Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Scoble Interview Published

If you're looking to meet some of the people behind TeamDirection, Robert Scoble provides the chance. Here he is interviewing, of all people, me.

This was a lot of fun to do, and I like how it turned out. My head doesn't even look too shiny.

On a serious note, though, I read on Robert's blog the serious news of the day. I sincerely hope a few bad apples don't spoil what people like Robert bring to the online community. The Scoble show is a great opportunity for companies with cool stuff to spread the word. I, for one, believe he is doing an essential service of connecting consumers and producers. We should be thanking people that put themselves out there like Robert or Kathy Sierra.

They make the world a better place.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Independent Groove User Group Forming

Jim Moffat has taken the initiative and is forming a Groove User Group that looks very interesting. I've joined up and will add what I can. Other prominent Groovers are also coalescing around www.grooveuser.org.

Not to say Microsoft hasn't been pushing Groove hard enough. I'm sure you won't hear anyone say such a thing. I know I'm not going to say Microsoft hasn't been pushing Groove hard enough...

The thing is, it's still a great virtual team solution, but now it has to prove its right to exist within the gargantuan MS Office world. Honestly, Groove could use another zero or two at the end of its install base numbers to become a full-fledged member of MS Office.

But, by providing a still compelling solution for virtual teams, by inspiring enough from its user base to form user groups and maybe even by still having a special place in Ray Ozzie's heart, Groove will get those numbers.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Venture Capitalists, Chickens and Eggs

Don Dodge had an interesting post the other day that speaks to an issue front and center in my mind: Venture Capitalists and Angels invest $40 Billion per year but see only $18B in exits. Why is that?

Venture Capitalists are an interesting breed. They sit on a pile of money, keep it warm and look for the next sure thing to hatch. Most often the next sure thing has already hatched and is busily rewarding the investors who helped them get their start as they make one of life's nicer choices: Acquisition or IPO?

In other words, there are no sure things. It's all about the risk.

So what to make of VC firms that look to 'add value' to a company already making money, but not really big money. Who doesn't want to make really big money, right?

TeamDirection would like to break into the big money stratosphere just as much as the next company, but at what cost? For instance, we are currently building our inside sales presence and becoming more customer facing. Before, we relied on Groove Networks to handle the heavy lifting of Sales and Marketing. This was a nice arrangement as we could focus on some heavy technology-- merging distributed sets of data into one cohesive whole. Presenting multi-user applications in a single steady state to all users. Non-trivial tasks we had to make easy.

This is not to toot our own horn (much). Sales and Marketing are just as difficult and hard-- technology people like myself just don't know it yet. (When they start their own company, they figure it out!) Honestly, it would be nice to have help now and then to build an internal sales and marketing organization. For me, this is the siren song of the VC.

You know technology, We know sales.

Remember back in the day when people were up in arms over rock music being played backwards on phonographs? Even in 2007, it can still be fun thing to do-- especially for VC siren songs. Play this song backwards and you get:

Show us your chicken, and we'll show you our eggs.

It's really odd, but it seems the more successful TeamDirection is becoming, the more VC phone calls I'm fielding. The latest pitch was, in essence:

If you build a successful inside sales and marketing organization, we can help you build a bigger sales and marketing organization.

Hmm.. well, I'm starting from scratch and building something out of nothing. It's kind of like that old tune about becoming a millionaire (I'm not-- I'm referring to Barron's popular refrain):

The First Million is the Hardest.

I'll lay it out straight-- at this point I'm much more interested in getting help building a successful sales and marketing team than applying MBA measurements and improving a successful sales and marketing organization.

Now that is worth a reward, and a lot of chickens, in my humble opinion.

Building Intuitive UIs

If you've read any of my posts at ReadWriteWeb, you know I love to look at things with an eye towards the past. So many times a new problem is really an old problem. Like User Interface Design.

I came across this video (Introducing the Book) while reading Scott Maxwell's blog. After I stopped laughing, I began to think about our own UI and how well it performs for our customers-- especially for a 'complex' business segment like project management.

In my opinion, we're doing pretty well. In fact, we recently did a screencast to show a few UI niceties we bring to project management. Little things like telling you whether your tasks are to the left or to the right of your current Gantt view. Or showing you why you can't link two tasks together-- highlighting the path that would create the circular link.

But I don't think we've built the most intuitive UI by any stretch. Project Management does have a certain amount of complexity. Connecting business systems to the web is not trivial. However, if you happen to hear from a customer 'That's all you have to do?', then you know you're on the right path.

And we do listen to our customers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Note for Groove Project Edition Users

Hello out there!

What a transition it has been since Microsoft purchased Groove way back in March of 2005. I'll bet you can count the number of communication updates regarding your Groove product on one hand.

First of all, I would like to stress that TeamDirection will be supporting TeamDirection tools within Groove Project Edition until June of 2009. I know there are many companies of all sizes currently (happily) using this product. It's one of those software releases that just works. So if you're not in a hurry to upgrade to Groove 2007, I understand.

TeamDirection will make it as easy as possible to continue running your feature-rich Groove 3.x software for a couple years to come. We will also make it as easy as possible when you're ready to move to the Microsoft Office edition of Groove.

One thing you should be aware of, however, is TeamDirection has no plans for adding any more features into the Groove Project Edition set. We are very excited about our product mix going forward, of which Groove is a major part. In addition to Groove, we've been able to bring our years of collaborative experience to other platforms as well.

We've added support for SharePoint 2003 and 2007, and a new creation-- our Internet Workgroup, which incorporates Amazon S3 services to make sharing projects ridiculously easy. Groove 3.x was a great market, but now events have pushed everyone into the even larger Microsoft Office ecosystem.

It will be interesting to see what life is like for the Groove customer base once its multiplied by a few factors.

Monday, March 19, 2007

IntelliGantt Milestones

There's a nifty feature in the new IntelliGantt products that we've seriously under-represented. In fact, I just put up a new screencast that mentions it (Tour Project Features).

If I recall, I believe this feature came as a result of a request from Siemens. Their project managers had grown rather cross with dumb milestones. They had gone through the trouble linking milestones to tasks, but then pointed out the futility of their efforts as these milestones behaved as individual entities.

For example, even if all the predecessor tasks of a milestone were to be incomplete, or even late, a milestone could still be marked complete. This made it rather difficult for project managers to filter large projects such that only milestones would be visible. Actually, it wasn't the filtering that was hard, it was the ambiguity of the milestones themselves-- would you trust a completed milestone not knowing the state of its predecessors?

TeamDirection went about solving this problem, and the solution ships with IntelliGantt today. We made our milestones, er... intelligent. If a milestone has a predecessor, then that milestone reflects the status of its predecessor. If the predecessor isn't complete, then the milestone isn't complete.

In fact, this works on down a chain of predecessors. For instance, if the immediate predecessor of a milestone is on track, but its predecessor is behind, then the milestone will be behind. A milestone is only shown as completed if all its predecessors are completed! This lets project managers (or other interested parties) filtering on just milestones get a more accurate read on areas of the project that may have problems.

Displaying accurate information and identifying potential issues as soon as possible gives you more time to communicate issues and make corrections-- both of which help your projects succeed.

TeamDirection has a 15 day free trial so you can try out some intelligent milestones today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

SharePoint/Project Use Case

As we've been enriching our integration with SharePoint and Groove, a use case is coming up that is neither wrong nor right-- it's just expectations.

Currently in IntelliGantt Plus, if you publish a project to a SharePoint workspace, IntelliGantt will be selective in how it updates. For instance, if a GUEST logs into the workspace, obviously SharePoint will not allow them to edit tasks. But what about a contributor?

We've designed things such that, if you are a contributor in SharePoint, you must be assigned to a task in order to update it. We can't tell SharePoint to disable those fields as if you were a guest. Rather, when IntelliGantt Plus synchronizes with the SharePoint task list, it examines who made the change to the updated task.

If you are not a manager, not a guest, but in fact a contributor, then IntelliGantt checks for task assignment. If the contributor is not assigned to the task, the updates will be tossed and IntelliGantt will reinsert its view of the task. If the contributor is assigned to the task, then the changes are reflected in the IntelliGantt project.

This works well for the project manager monitoring the project. They don't want to let just *anybody* update tasks. However, what if team members wish for a less restrictive approach. For example, maybe there are no task assignments. Everybody has the ability to change any task. This is in fact how our Internet Workgroup works, but with SharePoint we wanted to make use of permissions.

Perhaps we need a less restrictive mode? In talking with project managers, no-one wants to give up our current assignment enforcement. However, we do look to be inclusive-- and if some people would like to have more of a 'free-for-all', we are listening.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Freudian Slip

The picture of the Fire Rainbow I posted the other day certainly received a lot of attention. Thanks for all the interesting comments. The one I really enjoyed, however, was a nastygram from, of course, an anonymous commenter.

Pathetic way to steal a photograph, you didn't even clone out the (C) AP. This has to be a joke or you are about as stupid as one can me.

Heh heh, can't argue with that :)

Fun With Blog Statistics -- Who is Using What

We make project management software. And while we would like to do it for every platform, right now our IntelliGantt suite runs only with .NET on Windows platforms, or really good Windows virtualization platforms.

However, anyone can certainly come and look at TeamDirection's wares. And it's interesting to see who does. For example, according to our logs we recently had an XBox come check out the site. Just one so far, but you never know what might be a latent market.

For instance, Microsoft will cringe to hear that Sony has an 1,100% advantage with the number of PlayStation portables visiting TeamDireciton with a full 11 gamers checking out project management software. Maybe they like the simplicity in sharing tasks.

Mac OS makes a surprisingly strong showing, with 12.6% of our traffic. I believe this is because of our rich SharePoint integration. This lets a project manager running Windows use IntelliGantt software, and when they share tasks to SharePoint, Mac users in turn can participate via their browser. Although with a number of 12.6%, a Mac platform has piqued my interest.

Linux makes a showing, but only for 5% of our traffic. Of course, they get the same benefits as make users as Firefox browsers on Linux work just fine for interacting with Microsoft SharePoint. Linux users too can update their assigned tasks.

Finally, for the odds and ends we have the following:

IBM OS/2 12 viewers
Be OS 8
Symbian OS 1

and finally...

Windows 3.x 37 viewers

What are you people doing on Windows 3.x?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Week Ahead

With all due respect to Frank Sinatra, it's time to start spreading the news.

TeamDirection will be notifying all its customers this week of our new IntelliGantt line of products. The MS Project Add-In is already receiving quite a bit of interest. I think the Internet Workgroup will capture interest as well, provided we explain and present it well.

Which will be my task. I'm looking at creating several screencasts this week. If a picture says a thousand words, then a screencast conveys a user manual!

The IntelliGantt screencasts will be here. The MS Project Add-In screenshots will be here.

And one packaging note: We have decided to bundle the MS Project Add-In with IntelliGantt plus. For $549, this is an insane deal. You get an Add-In for MS Project, you get IntelliGantt Plus which has even more functionality (synchronizing with MS Project summary tasks) AND you get MindManager synchronization.

Your project manager will thank you!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What Digg Taught Me About Attention

Alex Iskold wrote an interesting piece at my favorite blog ReadWriteWeb the other day called "The Attention Economy: An Overview". It's well written, cogent and backed by solid analysis-- as usual. For me the take away quote is this:

It is important to realize that the key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy. As long as a consumer sees relevant content, he/she is going to stick around - and that creates more opportunities to sell.

Quite unexpectedly, I managed to prove Alex's hypothesis this morning. The test case is the blog post right before this one. The one with the pretty picture. Fire Rainbow.

Now this here blog is more of a business blog. You'll notice that if you go to TeamDirection, the corporate blog at the footer of every page is in fact this one. Generally I tailor the content as such. But every now and then I like to put in something fun or unusual-- maybe even funny. I figure blogging is a good tool for people to find TeamDirection and come to know our products.

So I got this really cool picture and I thought:

A) That is amazing
B) Other people would like to see it
C) Amazing pictures often do very well on Digg.

Up to Digg it went. And it got Dugg.

If you enjoy watching the hit counter spin, then this experience is for you. Project Management is typically a workweek topic, so the weekends tend to be quiet at ye olde blogge. But as I type this, Fire Rainbow has managed 1667 diggs. This translates to, at this moment:

7 1/2 Hours of Digging
74,807 Page Views
65,382 Unique Visitors

Given that the purpose of this blog is to talk about TeamDirection, Project Management and our new IntelliGantt line of products one would have to think some number would click to the company site. Even if by accident (falling on the mouse, dog pawing at the owner for a walk, momentary loss of motor control, etc..), some number would click through.

Well, some number did. And that number is ........ 9.

Yes, 9.

Out of 65,382 visitors.

As Alex said:

As long as a consumer sees relevant content, he/she is going to stick around - and that creates more opportunities to sell.

Consider this experience the proof. QED

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ever Heard of a Fire Rainbow?

[UPDATE -- I've been duped -- see below]
[UPDATE II -- If you're curious about Digg and Attention]

Under the category of 'There's something you don't see every day', a friend of friend lives on the Washington/Idaho border and took this shot last week. In fact, I have never seen this before-- wish I had.

In her words:

This is a Fire Rainbow-- the rarest of all naturally occurring atmospheric phemonema. The picture was captured this week, with the event lasting about 1 hour.

Clouds have to be cirrus, at least 20,000 feet in the air, with just the right amount of ice crystals and the sun has to hit the clouds at precisely 58 degrees.


[The Duping Scoop]

Good thing I didn't name names! This email comes in from a good, reputable source (my father-- sorry dad :) Beautiful photo of an event I've never seen before. Add in the fact of local connection and I think 'I can't wait to share this'.

So I go to Digg and write up my title and description (here's the link)


And what should show up but the exact same photo from August of 2006. (here's that link)


Now I'm not one to show the world my family's dirty laundry, but someone's in troooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuubbbbbbbbllllllllllleeee :)

The other reason I immediately believed it? The statistics. I'm a sucker for statistics. 20,000 feet. 58 degrees. Yeah Baby!

And people wonder how rumors and mistruths propagate.

Shhh TeamDirection Doing a Soft Launch

Until next week.

We're still putting the spit and polish on a couple things before let everyone know what's up. But if you're interested, you can get the following before anybody else:

1) IntelliGantt -- Our rebranded Project Management solution that incorporates Amazon's S3 storage services. Now sharing projects with anyone in the world takes about three clicks.

2) IntelliGantt Plus -- Everything that IntelliGantt does, PLUS the ability to tightly integrate with business apps (MS Project and Mindjet MindManager) and collaboration platforms (SharePoint Services 2003 & 2007 and Groove 2007).

3) IntelliGantt MS Project Add-In -- Give the power of sharing tasks to MS Project Standard and Professional without having to buy Project Server-- for less than the price of upgrading MS Project Standard to Professional.

And we have a spiffy new website too.

We've done project management for Groove Networks for many years, but now we're branching out to bigger platforms (SharePoint) and bigger ideas (our 'Internet Workgroup', which uses Amazon S3 to share worldwide).

But don't tell anyone quite yet :)