Naked CEO series: Clients love to beat you up on QA and PM

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I’ve never met a client who didn’t want to skimp on PM (project management) or QA (Quality Assurance) time. Most times, clients use QA and PM time as a sink to reduce cost. They go “How could we ever need more than 5 days PM time for this project?”, or “Surely testing should only take a few hours?”.

I think the assumption they make is that projects just happen on their own, or that you don’t need to do QA…
Well, wrong. Just plain wrong.

I often wonder, whether in their profession they would give their time away for free? Probably not… so why should our PM time (or effectively any non coding time) be free then?

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learnt of late is that I’m never ever going to back down again when it comes to negotiating with clients on PM and QA time. It’s just biting me in the ass now, and it plain sucks. The intention is always good – you want to spend less PM time, and you want to write better code that will never ever break at all, but the reality is, in my humble experience, never ever as good as that.

  • PM time never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever takes less than 20% of your project duration. Never. More like 50%.
  • QA time should be at least 50% to 75% of your project duration in general. And you need a QA person to do it, not a developer, ‘cos most developers don’t test through user eyes.
  • In most web software projects, you should be looking to allocate a total of no more than 20 to 40% of your total project time to development. The rest should be PM, QA, and a few bits and bobs – but never make the assumption that development is all that you need to budget for…

I wonder if we’re unique, or anyone else in the industry is experiencing the same things?

Many new features in latest 0.6.2 release of Seagull Framework – PHP kitchen

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Demian has released the latest version of Seagull, more details at:
Many new features in latest 0.6.2 release of Seagull Framework – PHP kitchen

If you’ve not checked out Seagull, then recommend you do – we’ve really been able to leverage it for loads of client work lately… ;-)

Thanks D

Naked CEO series: Number one frustation at the moment is resourcing

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My first post here where I’m just ad-libbing as it comes off the top of my head. I need to go to bed, so trying to get this out now instead of delaying.

My number one frustation at the moment is around resourcing. How do you balance the growing needs of a business, with taking on more work to keep the engine running? Unless you have 3 to 6 months of cash cover in the bank, it’s a difficult problem to juggle, and if you get into situations where projects start to run over, you end up with no cashflow, too much work to do, and not enough people to do it with.

How can you commit to project 5 when projects 1, 2, 3 and 4 are still in progress or finishing? Do you turn away the business?

So resourcing is an art in itself. Who is the best person to do this? vs. Who has time to do this? I used to think that productivity and efficiency are where you would make the gains, but now I’ve realised that the more successful you become through efficiency and productivity, the more you become a victim of your own success (How can you commit to project 5 when projects 1, 2, 3 and 4 are still in progress or finishing? Do you turn away the business?).

Unfortunately, when you’re a smaller business, you’re not dealing with projects where you have an entire team working on a project. At most you may have a few devs and a project manager, so you can’t reach economies of scale. Upwards of 5 to 6 people and a PM is where you start to reach those economies, not before. So, your calculations around utilisation and availability are your most important calculations to make – one or two weeks out and you could severly crap your cashflow. No cashflow, no salaries, no employees, no business. Back to square one.

Added to that, you have overheads and non-billable resources (like myself of late – I’ve not written more than a week of code at a time since January this year because I’ve focussed on growing the business – now we’re at 8 people) which eat up your profitability, but the problem is that you need them for the business to run.

Most clients, in my experience, used to working with freelancers and contractors, think that paying the average freelancer/contractor day rate to a business with more than 2 people and an office is enough for them to make a profit. Unfortunately, it’s not – the business needs to charge at least 3 times that day rate just to break even. Fixed and variable overheads and non-billable resources are what cost the business money, and as it grows, you need them – imagine your developers interfacing with the client directly all the time? Who is going to go to meetings?

Anyways, I’m sure there are many tech / software / professional people out there who have the same problem, so I’m not alone. I guess the deepest frustration is the anxiety this brings all the bloody time – you’re never free from the thought of salaries and resourcing.

So, I love what I do – don’t get the wrong impression; but until we crack the resourcing challenge, the frustration will always be there.

What about you?

The naked CEO

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I’m an entrepreneur, technologist and environmentalist. I’m also passionate about Africa, Africans, photography, open source stuff, and the web. I play hockey for fun. I believe we’re at a critical juncture in human evolution. I try constantly to be more productive. This is my blog where I talk about all these things, some more than others.

Just thought I’d get that out that way – hate it when people put other people in boxes. Never really fitted into boxes.

So as a follow up to this post about being a Naked CEO, I’ve exercised my right to change my mind after more deliberation, and have decided that henceforth, this blog will be about my experiences and thoughts (dirty laundry will be aired here – iron fist). The Technovated blog will be about Technovated (velvet glove), the business I started and am now lucky enough to be a part of, and what we’re doing there. There’s going to be a lot to talk about there over the coming months… ;-)

So, next post is about a frustration I’m having…

Room for one – using blog to advertise for room-mates

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This came in via email today…
_ http://room4one.blogspot.com

Once of the more interesting uses of blogs!

And hey, if you’re looking for a room, then respond!! ;-)

we are based 15 minutes away from London Bridge, south east, Eltham

for which it will set you back £350 a month, all inclusive,
send a rough outline of your self to, [email protected]

Craftsmanship

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Just seen this on the Vanilla blog:

It ain’t about the dollar,
or tryin’ to go fast,
if you don’t take pride
in what you’re doing
you won’t last.
Craftsmanship:
it’s a quality that some lack.
You’ve gotta give people a reason
for them to come back.

Buck 65

It’s significance portends things to come…

PS – Buck65 is worth listening to if you get the chance…