Category Archives: Sales & Marketing

EmpireAvenue [X]PendaPalooza 16 Event

What is Empire Avenue?

Empire Avenue is a stock market simulation social network game that allows users to buy and sell shares of people and websites.

It started in February 2010 as an invitation-only closed beta before launching to the public in July 2010.
Registration and game play is free.

Gameplay

Players have their own portfolio in a virtual economy. The price of a player’s share depends on the ticker’s stock buying and selling, along with social networking activity. Players can choose their own ticker symbol; mine is (e)EDACCESSIBLE. The players can have multiple investors, which will garner them a higher share price, and they can invest in other players. Players win Achievements for their actions, such as advertising and adding services such as Twitter. Players gain dividends from the other shares in players they invest in, which are counted as Credits.

Social networks supported by Empire Avenue currently include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Instagram, WordPress hosted blogs and the player’s own blog and RSS feeds.

Virtual Currency

Much like other social media games, Empire Avenue uses strictly virtual currency called Eaves as a means of purchasing shares in other players, additional rights within the exchange, advertising and services. The currency can be purchased with real-world currency via PayPal, but cannot be exchanged for real-world currency. There’s a second virtual currency called Vees, which are EA’s new rewards points system which users can earn from companies and individuals who send out Vees Missions.

Eaves are Empire Avenue’s internal currency used in the Social Market game. Empire Avenue generates Eaves for users to play with, people investing in you on the Social Market gives you Eaves. Vees are rewards points that companies and individuals can obtain from Empire Avenue to reward people through Missions for discovering content and people.

Social Media

Empire Avenue is designed to drive social media activity and social media interaction between the registered members. Players’ value increases, in part, as a result activity on social media sites and their own verified blogs and rss feeds. In addition, a player’s value increases through dividends paid-out by other members he or she has invested in. Thus, the social media activity of a player’s investments also contributes to his or her game wealth. It is in players’ self-interest to follow, favorite, or otherwise contribute to the social media activity of those they invest in.

For competitive and aspiring social media mavens, collecting Eaves or Vees brings the social sharing genre into a whole new passion for performance perspective. You can complete missions, invest in the creators, network directly, and learn about everything that other people are doing online.

Empire Avenue Special Events

Every so often (at least once a month), the Avenue will host special events to promote investment in new faces and not so new faces, run missions and celebrate special events such as the last big event called the SuperMoon to celebrate the last super moon of the year.

This weekend (starting on Friday August 15th at 3 p.m EST through Sunday August 17th at 3 p.m. EST) Empire Avenue is hosting what now is becoming a tradition, the 16th edition of [X]PendaPalooza. It will be an opportunity for many players, especially newer ones, to be bought, and for more seasoned investors to spend – that is, helping out others while finding new investments. It’s a positive, active, 48-hour buy-a-thon, and it’s all about paying it forward.

Do not hesitate any longer and join Empire Avenue now!

ADA Accessibility Requirements for Internet Retailers

ADA Accessibility Requirements for Internet Retailers

This is a great presentation on the current status of the American with Disabilities Act being applied to public websites and the things internet retailers should be paying attention to as far as web accessibility compliance is concerned.

You can also watch the prerecorded webinar presented by myself.

Traits of Successful People and Unsucessful People

The Success Indicator: Traits of Successful People and Unsuccessful People

by Mary Ellen Tribby
According to the author, “this chart was inspired and composed after meeting and working with some of the smartest, most successful entrepreneurs in the world, many of who are dear friends.
The following is that chart I compiled of characteristics, traits and behaviors of successful people vs. unsuccessful people”.Traits of Successful People and Unsucessful People

HBR Management Tip of the Day: Make Conflict Collaborative, Not Combative

Shying away from open, healthy conflict about work issues may make you feel like a nice person, but it’s an unproductive habit. Although conflict can be uncomfortable, it is the source of true innovation and a critical process in identifying and mitigating risks. Attention to your delivery can help you can maintain your self-image as a nice person — even in conflict.

When dealing with someone who disagrees with you, try these tactics to remain collaborative, not combative:
Express your contrary opinion as an “and,” not a “but.” It’s not necessary for someone else to be wrong for you to be right.

Ask open-ended questions rather than stating conclusions. “How is that going to land with our customers?” feels much less aggressive than “Our customers will be angry.”

Adapted from “Conflict Strategies for Nice People” by Liane Davey

Why Projects Fail – Top 10 Reasons

Excellent Project Management post by Tom Tsongas.

In most cases, projects (and programs) succeed within an organization. Although in general, there are usually ‘issues’ that need addressing during the project life-cycle. Provided the project manager is staying on top things and barring radically unforseen circumstances, a project ‘should’ succeed.

But what happens when projects fail outright? And what are the primary causes for a project failure?

Ultimately, projects failing within an organization could have numerous and inter-related causes. Listed below are the top ten reasons that could contribute to project failure:

1. Lack of a Project Charter

In a previous post, I discussed the requirement for an overall project charter when enacting a new project within an organization. (For reference, you can access that post here: Project Charter: What is it and why is it needed?)

The Project Charter is essentially the ‘what’ portion of the criteria of the project. It dictates exactly what is being built, created or enacted and explains in high level terms the various justification and initial scope for the project. The charter itself becomes part of the over-arching project plan. What makes it so important is that it gives a concise explanation of what the project is actually looking to achieve; all initial stakeholders for the project must sign off on the project charter to ensure they are on board with its definition and are in agreement with moving forward with the project. In many cases of project failure, a poorly defined or non-existent project charter leads to continuous revamping of the project since stakeholders are still providing input into what they ‘thought’ the project was going to do. This leads to delays and endless rework and can often end up causing project slippage or outright failure. The project manager should ensure that they have a detailed project charter in place prior to project start and that ALL stakeholders have signed off on the document.

2. Lack of User Involvement

A project that is producing some deliverable is likely going to have a specific user constituency. i.e. a group of individuals that are the consumers of that product. Whether it be a new hardware widget, a piece of software, or even an augmentation to some existing mechanism, users will be the ultimate customers. As such, it is imperative that the users are actively engaged during the project life-cycle to ensure that their particular feedback and suggestions are effectively cataloged. This is often done with a small subset of product ‘consumers’ who participate in some of the initial product screenings. This then expands to more involved Alpha and Beta release cycles where a broader number of users are brought in and their input is used to guide the project. Failure to actively engage with users can often lead to an end result deliverable that does not meet the needs and expectations of the users.

3. Poorly Defined Requirements (Poor Scope Definition)

While the project charter describes the ‘what’, the low-level requirements explain the ‘how’. It is absolutely essential for the project manager to ensure that the primary requirements for the project are defined early and are as detailed as possible. Holding regular requirements gathering meetings at the outset will reduce the likelihood that the requirements are incomplete. It is also important to revisit these meetings during the execution phase of the project for occasional refreshers and to ensure that the current requirements can be achieved in the allotted timeframe. Note that high and low-level scope need to be adequately itemized as well. Poor defined requirements can be a surefire way to leading to project failure.

4. Scope Creep

The bane of many a project manager’s existence, scope creep is the tendency for stakeholders and project participants alike to try to ‘sneak’ new features or requirements into a project after the primary requirements have already been agreed upon. Adding scope to a project during its run is not in itself unusual, but it is imperative for the project manager to ensure that any changes in scope are effectively discussed and any changes to the schedule are also itemized. The famous ‘triple constraint’ (scope, time, cost) demonstrates that one cannot change scope within a project without changing one of the other items as well. Project managers need to be cognizant of the fact that adding scope without addressing the overall project itself can lead to missed schedules or a poor quality deliverable, since scope was added at the expense of other things, like product quality.

5. Poorly Defined or Unrealistic Time Scales

One of the most important duties for a project manager is scheduling. A schedule defines the timeframe, milestones and key deliverables for a project. It is probably one of the most challenging yet essential parts of the project manager’s job. Which is why when it is either performed inadequately or a sponsor or set of stakeholders give an unrealistic set of goals and timeframes to the team, the project manager must act accordingly. One of the hardest jobs a project manager must undertake is the ability to say ‘no’ or ‘that timeframe is unrealistic’. Management never likes hearing what can’t be done. But invariably, a project manager that willingly ignores all the red flags pertaining to a project’s schedule is just as guilty if the project ultimately fails as the executive team.

6. Inadequate (or non-existent) Testing

Throughout the life cycle of any project, there have to be timeframes and iterations allocated to testing the integrity of the deliverable. This almost seems like a no-brainer. Yet it is striking just how many times projects hit the wall or end up failing miserably in the marketplace because of inadequate testing. Product quality is something that any organization strives for since that actively contributes to the company’s reputation. As such, allocating the necessary cycles and resources to testing at various stages of the project life-cycle is absolutely essential. That includes unit testing, regression testing, alpha/beta testing by consumers and standard build-based testing. In many cases where released products displayed poor quality, the most obvious culprit in those circumstances is a schedule and process that did not allocate the necessary time for testing.

7. Lack of Resources

Every project needs resources. How much and how many depends on the size and scope of the project. Like most project managers can attest, working on projects with scarce resources is not all that unusual. Management will always invariably try to minimize costs while working with maximum productivity. Projects running somewhat ‘lean’ are not an unknown in project management circles. However, there are situations where the project is simply unattainable because the allocated resources are woefully insufficient. In those types of situations, it may be a case whereby key personal required for project success are just made not available. For example, if the project has a requirement for a skilled C# programmer and the individuals allocated do not possess that skill, the project cannot proceed until the necessary resource is provided. In many post mortems on various projects, a common culprit is a lack of specific resources or resource types that were not provided, thereby leaving the project team to try to compensate using their own skill sets.

8. Use of New or Unfamiliar Tools

Good tools are essential for the success of any project. Whether that be access to a good software development environment, a good CRM system or a good defect tracking system, tools are a staple component to the success of any project. However, a common fallacy that many project managers and team leaders often make is attempting to utilize a new or unfamiliar tool at the same time that a new project is starting. This can lead to severe problems during the life-cycle of the project since the team now has to contend with their common project duties while also dealing with the learning curve of the new tool. This can easily lead to delays or outright missed issues if the team members are too novice on the tool to be able to utilize it wisely. As a rule of thumb, it is usually the best policy when thinking of adopting new tools to bring them into the fray gradually. Allow the team to use existing tools for any new or current projects and make adoption of the newer tools reside on a parallel track. Ensure that adequate training is provided and only begin usage of these new tools for any new projects once you are satisfied that the team is up to snuff with their usage.

9. Political Infighting

It exists in companies as well as governments. Functional managers and executives with their own vested interest in specific aspects of the business can often come to blows over new or existing projects. Especially in situations where a project may be spanning several different business units that may or may not all utilize the same process or have the same mid to long-term mission statements. As a project manager, it is important to be able to function adequately as the referee and mediator in these situations and try to smooth out any differences of opinion as they arise. Groups of stakeholders or functional managers involved in a project that do not see eye-to-eye on the project scope, its implementation or its schedule can be extremely detrimental to the overall success of the project.

10. Poor Project Management

With all of the aforementioned being said, the last (and probably least popular reasons, among project managers at least) when it comes to project failure is simply this: poor project management. Now while any of the aforementioned items can cause project problems or outright failure, a good project manager can often stay on top of them. However, what about a project manager that is simply ‘bad’ at their job? It can and does happen. Sometimes, a project was adequately staffed, have a good charter, proper timetables and the backing of the primary sponsor. Yet it simply fails because the project manager did a poor job. In a previous post, I discussed the criteria for what makes a ‘good’ project manager. (For reference, that post can be found here: What makes a good project manager?) Like any other position within a company, the success of your projects and your business as a whole depends on staffing your organization with the right people. And hiring competent, well skilled project managers is no exception.  To learn more about how you can become a more successful project manager, click here.

*Conclusions*

Projects succeed and sometimes, projects fail. Knowing what factors can lead to project failure is important for the project manager so they know what to look for when managing their projects. The aforementioned list should give a project manager the necessary reference to be able to stay on top of things within their areas and get the jump on any problems that arise, thereby minimizing the likelihood of project failure and maximizing the likelihood of success down the road.