Agile Marketing 101 and The Zebworks™ Framework set Your Agile Course!

EngagementThe Agile Marketing buzz has been building. I thought it would be a good idea to provide some grounding in the hype. Here is quick agile marketing summary and a helpful guide for those of you who are interested in testing the agile marketing waters: Zebworks, an agile marketing framework that is a practical guide for its implementation. (You can download the Zebworks Guide for free here.)

Anthony Freeling the author of Agile Marketing, How to Innovate Faster, Cheaper and With Lower Risk and one of the earliest writers on the topic of Agile Marketing has redefined marketing to address today’s high speed and changing environment:

Marketing is the process of creating and communicating winning offers that profitably attract customer spend in an uncertain market environment. It does this by:

  • Shaping the market environment through innovation
  • Adapting to changes in the environment, and 
  • Beating the competition

Freeling’s definition forms a springboard into the concept of Agile Marketing. Agile Marketing was developed to address our new changing marketing landscape. A landscape that is experiencing a head-exploding rate of change. 

Agile, on its own, is a management process that dates back to the late 1980’s. And it is one that software developers embraced for the same reasons that it has become appropriate for the marketing discipline. Developers were faced with fast-paced change. By the time they completed their projects, using an orderly sequential methodology, their software products were no longer suited the needs of the customer.

The Agile Manifesto was written to address this environment and to change the way organizations functioned:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

And Scrum, the most well-known of the Agile frameworks for programmers, brought more shape to Agile. Written by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland it has become a proven methodology for software product development.

The concept of Agile Marketing borrows from the Agile Manifesto, here is the recently published Agile Marketing Manifesto:

  • Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  • Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  • Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  • The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  • Flexible vs. rigid planning
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets

Though a bit repetitive and not as elegantly simple as the original, the Agile Marketing Manifesto makes its point: flexibility trumps rigidity. Validated data trumps opinion.

Theory is lovely, but how do we put this all into practice?

Zebworks was developed in 2010 by myself and the Camarès team. We are a marketing firm that has promoted technology companies for decades and as a result we had been compelled into highly streamlined workflows.

Zebworks was based on that experience as a framework for swift, sustainable a web development leveraging interdisciplinary teams. Highly pragmatic in its approach, Zebworks provided a sustainable approach to web development designed to withstand the chaotic Internet environment. It was delivered in 10 modules totaling 6.5 hours of in depth videos. Later, it came to light that many of the original Zebworks principals aligned cleanly with Agile.  Zebworks has since been expanded to include marketing in general and refined as a framework for Agile Marketing.

Zebworks can be seen as “Scrum” for marketers, but with defined workflows and greater specificity.  Being practitioners working in the marketing trenches, Zebworks is a direct out come of our work. It brings granular specifics and how-to information to the Agile process. 

This Zebworks Guide is free and serves as an overview of the layout and process involved in Zebworks. Subsequent guides will provide further granularity on specific marketing, design and web development projects and workflows.

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Código Aberto Vs Solução Personalizada - Qual é a melhor solução? Um guia para escolher entre soluções de código aberto e soluções personalizadas.

 

Plan Por Denise Maia

Pequenas e médias empresas encaram o mesmo dilema quando pensam em construir um novo website: devemos usar um gerenciador de conteúdo (CMS) de código aberto como, por exemplo, Joomla, Wordpress e Drupal, ou devemos começar do zero? Qual é o melhor? Qual é o mais econômico? Qual irá causar menos “dor de cabeça” durante o desenvolvimento? Qual vai transformar melhor minhas ideias em realidade? E, finalmente, qual vai proporcionar a melhor rentabilidade?

Construir um site do zero é uma ótima maneira de conseguir todos os recursos e adereços necessários e da maneira que você quiser. Soluções web personalizadas são muito flexíveis, pois você determina a aparência, as funcionalidades, as ferramentas, os mecanismos de interatividade, a interface administrativa, relatórios e integração com software de terceiros, como ferramentas de gestão de relacionamento com o cliente (CRM), ferramentas de otimização de marketing, dentre outras. No entanto, toda essa flexibilidade tem um custo. O custo pode ser muito alto, especialmente se você não reservar um tempo para se planejar. Há, ainda, o problema relacionado à contratação da equipe de desenvolvimento adequada, que entenda sua visão, suas necessidades e que seja completamente capaz de concluir o projeto dentro do orçamento, no prazo estabelecido e de acordo com suas especificações.

A alternativa, geralmente considerada como a menos onerosa, é usar um sistema de gerenciamento de conteúdo (CMS). As plataformas de CRM podem ser de código aberto, ou seja “gratuitas”, como, por exemplo, Joomla, Wordpress e Drupal, ou podem ser soluções comerciais, como, por exemplo, Sitefinity e Sitecore, ou até mesmo CMS para um setor da indústria que ofereça soluções específicas para o referido setor. No entanto, para este post, vou me concentrar somente nas plataformas de código aberto, também conhecidas como open source, que têm, atualmente, ganhado grande popularidade.

À primeira vista, o software de código aberto provém muitas funcionalidades gratuitamente. A funcionalidade principal de um gerenciador de conteúdo (CMS) é permitir que pessoas não técnicas facilmente adicionem novas páginas e atualizem o conteúdo de um site. Isso é um atrativo para as empresas que pagam por cada atualização de conteúdo, pois permite que as empresas façam inúmeras e frequentes atualizações sem custo adicional. Na verdade, o software de código aberto abaixou drasticamente o custo que as empresas pagavam por esse tipo de tarefa que agora podem ser feitas internamente.

No entanto, os websites atuais exigem cada vez mais sofisticação e funcionalidades cativantes. Nós, como usuários finais, esperamos sofisticação porque cada vez mais sites usam carrosséis, efeitos light box, vídeos e entre outros. Porém, a funcionalidade padrão de um gerenciador de conteúdo de código aberto constitui somente o próprio gerenciador de conteúdo, e não funções específicas que serão definitivamente necessárias para seu site e, de acordo com minha experiência, é nesse momento que nos deparamos com complexidades e custos.

As funcionalidades adicionais são alcançadas através da instalação de plugins, que são programas escritos por outros desenvolvedores a fim de aumentar a funcionalidade padrão dos CMS. É a partir da escolha do plugin correto de uma fonte confiável que os custos começam:

  • Existem muitos plugins gratuitos, mas é bem provável que você tenha que comprar alguns deles, Tic Tim!
  • Independentemente de o plugin escolhido ser gratuito ou comercial, será necessário que o mesmo seja instalado por um desenvolvedor, Tic Tim!
  • É provável que você tenha algum problema de compatibilidade, Tic Tim!
  • É provável que os plugins não funcionem exatamente da forma descrita ou da forma que você deseja ou precisa que eles funcionem, Tic Tim!
  • É possível que você tenha que procurar outro plugin, customizar um plugin existente ou construir um plugin do zero. Tic Tim! Tic Tim! Tic Tim!

Há outro problema no que diz respeito aos plugins, quanto mais plugins você adicionar ao seu site, mais chances de incompatibilidade você terá quando tiver que atualizar o CMS de código aberto. Agora você deve estar pensando: “Tudo bem, não vamos fazer nenhuma atualização!”, mas o detalhe é que a atualização do software de código aberto é a sua primeira defesa contra problemas de segurança. Manter seu CMS atualizado é absolutamente necessário para que você possa ter um site tecnicamente estável.

Os plugins são um mal necessário quando usamos um gerenciador de conteúdo de código aberto e, para que o custo de desenvolvimento seja minimizado, eles devem ser cuidadosamente escolhidos. Se você não escolher seus plugins com cuidado, o custo de um desenvolvimento de código aberto pode ser tão caro quanto construir uma solução do zero.

Independentemente se a execução de seu site for através de uma solução personalizada ou da utilização de uma plataforma de código aberto, o planejamento é a chave para o sucesso.

Na verdade, não importa o que você escolher: solução personalizada ou de código aberto, a construção de um novo website nunca será isenta de solavancos ao longo do caminho. Quando você vir como as coisas funcionam, é bem provável que você queira fazer ajustes. Então, considere isso em seu planejamento.

Independentemente de você possuir uma pequena, média ou grande empresa, você deverá considerar suas opções com cuidado. Não existe a solução certa ou errada, tudo depende das suas necessidades. Dessa forma, antes de “dar a luz verde” para uma solução:

1. Imagine: Pense como seu novo site seria se você não tivesse limitações orçamentárias. Visualize todos os mecanismos de interação, as ferramentas e os recursos que seu site teria e como cada um deles funcionaria. Tome um tempo para analisar seus diversos públicos e a experiência do usuário final.

2. Especifique: Reveja as principais plataformas de código aberto disponíveis, como, por exemplo, Joomla, Wordpress e Drupal, e seus plugins. Será que alguma delas vai cumprir sua visão? Será que elas têm os plugins que você precisa ou será que você vai ter que personalizar ou escrever um do zero? Escreva um documento sobre o conjunto dos recursos de seu site, onde você poderá especificar exatamente o que o seu site vai exigir e, a partir daí, determine qual das plataformas de código aberto irá atender suas necessidades ou se alguma delas vai te atender suas exigências. No meu próximo post, irei detalhar os prós e contras de cada plataforma, mas, em suma, aqui está uma regra geral: 

    • Wordpress: é ótimo para empresas que precisam de um site de baixo custo e com funcionalidade de blog. Ele também tem muitos plugins que podem ser usados para expandir sua funcionalidade padrão.
    • Joomla: funciona bem para sites que exigem mais complexidade do que uma compilação de Wordpress, mas que não são extremamente exigentes. O Joomla tem recursos poderosos e a curva de aprendizagem é mais fácil para os desenvolvedores e usuários finais, porém tem limitações, o Joomla exige trabalho repetitivo, compreensão do código e pode demorar mais tempo para fazer o site funcionar do que uma compilação de Drupal.
    • Drupal: é voltado para sites complexos. Ele tem uma curva de aprendizagem maior para o usuário final e requer desenvolvedores mais experientes, mas uma vez que você se adaptar a ele, o Drupal será mais intuitivo do que o Joomla.

3. Cote: Depois de especificar suas necessidades, obtenha uma cotação para construir seu site usando um gerenciador de conteúdo de código aberto que você venha a determinar e para construir uma solução do zero. Além do preço, considere a experiência do desenvolvedor, o tamanho de sua equipe, sua programação e sua capacidade de entregar no prazo, dentro do orçamento e das especificações.(Confira as referências cautelosamente).

4. Analise e Planeje: De acordo com minha experiência, os clientes sempre consideram o primeiro orçamento um pouco caro demais. Caso isso aconteça, não se preocupe, você poderá conseguir o que deseja e no preço que precisa se você quebrar o projeto em fases de desenvolvimentos gerenciáveis. Priorize as funcionalidades que você precisa ter no momento e mova as funcionalidades que gostaria de ter para a próxima fase. Esta é uma excelente prática: construa hoje uma solução que possa ser facilmente expandida para acomodar necessidades futuras.

5. Execute: Agora você tem seu plano, execute-o! Você jamais se arrependerá de todo o tempo investido em planejamento.

E, claro, se você precisar de apoio especializado, nós da Camarès somos especialistas em transformar seus sonhos de website em uma realidade lucrativa. É só entrar em contato conosco por telefone.

 

 

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Open Source vs. Custom Build – Which is Better? A guide to choosing between Open Source and Custom Built Solutions

 

Plan By Denise Maia

Small and mid-size businesses face the same dilemma when building a new website: should we build a website from scratch or use an open source CMS solution, such as Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal. Which is better? Which is cheaper? Which will cause less development pain? Which will best turn my ideas into reality? And, ultimately, which will deliver the best ROI?

Building a website from scratch is a great way to get all the bells and whistles you need just the way you want them. Custom built solutions are very flexible. You determine the look-and-feel, the functionality, the tools, the engagement mechanisms, the administrative interface, the reports and the integrations with 3rd party software, such as CRM tools (Customer Relationship Management), marketing optimization tools and the like. However, all that flexibility comes with a cost. The cost can be high, especially if you do not take the time to plan. Then there is the issue of hiring the right developer or development team who understands your vision, your needs and is completely capable of bringing the project to completion on time, on budget, and up to specs. 

The alternative, is generally seen as less expensive: use a CMS (content management software) platform. CMS platforms can be either “free” open source, such as Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, or be a paid solution, such as Sitefinity and Sitecore, or even be an industry-specific service that provides most of what you need for companies in your specific industry. For this post, I’ll concentrate on the open source platforms since they have grown so popular.

At first glance open source software products provide a lot of functionality, and provide it free. The core of the CMS functionality is that it allows non-technical users to add pages and content easily. This is very compelling to any company who has had to pay for every content update and it also addresses the demand for lots of frequent site updates. In truth, open source dramatically lowers the costs for these tasks by bringing them inside your organization.

However, today’s web demands increasing sophistication and sexy functionality. We expect it because we see the top sites using carousels, light box effects and more. But the core functionality of open source lies in the CMS, not in the specific functions your site design will surely require and that, in my experience, is where the cost and complexity lies.

Beyond the CMS, additional functionality is achieved through plugins. These are little programs that are written by open source developers to enhance the core product. Choosing the right plugin from a reliable source is where the expense begins:

  • There are many free plugins, but it’s very likely that you will have to purchase some as well, Ka-ching!
  • Regardless if the plugin is free or commercial, your developer will have to install them, Ka-ching!
  • It’s likely that there will be compatibility issues, Ka-ching!
  • It’s likely that the plugins won’t work quite like their description or exactly the way you want or need them to work, Ka-ching!
  • You might have to look for another plugin, customize an existing plugin to your needs, or build one from scratch. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

There are further issues with plugins, the more plugins you add the more chances of incompatibly you will have when it’s time to upgrade to the next version of the core open source software. “OK”, you may think, “we will not upgrade!” But here is the rub, upgrading is your first defense against security problems and other issues. Keeping your core software up to date is an absolute must for a technically stable site.

Plugins are a necessary evil when using open source solutions and that’s why they need to be chosen carefully so development and maintenance costs can be minimized. If you do not chose with care, the cost of open source can be as high as the cost of building a custom solution. 

Whether executing a custom build or using an open source platform, planning is the key to success. 

In reality, no matter which way you go: custom or open source, building a web site is never without bumps along the way. Once you see how things work it is entirely likely you will want adjustments. So build that into your plan.

Whether you're a small, mid-size or large business, before you begin carefully consider your options. There are no right or wrong solutions, it all depends on your needs, so before you green light to a build:  

1) Envision: Envision how your website would work if there were no budget limitations. Envision all the engagement mechanisms, the tools and the features and how each one would function. Take time to consider your multiple audiences and the user experience.

2) Specify: Review the top open source platforms available, such as Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, and their plugins. Will any of them fulfill your vision? Do they have all the plugins you need or will you have to customize or write a plugin from scratch?  Create a feature set document where you specify exactly what your site will require, then determine, which, if any, open source platforms will fulfill those needs. In my next post I’ll detail the pros and cons of each, but, at a top level, here is a general rule of thumb:

    • Wordpress is great for businesses that need a cheap site with blog functionality. It also has many plugins that can be used to expand it's functionality.
    • Joomla works well for sites that demand more complexity than a Wordpress build but are not hugely demanding. It has powerful resources and easier learning curve for both developers and end users. But it has limitations, it requires repetitive work and understanding of code and it might take more time to get the site working then a Drupal build.
    • Drupal is for complex sites. It has a higher learning curve for the user, it will require more experienced developers, but once you get the hang of it, it’s smoother and more intuitive than Joomla.

3) Quote: Once you’ve specified your needs, get a quote to build using a CMS or to build a solution from scratch. Beyond price, consider: the developer’s experience and team size, scheduling and  the developer’s ability to deliver on time, on budget and up to specs. (Check references with care.)

4) Review and Plan: In my experience, clients experience sticker shock at seeing the estimates for the first time. But don’t worry, you can get what you want for what you can afford, if you break the project down into manageable development phases. Prioritize the features you must have now and slide the “nice-to-have” features into the next phase.  This is an excellent  practice: building a solution now that can be made ready to easily expand for future needs. 

5) Execute: Now that you have your plan, go and execute it! You will never regret all the planning time invested.

 

And off course, if you need expert support, we at Camarès are specialists in turning your web dreams into a profitable reality. Give us a call.

 

 

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When Success is the Only Possible Outcome

 

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Engagement_20130613-032121_1.jpg By Deb Di Gregorio

When practiced responsibly, capitalism provides a more stable and vibrant society for all. Business is a complex and risky endeavor. When business challenges are understood from a broad perspective, positive change is accelerated and success is the only possible outcome.

Mid-sized companies are at the fulcrum of our economy and our social well being. Ensuring their success is nothing short of necessary for our shared peace and prosperity. Today success can only be achieved through situational awareness on a grand scale.

Reducing the risk of failure for any major business endeavor requires exploration of the greatest number of options. A broad perspective provides many potential solutions. Rather than slowing the process it accelerates success enabling companies to get to optimal solutions early.

Domain Expert Myopia

Unfortunately we are increasingly sold on leveraging the knowledge of domain experts as our best opportunity for success. Those who are selling the idea, posit that there is simply too much to know to be a successful generalist. But the problem is domain experts know only what they know – and they don’t know what they don’t know. For the very reason that there is too much to understand in any domain, it takes a major investment in time and energy to become a domain expert and that results in dangerous myopia.

Bankers, accountants and lawyers see the world through their respective lenses, but rarely do they understand business. Or, in today’s tech-driven world it takes a programmer years to learn one language or one platform. Once understood that programmer is absolutely convinced his platform will do everything your company needs including making your breakfast and ironing your shirts. Programming specialists provide the greatest potential for insidious risk: the result of their efforts can ruin your day, everyday – for years.

A domain expert may be able to take a project down the road and bring it to conclusion fast, but there is a very good chance it will be the wrong road, or a road riddled with pot holes, ultimately requiring the organization to start again from the beginning.

Interdisciplinary Expertise 20/20

Rather than domain expertise, business today require teams of interdisciplinary specialists. Individuals who are, for example, both graphic designers and programmers, or IT security experts and managers, or financial experts and marketers. These individuals bring a powerful cross-discipline understanding of cause and effect to problem solving. For example: understanding the resultant technology and business infrastructure impact of a major marketing effort – and how to minimize it.

Interdisciplinary specialists are a much rarer find. Generally they are seasoned professionals with good communications skills and a collegial working style. They have experience working in teams and willingly learn from each other – no matter how seasoned they are. They are no-nonsense in their approach and directed in their mission. 

Creating a team of interdisciplinary specialists assures business management that myriad potential opportunities as well as pitfalls are contemplated as large projects move forward. Only once a broad plan is structured is it time to call in the domain experts who are then perfectly positioned to prove out assumptions and bring deeper domain considerations to the team. 

Visionary Results for Business and Community

Twenty years ago, adopting advanced information technology strategies gave companies a competitive edge. Today, to ensure success, focus must be on cultivating interdisciplinary talent with a zeal for understanding business beyond their area of expertise. And that not only helps mid-sized businesses, it helps everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Di Gregorio Honored as NJ Woman of Influence on May 10

b2ap3_thumbnail_DebDiGregorio-Camares.pngCamarès President, Deb Di Gregorio was one of 50 past honorees of Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey Women of Influence series who gathered last May 10, 2013 at Nanina’s In the Park for the first annual Chairman’s Reception. Di Gregorio served on the first Women of Influence panel held at Ramapo College in 2007.  She and her fellow Women of Influence were honored for their efforts and achievements in the areas of business, government and community outreach.  Lt Governor Kim Guadagno and CIANJ Chair Tracy Straka were joined by more than 150 friends, family and guests in saluting the women for their accomplishments.  Ms. Guadagno spoke about her unique experience as NJ’s first lieutenant governor and lauded the honorees for breaking down barriers in their respective areas and achieving success.

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