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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Project Management Triangle applied to Winning Customers

#ProjectManagment #scope #quality #time #costs

  • Copyright: winui/Shutterstock 
Very few people know that my Alma Mater is located in the Imperial Palace in Vienna. The University of Vienna’s Institute for Arts of Theater, Film, and Mass Media was founded in 1945, right after WWII ended. At the time, Vienna lay in ruins from the bombings but of course the Allies had spared the Imperial Palace. Therefore the palace was the perfect location for the new university institute.

One of the institute’s reference libraries was located in the Albertina building (today an art museum), which borders the Imperial Palace. This reference library was open only once per week, on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. That’s right; this particular library was open only for two hours per week. Admittedly, not too many students visited there. Probably, funding was short.

This reference library’s books could not be lent out but had to be read in the small reading room. Why do I still remember this, twenty-seven years later?

Because I visited there - every Wednesday - for weeks.

At this reference library, books were locked away; a clerk had to retrieve them from a backroom where they were stored. This specialized library had only one clerk, who helped visitors on a first come first serve basis. Since I was in a hurry to graduate, I had to come up with a plan to obtain the needed references fastest.

The clerk was an elderly lady who had a limp. To gather a dozen, typically heavy, reference books and bring them to the counter could take her twenty minutes. That meant, fifteen percent of the entire visitor time might be spent on waiting for her to deliver the books of only the first visitor.

If I wanted to proceed according to my plan I simply could not allow any student to beat me to being the first person to receive books. So, I arrived every Wednesday an hour early, at 2:00 p.m. Sitting on the cold stone stairs in front of the door, I studied while I waited. On many Wednesdays, one or two other students arrived closer to 3:00 o’clock. If I saw the same student twice, the following week I made an effort of showing up even earlier. I figured that one of them would try to beat me.

As soon as I received the books, I leafed through them and inserted paper strips (sticky notes were not allowed) to mark the needed information. Promptly at 4:15 p.m., I began to copy all relevant pages. Copying was not a quick process; the library had posted procedures to be followed. Wrinkling a page might get a student expelled. Each copy cost ten cents; adjusted for inflation, that would be 21 cents per copy today. Still, the investment saved me from having to take notes and enabled me to make best use of the short time frame.

These were the days when I learned the value of PROJECT MANAGEMENT and THOROUGH RESEARCH. If I forgot to look up something, I had to wait an entire week to get access to the library again. If I did not check the page precisely, I might come home and find out that the text was referring to other text printed on pages that I had not copied. Only once, at the beginning of my research, I had to ask the clerk to pull the same book a second time.

The project management triangle shows that we cannot execute projects of high quality also cheaply and quickly. At any given moment, at least one of the three cornerstones (scope/quality, time, costs) is a constraint. In this instance, my constraint was time. While the quality of my thesis would always be the result of how much work I put into it, the “time I was able spend at the library” was the real constraint. To overcome this hurdle, I needed to spend a lot of money for copying every bit of information.

The lesson learned from executing this project was much more valuable than what I learned about the topic of my thesis.

Having literally been in the trenches of scientific research, waiting on cold stone stairs, leafing through thousands of pages, copying hundreds of pages and keeping them in order, I am baffled that today so many people skip looking up omnipresent information. Today, one click with a mouse would do the trick yet so many people don’t invest that little time.  

For instance, just recently I received an amazing e-mail from an e-book cover designer. As an e-mail evangelist, I have high standards; and even though I don’t like canned e-mails, I will admit that e-mail was the most beautifully written “canned” e-mail I ever read. It featured the following, very elegantly written lines:

“… Branding the author is imperative, the designer is responsible for presenting their image as a first impression to the public, special thought and time should go into font, color scheme and placement.
As a designer I feel that hearing the heart of the story from you, the author, your passion for your creation fuels my creativity and design process…”

Doesn’t this e-mail sound great?  Its writer seems to address authors’ (my) needs.

Still, I would not even open this designer’s website and check out his work. That’s because I know for a fact that this designer did not make the effort of clicking his mouse only ONCE – to look at MY website. This effort would have taken no longer than three seconds.

These are covers of my books.

I already publish books under my own brand of  “naked”’ books; they are non-fiction books, and with the exception of one, they are not story books. 

So, what branding and hearing the story was this designer referring to?

Quite obviously, he did not invest the minimal effort of clicking the link to my website but was fishing for business with his standard e-mail.

Of course the designer could argue that clicking the link to every author’s website would cost too much time and therefore shooting blind e-mails without checking is the more efficient strategy.

Then again, typically authors, who publish more than one book use the same cover designer again and again.  Because of that, more likely than not, their books will be branded and will have the same style. Consequently, any authors who publish often and consistently will have the same reaction as I had when I read this canned e-mail.

 “What is this designer talking about? My books have a branded look.”

Obviously, all authors know their book covers and the thought process that led to their creation; only the cover designer who did not look does not.

The remaining authors, who may have published one book or who are only about to publish in the near future, might be swayed by a beautiful canned e-mail. They do not have a branded line.

But are they the best customers for the cover designer?

These authors may publish only one book every three years. Heck, they might even be frustrated if the first book doesn’t take off and never write another one.

So, therefore, wouldn’t the cover designer be better off, checking out every author’s website, see if he finds authors, who publish a branded line, make suggestions for improving the line and thereby hopefully pull ashore customers who are ideal customers?

Let’s call the cover designer’s efforts to win new customers a “project”, and look at it from that angle.

The best (HIGH QUALITY ) customers for a cover designer are authors who publish books frequently; in other words, they can become repeat customers. Let’s remember that the SCOPE OF THE DESIGNER’S WORK is the same, whether the book is good or bad, or long or short, a bestseller or only a mediocre selling book.

To find these high quality customers, the cover designer can spend money/ COSTS (e.g. for ads) or invest TIME contacting authors like me when he finds lists at Goodreads or other online forums. 

But here is the catch – Time is Money, too.

If the author is trying to SAVE money by contacting authors directly he should not WASTE time/money by sending the wrong emails to his potential customers.

It is like they say in project management courses: You can’t execute a high quality project by doing it quickly and cheaply.

© May 25, 2015 by Gisela Hausmann

Multi award-winning motivational indie author Gisela Hausmann published the following books under her own 'naked' brand.  

  • "NAKED WORDS: The Effective 157-Word Email"
  • "Naked Truths About Getting Book Reviews"
  • "Naked News for Indie Authors: How NOT to Waste Your Marketing $$$"
  • "Naked News for Indie Authors: How To Get on TV"
  • "Naked Determination, 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear"
  • "Naked Elaboration: Our Time to 'Fix Things' Is Running Out"

© May 25, 2015 by Gisela Hausmann

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  1. Goodness! This article really spoke to me in two ways! First, Your description of study brought me back to my days of research for my Master's in Art History. I remember Inter-Library Loan and days spent in the "stacks". I, too, had to devise efficient ways of working. For me, it was a stack of 6" x 8" notecards.
    Second, this article spoke to me about the evaluation of people willing to help me promote my novels. 95% of the time a message proclaims success for my dollars, but no personal touch.

    I would rather choose my assistance from someone who has clicked on my site and made an attempt to know my product.

  2. Thank you @Mary Woldering, Indeed it is interesting that some organizations are trying to market their products with less effort than college students put in only a twenty something years ago