Monday Consulting Questions: Three Reasons Not to Work On-Site

I’ve been saving up questions for a while, so without further ado let me welcome another installment of Monday Consulting Questions.

Q.  What is your position on working on-site?  I have a new client who is pressuring me to work 100% on-site, and I don’t know what to tell them. A. When you say “working on-site” I’m going to assume you mean actually developing software on-site.

The general rule I’ve set for Cogeian Systems is that we do not do development work on-site.  We have our own work spaces, our own machines, our own software and everything else we need to complete a project.  We primarily do work at our own locations.  Now, we do travel out to see clients for various reasons – meetings, installations, training, etc., and these things are work.  However, it is not our generally our practice to generate work product (software) on-site.  There are a couple of reasons for this, and I suggest that you as a consultant think long and hard about them. Keep Reading…

Friday Dream Projects from the Blogosphere

The Friday Dream Projects thing caught on fairly well.  I got wind of a couple of other blogs that posted their own Dream Projects.

First, we have one from James at Blue Jazz Consulting, who then followed up again this Friday with a new set of dream projects.  Good show, James.  I really like the idea for a CRM version of Remember The Milk.

Then Jeff Donnici got into the act, posting a couple of his own Dream Projects last Wednesday.  Jeff wants to do programming for a new kind of poker machine for casinos.  Sounds cool.

As for my own dream project this week, I’ve recently been daydreaming about how cool it would be to build a self-service patient scheduling app for health care providers.

If you can book your own flights online (within the parameters of what the airline makes available), there’s no reason why you can’t also book your own doctor’s appointment (within the parameters of what your doctor makes available), right?  As with most of my dream projects, this seems to me like the kind of thing that probably already exists, but it would still be fun to build one!

What are your Dream Projects?  Post ’em on your blog or eMail them in and I’ll post them here.

Withdrawing From The Echo Chamber, 2 Weeks Later

It’s been 2 weeks since I decided to delete all my bookmarks, un-subscribe from all my feeds, stop reading blogs, and generally disconnect from the entire blogosphere.  How is it working out for me?

It’s wonderful.

Now, I’ve had a few lapses, mainly because people keep eMailing me links to blog posts and saying “come on, you HAVE to read this one.”  So, in the past two weeks I’ve faltered on these occasions:

  • I posted a few comments on Ian Landsman’s blog.  Ian is a friend, so I felt compelled to check out his latest stuff when someone suggested it.
  • I posted a comment on Scoble’s blog, again after being eMailed a link suggesting a particular post was worth checking out.
  • I read Mike Gunderloy’s criticism of my dis-connecting over at Web Worker Daily.
  • I peeked at both Joel on Software and Signal v. Noise.

That’s pretty good, I think.  Total time spent on all that was less than 20 minutes; I used to spend more than that per day when I was subscribed to 100 different feeds and trying to stay on top of everything, all the time.  Now, I figure that if something important to my business pops up, it will make itself known to me organically.

I’ve also had a few bookmarks organically work their way into my routine over the last 2 weeks: one for Cubespace, a co-working facility in Portland, OR, where I’ll be spending a week later this month (I’ll be renting a slot at Cubespace to work at that week), and one to a ZenCart customization tutorial (I’m doing my first ZenCart project this month).  What makes these bookmarks acceptable is that they each pertain to work, both have a finite context, and both can (and will!) be deleted once they have served their purpose.

OK, OK, that’s all well & good.  But part of my reason for disconnecting was to improve mental bandwidth and just feel better about my informational diet.  How are things going on that front?  Again, wonderful.

I no longer feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders with regard to having to know everything that’s going on in the industry all the time.  Why did I feel like that in the first place, I wonder?  The answer is, who cares?  I’m on my way to being free of it.  My eyes are open and I’m dedicated to cherry-picking my informational interruptions from amongst the things that actually benefit me professionally.

Is anyone picking up that 30-day disconnect challenge I issued?  If so, I’d like to hear from you.

11 Clients You Should Fire, 2 Years Later

I can hardly believe it’s been just over 2 years since I wrote 11 Clients You Need To Fire Right Now; it seems like it was just a few weeks ago.  That is, without a doubt, my most popular article.  It even was published by Software Development Magazine back before SDMag was acquired by Dr. Dobbs.  Clearly I struck a chord amongst folks who have problems with ill-behaved clients.

Here we are two year later, and I’m wondering if anyone actually took it to heart and fired their problematic clients.  I can happily report that I have dropped several clients off the roster here at Cogeian Systems over the past 2 years, and I think that business is better for it.  Sure, total revenue is a bit less than it would be if I had kept those clients, but the quality of the business we’re doing over here is much higher.  It’s absolutely been worth it.  All dollars are not created equal; I’m much more interested in accepting the projects that will actually result in good work and a good experience for all.  It’s better to take 75% of the work and feel 100% good about it than the reverse, I think.

If anyone has a good story to share about how they’ve improved their business by firing a client, feel free to email me, I’d love to hear it.

Friday Dream Projects – The Kick-Off

I find that my company does a lot of similar projects.  Even though we’re primarily a bespoke development shop, I can’t help but notice that there is a ton of overlap between a lot of our projects.  Sometimes it feels like we’re doing more copy-paste-modify than actually designing unique things that work in unique ways.  My company is staying busy, but there are certain types of projects that get my personal creative juices flowing more so than others.

So, every Friday, I’m going to post a few of my “dream projects.” Now, I don’t expect that someone is going to read my blog and say “Oh my goodness!  Christopher is dying to do a Martian Balloon-Farming management system, and that’s just what I need!  I’ve got to call Cogeian Systems right away!” That’s not why I’m posting this.  Of course, if that were to happen, I’m not going to say no (attention, all Martian balloon farmers:  bring your checkbook!)  I think it’s important to externalize the things that you really want to do.  When you say them out loud, or post them someplace, they seem more real.

Plus, I’m hoping to start a meme.  I may not be reading blogs right now, but it sure would be nice if a whole bunch of other bloggers posted their dream projects too.  Anyway, here we go:

Today’s Dream Projects

  • Bonus compensation management system – I used to work for a company that did HR software, and worked on apps that handled bonus/incentive compensation, salary management, performance management, and succession planning.  It was great stuff.  But what I loved most of all was working on the bonus comp system.  Thankfully, that’s the product I spent most of my time on.  I’ve done a couple of lightweight bonus comp projects over the past 5 years, but I’d really like to do another one, a bigger one.  Lots of fun for everyone.  I like the idea of helping people to get paid.  There are a number of such systems on the market, but it would be cool to do one custom for a firm that needs something tailored to their specific compensation processes.
  • Martial arts technique catalog – I’m imagining an interactive training tool for martial arts schools that would walk a person through a variety of moves and counters, allowing for the presentation of unlimited combinations.  There is no substitute for live instruction and sparring, but it sure would be cool to have a tool like this to supplement the live training.  I’d be very surprised if something like this is not on the market already, but I’d love to do a customized version for a school that has a unique take on training.
  • Film production management system – Making a movie can be a BIG project.  I have a friend who works in television production and has done a few documentary films and man, you should hear some of his stories.  It’s a crazy business.  I’d love to build something that would help manage the chaos, using standard project management ideas and adapting them to the complications of film-making.  I know there are off-the-shelf systems that do this, but it would still be a lot of fun to custom-build one that has a unique take on the process of managing a production.

That’s it for today.  My dream projects probably seem silly to some of you, but your might seem silly to me, too.  Plus, they change every week (if not every day).  I usually think of this stuff when I’m in the shower.

What’s your dream project?