Category Archives: Professional

The Client Bill of Rights (Something Every Outsourcer Should Have)

As a client of a service bureau for most of my professional life, I was constantly tortured by my vendors with things that I think they (as a matter of course) take for granted.  As a vendor now, It’s time to articulate and repeatedly reinforce these things with my organization and emphasize the need to put common sense practices into place. 

Here are my top items:

1.      Just say NO to production environment updates:  No production updates, EVER, EVER, EVER without partner approval in advance.  No one is even allowed to “BREATHE” on the production environment……Not (EVER)….Say it with me…. E-V-E-R!!! 

  • No applications changes without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!
  • No database changes without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!
  • No changes to production reports without partner approval in advance.  E-V-E-R!

2.      Provide regular status updates:  Partners are only going to bug you, call you or hunt you down if you don’t communicate (and they won’t be happy doing it either).  If they know what’s going on, they can fend off their angry users and will not have to bite our heads off later.  Status update means 5 bullet points in email….it does NOT mean ‘War and Peace’ on a special 50 page status form.

3.      Check the integrations:  It’s technology…. if you touch one thing, everything else breaks.  Make sure you are talking to all the other developers that code could impact.  Consider all the other touch points in the system as you code.

4.     Test it first:  Unit test and integration test before handing it over.  If it doesn’t successfully take a sales order or enrollment, put it in the database and it shows up on the internal and field facing reporting in all account classes…. DON’T SEND IT TO THE PARTNER FOR TESTING.

5.      It’s not done until there’s a report and a UI:  There isn’t a piece of code that will be written that doesn’t require or impact a report either for internal use or for the field.  Factor this into development every single time.

6.     Partners “heart” SQL:  When analyzing or auditting, send the partner raw SQL to show how it was done.  If we don’t have a report written, just send the SQL to the partner who can turn it into a report themselves.  Watch out for over-writing any existing reports.   

7.      We “heart” questions:  If you don’t know something or have a question about how to do something…. ASK!!!!  Don’t assume you know what the partner wants (that would be just too scary!!)


The power of outsourcing

Here is outsourcing at it’s finest. 

I have 10 Visio drawings to do for an executive presentation.  I hate doing Visio.  I don’t have time to do Visio.  I don’t WANT to do Visio.  So….go to the internet…look up Visio help….find a site called “Rent a Coder”.  (It’s essentially Ebay for programming services.)  I post my request for 10 Visio drawings and within an hour I have 10 people bidding on my job.  They are from around the world, offer ridiculously low rates and send fabulous samples of their work.

Hmmm….I think I’m going to post a job for someone to do my expense reports.  I’ll let you know how that goes.


I would like to thank the academy….

My first introduction to R+F was at a lunch meeting/interview in Salt Lake City with Lori Bush.  Lori described a horrible Jenkon implementation and described the painful circumstances in such articulate detail that I couldn’t do anything but be utterly fascinated.  I remember going home and telling Mike that the situation was a complete trainwreck.  He rolled his eyes and knew right away I was going to take the job.

So through the first year and a half we (IT) tortured the entire R+F staff (and the budget) through a painful conversion.  We ran a mile a minute, throwing in technology, replacing pieces, merging pieces, integrating pieces and tossing out some other pieces altogether.  At the end of the day, we had a fully integrated stand-alone and very solidly workable system.  There are still a few  missing pieces, but all of the heavy lifting is done.  I’m happy with the result and know that there are a lot of very smart people that can finish getting the system from here to there.

Those smart systems people (obviously) include Lacey, Joules, Jared and a more recent and somewhat surprising addition is Lori. I’ve always thought of her as a veritable genius, particularly in Marketing and the Direct Selling business in general, but over the last two weeks I’ve watched her become a technologist.  In just one day I’ve heard her discuss IT project portfolio management, describe what the Avaya phone switch will do, talk about reporting services, ad hoc queries and explain database elements. We may have to let Lori join “the club” and get her her own designer pocket protector.

My next R+F encounter was with Amnon who quickly became obvious as one of the most intelligent and supportive leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with.  Not only is he a technology advocate but he has also consistently supported the IT junk food habit.  I’ll never forget a particularly frustrating day when Amnon came by and asked if cookies would make it better.  Off the top of my head, I said caramel apples would do the trick (thinking there was no way he could come up with that.)  A week later, a giant case of gourmet apples showed up and it was a party for three days as everyone sampled and enjoyed.

There’s a bonding that occurs over shared misfortune that’s hard to put into words. I’ll never forget the look on Susan’s face across the executive conference table on any number of occassions.  We were bonded in mutual misery (okay maybe “misery” is a little over-dramatic…but not by much).  Sales and/or Marketing would come up with that next “big idea” and it usually spelled nothing but pain and suffering (more drama for effect)  for our respective departments.  She would say “do you know how you are going to execute that?” “Nope” I would say. We would both roll our eyes and then we would go find Lacey.

Another significant moment in history was with Chris, watching the sales field turn from a group of confused unengaged retailers to much more independent and capable business people. I’ve see a lot of field dynamics in my career, but I have never had an opportunity to be in the room, as a witness to a pivotal moment in an organizations history like this one. I will never forget the collective and incredible “A HA!” that occurred at the January Leadership Event.  It was amazing to watch the subsequent change in sales and recruiting that occurred over the course of the following year.

My fabulous staff, Drew, Lacey, Nancy and Joules are some of the brightest most dedicated people and will be the ones to help take this company to the next level.  They know how much I love and appeciate them and that they will always be “my kids”.

Courtney is the business partner of a lifetime. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to work with who has an appreciation of what technology can and can’t do.  Probably more importantly as well,  is how she can motivate you to do things you absolutely don’t want to do!  I remember early on having a meeting with Courtney when she was still working as a part time contractor from SLC.  I met with her with the intention of hiring her as a project manager for the then languishing Pulse implementation.  I practically BEGGED her to help.  She articulated that she was looking to be an executive at the company rather than a PM.  I thought my prayers were answered and soon found out they were.

So thank you to everyone for allowing me to participate in this great R+F journey.  Know that I believe in you and know that I will always watch your continued growth and success.

And of course, I’m no more than an email, instant message, Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Twitter, Oovoo, Skype or phone call away. 😉

Best wishes and much success,