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5 Ways That Helps Me Be More Efficient With Planning – #2 – Scenario Planning

It’s been a while. I know you missed me. Quick update… Since we last spoke, we (corner6labs) closed our first deal and is now working hard to provide quality service to our new client. Things are going really well so far.  We have some awsome stuff in the pipeline (IMO) and I am really excited to see them come to fruition.

Now back to the matter at hand. In my last post, I started talking about a topic that seems to get the better of people on a daily basis, planning.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not professing that I am the dilai lama when it comes to planning, but I have picked up a few tricks here and there over the years (as a side note, I am quickly approaching my 31st birthday as of this writing….scary stuff). I must admit that from a programmers perspective and with the fast adoptions of methodologies such as “Agile Development“, my planning techniques have been tweeked here are there, and though this series is not particualary specific to application devlopment planning, the underlying concepts remained the same. I think this is a good time to introduce todays tip:

Scenario Planning

When planning, you should always develop outcomes or scenarios. This means that you have to ask yourself, whats the best that can happen?, whats the worst that can happen? and even some things in between. Many skeptics think this is an indicator of paranoia, but ask yourself, shouldn’t you be a little paranoid if what you are planning for is important?

If you borrow from the logical IF…ELSE operators in most programming languages, creating scenarios using this form will prove invaluable in the future. Think in outcomes and steps. What are the possible outcomes of my mission? IF everything doesn’t go right, THEN, How can I adjust? Write them down in short note form.

Now, I know you can’t possibly plan every scenario, but having an idea of how you will react to an outcome will make it easier to adapt and achieve a graceful outcome. Having these scenarios in mind, and outlining the steps to achieve what you want to achieve, will result in a critical part of any mission (desired outcome), your tactics.

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Filed under: Tips & Tricks

5 Ways That Helps Me Be More Efficient With Planning – Number 1 – Map it out!

Since we are brand new entrepreneurs, we find ourselves in a constant state of planning. So it shouldn’t be a mystery that we have had to find ways to plan more efficiently.  I found five neat and simple ways that have been helping me, and I wanted to share them by doing a series on the subject.

Number 1 – Map It Out!…Mind-Map that is

You may have already heard of the term “Mind Mapping” but have never explored it.  According to Wikipedia,  “A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea“. There have been times that I have used some form of mind mapping technique, but I recently discovered a set of methodologies and free tools related to the subject.

Mind Mapping helps you organize your thoughts into a very powerful visual representation of a central idea. You start with a central keyword or phrase and branch out to related items for that keyword.

As a developer, the concept of mind mapping followed nicely with the way I have always done the preliminary architecture of an application, or even how I approach Object Oriented Programming through class definition. In fact, I recently applied the mind mapping technique while ideating (I term I first heard on an IBM commercial) classes for an application I am building. By focusing on one class, and one class only per map, you can derive the functionality you need to encapsulate within that class. From there, it was pretty easy to know the methods required to make the class work.

With the use of dedicated mind-mapping software, I was able to use the fact that I am a visual person, which for me, translated into more efficient planning sessions.

Here are some of the other reasons I like software based mind-mapping

  1. I can ideate visually
  2. Easy to learn
  3. You can personalize them
  4. Digital format for easy archiving and retrieval

There are many uses of mind maps, and when used properly can turn you into a mean planning machine.

Do you have comments on ways to be more efficient with planning? Drop me a comment. Let me know

Filed under: Tips & Tricks

Web Applications in an Iphone World

I know what you’re thinking, another IPhone evangelist. Well, kinda but not really.  The first thing I must do is set the topic straight by letting you know that this post is not about enabling your web application for the Iphone. The post is more about what people have come to expect in the way they interact with an application. Since Apple came out with the iphone in 2007, and I guess even before that with the MAC OS (I wouldn’t know, I am a PC… thanks to all of you leaving for stopping by) … mobile users have changed their expectations on what they expect from their User Interfaces. Apple did a good job creating a UI where you can pretty much get to anything with at most 2 clicks, a slide, a shake and a pop…try it…I am not joking. Don’t belive me, check this out… in 2008, apple only controlled approx 3% of the mobile phone market share, by 2009 they owned 13.3%. Yeah 13% is nothing compared to Nokia’s 45%, but with a growth rate that big and almost exclusive control over the mantra of the simplistic approach to usability… inevitability is just a matter of fact.

So with the ground work out of the way, now down to the real topic at hand. You launched a great web application, or software as a service, whatever you want to call it, and now you are thinking, we need to keep our clients engaged, we need to add more features. IMHO, trying to engage your customers by adding more features is like fishing with dynamite, you might get more fish but hey will be all wrangled and dismembered (for the record, I hav elways hated that term). If anything , you should be looking to simplify your application. This aint field of dreams, if you built it, they won’t come, but if you make it usefully simple and simply useful, they will flock to you like 14 year-old-chicks to the Backstreet Boys, who by the way apparently have a new album…what?…why are you looking at me like that?

Before you go putting another sardine in your application tin can, consider the following:

  • Ask yourself, is a feature addition necessary/ is it a preemptive strike. Your application can’t be stagnant I know, but simpler changes can make a big difference. Changes such as themes or layouts or simplifying the process to complete an action can make you look like a genius.
  • Don’t spend time building, spend time learning. Find out what the pains are from your customer….Hint, they really do know best. Surveys and feedback sites such as Get Satisfaction can help you make your application more customer centric..and trust me, that’s all the rave these days.
  • Always have an application log, and check it always. Your server logs can tell you a whole lot about how your clients use you application and besides, working out those very quiet bugs that just rare their ugly heads every now and then is way more important that adding a jet pack to your app.
  • Check with your marketing department, find out what keywords make you pop up in search results. No, I am not saying build your app away from your core services, I am saying make sure you know what the craze so you don’t miss out on opportunities. Make of that what you will.
  • Is my interface crisp, clean and inviting. Can users get to what they need in 3 clicks or less.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of do’s and dont’s for your app, all I want to do is give you pause. With cooler technology comes greater expectations on how to use it.

KISS ..google that $#iT

Filed under: Tips & Tricks

How to prevent child view modules from executing outside a parent view

Long before the days of everyone preaching MVC…MVC, and before I became obsessed with the Zend Framework I use to actually implement a form of MVC in my PHP applications. PHP programmers use to refer to it as templating. One thing that always came up while templating was how to prevent child view templates modules (such as forms) from executing outside of parent views. One technique I employed was to use the PHP define() method to “define” a “passport” CONSTANT variable in my main view file or in the global config file. I would then use the defined() method in child view modules to check if the passport variable existed. here is an example:

define("APPLICATION_NAME","v1.0");

If you have defined your config settings withing a class, you can use the “const” keyword

Then you can check for the constant in your child view files like this:

if(!defined("APPLICATION_NAME")){ exit("invalid view setup"); }

Its is a very simple test but it has proved to be effective time and time again.

Filed under: PHP, Tips & Tricks

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