Visit at netcoders

21 Jan

snv31008-2.jpgWednesday 9th januar, Martin and I went to visit Kent and Tony from Netcoders in Køge, to see their new office location. A smaller, nice and very cosy location in one of Køges historic old buildings.

Kent and Tony are two of the most talkative persons I think I will ever get to know in my short life time period on earth! They are also at the same time some of the nicest people I know – always ready with a cock-and-bull story to make you smile 🙂

We talked about how Netcoders could turn around some of their key business products. We ended up with some pretty good ideas. Now we all just have to wait the outcome of the Fonager brothers’ magic programmer skills. Watch out!

Thanks for a good day guys.

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Outsourcing in India

10 Dec

For 18 months now, we have engaged in an outsourcing partnership with Gatewaytechnolabs, a well-constituted software development company with around 500 employees in Ahmedabad, India. It has been a very challenging experience which has been, and still is, requiring a bit of special patience and concentrated effort. Our expectations towards outsourcing have not been met, though we are still confident that the end result will be satisfactory.

I will shortly describe our recommendations to companies who are currently in the process of evaluating barriers towards successful outsourcing.

But first, a quick pre-story:

Our blue-eyed adventure started in June 2006, when 3 crusaders from Freeway returned from a very exciting round-trip in India, where they for 1 week inspected several potential software companies. Full of enthusiasm – especially activated from our beloved Freeway delegation – we decided to go for a try, a very large try indeed…because we decided to outsource the development of Trendsales new platform. A new platform which should prepare us for the new “web 2.0”-age.. Our idea was to approach the project from an agile view. Agile in the sense of extreme programming and on-the-fly requirements specifications…a quite naive approach though, when looking back with a new set of “blue print” of the world..:) So, we started of with a 70 page overall requirements specification including some overall simple “rich pictures” of the system, and some very down-to-earth mockups of important steps of the parts of the system. The allocated team of developers counted 8 men (1 pm, 2 senior developers and 5 developers).

Our initial expectations towards project length was 6 months. This optimistic goal soon turned into ashes, as it after short while occurred to us that our agile approach was not align able with this kind of project. We start working on more detailed specifications with mock-ups. This documentation production happened alongside the ongoing development. After 1 year we evaluated and found out that we had lost approximately 3-4 months of development time due to the agile approach, which had only contributed to a lot of errors and lost time (and money).

After 18 months we are on a stabile track with a good, controlled scope and goal of the remaining projects, due to primarily more detailed requirement specifications and more daily control and follow-up. We have also learned to work with team, and the other way around. A common and comfortable dialog channel has been developed. Surprisingly enough, the dialog is a great barrier to this kind of project. Developing a good dialog is an ongoing and very difficult process, where both companies have to align. Communicating, both parties using a non-native language is like a two-sided coin – the outcome of a dialog can be either heads or tails 🙂

Possible barriers of successful outsourcing of your software development:

  • Vague or less-detailed software requirements specification: You need to make a very descriptive and detailed SRS with process diagrams, graphical UI mock-ups etc. “Leaving no questions behind” is the best strategy
  • Your organization is not ready to put in the resources: You have to spend a vast amount of resources into SRS and not at least project management and follow-up tests, and you have to be very patient. Expect to spend a couple of months of the total project as “learning money”
  • Not understanding the cultural differences: The Indian man is very polite, and he is not keen to show weakness. This politeness is deadly. You have to be aware of, that a “Yes, it is done” or “Yes, I understand”, not necessarily has the same meaning as we know it from the English dictionary
  • Not teaming up with specialists: If you don’t have inhouse specialists with the competencies of testing and ensuring the product quality of what is delivered, then this can be very deadly to you
  • Not making the partner a part of your company can make both you and them drift longer and longer apart only toward more

There are obviously also some quite significant benefits, if you can overcome the barriers (or “fall traps”) of outsourcing:

  • Flexible software development capabilities with short time contractual binding, with access to a large field of different competencies which can be (un)coupled from day to day
  • I don’t think you will save money, but you can quickly establish a team and initiate projects
  • If you have spotted a well-structured company with a good management, then you can also consider in investing in the company.

Over and out, for now..

Master thesis completed

11 Sep

Ahh, after 6½ years of university pain I am finally done. I got my master degree in June with the grade 10 which is perfectly okay with me 🙂

The examiner, Finn Hindkjær, is a former managing director of a big Danish IT company, Ementor, and was, at the current time of examination, managing WM Data’s Nordic activities in the field of supply. Finn is a very kind and gentle man and I think the Trendsales project was sincerely interesting for him as his daughter is a heavy-user of the concept 🙂 The Trendsales project helped him understand why young women are so addicted to Trendsales.

Dating.dk offered 600 mio. dkr.

11 Sep

Dating.dk who owns a 50 % share in Trendsales has just said no to a 600 mio. dkr. offer.

 You can read about on Borsen.dk (in Danish):
http://borsen.dk/light/nyhed/116015/

Thesis apocalypse near…

28 May

It is no secret that one of my badest monkeys is the Master degree monkey, sitting there on my shoulder blabering and giving me constant bad conscience. Hopefully I will make him vanish on Friday 1st June. The date for delivering the master thesis to the University authorities … 🙂

 But the master thesis work has given us (Trendsales) a valuable knowledge about the UK market. It has given us knowledge about leap holes to position ourselves successfully in the market. eBay, ClothesAgency, eBid, Gumtree and a hell of a lot more companies fighting the British online market place. They don’t matter at all. Trendsales can fit in perfectly everywhere…How? Hopefully we will show you during the fall 2007.

Trendsales customer value

Fashion and community dedicators

27 Apr

Trendsales is an online community marketplace where women (80%) buy, sell and exchange fashion goods, debate on various topics and get together and meet new friends IRL. Trendsales has a large share of very dedicated users visiting Trendsales multiple times on a daily basis. Some would call it addiction, which is beginning to become a well-known “cyber illness”. I think some psychological or sociological experts would like to call it addiction, and thereby labelling it as a “bad thing”.  From a business perspective you see this phenonema as a success factor – knowing that you have made a strong media which people are so fund of that they develop some form of addiction, which I would prefer calling a dedication … 🙂

I have a little funny story about being dedicated into buying and selling. I talked with one of our very dedicated users who told me that she was looking very much forward to the next IRL event (Trendsales Live) in the autumn 2007,  and that she would make her own special IRL buying/selling event in her backyard during the summer.  The last two summers she has invited people from Trendsales to attend an IRL buying/selling event in her basement.  She said that it is very cosy and enjoyable way of buying/selling because you can at the same time meet fantastic new friends in a comfortable, cosy and familiar atmosphere. She even invites people from the street to attend the event – and thereby of course also increase sales 🙂

I think this way of bringing buying/selling into your own home is a funny example of how people can transfer a online fashion dedication offline.

business discussion with fonager brothers

17 Apr

This is a short essay from a fruitful brainstorm session in Hvidovre, Copenhagen, discussing current hot topics of internet business.

The discussion topics where: web 2.0, user involvement and influence on business decisions, the future of image upload, user rescue and other small topics.

web 2.0

We could all come to agreement that web 2.0 is mainly buzz, hype, manifested by a shift i paradigms. Nothing has happened for a long time, and now, we are talking about the “old” internet and the “new” internet. People want to set a mile stone in history. Nevertheless, web 2.0 does provide us talking about it. And by doing this, the buzz can in fact be meaningful in some way…we could conclude that if we should talk about a shift from “old” to “new” it is, that in the new age, the power of content and development has shiftet from the business unit to end users.  You could call it empowerment of end users. Web applications should focus on making as much facilities for user-creation of content as possible, and be very good at listening to what the end users want you to provide in you web application. Keywords are communication, user involvement, content created by the user, and opening up your business to the users. The users want to have influence. This of course effect the way you run your business, because how will you suddenly be able to handle the pressure of 1,000+ people writing to you, wanting influence, and waiting for you to reply back.

 Future of image upload

Trendsales current image upload is extremely old school, but nevertheless, Trendsales has become one of DK’s largest online marketplaces within a very short period of time. We talked about how we in the future can make image upload more efficient and less a problem for non-experienced users. We could all agreee that the superior image upload is the application that practically uploads and handles the images by simply having the user plug in her camera to the computer. Not editing, no time-cost for the user. Take a picture, put it on the site in 2 seconds. Flash does provide some interesting features as well as .net and it is possible to in fact make the superior image upload with the technology available. You should not make internet broad band an issue. Let the user upload the file sizes she wants.

Customer rescue

How can a business “rescue” customers who has left them? Set up a large set of rescue scenarios. Analyse and design when and how different conditions should result in having a “rescue agent” contacting the lost customer. There is really a lot of business to win here, if you manage to rescue customers. They are easy to loose, and in fact, they are easy to win back, you just have to try, and keep on trying. Don’t worry about “bothering” them by contacting them. Your competitors do it. And in the customers are in fact happy that you show them appriciation.