evaluation is common practice in the USA and customers actually like a lot the option of the cost deduction. My experience in Mexico has been quite different. Most companies do want an evaluation but are reluctant to pay for it, arguing that it should be part of the bid effort to win a contract. I explain to them that the evaluation goes beyond a small set of questions focused only on a project; it is an in-depth analysis of diverse aspects of the company to understand and determine how agile-lean can significantly improve they way they create their products and services, and it will require two to three days worth of work. Furthermore, the evaluation provides them with information that can help them make better decisions on diverse aspects of the company and its projects. Their point of view remains unchanged and I had instances in which they were happy with the evaluation but didn't proceed with giving me a contract.

An strategy that I started applying recently for such case is do just enough to gather the information to generate a good proposal and report to them the results in a meeting (showing spreadsheet tables and diagrams) but don't give them the document itself. If they see value in it and want it then they have to pay for that service; and if by then they want it more detailed then I proceed to continue the evaluation at a deeper level only if payed in advance.

Aug 23, 2009

Test-early, test-often

The recent news on instances of iPhone 3GS oveheating and even exploding brings an opportunity to revisit the importance of testing early and testing often. Every software and hardware technologies have aspects that are hard to test and it is not uncommon for a new product to have flaws that need to be fixed shortly after release to market. One reason for it is that the market itself is the best test environment possible. Most problems encountered have to do with either scalability, use flow, or extended usage. The second and third kind can be minimized if the product is used for as long as possible and played with at all times. A very important factor to increase the efficacy of this test-early test-often strategy is to make sure that feature prioritization takes into account risk-value factor. What this means is that the features that add more value and are of higher risk should be developed first so that the level of risk decreases over time thanks to intensive and extensive testing.