Prioritizing Constraints On Your Project


Prior to the holidays I wrote a blog post discussing how you can help your internet marketing firm help you (“The Theory Of Constraints“). Remember, the vast majority of projects fail - particularly in the technology field - so it’s important to be diligent in doing everything we can to improve the chances of success.

The Triple Constraints: A Quick Review

Theory of ConstraintsPicture a triangle. Now remember that all projects have three core components that can each be visualized as a side of the triangle: scope (the work to be completed), cost, and time to accomplish the work.

The job of the project manager is to ensure that the triangle stays in balance. If the scope increases, so does the cost and time. If the time to completion is compressed, the scope and, possibly, cost compress.

The idea is that a defined amount of work will take a certain amount time given a certain amount of resources. If the triangle gets out of balance the project will fail along one of the sides of the triangle.

For example, let’s say features (scope) are added but the time line and budget remain the same. In this case, the project will fail on one of the triple constraints. This is an important foundational concept in project management that may be useful for you to be familiar with.

Prioritizing Project Constraints

One of the ways that the triple constraints can be utilized in your project to increase the chances of success is by prioritizing. Though all projects have constraints, not all constraints are equal between projects. Project A may have a specific time frame that’s crucially important. But the budget of Project A could possibly some flexibility. Project B, on the other hand, may require a certain set of features (scope) but the deadline is adaptable.

The three basic classifications that are generally used when prioritizing constraints are “inflexible”, “adaptable”, and “may concede.” Inflexible indicates that this is the most critical and must be constrained. Adaptable is negotiable but should be optimized as much as possible. May concede indicates an area in which trade-offs can be made in order to manage the inflexible constraint or optimize the adaptable.

A simple way of clearly identifying the priority of the triple constraints with your project manager is to use a simple chart.

  • On the left column of a spreadsheet or chart list the triple constraints: time, cost, scope.
  • On the row at top list the three classifications: inflexible, adaptable, and may concede.
  • Now look closely at each constraint and put a check mark in the appropriate classification column. No cheating - only one classification for each constraint!

If you do this exercise with your project manager at the beginning of your internet marketing project, you will enable him/her to do a much better job of planning, executing, and managing your project. This, in turn, will greatly increase the odds of a successful project. So go ahead - try it!

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Operation: Christmas Day


We’re coming up on the big day - the one we look forward to for, seemingly, months. I love this time of year and I love Christmas day. We expect hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas with the gift buying, school programs, holiday parties, etc. So when it comes to the actual day we want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the day with our loved ones.

Ah, but that’s not always the way it works out, is it? Some years the rushing about continues, even on Christmas day, and the relaxing with family and friends takes a back seat.

This got me thinking: what if we apply some basic project management tools to Christmas day? Maybe with a little bit of planning and thought we could make it to Christmas evening having enjoyed a wonderful day with the people we love. Ok, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Step 1: Define the project

The first thing we need to do is define what the end product will look like. Survival? Ok, well, that’s not specific enough. How about avoiding any major family conflicts? I’m not a family therapist, sorry. That’s outside the scope of this project. Everyone is able to open their gifts in a somewhat organized fashion? We’re getting closer. We physically make it to all the places we’re supposed to go? That will suit our purposes for now. As the project sponsor, I own the project requirements. So let’s make an outline.

This project - Operation: Christmas Day - will include these features:

  • We expect the children to get up early and open gifts. The adults don’t want to get up early. Let’s allow the kids to open their stockings whenever they get up. The adults don’t have stockings.
  • Let’s have breakfast together and then open gifts. The menu includes pancakes, bacon, and fresh pineapple.
  • We need to be at Grandma’s house by 11:00 for brunch.
  • The extended family is getting together late afternoon - around 4:00.
  • I would like to avoid any major family conflict, particularly with Uncle Buck who loves to talk politics.
  • We’re driving to the in-laws on Christmas evening - we should arrive there before 10:00pm and it’s 3 hours away.
  • I would like to feel happy at the end of the day.

Step 2: Develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The WBS describes the work that needs to be done in order to meet the previously described requirements. Now that we’re clear on the project requirements, we’ll brainstorm about the tasks necessary to complete the project and organize them in a hierarchy. The WBS will provide the basis for estimating schedule and budget.

Here’s a sample WBS for this project, though it could be arranged in a variety of ways.

Step 3: Create a network diagram

After we’ve clarified the work involved in this project, we’ll identify the dependencies between tasks. This helps us to know what tasks need to be done prior to other tasks. If we’re not clear on what needs to happen in what order, the project can quickly degenerate, which means missed deadlines and poor outcome.

Here’s a sample network diagram for Operation: Christmas Day

Step 4: Execute the plan

A description of the important points related to executing the plan is beyond the scope of this blog post, so we’ll have to leave it at the planning stage.

These (very simplified) project management tools may be applied to a variety of situations. Regardless of the tools, I hope you have a very merry Christmas with your family and friends!


How Can The Theory Of Constraints Apply To Internet Marketing Campaigns?


Most projects fail. According to the Standish Group, only 32% of all projects succeed, which is defined as being delivered on time, on budget, with the required features and functions. Those are pretty dismal figures and don’t bode well for customers and project sponsors who are investing in projects.

There are a number of things that project managers and teams can do to try to improve performance. But what if you’re someone who is working with an internet marketing company? Do you, as a client, have a role to play in helping to increase the chances of your project succeeding?

I believe you have a significant and important role. So… how can you help your internet marketing project team help you?

One of the most important things you can do is understand some basic project management concepts and adjust your expectations in accordance with those concepts. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of project management here, but I believe it is necessary to give an overview of a basic project management concept, the theory of constraints, and how it applies to managing internet marketing projects.

The Triple Constraints Concept (aka the “Theory of Constraints”)

Theory Of Constraints picAll projects have three core components: scope (the work to be completed), cost, and time to accomplish the work. For a defined amount of work, we can reasonably say it will take a certain amount of time, given a certain level of resources.

The challenge is to keep the triangle in balance. Say, for example, you would like to include additional items into your project - perhaps a nice feature for your website, a tweak to the design, etc. These projects increase the scope. Therefore, an adjustment to the cost and/or time is required. If cost will be higher, then the time required to complete the project will be longer.

If you want to move the deadline forward so that the project is done sooner, then scope or cost will also need to be adjusted to reflect the changed time component of the triangle. Scope can be reduced in order to get done sooner and/or we could increase the cost so that we can acquire more resources to apply against the project in order to get done sooner.

I believe that simply understanding the triple constraints will help you communicate more effectively with the project manager of your internet marketing campaign and the team working on the project. It will also enable you to have more realistic expectations about the scope, cost, and time components of your project.


Google Voice Applications For Internet Marketing


Is Google finding a way to integrate the tracking of online and offline marketing results?

Many people know that one of the great things about internet marketing is the ease and accuracy with which marketers can track the results of their efforts. With internet marketing, it’s generally not a case of not enough data. It’s more like:

“What in the world do I do with all this data?! What’s relevant for my company?”

Google Voice Phone Call TrackingBut what about businesses that still rely on that antiquated tool – the telephone – to do business? How do you know which marketing activities generate the phone calls? Was it that magazine ad, an internet search, that midtown billboard, or a customer referral? Sure there are ways to track that, but none of them are convenient.

Your trusted, data hungry friends at Google may be working on a solution for at least part of this phone call tracking problem. Using Google Voice, the search engine has begun tracking phone calls that are coming from ALL Google-related internet marketing sources.

Google Voice allows for the creation of a phone number that is not tied to a particular location or phone. Instead, the number is tied to you or your company. The user can also control which phone rings (office, home, mobile, etc.) when someone dials a Google Voice number. A “G-Voice” account is similar to a Gmail account in that it’s portable and more flexible in where, when, and how it can be used.

One of the things that is rumored to be part of Google Voice (which is only available by invitation only at this point) is call tracking. If this is the case, companies would be able to use their Google Voice phone number in various internet marketing mediums to track calls generated from those sources. Two mediums that jump out right away are AdWords Pay-per-click and Google Local Business Center.

Yes, there are PPC management companies that connect sponsored ads to phone numbers. But if Google could provide a way to use that phone number across a variety of online properties, I think it would be quite valuable.

Ease of measuring marketing results is always a good thing in my book.

Get more info about Google Voice from this handy YouTube video.


Transparency In The Business Of Internet Marketing


If you’re even minimally involved in marketing, you know that advertising and mass marketing are undergoing major changes. Have been for some time. We have become so inundated with constant marketing messages that we have become quite efficient at tuning them out. Not only is there too much noise, but mass marketing interrupts us, generally at the most inconvenient times - think TV commercials.

The worst part about this mass of advertising? A high percentage of it is simply irrelevant. The person hearing/seeing the message is not the target market. So we have lots of noisy messages that interrupt us with irrelevant messages.

It’s easy to see why changes are in order. As a way to make sure messages are more effectively delivered, companies are frequently turning to new marketing formats (like internet marketing) and engaging with customers in a more natural, transparent way.

Why Transparency In Business Is Good Business

One of the trends we’re also seeing is businesses moving toward greater transparency in everything - from pricing, to quality, to a company’s corporate responsibility policies. Previously, most companies were able to hide behind the curtain of mass media and carefully control the messages sent out to customers. That’s increasingly difficult because customers are able to get far more insight into a company and its products than ever before.

One of the developments that is driving the transparency trend is online customer reviews and recommendations from personal acquaintances, usually gathered online. The Nielsen Global Online Customer Survey recently found that “recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally.” So not only do people place higher trust in online reviews and personal recommendations, but it is becoming increasingly easy and convenient for people to write reviews online.

This is good news for consumers: more transparency means a greater ability to make informed purchasing decisions. This is also good news for well-run, ethical companies who offer a valuable product or service. I would expect the cream to rise to the top, in this case.

In many cases, though, transparency alone isn’t enough. Because of the power of social media/networking, companies must invest in engaging with current and potential customers online as well as actively managing their online reputations. Companies that do these things well provide distinct differentiation versus their competition that will simply drive bottom line business results.