Archive for December, 2010

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

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I tend to get pensive as the year draws to a close. This year is particularly eventful on a personal level.

  • I lost someone I loved (a parent).
  • I gained someone new to love (a niece).
  • My children learned many new skills that made me prodigiously proud.
  • Someone I care about had a multiple-of-10  birthday and I was there to celebrate it with her.
  • Someone I care about had to have surgery and I am glad she is ok.
  • Someone I care about got engaged and I am very happy for her.
  • I renewed my connections with several friends I lost touch with over 25 years ago.

As a workaholic, it’s all too easy for me  to get caught up in the minutiae of my work life.  But it’s the life events outside of work that really defines the passage of time. I will always remember this year as the year I buried my dad and met my baby niece for the first time.

My new year’s resolution: don’t take life for granted.  Savor the people in my life. They won’t all be there forever.

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Fantastic primer on sales funnel by David Skok

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I just consumed a fantastic webinar / slide deck by David Skok that lays out everything to consider in making the sales funnel work.  The title is called “Building a Sales and Marketing Machine Webinar“.  If you are working on your software startup’s sales funnel, read it in its entirety – better yet, read the other articles on this super educational and helpful blog.  Highly recommended!

Say “thank you”

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The day before yesterday, one of our software gurus pulled a miracle out of his hat.  A server had been hacked, and he got stuck with the unsavory task of trying to retrieve what’s salvageable and to bring the same services back up on a different server, with almost no material support from anyone.

I thought it would take a week to bring it back up. It took him 2 working days (and nights).   So I emailed the software team and the senior management team to acknowledge this feat.  I also acknowledged his improbable achievement in other public gatherings.

In my mind, this guy put in effort above and beyond the call of duty and achieved a fabulous outcome.  The least I could do is to make sure everybody knew it was he who did the work, and that I was really impressed.

In startups this kind of acknowledgement is simply not done frequently enough.   When everyone is in a constant state of running around like chickens with their heads cut off, it is hard to remember to stop and say a simple “thank you” to the people responsible for the achievements that keep the lights on and help support the success of the company.  But we simply have to make the time.

Nobody reads minds. If you don’t express it, it’s like you never experienced that sense of appreciation.    Our employees make big personal sacrifices to be in a startup, with an often compromised compensation package, strange working  hours, and a perpetually high stress level.  Say thank you frequently, often, in public and in private.  Make sure they know your appreciation.  It’s the least we can do for our star performers.

A year in review

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As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect upon the good, the bad and the ugly in this year.

  • We did a really cool segmentation and ethnography project that helped define buyer and user personas. That was great fun.
  • We did a bunch of pricing research on the cheap, but the results were inconclusive.  Probably should have hired professionals to do this (a casualty of working for cash-strapped startups).
  • We built a strong, diversified, talented and productive software team.  This makes me feel like a million bucks.
  • Said team figured out how to develop and self-host a scalable web based application. That felt great.
  • We launched a new iPhone App.  That felt great.
  • We had several intense “Oh Crap” moments. That felt crappy but all’s well that ended well after we fixed what’s broken.
  • We launched a massive new project with a ridiculously aggressive timeline. That felt scary.
  • We are miraculously on schedule 1.5 months into said aggressive timeline. That felt great (even though I still come close to passing out each time I visualize my 390 line Gantt chart in my head.)

At the end of the day, everything that was achieved at work was achieved because we put together a fantastic team of trained assasins who are super good at their jobs, yet flexible enough to adapt themselves to the rapidly changing needs in a startup environment.  I’m very proud of my team and all their achievements.  They rock!

World’s worst UX: Pro/E Installation

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Today I had the “pleasure” of installing a fresh license of Pro/E on a clean computer.  The out of box experience caused my eyes to pop out of my head. Here is a partial log of what I did over the better half of the day – you have to see it to believe it.

  • I had to wait a week and a half after paying for my licenses by credit card before PTC processed my order (if my VAR was’t so persistent on my behalf, it probably wouldn’t have happened until after the new year).
  • I received a “shipment confirmation” document from PTC with a one pager instructing me to “download the software”
  • I received a different, much longer instruction sheet from my VAR with much more detailed step by step instructions, which turned out to be a life saver.
  • Following instructions, I signed up for an account.
  • Then I waded through an all-text page to find a text link called “Upgrade your Account”.
  • I entered my customer number and my sales order number (“SON”) on an all text form.
  • I received a confirmation email and clicked through to confirm the upgrade.
  • Then I clicked Support > Order or download software updates on another all text page.
  • On the next all-text page, I clicked a link called “order or download software updates” again.
  • I picked the products to download, then had to choose between a bunch of non-obvious options for download.
  • I chose what I thought was appropriate and started the download. This was a 3GB + file and it took almost an hour over wire on FIOS.
  • I unzipped the zip file to get at the installer.
  • I went to  another all-text page to “configure my software”, for the purpose of obtaining a license file.  I had to enter my sales order number yet again.
  • I started the installer in order to obtain my host name and machine ID.
  • I waded through several more text only pages and forms to enter my host name / ID to obtain the license file.
  • I got an email saying a ticket was filed on my behalf to request a license file.
  • In about 30 minutes I got 2 emails with a license file each – there was a large warning in the first email instructing me to read both long emails to decide which license file I needed (I needed the first).
  • I saved the license file to a location of my choice.
  • I went back to the installer, which had 2 options: installing the license server and installing the Pro/E software. Since I read the instructions I clicked the license server.
  • I designated a location to install the license server to, and I imported the license file.
  • I clicked a tiny little icon to look at the actual ascii license file.
  • I clicked a button called ReCheck License(s) to verify the license file was fine, even though I had just imported the license file without having touched it at all.
  • I checked a couple more options then let it install.
  • I click Next, then selected Pro/E to install.  FINALLY!
  • I pointed the installer to the location where I installed the license server.
  • I made it through 9 more screens, then finally was able to click Install.
  • Now I must reboot my machine to start the license server such that I can run Pro/E on this machine.

I am struck speechless.  I understand this is enterprise software but this UX is simply beyond the pale. Why are there no landing pages?  Why are there no calls to action? Why can’t I be served my license file automatically in an email when my order is processed? Why the need to keep entering the Sales Order Number by hand in multiple places?  Why such disregard for basic usability and out of box experience?

If my VAR did not provide the 2 page instruction sheet I never would have succeeded in installing this thing.  Full marks to my VAR (Boston Engineering) and shame on PTC.


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