Categories
Uncategorized

Truth in Travel Pricing

None of us should be surprised at these quotes from a travel article in the TimesOnline.co.uk (Oct 2008) by Stephen Bleach:

“Massive discounts on cruises were exposed as a con last week after leading line Fred Olsen admitted it had not sold a single cruise at full price for a year.”

A further quote from the managing director of the line, Mike Rodwell:

“the big American operators started it and the rest had to follow.”

Another surprise. On the same laptop page as this excellent article were three Google ads offering:

“Cruise Deals. Search The Top Online Cruise Deals. Read Reviews & Book Online Today.” Followed by:

“Cruise Discounts 75% Off, All cruise lines, all destinations.” And another:

“Huge Alaska Cruise Sale, Free Upgrades, Exclusive Deals & More with Guaranteed Lowest Prices!”

The travel operators behind these advertisements must think the travelling public is naive or even stupid but they would probably not use them if they did not work.

Also, these Google ads were run against a very negative, but truthful article about misleading advertising for cruises.

The travelling public continues to be treated with disdain by travel operators and advertising companies, not only by cruise lines and airlines but by all types of travel suppliers. What could be more misleading and false advertising than an airline advertising their fares in headlines that shout out:

“$49. one-way to Smithville” IN LARGE PRINT, and then:
‘based on return purchase, plus all taxes, surcharges for fuel, surcharges for security, checked baggage is extra, seat selection fees, and on and on and on.” And by the way, have fuel surcharges been reduced enough?

Not only cruise prices and airfares but also consider hotel pricing that often requires much investigation as regards the offered discounts:

“75% off! But off of what? A rack-rate that is rarely charged?

And, why can you often get cheaper rooms at an online reservation office than at the hotel front desk even when you are in their lobby and ready to book?

Next in line for pricing questions could be the packaged holiday market. How many of these are sold at the brochure price? Or, as with the above cruise line, are packaged tour operators simply following the lead of others?

Not only is the public being mislead by questionable advertising and pricing practices but once captured by a cruise line, airline or packaged resort operator they can be open to additional gouging whilst onboard the ship, aircraft or resort.

Apart from the onboard costs of alcoholic drinks which should be at duty-free prices (i.e. cheaper than onshore). Extras, such as shore excursions can also be more expensive when purchased onboard rather than ashore or even pre-departure using the internet. Similarly with resorts that have onsite booking agencies for off-resort activities. The prices are often cheaper when purchased directly from the operators or again at pre-departure directly over the internet. Airlines however, who are charging for all sorts of basic amenities from blankets, pillows, soft drinks and soon even water may not be free, have a more captive audience (the movie, ConAir comes to mind) and will continue to be the most reviled part of the travel experience.

There is hope for the future but so far only in Europe. In 2009 new rules for advertising standards will come into effect offering more protection for travellers. We must hope that these new rules will eventually spread to the rest of the world with further improvements to protect consumers worldwide.

In the travel industry. Where has the originality and creativity gone? Where are the leaders? Where has “lead, follow or get out of my way” gone? Only the followers know.

Another aspect of travel pricing is when consumers want to handle their own travel arrangements directly with the operators of hotels, lodges, tours and transportation. The pricing should reflect the fact that the products are being purchased directly from the source and not at the retail level. In other words, reduce the price by the commission that would have been paid to an agent, broker or retailer and give the traveller a direct booking discount. This action could encourage more travellers to make their own direct bookings, leading to more business and a competitive edge for the operator.

Of course, the traditional distribution channels have to be protected as many consumers require help and assistance and as yet not everyone has or wants the internet.

Travel providers do not normally show different prices on their websites as this could lead to potential clients seeking advice at the retail level and then booking directly with the operator to get a discounted price. It is unfair for retailers to lose their commissions when they have performed services for their travel-trade clients.

Consumers on the other hand, if they do not need expert advice or booking services, should have the opportunity to go directly to the source and get a direct booking discount.

Categories
Uncategorized

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.

What’s the Price?

Fred Swaffer, transportation manager for Hewlett-Packard and a strong advocate of the net-pricing system, has pioneered the concept of fee-based pricing with travel-management companies under contract with H-P. He states that H-P, which spends more than $528 million per year on T&E, plans to have all air travel based on net-fare pricing. “At the present time, we have several net fares at various stages of agreement,” he says. “These fares are negotiated with the airlines at the corporate level, then trickle down to each of our seven geographical regions.”

Frank Kent, Western regional manager for United Airlines, concurs: “United Airlines participates in corporate volume discounting, such as bulk ticket purchases, but not with net pricing. I have yet to see one net-fare agreement that makes sense to us. We’re not opposed to it, but we just don’t understand it right now.”

Kent stresses, “Airlines should approach corporations with long-term strategic relationships rather than just discounts. We would like to see ourselves committed to a corporation rather than just involved.”

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference.

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Categories
Uncategorized

What Is a Game?

We probably all have a pretty good intuitive notion of what a game is. The general term “game” encompasses board games like chess and Monopoly, card games like poker and blackjack, casino games like roulette and slot machines, military war games, computer games, various kinds of play among children, and the list goes on. In academia we sometimes speak of game theory, in which multiple agents select strategies and tactics in order to maximize their gains within the framework of a well-defined set of game rules. When used in the context of console or computer-based entertainment, the word “game” usually conjures images of a three-dimensional virtual world featuring a humanoid, animal or vehicle as the main character under player control. (Or for the old geezers among us, perhaps it brings to mind images of two-dimensional classics like Pong, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong.) In his excellent book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster defines a game to be an interactive experience that provides the player with an increasingly challenging sequence of patterns which he or she learns and eventually masters. Koster’s asser-tion is that the activities of learning and mastering are at the heart of what we call “fun,” just as a joke becomes funny at the moment we “get it” by recognizing the pattern.

Video Games as Soft Real-Time Simulations

Most two- and three-dimensional video games are examples of what computer scientists would call soft real-time interactive agent-based computer simulations. Let’s break this phrase down in order to better understand what it means. In most video games, some subset of the real world -or an imaginary world- is modeled mathematically so that it can be manipulated by a computer. The model is an approximation to and a simplification of reality (even if it’s an imaginary reality), because it is clearly impractical to include every detail down to the level of atoms or quarks. Hence, the mathematical model is a simulation of the real or imagined game world. Approximation and simplification are two of the game developer’s most powerful tools. When used skillfully, even a greatly simplified model can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from reality and a lot more fun.

An agent-based simulation is one in which a number of distinct entities known as “agents” interact. This fits the description of most three-dimensional computer games very well, where the agents are vehicles, characters, fireballs, power dots and so on. Given the agent-based nature of most games, it should come as no surprise that most games nowadays are implemented in an object-oriented, or at least loosely object-based, programming language.

All interactive video games are temporal simulations, meaning that the vir- tual game world model is dynamic-the state of the game world changes over time as the game’s events and story unfold. A video game must also respond to unpredictable inputs from its human player(s)-thus interactive temporal simulations. Finally, most video games present their stories and respond to player input in real time, making them interactive real-time simulations.

One notable exception is in the category of turn-based games like computerized chess or non-real-time strategy games. But even these types of games usually provide the user with some form of real-time graphical user interface.

What Is a Game Engine?

The term “game engine” arose in the mid-1990s in reference to first-person shooter (FPS) games like the insanely popular Doom by id Software. Doom was architected with a reasonably well-defined separation between its core software components (such as the three-dimensional graphics rendering system, the collision detection system or the audio system) and the art assets, game worlds and rules of play that comprised the player’s gaming experience. The value of this separation became evident as developers began licensing games and retooling them into new products by creating new art, world layouts, weapons, characters, vehicles and game rules with only minimal changes to the “engine” software. This marked the birth of the “mod community”-a group of individual gamers and small independent studios that built new games by modifying existing games, using free toolkits pro- vided by the original developers. Towards the end of the 1990s, some games like Quake III Arena and Unreal were designed with reuse and “modding” in mind. Engines were made highly customizable via scripting languages like id’s Quake C, and engine licensing began to be a viable secondary revenue stream for the developers who created them. Today, game developers can license a game engine and reuse significant portions of its key software components in order to build games. While this practice still involves considerable investment in custom software engineering, it can be much more economical than developing all of the core engine components in-house. The line between a game and its engine is often blurry.

Some engines make a reasonably clear distinction, while others make almost no attempt to separate the two. In one game, the rendering code might “know” specifi-cally how to draw an orc. In another game, the rendering engine might provide general-purpose material and shading facilities, and “orc-ness” might be defined entirely in data. No studio makes a perfectly clear separation between the game and the engine, which is understandable considering that the definitions of these two components often shift as the game’s design solidifies.

Arguably a data-driven architecture is what differentiates a game engine from a piece of software that is a game but not an engine. When a game contains hard-coded logic or game rules, or employs special-case code to render specific types of game objects, it becomes difficult or impossible to reuse that software to make a different game. We should probably reserve the term “game engine” for software that is extensible and can be used as the foundation for many different games without major modification.

Clearly this is not a black-and-white distinction. We can think of a gamut of reusability onto which every engine falls. One would think that a game engine could be something akin to Apple QuickTime or Microsoft Windows Media Player-a general-purpose piece of software capable of playing virtually any game content imaginable. However, this ideal has not yet been achieved (and may never be). Most game engines are carefully crafted and fine-tuned to run a particular game on a particular hardware platform. And even the most general-purpose multiplatform engines are really only suitable for building games in one particular genre, such as first-person shooters or racing games. It’s safe to say that the more general-purpose a game engine or middleware component is, the less optimal it is for running a particular game on a particular platform.

This phenomenon occurs because designing any efficient piece of software invariably entails making trade-offs, and those trade-offs are based on assumptions about how the software will be used and/or about the target hardware on which it will run. For example, a rendering engine that was designed to handle intimate indoor environments probably won’t be very good at rendering vast outdoor environments. The indoor engine might use a binary space partitioning (BSP) tree or portal system to ensure that no geometry is drawn that is being occluded by walls or objects that are closer to the camera. The outdoor engine, on the other hand, might use a less-exact occlusion mechanism, or none at all, but it probably makes aggressive use of level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that distant objects are rendered with a minimum number of triangles, while using high-resolution triangle meshes for geome-try that is close to the camera.

The advent of ever-faster computer hardware and specialized graphics cards, along with ever-more-efficient rendering algorithms and data structures, is beginning to soften the differences between the graphics engines of different genres. It is now possible to use a first-person shooter engine to build a real-time strategy game, for example. However, the trade-off between generality and optimality still exists. A game can always be made more impressive by fine-tuning the engine to the specific requirements and constraints of a particular game and/or hardware platform.

Engine Differences Across Genres

Game engines are typically somewhat genre specific. An engine designed for a two-person fighting game in a boxing ring will be very different from a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) engine or a first-person shooter (FPS) engine or a real-time strategy (RTS) engine. However, there is also a great deal of overlap-all 3D games, regardless of genre, require some form of low-level user input from the joypad, keyboard and/or mouse, some form of 3D mesh rendering, some form of heads-up display (HUD) including text rendering in a variety of fonts, a powerful audio system, and the list goes on. So while the Unreal Engine, for example, was designed for first-person shooter games, it has been used successfully to construct games in a number of other genres as well, including simulator games, like Farming Simulator 15 and the wildly popular third-person shooter franchise Gears of War by Epic Games and the smash hits Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City by Rocksteady Studios.

Categories
Uncategorized

Turning Your Online Clients Into Loyal Advocates

The rules have changed. Your clients are no longer willing to accept anything less than what they want when it comes to doing business with you and your company. They want what they want and they want it now.

The age of instant gratification is now upon us. Social media has given us a tremendous volume of information at our fingertips. There is absolutely no waiting when it comes to people getting the answers that they are seeking. The intelligent businesses have an understanding of the idea that social media will dramatically improve their business’s success and they are making tremendous efforts to leverage social media in the most innovative and effective ways possible.

Customers are not generally interested in communicating negative feedback about businesses and their brands unless they have a really sound reason for doing so. From the business owner’s perspective, it is a really intelligent thing to treat your clients in the best possible way. Obviously, you don’t want them to be one-time clients but rather you want them to be loyal clients to your business and you that means that you want them to return to you over and over again for many years to come. Additionally, you want them to believe in your brand and in what you are doing so much that they will want to sing your praises and the praises of your business to other people whom they know and trust.

There are several ways in which to turn your online clients into loyal advocates for your business.

Act quickly

When you hear from one of your online clients regarding an issue that requires support from you, the client expects and extremely quick response. Quick means really quick (10 minutes) or pretty quick (within an hour maximum). If you don’t address the support issue quickly, you will be doing the reputation of your business damage that you may not be able to undo. On the other hand, if you act quickly, you will be building loyalty among your clients and the only type of feedback that you will receive from them will be positive feedback. You never want to give them a reason to say anything negative.

Always be consistent

It is critical that your clients know that they can count on you and your business to be consistent and to always be there for them no matter what they need or want. If you give them one answer one time and another answer another time, they will be confused. On your mission to proving your trustworthiness and credibility, the consistency will be a huge contributing factor. They need to be able to rely on the fact that you will give them the same answer (or at least the same approach) every time they interact with you.

Let them see you

Transparency and visibility are extremely important elements in your relationships with your clients. When it comes to doing business online, the transparency factor is more important than ever. Your clients need to know that they can trust you and they will never trust you if they think that you are hiding something from them. Each time that you post content, you are interacting with them and building your relationship and making it stronger and deeper. Be a part of the discussion but don’t monopolize the discussion. It is important that you are regarded as an important person in that context but that you are also regarded as one of many important parts of it.

Make sure that everything is in order

Because of the nature of doing business online and the number of social media channels with which you will be involved for your business, it is critical to your success that you are as organized as possible. If you are not organized and your social media interactions are chaotic, people will be able to sense that and will not react favorably. If you are not sure about how to get organized, you should do some research online and find out how other people have done it successfully. There is nothing wrong with mimic other people when it comes to organizational skills as long as what they are doing makes sense for your business.

Interact on a human level

The success of social media lies with the human factor. Social media is successful because people share relationships and relationships can only flourish because of the fact that the emotional connection is sustained. People always react to what touches them emotionally. If they can’t relate, they won’t react. It is as simple as that. The more you interact with people, the more they will get to know you and the more they will like you. Hopefully, that will eventually end with their liking you so much that they will want to buy what you are selling.

Conclusion

Your social media interactions for business are evolving on a regular basis. The relationships that you share with others are constantly evolving. It is very important that you have strategically positioned your business to cultivate those advocates. If your clients have wonderfully positive experiences, they will absolutely want to tell others about it. No relationship stays the same over time. It either deepens or it disappears. You will be able to tell which ones are working and which ones are not working and you will decide upon those relationships one at a time as to whether you should continue to pursue them or let them go.

We are pleased to provide you with the insightful comments contained herein. For a free assessment of your online presence, let’s have coffee.

Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies. Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. He also reduced company travel and travel costs by introducing and implementing various collaboration technologies.

His expertise includes business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.

Categories
Uncategorized

Breaking Project Work Down

he Work Breakdown Process
At the outset of every software project everyone’s attention is focused on defining the scope of the project. This can be a very demanding undertaking; the project is often an integral part of a strategic objective that is of vital importance to the whole organization and getting the requirements properly defined is key to success. Of equal importance to gathering the right set of requirements is defining the work that must be done to build a software system which meets those requirements, and then performing the work. Breaking the work down and creating the project schedule is the first step in building the system. Failure to break the work down properly can lead to miscommunication with the project team or missing work necessary to deliver a requirement, and could ultimately result in failure to deliver the system the organization needs.

Breaking the work down must meet 2 objectives: the resultant work packages must represent a tangible deliverable that makes sense to the team member responsible for producing it and the project manager must be able to control it. By controlling the work package, I mean that it should be monitored by the project manager in such a way as to alert them that a corrective action is called for to preserve the schedule. A work package that fails to meet the first objective will confuse a worker who attempts to create it and if that person is reticent about pointing out the confusion, will lead to wasted time and effort. Failure to deliver on the second objective will make it difficult for the project manager to determine when there are problems that would require correction.

The PMBOK® describes an iterative approach to breaking work down, ending when the work package can be assigned, budgeted, and managed with a minimum amount of effort. This guideline is fine, as far as it goes but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to help the project manager of a software development project. In defense of the PMI®, it couldn’t be precise enough to make it helpful to managers of software projects without making it irrelevant to managers of projects in other areas. The purpose of this article is to provide some tips and tricks which will help managers of software projects determine when they have defined the proper set of work packages.

Work should be broken down using all the documented information available that is relevant to the project. This documentation will include everything which describes the scope of the project: the Project Charter, the SOW, the Scope Statement, requirements matrix, etc. It will also include historical information such as schedules for similar projects, changes to the previous project, and Lessons Learned from similar projects. Each organization will approach projects differently and each project will have a unique set of documents available to it. Your job as project manager is to seek out all the documentation that could be helpful and determine which you will use.

To do a thorough job of breaking the work down, you should start with the tool you intend to use to manage the schedule. For most managers of software projects this will be MS Project (note: this is not a plug for Microsoft, just recognition of the dominance that tool has in the market place). Throughout this article I will refer to the project schedule in describing the process of breaking the work down and that is because MS Project integrates the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with the schedule. Attempting to break work down for even the smallest project without such a tool will be very time-consuming and tedious. It will be impossible for larger projects.

Breaking work down becomes simple when the project under development is a repeat of a previous, similar project. Use the schedule (MS Project plan or other similar file) as a base for the new schedule. Use the plan from the previous project as your starting point, changing the names of the various components of the system to suit the new project. You can simply copy the old plan into a new file and make the necessary changes to the new file, or create the new file and copy and paste relevant lines from the old file into it. Obviously, the work required for the new project won’t be the same as the work in the old plan, but the way in which the work is broken down should be the same. The way in which the work is done will likely remain the same, even when the new project introduces new tools. For instance, if your organization’s QA process calls for unit testing of individual modules the work package that delivers a unit tested module will be required in the new plan as well.

Testing performed by a QA organization will require the similar work packages in most projects.

The one drawback I find with MS Project is that, because it automatically creates a schedule at the same time it breaks the work down, start and finish dates are automatically provided when you enter a work package or summary task. Don’t worry about dates when you break the work down. MS Project will default the start and finish dates based on the date you are working with it and the default settings. You will schedule the work later when you estimate the effort and duration of each of the packages and the dependencies.

Don’t forget to consult other historical information when converting the information in the old plan into the new one. If you are lucky, the previous project will have Lessons Learned collected and archived in an orderly fashion and all you need to do is an intelligent search for any lessons pertaining to the definition of work packages. You could scan each lesson, where the total lessons are manageable, otherwise you’ll need to use a search tool to perform the scan. Some search strings to consider: “estimate”, “late delivery”, or “schedule slippage”. Frequently lessons are captured because something went wrong. Things that a bad WBS could cause would include missed work, poor quality (where a work package to perform unit testing was missed for example), or misunderstandings about the nature of work to be performed.

Not all organizations undertake Lessons Learned sessions for their projects and even when they do, all the information that could help you break the work down may not be contained in them. Among other artifacts that could yield useful information are change requests which implement preventive or corrective actions, implemented to prevent schedule slippage caused by poor work breakdown. Other sources will include risk registers, issue logs, action registers, or decision logs. If your organization is behind the curve in using these tools you should be changing that with your project. In the meantime, you may have to search e-mails to find evidence of the damage done by a faulty WBS. Referencing these artifacts should yield a good draft WBS. Do not forget to consult your organization’s policies, standards, and guidelines when creating the WBS. These may have changed since the project(s) you are using as a reference, or the previous project manager may have failed to comply with them so make sure that your WBS supports them. Pay particular attention to standards, guidelines, and policies that pertain to quality. Failure to organize the work such that these are adhered to will lead to project failure.

Project managers undertaking projects that break new ground will need to do more investigative work to create their WBS. A project which uses new tools (e.g. a new programming language or new web platform), or techniques (e.g. SCRUM) will have a new set of summary tasks which will not be found in a previous project schedule. Starting at the project level, define a sub-project for each application to be developed. The software development methodology chosen will determine the summary tasks within each of the sub-projects (applications) in the plan. For example, if the Waterfall methodology is chosen, each application will consist of the complete set of requirements that application must support. The project will contain multiple sub-projects if an iterative approach such as SCRUM is chosen, one for each iteration. Each of these sub-projects will contain the set of summary tasks which support the way your organization does the work. This set of summary tasks may include summary tasks for writing the code, unit testing each piece of code, testing groups or sets of modules, QA testing each application, and QA testing each system. The project manager will determine the set of sub-projects and summary tasks necessary to support the methodology used.

Your project schedule should contain at least 3 hierarchical levels at this point. There is one possible exception and that is when the project is so large that breaking the work of each sub-project down into summary tasks and work packages would produce a schedule with too many items to be managed efficiently. I find that a schedule of 600 to 1,000 items is about the maximum that I can manage efficiently. Any more than that and the dependencies will create a schedule that cannot easily be altered without a time-consuming analysis of those dependencies. You may not be able to make a decision on whether your project calls for one schedule or several schedules but, if your schedule contains several hundred items at this point you should consider multiple schedules. The schedule at this point should facilitate sub-division into one plan for each sub-project, or multiple schedules containing multiple sub-projects.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Growth and Development of the Automobile Industry – A Deeper Insightq

The word “Automobile” has its origins in Greek and Latin and it has become an integral part of every man’s life. It has become so indispensable that on an average, a person spends at least 3 hours in his vehicle every day. Automobile was once thought of as a luxury and only a select few could indulge in. Now, the times have changed and automobiles have become a means of transportation catering to the vast majority.

The transformation from luxury to inevitability

Automobiles, in general, refer to the humble car and the estimates suggest that there is a car for every eleven persons on earth amounting up to 590 million passenger cars. There are various variants of automobiles that cater to every cross section of the population. There are variants that could set you back by a couple of million dollars and other models that cost you a few thousand dollars.

The technological advances in the automobile sector have been tremendous in the last 100 years. The century’s greatest invention or advancement should definitely belong to the automobile industry. One of the earliest pioneers of the automobile Industry was Ransom Olds from the Oldsmobile factory. In the early 1900’s, he introduced the Production Line concept, thus churning out vehicles every few minutes. This idea was greatly revolutionized and implemented by Henry Ford, who elevated automobile industry to the next level. Ford quickly grew in the first half of 20th century and slowly but steadily spread globally.

Growing along with time

With advancement of age, the automobile industry gradually grew in continental Europe and England. Japan introduced quality initiatives that further enhanced the industry. Toyoto from Japan were the pioneers of Total Quality Management and Six Sigma, which have been the guiding principles of the automobile industry for the last 50 years. Today, Toyoto are the world’s biggest automobile company according to recent market estimates.

The global boom of the 1980’s was largely because of the automobile revolution. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, the big 3 automotive giants of America, had a huge say on the country’s economy. They decided the health of the economy and the recent global economic recession has affected them badly. This has made them approach the government for loans and benefits, which have been fulfilled by the government after placing appropriate clauses.

Advent of technology and innovations

Automobile has transcended from being a medium of transportation to a medium of entertainment after the advent of super fast cars competing against each other. NASCAR and F1 races are huge crowd pullers every year. People have made fortunes and drivers of these machines have made their name in history. The fact that automobile racing involves huge costs has made the racing industry reel in these uncertain economic times. The sport has seen tragedies with loss of life in some instances. This has made room for strict safety regulations, which are now mandatory for all the automobile shows.

The negative part

Although man has made a huge leap forward with automobiles, there is a downside to this technological wonder. The emissions from these machines have raised serious environmental concerns with calls for more eco-friendly vehicles. Automobile companies have invested hugely in research and development of eco-friendly vehicles. Except for this single downside, there is slightest of doubts to say that automobiles have been the find of the previous century.

Categories
Uncategorized

How to Write a News Release That Journalists Will Use

There is a plenty of people who are staring an online business for better exposure of their products and services internationally. This phenomenon has proved lucrative for them but for this purpose they have to adopt special measures like internet marketing. Publish your press release to the news and business directories to fetch massive traffic to your website. When you publish your news, readers who are interested in your niche query on search engines. The matter of fact is that if you are intending to publish your news manually on every news and business website one by one then you have to waste a lot your time in filling up the forms entering captcha etc. So, to publish your news to top 100 news and business websites, developers has invented News Publisher.

This is an efficient and handy tool to publish news on top 100 news sites with just one click. So if you are intending to do internet marketing for your own business website then you need to do is to craft a press release or business information and publish your news with this software. After clicking the submit button, be sit back and relax as this software will publish press release or news to all well searched directories automatically. The attracting feature that is provided in this software is the recognition of captcha codes. If you do registration on any news or business directory then you would observe that you have to put the security captcha code to publish news. This saves you from the overhead of typing captchas to publish your news.

This software automatically adds the hyperlinks to your website and or business information page when you publish news. This also helps to enhance the number visitors to your website. If doing news publish manually then you have to keep the record of each article that is submitted to various websites. With this software, you don’t need to care about the submission reports as it automatically generates them while you publish news to top 100 news and business websites. To publish your news of different authors, number of accounts and submission reports is not limited. You can make as many as you want to publish your business news, press release and business information on news and business sites.

If you thoroughly read the contents of a news or business directory then you would realize that you have to follow numerous rules when you publish news to that directory. This problem is also solved by the News Publisher as when you publish news it is automatically adjusted according to the rules of that directory and it selects the appropriate category itself. When you publish news, you always need to stuff keywords in order to keep rankings high in search engines. So this software detects the targeted keywords and also publish the with your news and press release articles.

Categories
Uncategorized

Snow Blowers On Sale – Tips to Picking The Best

If you possess acres of land, a troublesome back, or a bunch of idle offspring, a snow blower might be a prudent deal this winter period. Sorry to say, buying one of these gizmos isn’t as straightforward as running into and out of Home Depot: you possess to make your mind up how large a unit you require, what type of features it must possess, and whether it must run on gasoline or electricity. Here is a quick guide for the snow hampered.

Step 1 – Take a minute and look at the work ahead. Clearing a pathway on the sidewalk to your front entrance would best fit an electric model. There is always the difficulty of a short electric chord in some situations. A single stage snow blower is the top option. Areas where large amounts of snow fall often and having a large driveway require a two stage snow blower. This more vigorous type of blower breaks up the snow and ice with a steel auger before propelling it out the chute.

Step 2 – Are you tough?. As you may have guessed, two-stage snow blowers are extensively heavier than their one-stage cousins are up to 100 pounds for a gasoline-powered model, compared to as little as 10 pounds for a single-stage electric. If your disabled, hiring someone to shovel the snow is your best bet.

Step 3 – What is your tolerance for noise levels?. Gas-powered, two-stage snow blowers can be as loud as commercial construction tools, so if you possess inchy neighbors, try to find a moderately quiet model (you can frequently find the decibel level on the package; if not, ask a merchant). A quiet blower is the electric snow blower, but you will lose effectiveness.

Step 4 – Type of clearing surface is important. Gravel sidewalks and driveways are not made for the single stage snow blower. This blower will kick up rubble since the blades spin fast. Gravel driveways call for a two stage snow blower since the blades of this blower sit off the ground and will not toss rocks. Safety always comes first and you don’t desire to hurt someone.

Step 5 – Decide how multipurpose you are. If you’re the sort who feels awkward pouring gas into anything but a vehicle, a gasoline-powered blower possibly will not be the finest alternative, because it requires typical refueling. Plowing your driveway by means of an electric blower plugged into a wall with plenty of electricity sitting in wet conditions possibly will not be your choice.. This decision is all yours.

Bill has been writing articles online for nearly 4 years now. Not only does this author specialize in home improvement, you can also check out his latest website on Snow Blower Ratings [http://snowblowerratings.net/] for a comparison of the best Snow Blower Ratings [http://snowblowerratings.net/category/two-stage/] two stage snow blowers.

Categories
Uncategorized

Safe and Secure Gambling – Is There Such a Thing?

If you have tried gambling and whether you have been doing this for a long time now or just recently, you can attest that it is such a perfect and enjoyable way to pass the time especially when you’re alone and have nothing to do at all. However these days, you have probably heard about various internet scams that are present online just to rob the hard earned cash of some decent and normal person. Now the question “Is there such thing as safe and secure gambling?” arise.

Like any other business either online or offline, there will always be one or two who would want to try out their luck to ruin a good running business for everyone. Online gambling has had its fair share of many unscrupulous characters but these people can always be avoided provided you know and you watch whatever you are doing. Read through this article and find out the best ways to make safe and secure gambling possible.

• Be careful with your online gambling payments

Join only the trustworthy and reputable online casinos that are already tried and tested. You can check this by reading the testimonials and feedbacks of other customers and members. Do not ever take the chance of paying to unscrupulous or unknown companies. Check out the payment schemes of the online casino site. It would be better if the online casino allows you to have a free trial of what they are offering before asking payment from you. Remember that it’s money that is involved here so to ensure a secure gambling session on a certain site, be careful with making payments.

• Guard yourself against yourself

It is a proven fact that gambling is addictive and if you have a worst enemy in gambling, that’s none other than yourself. There are some people who get hooked into gambling and are easily trapped by trying to chase their money to recover from their losses. Do not be one of them because safe and secure gambling won’t be possible if you are competing against yourself. Remember to play responsibly and spend only within your means and your budget. Nothing is wrong if you are winning but what if you are already losing? The number one rule here is to never lose more than what you can afford. If you think that gambling either on an online or offline casino is causing you a problem, try to look for the cause because this will help you overcome or recoup from getting addicted to gambling. If you notice that you are already spending more than your disposable income or you are already dying for the next gambling session or you already feel the need for the winning buzz and worst, you are already lying about other activities to cover your gambling sessions, it only means that you are getting away from secure gambling. You should start looking for help in conquering your addiction to gambling.

• Enjoy and Have Fun!
This should be what gambling is all about. While money can really tempt you to gamble, fun should be the first thing in mind and it is never fun to lose money right? So when you think you are already losing money, stop, withdraw and think that it’s not fun anymore!

That’s it! In order to make sure that you are having a secure gambling session, you have to learn how to fight the three worst enemies in casino – the casino itself, yourself and lastly, temptation!

Categories
Uncategorized

Social Media Rainmakers – Tired of Being Hounded?

There is usually a hype-cycle that occurs during the early adoption phase of anything new. And in the Social Media Marketing (SMM) space, you will find a broad range of vendors, consultants and suppliers who have rushed in to take advantage of the “next big thing”. While most are honorable in their intentions, there is a subset of vendors who will:

  • Make it sound so much more difficult than it is
  • Promise unrealistic and over inflated results

This occurred during the early years of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this hype is now occurring with social media. Do not be fooled by the “rainmakers”. There is a lot of snake oil being sold today. If you are going to use an outside agency or vendor to help you please make sure you vet their qualifications fully. The best way to not get taken advantage of by the Social Media Rainmakers is to do your homework first, develop a plan and even consider taking a marketing benchmark to see what your competition is doing. You may still get hounded, but the power of knowledge can help keep you from wasting your time.

Web 2.0 Marketing: For the last five to ten years, the Web was largely an informational channel. However in the past few years, the Internet has become increasingly interactive and social in nature. New forms of community-based channels, driven by a change in customer behavior, are starting to evolve the landscape of the Internet. Social Media Marketing (SMM) has now been added to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and other marketing practices that comprise Web 2.0 Marketing

5 Helpful Social Media Tips: As with any form of communications, if you follow sound marketing fundamentals, use good judgment and take the time to learn best practices, the use of Web 2.0 and Social Media Marketing does not take a rocket scientist to implement. Experienced marketing and corporate communications professionals can easily obtain the skills and knowledge to effectively take advantage of the benefits. There are a lot of free tools and sites available that you can use and learn from. But keep in mind, that while there is significant upside to this new media if done right, there are also documented case studies of companies doing it wrong that has hurt their brand reputation. It is important to approach this new media in the right way. Here are 5 helpful tips:

  1. Not all Social Media Sites Are Created Equally Creating connections with your target audience is important. However, are you making contact with the right ones that will provide you value? Each social media site has a slightly different brand, member make-up and topics they are interested in. Spend time to understand the sites that are out there and select the ones that attract the audiences you want to interact and build a relationship with.
  2. Focus on Giving Value First Social media is all about giving to the community. Before you get accepted you need to first give value. If you are seen as only there to sell or for your own self-interest, people will not respond to you. It is a great place to showcase to them your thought leadership. Look for ways to differentiate yourself by providing valuable content and they will seek you out.
  3. People Do Business with People They Like Customers want to buy from people they like and respect. Once they have an affinity for your expertise and what your company/product stands for they will reward you. It is OK to open up and show your personality. Social media is based on trust and making connections that create a mutual benefit. Like-minded contacts will follow you.
  4. Create a Fan Base Social media communities are becoming an important way where people trade stories and provide critiques on products, companies, people, etc. The people in your community can represent the best way to advertise – by word of mouth. Create a reason for your contacts to be a fan and to become a referral for you.
  5. You Can’t Evaluate What You Don’t Measure There are a variety of free tools that allow you to monitor the conversations that are taking place on various social media and blog sites. You need to monitor, evaluate and judge the dialog that is taking place regarding your company and products. When keeping a close watch on the dialog you can make corrections or change to the way you interact with your communities to create the greatest value.

Social Media is Different: While social media can be viewed as an extension or a component of Search Engine Marketing, it really is quite different. In many respects, it fits under the broader category of word-of-mouth marketing – which can either be online or offline driven. The key difference is that it relies on the collective nature of social groups that have similar interests, like to share information and who want to establish relationships. When integrated into your overall Web 2.0 marketing plans, it can be a powerful new strategy. There are many objectives achievable through Web 2.0 marketing and social media:

  • Drive increased Web traffic
  • Create relevant links to your Website
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Improve conversions
  • Stimulate conversations
  • Establish relationships and create brand affinity

Focus on Strategic Planning: While outside agencies can be a big help, do your homework first to learn what makes social media tick. Spend time visiting and participating in online communities and doing a little reading. It really is not that difficult to implement correctly. Before deciding on the social media path that best fits your business model, you need to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs, wants, issues, passions, concerns, and the communities in which they participate in, and so on…

Benchmark Your Current Position: As part of your strategic development process you should also benchmark your current execution level, gain a better understanding of what your competition is doing and develop a road map focused on what you want to accomplish through social media channels.

Social Media Marketing is not as hard as it seems or in some cases portrayed by social media rainmakers. If you plan to use an outside resource, the more you know about social media yourself the better you can manage the value you gain from using agencies that focus on building your network/community/following. Social media is a new channel you can take advantage of. Do your homework first by developing a plan and you can achieve success.

Jim Arnold is a results-oriented marketing professional who has held leadership roles with IBM, EDS, Sabre/Travelocity and other notable companies. He is a forward-thinking strategist who has a passion for testing innovative ideas, developing new go-to-market strategies and leveraging the latest Web 2.0 marketing technologies to drive increased levels of business value. He recently co-founded MetricsBoard, a new Web 3.0 performance benchmarking company that is crowd-verified and crowd-generated.