Shut up, be quiet and deliver the project! (Ode to Silence)

headless chickens

All you have to do is think!

A short post about web project management.

As most of you know I’ve been sailing in the web project management ocean since some time now, and I’ve had the opportunity to see successful and unsuccessful projects. As it always happens, the bad results have taught me more than the good ones 🙂

A leitmotiv that I have identified in the unsuccessful projects I observed is the lack of balance, quiet and calm of the project manager.

Too many times projects are managed without even knowing that they are projects. Let’s make myself clear: too many times projects are managed by whoever happens to be around when the idea is discussed with the clients. Not having designed project managers to deliver projects mean that the wrong people might be in charge. What do I mean by the wrong people? Well, I just mean people with the following attitude:

1) People who never shut up, take 1 hour of silence and actually THINK.

2) People who are reactive and not proactive.

3) People who produce noise, chaos and approximation in whatever they do.

In general, people who are unable to pursue interior silence. Therefore, people who are unable to approach a project calmly and by logically analysing how the work should be broken down, what the schedule should be, who is accountable for what, what issues might arise and how much time would be needed to overcome challenges. Another detail to consider is that projects are delivered by PEOPLE. If the project manager transmits a feeling of disorder, chaos, anxiety, etc, the people involved in the project will work like headless chickens (!!!). The project manager will most likely forget about these people until the project is due. Then, when things don’t go the right way, the people will be suddenly remembered again, only to be blamed.

Oh, and let us not forget about passion and enthusiasm.

Motivation and engagement are the key factor to a high performing project with people actually having fun delivering it!

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The Democracy of Customer Experience (People have the power)

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What do Democracy and Customer Experience have in common?

The free market has some pros and cons. Most of the time they collide; it is the case for the existence of competitors.

Your business can reduce margin to increase profit, sure. But that has a limit. When the price is already at the break-even what makes a difference is the Customer Experience.

How do you achieve that? Or better, how do you achieve that without budget?

By creating a customer-centric company culture. Every single person in the company with the same mission: making the customer’s life a little bit better. Every single person in contact with your customers is going to be kind, really helpful and motivated to solve your problems and make your life easier. There’s a nice story about Zappos’ CEO calling in secret its customer service line at 1am expressing the wish to eat a Pizza but not knowing where to get it at that time. The legend says the customer care agent actually sorted it out for him, without knowing it was the CEO. I hope this guy got a promotion 🙂

I do not see anything wrong in this. We are people who also happen to be customers.

I want to have an easier life and I don’t enjoy sharing my vital space with too many people, this is why I shop online. Also, most of the times I know what I want, so I just go online, filter, and sort it out.

If A and B offer the same products at the same price but A gives me a smooth, easy and tailor made customer experience why should I choose B?

This is it. E-commerce is democratic. Those who offer the best Customer Experience will win. Those who don’t treat people the way they should be treated, will loose. People have the power!

The product-centricity era is about to come to an end.

Say hello to the Era of the Customer.

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ecommercerockstars towards new adventures …

adventure, adventure, adventure

My beloved readers – especially you, from Australia, Hong Kong, Egypt, Pakistan, Uruguay (It’s not that I don’t love readers from the other countries, it’s just that you, reading me from such far places, make me feel some sort of important responsibility).

My beloved readers, I was saying (I know, I wrote a main clause without verbs: I feel transgressive today!).

I had wonderful news this week and I’m going to start a new adventure in 2013.

I will miss so much the people I’ve been working with here in Dublin but it just felt right to jump on this train and move over.

Why? Well, because I LOVE e-commerce (maybe you should know this by now) and because the place I will go is THE place for e-commerce and customer experience. I’m thrilled! I would not have left where I am now for anywhere else but where I’ll go, so it just feels right.

Also, it involves a pretty awesome lifestyle change: a house in the countryside, a life by the sea, etc.

I will not tell you where I am now and where I will be in 2013. I prefer to leave an air of mystery around it 🙂

This will not change anything, though. I will keep blogging and searching the web for best and worst practices to discuss together and I will keep in mind the ultimate mission of making the internet a better place. 

 

Let’s start with the internet and see if the world can change accordingly.

Ode to my enemies

 

Have you ever met a bad person?

By “bad” I mean someone who is unexpectedly and unreasonably mean to you and you just  can’t understand why. Those aggressive people who try so hard to make your life difficult.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity of spending some time with some very important people to me. They were talking about those people who constantly try to sabotage you and your work, people who are never happy with anything you do whose only aim in life is to show to other people (the powerful ones) how good and amazing and skilled they are.

Pointless to say, these people hardly have any talent.

There is a very simple reason for this: if I am talented, I don’t need to jump and scream and punch other people to show myself off.

My value will speak for itself.

Anyway, I was chatting with these old friends of mine and kept telling them, as well as I repeat it to myself, treasure your enemies.

I wouldn’t have achieved what I have now if it wasn’t for my enemies and the negative role models I met in the past. Ok now, I’m not a multimillionaire (yet, LOL), but I am pretty lucky: I have a good job that I love, the people I work with are good people, my bosses are good people, I have a happy family.

Achieving all this wasn’t easy, though. I had to prove my value several times, I had to destroy all I had and re-build it, I have to study a lot to be always up-to-date (but this is good because I actually enjoy studying) and last, but not least, I have to work hard.

Now, clearly I met some negative role models in my past (and I’m pretty sure it’s not over: life is always testing you and pushing you beyond your limits), but I was lucky enough to understand them, see the reason laying behind their absolutely mean behaviour, perceive them in all their weakness, fragility and poor spirit.

My “enemies” are always in my heart. They are printed in my mind with indelible ink. They help me keeping always in mind 2 things:

1) The person I don’t want to be

2) The people I don’t want around me

Negative role models have such a stronger power for your psychology than the positive ones.

Sure, a good boss or a talented colleague will always be in your heart somehow, but a very mean person will never ever leave your mind, especially if you managed to remove his/her power.

And when you do it once, you can do it 100 times: life gets so much easier 🙂

*also, I have to confess this: the incredible behaviours I ran into are strongly culturally bounded. Some unapologetic kiss-feet dynamics I saw are extremely common in Italian companies and would be quite embarrassing in international structures. Also, from my point of view the return-on-investment of such behaviour is very low (taking for granted that it is something I abhor!)

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What makes your customers leave?

My dear readers, I can’t write much because of a temporary problem involving my right hand and a tendon, therefore I’ll just share with you an amazing Infographic powered by Kissmetrics!

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The e-commerce Drama

The e-commerce drama

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you study literature at school or university?

I did, and I loved it, but that was in my previous non-geek life.

Have you ever heard of the dramatic structure? That sequence of events that compose a play or a drama, a comedy or a tragedy.

The dear old Aristotle, for instance, viewed the plot structure as divided into three parts: protasis, epitasis and catastrophe. Horace, instead, stated in his Ars Poetica that each dramatic play should have a 5-act structure.

For reasons of convenience, we will use Gustav Freytag’s study of the 5-act dramatic structure:  Die Technik des Dramas. Freytag stated that a drama is divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and dénouement, (resolution ou catastrophe).

Yes, but how is this related to the online customer journey?

Well, this is the fun part!

1) EXPOSITION: background information needed to properly understand the story –> HOME PAGE: here is who we are, this is what we sell, here is the context in which we act, this is our identity.

2) RISING ACTION: you have a target but some conflicts arise –> CATEGORY PAGE: you want to find a v-neck warm and cosy black coat. You filter the coats macro category by inserting your preferences: it has to be a size 12, it has to be black, and it has to be long. Gosh, no results. You broaden your search criteria: ok, I’ll be ok if it’s a size 12 and black, but not long. You think about it and …

3) CLIMAX:  the turning point, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs –> ADD TO CART: yes, you thought about it, you sent the product page’s link to your friend on Skype and she agrees that this is the right coat for you. Good choice! The product page details say this is the last item left: you feel blessed by the God of the World Wide Web and have doubts no more! You do THE action, you click on the add to cart button.

4) FALLING ACTION (or ANTI-CLIMAX): it might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome is in doubt. –> CHECKOUT: umpf, you have to create an account. Umpf, there are so many fields to fill in, but yes, it’s so worth it that you do it fast. Umpf, credit card number. Where is the credit card? Will it be safe? Gosh, it’s 300£, is it a wise expense? At the end of the day the sales will start just in a couple of months. Do I really need this? Oh, whatever, it’s been a hard week, I worked hard, I deserve this coat. I need it. It’s so cold outside …

5) DÉNOUEMENT (RESOLUTION): The issues are resolved, creating for the character a sense of catharsis, all the tensions are released. –> DELIVERY: Oh my God this coat is amazing. It is amazing!  The delivery was super fast, and the fabric is so soft and it fits me perfectly! I’m so happy I spent only 300£ for it. My friends are going to love it, I can’t wait to wear it 🙂

6) DÉNOUEMENT (CATASTROPHE): The bitter end. The story ends with the death of the character, a sense of injustice and unfairness affects everything. –> FAULTY/WRONG ITEM:  Oh my God this coat is amazing. It is amazing. The delivery was super fast, and the fabric is so soft and it fits me perfectly! Wait … what is this? Is this a hole? Is this a hole? Jaysus, (the character is Irish) this is a big, huge, irreparable hole! Right under the arm’s seam! Noooo this is so unfair! I spent £300 for this … I even removed the label and washed it. They are never going to refund it … I am never ever shopping online again!

 

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Things I saw @ Dublin Web Summit

The Dublin Web Summit 2012 was an event I, digital lover (and ecommercerockstar), could not miss.

Dublin Web Summit

View from the summit of the Summit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 17th and 18th of October over 250 startups from 50+ countries, 4000 attendees and hundreds of investors, media and speakers attended the Summit. I was selected as a member of the Live Team: a bunch of geeks twitting about the cool things they were seeing all day 🙂 Lucky for me I was with my mate The Pencil : the best geek company ever! We had so much fun and are still overwhelmed by the over-stimulation of our digital souls. 

What did we learn? Oh, so many things, but let’s just focus on a couple of them.

We met companies like Coder Dojo (http://coderdojo.com/) who teach children how to code in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc. And these 12 year-old kids speak about the cloud based apps for iPhone they coded in JavaScript when they were 10 – and they seem amused!

I learnt that there are companies like IFWERANTHEWORLD (http://ifwerantheworld.com), founded by the visionary business woman Cindy Gallop, whose aim was to create a pool of good intentions (human & business) that can be translated into actions! Take a look and state your own good intention: the website will suggest microactions to take in order to accomplish it, while encouraging interaction with the other members. It’s another great example of how the web 2.0 can change the world and sure, I’m gonna be part of it!

I heard about the e-commerce revolution, with referents from Lyst (http://www.lyst.com), Beachmint (http://www.beachmint.com), AHAlife (http://www.ahalife.com), Wrapp (http://www.ahalife.com) and ILWYW (http://ilwyw.com). This e-commerce is social, behavioural, one to one. The shop changes according to the shopper, how cool is that? It’s like pay per view but it’s e-commerce and it’s free!

And last, but not least, I met rockstars like Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mind Candy, who I will refer to from now as a Digital Rolling Stone. I also managed to hear the speech of this amazing woman, Victoria Ransom, CEO of Wildfire. A couple of years ago she created her startup Wildfire, which she managed to get profitable after a year, and now she’s just sold it to Google for 300 million dollars. And she wears flat shoes. Which means I can make it in this world too!

Oh, and we didn’t have to queue for the lady’s toilet. What do you think this means?

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The glass ceiling myth in the web 2.0 era

I really need to share with you, my beloved readers, something that a dear colleague of mine shared with me yesterday, and that really impacted my way of thinking and doing projects for the future.

The speaker is the enlightening Cindy Gallop, whose motto is “why walk if you can gallop?”. Smart girl. Very smart girl. I wish I had such a surname!

In the video I’m about to show you, she says very inspiring things about how we relate to our work, revealing that we can, we should, we must set the boundaries we want and work the way we want, doing what we love, so that it will never feel as work but as a blessing, a miracle, the dream of being paid for doing something that is not a huge sacrifice.

Also, she mentions a very true quote: “there is no such thing as a glass ceiling: there’s just a thick layer of men” .

Every woman working in the digital world can confirm this. Most of the times when I attend web or digital events I feel like an outsider, it seems to me that it is so much a men thing. Geeks (like me) drinking beer and talking all the time of java.net, jquery, CSS and other super interesting (!) programming things. The ones with whom I can relate the most are the usability experts: usability requires intuition, attention to detail and big picture at the same time (many female friends of mine would define these characteristics as feminine: I don’t want to be too provocative, though. At least not for now!).

Anyway, here is the inspiring, enlightening, life-changing video of Cindy Gallop. Enjoy it, understand it, process it, share it, do it!

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Customer Experience Best Practices: Shoescribe.com

shoescribeUnlike its older brother yoox.com, shoescribe.com – the multibrand shoes platform for shoes-aholics – offers an amazing service in terms of Customer Experience. Why? Let’s say a few words on each step of the shoescribe customer journey.

Home Page:

http://www.shoescribe.com/

The home page is fresh, tidy, beautiful and functional. The fancy editorial style makes it a very well optimised page with lots of good content and a very clear category organization. In this home page there is space for everything that really matters: the product, of course, the editorial content, some marketing & call to actions (but not too much) the help & info area in the footer. The main characteristic, though, it’s that there is evidence of a very good quantity of quality content! We love it! Let’s move forward to the category page!

Category Page:

http://www.shoescribe.com/ie/women/shoes/pumps-heels

A poem. A clean, beautiful and functional category page with an amazing feature: the filter is in the header. The filter, a super functional designer, size, heel size and colour filter, is not anymore on the side bar but is clearly visible on the top of the page. It is expandable and WORKS perfectly! You can easily remove every filter and make one step back without any fear of losing the query.

Product Page:

http://www.shoescribe.com/ie/women/shoes/pumps-heels

it’s clean and functional but it might be better. How? SEO descriptions (missing) and product review. But there is a lot of free space in the page layout, so I guess these features shall be developed one day.

Customer Care page:

http://help.shoescribe.com/system/web/custom/hp/homepage/homepage.jsp?confId=1011

It’s the part I love most! Maybe because the Customer Care area’s project was managed by one of my best friends and former colleagues, sure. But also because it’ extremely user friendly, simple and straightforward: the most frequent and important subjects are there, easy to read and use. And I Love the communication style! It’s friendly and really warms up the relationship with customers!

Attila Ovari

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