NEW MEDIA PLANNING :: BUDGET HACKING :: WHERE TO CUT AND WHERE TO SPEND

I want to start by stating very plainly, there is no such thing as a simple web page.  Not anymore.

Consider this, interactive new media products are living organisms that will either thrive once launched – like living creatures, if they have a healthy gestation, these things can grow strong over time leading long, healthy lives – or, if malnourished or traumatized during their incubation,  will die a slow, painful death in the petri dish.  The cost of birthing one of these “organisms” can not succeed if the stake holders don’t respect the process.

Its ALIVE!
It's ALIVE!

YES, I can come up with a project proposal that delivers the same basic Interactive New Media “product” for as little as $80k or up to $2.5M plus – why is there such variance in the cost?  It is very, very simple – cost depends on what I call “Class of Service” vs. “Level of Effort”.  You must have some idea of what you want before you even ask me for an estimate, start by asking yourself, who will I show this to when it is “done” or has reached “Phase I” and how will they rate the success of my project?

I can generate an estimate, an eerily close estimate, based on rationalizing two variables that I have come to know over the last 16 years of bidding projects and managing them, successfully:

Class of Service: A reasonable classification for the amount of effort that needs to be exerted in order to meet the client’s level of  expectation; variables that effect class of service delivery can include but are not limited to time to launch, target ROI and the number of resources available at a given time.  Classifications can include Enterprise, consumer ready, back-end, informational only applications to be use strictly by niche experts, etc.

~ As defined by Nico (I tend to make a lot of Networking metaphors and this is no exception – CoS )

Level of Effort: The equal amount of combined resources, planning and preparation against available budget required to deliver the “class of service” expected by the client.  i.e. If you are collecting email addresses, how many do you expect to collect, how qualified do they have to be and in what time frame?  If you don’t know the answers, you are in no position to start estimating the project.

Level of Effort is a matter of success or failure
Level of Effort is a matter of success or failure

These are very difficult times for many of us, and like many out there I only get paid when I am billing hours – a lot of time goes into the bidding process and many compromises are made to win bids – but fair is fair.  When you are ready to start getting your  ducks in a row to launch a project, it is very simple:  Know how much you can spend, how much time you have to get it off the ground, how good it needs to look and what you expect back for it.

I hate using the phrase “managing client expectation” – but a project can easily result in an angry lawsuit, dissolution of friendships or partnerships, even bankruptcy if everyone expects different returns out of a project.  Early and constant communication is key, clearly defining roles and a written scope of what will and what will not be included in the delivery of a product – all of it is essential.  Often times I have found communication problems usually come from a Business Leader or ‘stake holder’ who may have seen a flashy demo from a Supplier and heard that product referred to with a certain “catch phrase” –  said Business Leader makes an assumption that this catch phrase is an industry standard term – they believe something to be a standard because they were told by someone who was trying to sell them something that it was or is “best in class”.

A recent example I have run into is Telepresence – depending on if you are Cisco or Tandberg, the definition of what is meant by a Telepresence-type experience is similar, but the tangible products work differently and do not play well together….

Business Leaders live outside the inventor and developer space where we create and use new technologies daily and understand  the nuances that result in a lack of standards – we know that there is no such thing as a standard application on web or anywhere for that matter;  there are many variables to account for (amount of bandwidth, Operating system, web browser and security settings, firewall, location restrictions, on and on… ) No one has been able to offer a completely “ubiquitous” solution for anything…

So – for starters, it is this “class of service” we first devise when creating a project strategy – doing this correctly is so critical, and is a an art form in and of itself – one has to do this incredibly well in order not to get a reputation in this industry for being a hack or a thief – and what I mean by that is, if the end product has to meet a higher level of expectation, more time and money must go into the planning of the project – take for example Enterprise class, which by default would include 99.999% up-time SLA on any web based product, the product will need to be well branded and it will need to  stand up to a higher level of expectation on stability then perhaps something that is more of a functional product that just needs to work well enough to serve a less visible purpose… if you will?

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In the next installment, we will look at the various tasks and streams of effort that are usually victimized by budget hacking, but will always lead to long term issues when neglected…

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