Podio Solutions Podcast

S1E14 - Podio Design for Business 3: "Controlling Project Complexity"

April 29, 2019 Brick Bridge Consulting Season 1 Episode 14
Podio Solutions Podcast
S1E14 - Podio Design for Business 3: "Controlling Project Complexity"
Chapters
Podio Solutions Podcast
S1E14 - Podio Design for Business 3: "Controlling Project Complexity"
Apr 29, 2019 Season 1 Episode 14
Brick Bridge Consulting

In this show, we discuss the urgent need to control complexity in your projects and buildouts.

1. Consumers making data based decision making and wanting to make that next step to create a podio system that best fits them. 
2. When thinking about a project timeline consumers need to be focused on what really matters to them, then we can adjust the small details. 
3. There are two types of consumers when it comes to podio: the ones who have no idea what to do with their blank canvas or the ones want everything but could have a budget limitation. 
4. Trying to steer our consumers the right way to make a tangible asset for their company. 
5. Management vs. Users: we don't want to say no but sometimes there are limitations to the podio platform. 
6. We like to build our users a basic platform to start out on before we get really complex integration involved. It starts to generate ideas and then the consumer realizes what they need and don't need within podio. 

Follow us on social media (@PodcastPodio) to stay up to date on all Podio Podcast news.

Support the show (http://www.brickbridgeconsulting.com/podcast)

Show Notes Transcript

In this show, we discuss the urgent need to control complexity in your projects and buildouts.

1. Consumers making data based decision making and wanting to make that next step to create a podio system that best fits them. 
2. When thinking about a project timeline consumers need to be focused on what really matters to them, then we can adjust the small details. 
3. There are two types of consumers when it comes to podio: the ones who have no idea what to do with their blank canvas or the ones want everything but could have a budget limitation. 
4. Trying to steer our consumers the right way to make a tangible asset for their company. 
5. Management vs. Users: we don't want to say no but sometimes there are limitations to the podio platform. 
6. We like to build our users a basic platform to start out on before we get really complex integration involved. It starts to generate ideas and then the consumer realizes what they need and don't need within podio. 

Follow us on social media (@PodcastPodio) to stay up to date on all Podio Podcast news.

Support the show (http://www.brickbridgeconsulting.com/podcast)

Gil Roberts:

Welcome to the Podio Solutions Podcast. Season one episode 14. I'm Gil Roberts and with me today is our principal consultant, Jarrett Duker. This podcast is about the design on the Citrix podio platform , you can find podio at p o d i o.com. We use this podcast and discuss our own experiences with podio as well as other interesting topics from the podio developer community. You have a podio if you are a podio designer developer working at a small business agency or enterprise should immediately hit that subscribe button if you have already . Thank you so much for your support. Lastly, before we dive into today's topic, given topic issues, solution problem or anything else you'd like us to discuss, we want to know about it, hit us on Facebook, linkedin, Twitter, or send an email or podio message to podcast@brickbridgeconsulting.com. We're going to take a short journey away from last week's last podcast. Alex and I were talking, we're going to return to that topic shortly, but we wanted a , we had some current events in our business, Jarett, that came up that we felt would be an awesome value to the listeners. So we wanted to kind of preempt that and we're going to be talking about controlling project complexity. Uh , especially speaking to our agency and maybe our enterprise users, you know, and they're getting these requirements.

Jarrett Duker:

This is a hot button topic for me because, well, it comes up in my life a lot. So I had a great call with a new customer this morning and about five minutes before the call, the conference call was supposed to kick off. I got an email containing three pages of neatly bulleted points that were requests a , this is someone I've talked to for maybe half an hour before. They're brand new to Podio, but they just got really, really excited about all of the potential for growth in their business. And they apparently sat down for a long time last night and thought about all the great things they wish they could do in their business.

Gil Roberts:

Got The magic one out. Started writing away, right?

Jarrett Duker:

So I opened this, I opened this document five minutes before I'm supposed to jump on the call and actually go over their statement of work with them that work because we're going to be beginning their build , uh , today or tomorrow. And I just, my eyes glazed over for a second. Like what is this?

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. All of a sudden, right ? We've already talked, got the requirements, kind of got a base of what we're going to do. Then here it comes.

Jarrett Duker:

I had a firm presentation in mind. It was going to be a small bill just to get their feet wet and start them on a path to data database decision making inside of their business. Right now they're just using excel and into it to handle all of their customer interactions and they're wanting to take that next step . But right now they've got nothing, right? And now all of a sudden they're wanting to create integrated communications platforms that would allow multi-way communication between employees, managers, and customers all through the podio platform from nothing. Not that it's not a great idea.

Gil Roberts:

It's fantastic idea.

Jarrett Duker:

But you've got to walk before you run. And I think that that's what this podcast is really about is how do we get people there? Because the biggest mistake I've made , uh, in the years that I've been doing podio bills and doing consulting for various companies and organizations is just giving them that magic wand. We want them to dream, but we also want to stay inside of the realm of what's possible. And I made that mistake one time of just writing down every requirement that was supposed to go into a project. It lasted almost nine months, right?

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. No, no sense of control. And I know that was one of our very early projects and some learning

Jarrett Duker:

and not, and even worse because of the complexity that was introduced into that product, even though we did everything that they wanted it to do, they couldn't understand it. They didn't have the background. It was too much at once. They didn't have the training time or discipline to really learn to use the powerful tools that we've given them because they have no background in podio. They were just happy if they could find the task key , let alone generate dynamic invoices based on , uh , usage, usage quotas.

Gil Roberts:

I know the client you speak out , it's um , still , it's still kind of ongoing.

Jarrett Duker:

Yeah . They're slowly growing into it. But if I had that to do over again, I would've really clamped down on how many bells and whistles.

Gil Roberts:

and you see a lot of these misfires in the implementation. Right. Like, like with that project development process went in great client and I've got my air quotes out. They are a great client, but like it just was like, what's go full bore all at ones ?

Jarrett Duker:

All departments.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. Like the whole thing. And we got it done, took a lot longer than expected a nd a timeline. So we actually failed an expectation there because w e w ould try to bite off more than we could chew. U m, got it done. And more than they could chew on budget. Right? Yeah, that's true. And on budget. But once we hit t he, any implementation, we figured out that it's just too much, too much, too much.

Jarrett Duker:

Especially given the podio builds usually are not going to have robust documentation on the design aspects of the build itself. You can go and get the help sections on Podio, but if it talks about, you know, where does this relationship or lead or what does this button do that's all custom there . There is no FAQ or help texts. We have to develop that with the customer for a one off build for a company. It just, it's , it's never going to exist.

Gil Roberts:

Nah, they at best they'll make a training video. Right. And things get lost in translation sometimes on those too. So it's just a ,

Jarrett Duker:

so there I was this morning with a really excited customer on what is a very small statement of work and a giant list of requests.

Gil Roberts:

We'll give the listeners a quick who a small statement work from us. But for , for us it's less than 5,000

Jarrett Duker:

yeah, a little bit less than 5,000 a small bill when I was expected to take less than a week of actual development time. Now I have this massive list and are really excited customer who's just ready to go. But also has a price in mind. And so try to explain him, explain to him and take him through the process of figuring out what's important , uh , and what can be pushed off to later projects. We just want to share some of those strategies, you know, if you're ever in that would no deer in the headlights look when you're walking into a meeting expecting a, and then all of a sudden have the kitchen sink thrown at you. We've done this a couple times and we just want to share a couple strategies that we use to help help customers help themselves by limiting the complexity in their bills.

Gil Roberts:

And I'll set the table here. So you know, a lot of times when we start talking about clients we get, they begin to think about the blank page mentality, right? And they're just like, you're sitting there, you've got a blank page in front of you and you just start creating. Podio is a sandbox. It starts with nothing, right? So a lot of times they freeze up on it, right? Because they're like , uh,

Jarrett Duker:

Just like writing a high school term paper. You're staring at that blank word page and you just don't know where to get started.

Gil Roberts:

Right. But then we get the opposite problem. What c an we kind of feed them? We help them out a little bit.

Jarrett Duker:

Blank page was last meeting today is the opposite problem.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. So the magic wand that overwhelms, Yep .

Jarrett Duker:

Do anything. The realization that you have almost limitless power and technology here in 2019 but you'd be , you have to know how to use that power and there is that strong tendency to just want to cram every little automation and time saving measure. Uh, and just cool with bags and Gizmos. Let's , let's see some fireworks and you know, some cool stuff happen and let's mail bomb my entire Facebook group. Everyone loves that.

Gil Roberts:

Right? Right. Uh , it's , it's real easy for them. Once they kind of, the light bulb comes on for a client, they're like, I literally can do anything inside this system. Even if you've got to take it off podio and processes , a lot of times the limitation is their budget , right? Like how much budget you got. Now, that's also dangerous though. And this is what we found out is that the orientation isn't always the budget. It's also the capacity and implementation.

Jarrett Duker:

I think that's actually the largest constraining resource is how much can the customer process and as responsible consultants, it's our job to steer them into a product that they can use and create benefits now. And that's what this morning for me was all about. Looking through this large list of , uh , really good ideas and trying to cherry pick what can I implement in the next four to six weeks that's going to make a tangible impact in their business. That's it. That's all that we really want to do. When we're moving from a blank page to something, we'll move from something something better, but we can't go straight from nothing to something better. There has to be that intermediate staff , right ?

Gil Roberts:

I mean that right there, the real world situation is we've got to train employees. People especially like with this, they never used podio at all. So when you open up audio screen, it's absolutely foreign to them. So they got to learn how to use the platform. Then they got to learn how to use the solution and then they got to understand the features inside that solution , uh , so that they can maximize their use of this whole

Jarrett Duker:

because a time saving automation saves no time if they don't know how to use it properly or if they're constantly dealing with slightly off color exceptions that mostly works for, but then they have to go back and, and can't change a lot fields because it wasn't quite what they wanted .

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. A lot of people freeze up on that like, well it's not, you know, it's got a square peg round hole here, or what do I do ?

Jarrett Duker:

And that's exactly the strategy that I adopted this morning with my client because you have a lot of really, really cool automations and automatic messaging and notifications that he wanted to build in. And I had to say, you know, let's take a step back from this. Everything that you're trying to do right here in this block of, of, of bullet points, I kind of segmented them off. He has all stuff that you could do just with a couple of mouse clicks. Automation takes time and energy, which means it takes money to develop and to implement and then it has to be used. So instead of just shoveling all this into the front end of, of the development contract, which by the way wasn't in the contract, so I sort of shy away from this at the same time, let's give you the power to do this and then keep track of what you actually do and what you don't. So that's less than one. You don't have to automate everything right out of the gate. Sometimes if you could do it manually and you end up doing it over and over again, now we circle back around, hey, this is something I've done 12 times this month. Let's automate this little times . Now all of a sudden instead of just throw in development budget and maybes or , or would like to haves, we are actually creating value inside of the organization because we're automating something that's been proven necessary.

Gil Roberts:

You are helping the client. The tour listens here by focusing on the things that are really important. You help the client by increasing their return on investment with their spend with you.

Jarrett Duker:

And no matter how well they know their business, they probably don't have a completely solid grasp on what those things are until they are in a podio environment. It's really hard to blank page those.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah . And another , uh , kind of side point to that that we've run into, we've talked about on other podcasts is like getting down to the end users as well, not just the management and making the decisions . So we've talked about in another podcast , you can look that up. Uh, let's talk strategies like, so you're , you're walking into this meeting, walking out, I think it was a phone call. So you're on , you're on this meeting and you get in this page, you got to go into control mode.

Jarrett Duker:

Absolutely.

Gil Roberts:

And it's not just control the scope, but it's also controlling the client's expectations because they've spent the night with their magic wand and that they got yourselves excited.

Jarrett Duker:

And now they've imagined something way more grand than anyone could ever deliver. I don't, I don't care how good you are, you're never going to be able to make, to beat what they can imagine in their own head. Right ? So we've got to reign that back in without ever saying no. We don't want to say no. We want them to be excited. We want them to , uh , take the contract. We want them to benefit from the product that we're going to be delivering, but we've got to bring them back down to Earth.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah, we got to temper those expectations because they, and it's not an expectation that , like you said, or our listeners is not one or when I talk to you.

Jarrett Duker:

usually it's someone hearing something that I said and interpreting it slightly differently. A yes, we can do that becomes, we will do that

Gil Roberts:

right. As part of this project, right ? And I'll , I want to really emphasize the point that you said is you don't want them, you don't want to say no in the sense that we're never going to do this or it's a stupid idea. Or impossible because it's 2019 basically everything's possible, right? So what you want to do, and this kind of leads into our first strategies is really look at, okay we've got this budget, this kind of budget we talked about or an estimated budget or something. You know, this is our resource constraint. You are new to podio experience in podio. You don't think about their user level, right? Okay, here's this magic wish list that you are excited about. And I know honestly it does make our job a little easier when I sit there and type all that stuff.

Jarrett Duker:

It helped me immensely once I constrained it.

Gil Roberts:

Right. And then you go, okay, what's the look inside of this and what's talk about priority, about priority for this project and priority for the next project. Because I think the, I think the good in all of this is that when they come up with a list like that, we know as consultants and developers that we've got more projects coming, right? Like, yes, God, this guy has bought and he's buying into the system. He's buying into the platform spined to our development philosophy so that this is a good longterm,

Jarrett Duker:

but the customer doesn't necessarily know there's more projects coming and this is a great way to begin introducing them to that concept because we're filling out our story list. If we're doing agile method way, way in advance, and if we ever need to circle around with them , uh, you know, kind of kicking up old slash new business, we've got a great wishlist already on hand that we can incorporate and go, hey, what about this feature? You know, you weren't really ready to do it back then, but how has it been going? Is this something that you'd be interested in doing now or

Gil Roberts:

really neat? You know, hey, absolutely. I think sometimes it's just a great conversation starter. Hey, we got this list, we got like the top 10 things done. Here's 11 through 20 number 11. Did you actually really ended up needing that ? And I say no, but I needed something different, right? So it's either they can buy right off that with this or um, based on priority or it's a great conversation starter for additional staff .

Jarrett Duker:

So we segment customer asks into those priority things that we can do right now to build the foundation of a system. And this is a different conversation. If they're already podio users, they're already drinking the Koolaid. It's a different conversation, right? But we're talking about going from nothing to something and that right there is an incredible achievement. So let's look at what needs to be in that foundation build and get that done now everything and , and put our resources into making that as solid as possible. Because if the core of the fee of the build is not good, the bells and whistles are going to be forgotten or lost . You can spend hundreds of hours building these out for people, especially the bells and whistles . They'll never be used because the core is not good,

Gil Roberts:

right ? bells and whistle hearts are using more complex things that they're looking for. A lot of times that for business processes pretty straight forward. I mean this one is a CRM style build. So you know, that probably would choose through those fantastically. Um , you know, that builds not hrd and it's not super complicated. Now a lot of this stuff, again , paid for lot of bells and whistles and that's complex, complicated, you know , huge messaging system

Jarrett Duker:

doesn't represent anything that couldn't be done through a minute or two of manual work.

Gil Roberts:

So sitting with the client and prioritizing based on value , uh , timing , uh , which I'd like to point out and then resource as well as , uh , the need. Just the general business need. It seems like the first strategy. So prioritization, timing, resource, business need, and I'll throw one more in there, which is a skill to apply on a platform? I think t hat, I think that has a s a huge

Jarrett Duker:

or similar platforms. If they're already a Zapier wizard, I'm happy to talk more about bells and whistles, but if they're totally relying on us for doing all of their external integrations, even just to reflect platform like Zapier that says that they're really not ready for complex automation. For instance, one of the things he wanted was not just an integration to MailChimp through Zapier, but then a further integration from MailChimp into a video messaging service to send even more complicated messages. Let's get the ascending mass emails first

Gil Roberts:

one step at a time with that. That actually brings up another great strategy, which is trying to contain scope and expectation in something that a system that we use called automation points .

Jarrett Duker:

Yeah, let's talk about that a little bit. Cause that was incredibly useful this morning.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. So I'll, I'll do a little background. Uh , you know, we have a project that we mentioned earlier that had everything full bore and we just, you know, I didn't work out well and we , we didn't scope it out. We didn't control scope either, you know, and a lot of that's on us. So after that we learned , um, and we, we came up with a system with automation points which roughly equivocate , uh , to a globiflow that has a deliverable at the end.

Jarrett Duker:

I like to think of it as a, as an action. It could be a complex action, but it usually, if you were to think about I want to do x, that would be an automation point. I want to create customer profile, right? You could do it by hand or the computer can do it for you based on criteria.

Gil Roberts:

And we know that a , the reason that we look at deliverables is because some things that I want to do x , maybe a multistep, you know , very complicated process. So that that's going to obviously be more than one point. But we tend to chop it business process up into, let's say I want us automatically create an invoice and send that to my customer. Well you got a few deliverables in there. First got automatically create the invoice and you think that's to where we'll want that invoice. They're doable too. So this would be two automation points is the automatic emails out. So you know, make an invoice.

Jarrett Duker:

Send emails two points and this works really well for globiflow cause it can be kind of hard to quantify globiflow development time because some actions I can have a complex action done in three minutes by popping in a flow so you know I want it but I'm going to , I'm not going to want to charge my client like that because offset against that could be a much more complicated action . It's hard to, it's hard to monetize globiflow development because of the way the interface works. But the automation point system has worked really, really well for us because it does allow us to talk to clients in a reasonably cogent fashion about what it is that we're going to do for them and so that they can understand the idea of this is going to offload a task for me that has value.

Gil Roberts:

We are truly automating a task and we have a a way to quantify that via vo point . So and then they get , they buy points from us, right? I , there's a base amount that we charge for build and then they, how many tasks do you want to switch from manual to automatic, right or,

Jarrett Duker:

and it was an absolute lifesaver this morning because like I said, this will say small contract I only 10 automation points, very first ground level build , get them onto the platform, right. One of the bullet points in the list that they threw me was a complicated if then nest for sending appointment reminders based on the service type being rendered, which in English sounds really simple until you begin thinking about what the various triggers are going to be for service a, I want it to be at six months. For Service B, I want it to be at three months unless they've also received service a, in which case I wanted it four months. It wasn't bad for them to actually write it out, but if you started to draw the decision tree, this is an incredibly complicated ask and one that if I had not controlled the scope would have been a cost sink for our development team because this was going to eat serious man hours to write all of the nested statements necessary to do this, but because it's an automation point system, I'm able to very easily show the client like, yeah, we would like to do this for you, but that's why. That's why this is more more automation points and therefore more expensive. Therefore eating up more of your budget than sending a happy birthday message based on a date inside of the customer profile. I will do that. No problem. That's a great example of a single automation point, but from the client's perspective, these are the same thing. Why? Why is this so much more complicated and being able to go, yes , it's just sending emails, ones , what's the big deal? But by having that point and helping them to understand like, well, maybe you want to pick your favorite message out of here because that way you don't eat up your entire automation budget with us and that way we're not liable in the statement, hey, we'll , we'll integrate automatic messages for you. Well, how many these six over here are great. They're , they're just single flows that do a single task. This is a snake's nest of potential vendors and else's . If you start actually writing it out, and so I was able to get the client to go, okay, maybe we want to do this later. Let's get this on the books now and therefore help them stay on track. Especially given that there's a good chance that those requirements were going to change once the actual systems implemented,

Gil Roberts:

they're not even using the APP right now .

Jarrett Duker:

They have an expensive build that they need to redo when it really, because it was not the proper time to implement something of that complexity.

Gil Roberts:

Especially when in your case, going from no system on to podio for the first time, we like to see, hey, let's build just something very basic. Use that for 90 days. Cause that's going to generate more ideas and, and also add it that those magic wand requirements you've come up with, because you're going to come back to that list and go , you know what, half the stuff,

Jarrett Duker:

I never used it . I never really wanted this task automated, but I'm realizing I only did that like once this month. Right now this other task, I do it every single day. Could we please do something about it or make a list ? And they didn't even know about it because they weren't oddly weren't thinking in terms of workspaces and apps and data flow yet they were thinking about customer comes in my door, I need to get them a product.

Gil Roberts:

Right. And they're , they're , they're , they don't have the , the platform experience to understand where they can get a time savings or a revenue increase or cost savings. Uh , though those ROI triggers , uh , for the project. I want to tie back the um, automation points to that first strategy. When we talk about which is priority resource and timing on that bundle we talked about, which I'll call scope control, right? U m, the automation points work very well with that because you can go, okay, you have x number of points which costs x amount of money, how do you want to spend them here? You know, here's your wish list. U m, you know, this o ne i s two points is three points, blah, blah, blah. Y ou'd have 10 points. Pick the ones you want. Y eah, y eah.

Jarrett Duker:

And that way if they go, well, you said you were going to do x and you have a solid return to that, which is, I can do, I would like to do, but you spent your points over here instead. Therefore x is outside of scope of this project.

Gil Roberts:

We have a wonderful system with a lot of our clients. At the end of a project, we turn over and automation points report and literally state here's the tasks that are no longer done by human beings or things that we've assisted a lot of the tasks away . Maybe a human being asked to do like the last mile. But we've , we've , uh , you know, we've , we've scraped 80% of the work away, so now, now that person can do more work. So, you know, we can actually give them a report of exactly what's been delivered. And what we found is clients really enjoyed it because they can go, that's what I spent my money.

Jarrett Duker:

And for the most part it corresponds one to one with globiflows or maybe a little be full . We'll have two or three points and we put the point count right and the globe flow name. So it's really easy to pop it open for our customer and they can see where the complexity lies inside of their globiflow.

Gil Roberts:

I think that this is a , um , we want him to talk about this today because this automation points system , um, something that we created here. I think we've cheated off of other things out there in the world, like story points and stuff like that. Uh , but I think that this is a great way for those agencies or those that have internal budgets that they have to, that they have to obey , to use an automation point system to understand and scope out their builds and also control , uh , the projects , uh , complexity.

Jarrett Duker:

And this is just one way of doing it. It's, it's a way that worked for us and it really changed the game in terms of , uh , that client expectation that we're always battling just a little bit cause we want to deliver the best possible product, but we're never going to be able to give the client everything they can imagine sale . No, we don't. And therefore there's always going to be somewhat of a disappointment with the final product and they'll, the more we can limit that, the better. Um, we're going to be able to please our clients and therefore the better our business is going to do.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah . And it's worth noting that a lot of the people that we talked to are nontechnical . A lot of times they're business guys, right ? Gals , uh, that , um, they're, they're really the end users for their own systems and they just, they maybe they've never liked with our client or they've never done a software do they've ever been a part of the software build? You know, they , they , it's a, it's kind of a blue collar business, right? So this isn't, this isn't something that's in their wheel house or their realm or even even Saturday experience cause they're really smart business people. Right? So attacking it from an automation point saying, okay, here's your business process. Would you have to understand, are very intimate with, we can take that piece, this piece. And then instead of approaching them with like technical speak, you know, hey, we're gonna write all this functions of Blah, blah, blah. We can go this thing here that Sally does Mondays , this report will take care of that. So Sally can get on the phone and talk to them or turn it into a dashboard or something like that. You know , something we can speak directly their language to their industry in business and go, we can automate this

Jarrett Duker:

and finding those automations that will make an impact now, not in a fantasized future.

Gil Roberts:

Right. So I hope today was a of great value , uh, to everybody here. Um, and think about that automation point system. Reach out to us. We'd like to hear if you guys implement that or if you have other ideas of how you guys control complexity. Oh my goodness. Yes. If you , any, any, let's start a conversation about this because we w I , I think everybody listening and really everybody in the podio community wants to please the , their bosses or their clients or whoever that they're doing work for and deliver quality solutions.

Jarrett Duker:

Oh, that rabbit hole goes a very deep.

Gil Roberts:

Yeah. So w what's , what start conversation hit us up on our Facebook, linkedin, Twitter, if you guys have another way that you'd like to control your project's complexity and the scope and the customer's expectations for that. Um, and then lastly, before we head out today, we are still looking for podio gaps. So please send those in so we can do some solving , uh , and hopefully provide some value in , in ways to do solutions for pitfalls that podio doesn't cover. Uh, hit us up on linkedin and Facebook, Twitter, or send us an email or putting a message at podcast@brickbridgeconsulting.com, uh , with those gaps. We will be back next week. Um , it's derby week here in the, in the city of Louisville so, we'll be celebrating that we will be back with another episode. So thank you guys for listening.

Jarrett Duker:

Thank you very much.

Gil Roberts:

Subscribe. Have a good one .