Saturday, December 25, 2010

Read: Make Ideas Happen

Heading south of the border to San Pancho, Mexico, I've had the opportunity to catch up on some much needed reading. This recent release from Scott Belsky follows the Seth Godin-esque mantra of shipping ideas. The value of the 99% perspiration vs the 1% inspiration. Process and lessons learned from creative leaders on how to convert ideas into product.. As Kobe would say.. execute. What sets this book a part from some of the older productivity reads is it's focus on real modern-day issues, and useful nuggets from guys like Chris Anderson (Wired), Ji Lee (Google) and John Maeda.

Great learnings for producers leading teams, and supported by a useful product and an app helping you in the day to day of separating the noise of notes, from action items and those ideas that need to sit on the backburner.

Tip: Only $12.99 on Apple iBook or Kindle Edition:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tip: Email Campaign Results

Ever have a client asking you how their email campaign will perform ahead of time? MailChimp's Research Centre can help:

They aggregate results from more than 570 million emails delivered by their system, split by industry and company size. This is particularly useful to know if your client is in the Home and Garden industry (28% average open rate) vs Travel (14% average open rate).

If you're looking at dusting up your email campaign knowledge, also check out their comprehensive guides section -

Sunday, December 12, 2010

5 Reasons to Upgrade to MS Project 2010

MS Project 2007 was a mess. A usability nightmare. Simple things required complicated workarounds. Simple features weren't available at all (recurring task anyone?). It lived in it's own world, oblivious to cousins Excel and Powerpoint. And for Interactive Producers and Project Managers, it simply wasn't an efficient tool for short, fast planning and resource allocation. But it is still the king of Gantt Charts and project planning, the hammer in the Producer toolbelt.

So this week we've upgraded to MS Project 2010. There's clearly been a lot of work on the usability front, all new features, and improved integration across the Microsoft Suite. So if your IT Manager is sitting on those licenses and not willing to update, here's five reasons you should get on their case -

1. Calendar Nonworking Days

Under the tab 'Change Working Time' you now have the option to set work holidays and nonworking days from a simple calendar view. Create a work holiday calendar, that can apply to all future projects. You can even schedule recurring half-days for your Summer Friday's via the Work Weeks tab.

2. Set Recurring Meetings

Finally you now have the option to set recurring tasks. This is godsend if you have regular meetings, client reviews or production tasks. They have borrowed the feature from Microsoft Outlook for this, and you can set by day of week, number of recurrences to a specific end date, and the duration. Simple.

3. Plan by Resource availability, not Tasks.

A totally new View has been added which lists Resources down the page, rather than Tasks. You can create tasks on the fly via the Task button, which by default sit in an Unassigned Tasks footer. Using the standard click and drag function or by right clicking, you can then assign these tasks to users, based on where you see availability. It's a lot more visually pleasing, and also provides visual cues for things like when a user is overbooked, or if there are scheduling conflicts. I'd envisage Microsoft will continue to grow and improve this View, it's a great way to schedule small tasks quickly and easily across a team.

4. Export Project Summary to Powerpoint

Ever find yourself recreating your detailed Gantt Chart in a simple Powerpoint view so that your client can understand it? Then you'll love this feature. Called 'Timeline', it's an addition to the Gantt Chart View. Sitting at the top of the page, it collects Summary tasks and presents them in a simple view to summarize the project key dates. You can edit this view, and add any of your tasks that you think a stakeholder will be interested in knowing, e.g key milestones, through a simple check-box list. Once you're done, you can then cut and paste this chart into your Powerpoint presentation and style away, knowing the dates, titles and durations are all consistent with your project plan. Boom.

5. User-controlled Scheduling

This is one of the biggest leaps from the 2007 version, called 'User-controlled' or 'Manual' scheduling. Essentially rather than have MS Project shuffle the task start and end times around based on default rules (the now call this 'Auto Scheduling'), it allows you to have complete control over start-end times, dates and durations. This may be confusing at first for long time Project users (you can easily toggle to Auto Scheduling via a drop-down in the footer), but I find this brilliant when importing a pre-completed schedule from Excel. Any conflicts or scheduling concerns are underlined in red or green for you to decide if you would like to adjust.

Tip: 5 Golden Rules as an Interactive Producer

A talented producer I was fortunate to work with at Fi, is Tom Knowles ( Drawing upon his experience delivering award-winning interactive projects across the UK and now in Stockholm, he's put together 5 Golden Rules for Interactive Producers to live by. They are -
  • Avoid assumptions
  • Work for the project, not for yourself
  • Never launch on a Friday!
  • Don't underestimate content
  • Things change
Read what each of these means here -

Thanks Tom.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is an Interactive Producer?

The key role for an Interactive Producer is to deliver digital products on time and on budget. Microsites, websites, portals, banner ads, Facebook applications, mobile applications all can fall under 'Interactive'. Interactive blurs into almost every form of media now, including TV commercials and in-store promotions. And depending where you work, you may be responsible for delivering one or all of these.

It requires a swiss-army knife of skillsets. Great Producers are great communicators, great motivators, great project managers.. and have an innate ability to 'get things done'. As a result they wear many hats. From writing scope of work documents, to adjusting pixels in Photoshop, to testing browsers in QA. Being a producer requires you to be versatile, no one day is ever the same.

Knowing a little about a lot is a key strength. Whether it be HTML, CSS, online media, search-engine optimization, or specific software - Photoshop, InDesign, these skills will often be required at different stages in a projects lifecycle. Whether it be to scope effort upfront, to help out in crunch time, or to test and validate work closer to launch. The Interactive Producer role is a relatively new one, and as such there's no clear path to being one. People come from diverse backgrounds including designers, content editors and information architects, and all these skills can be drawn upon as a Producer.

You may or may not manage the client. Depending on the size of your company, you may or may not take on the role as client service. Larger agencies team up producers with account management, while smaller studios will ask that you manage the client also. Managing the client and the team can be a tricky balancing act when you're at the coal face of a project. It requires clear communication, expectation setting and set process. And the reason a role as a Producer at a smaller studio is one of the most challenging roles you'll find.

All being said, being an Interactive Producer can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the land of digital. You're a part of every stage in the production, your role is diverse, you work across all facets of the business, and are responsible for delivering digital awesomeness.

Below is a keyword summary of a selection of job descriptions for interactive producers. It's no surprise that 'team', 'creative' and 'communication' rank so consistently.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Interactive Producers Planning & Production Checklist

Interactive Producers are terrible knowledge sharers. We get too caught up managing projects to worry about how we manage our own work. And for the most part, the Producer community is less passionate about their craft (See the UX or Design communities if you disagree). So we go about creating our own templates, our own way of doing things, cobbled together Excel formulas and checklists, based on legacy templates, limited exposure to other Producers; and tough lessons learned in the past.

So I was excited today to find this gem of a checklist from Winston Binch, available on his blog. He's a Partner at the well-respected CP+B, and and once held a Producer title himself. It lists out steps to ensure no matter how big or small the project is, you're following a consistent process, using consistent documents and not missing a beat. Each agency should have their own version of this checklist. Thanks Winston.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tip: Basecamp - Changing user priviledges

A useful workaround I've recently came across on Basecamp.

Recently I was PM'ing a project, and had a contractor included in the project under our same company. As we progressed, it soon became apparent we were sharing more about the project, than any contractor should be privy to. Solution?

  1. Create a new company. Call it the same name as the user if you like.
  2. Edit the users details. Within user details is a drop-down with the available companies. Switch the company from your company, to the new company.

Now you are able to change their admin rights (hide to-do's, milestones), and more importantly, can post messages to only your team (not the contractor company) by selecting the Private Message checkbox, before posting your messages. The user is not notified of this change.

More tips? Basecamp recently published a page full of top tips (ok, this one isn't in there) available here -

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Facebook Promotions: Policy Update

If anyone has developed a promotion to run on Facebook before, it's safe to say the Facebook approval process can be a whole buffet of PM pain.. A 10 day minimum turnaround, feedback by a Platform Team on the west coast, and no opportunity to respond to them directly. Well this has all now changed..

1. Facebook no longer require written approval to administer a promotion on Facebook.
2. No longer require minimum media spend investment to support the promotion.

Of course, all promotions are subject to the Promotion Guidelines and Platform Policies so make it your job to know these inside out before you start any Facebook promotion. But good result all round, and 10+ days off your timeline back..

EDIT: Facebook say the Promotions Guidelines will be officially updated with these changes today (12/01)

Groupon - Delight in the detail.

Nothing is less appealing that asking a team to design an email unsubscribe page. On the design heirachy of love, this page is somewhere down the bottom with the Terms of Service page. But it's these pages with the least appeal offers the greatest opportunity to delight users. It's unexpected. Take the case of the Groupon unsubscribe page. Take a couple of minutes to unsubscribe from Groupon (you can resubscribe with one click).

When you get to the landing page, you'll see a short movie on Derrick, the guy who thought you'd like to receive the daily Groupon.. clever, short, entertaining..

Speaking of Terms of Use, yes, it's possible. Vimeo manages to breathe life into theirs in a fun and interesting way, worth a read..