What Happened in the Puerto Rico Taskforce Meetings

I’ve got to be honest. I love politics. I follow news daily and have opinions on almost every topic. I’m not a blind supporter of a political party views nor part of “el corazón del rollo” of any party. I have my own opinions on issues and on status.

I mention this to say that the taskforce meeting and the roundtables didn’t have a political feel to me. There are people saying that this was a show from the current Administration to promote the Lufthansa deal. Of course there were politicians and officials in the meeting from the party in power. But who else was supposed to go? They have the Constitutional power to represent us like it or not. There were also representatives from the minority party, business leaders from both parties, and NGOs that did a great job promoting their agenda.  As I explained in a previous post, it was an honor to be there.

Getting In

The meeting was held in the Eisenhower Executive Building inside the White House complex. To get in, you have to send some information to the Secret Service before the meeting. Once there, you pass several checkpoints where you are checked as if you were on the TSA Precheck line in the airport.

White House Eisenhower Building

After that, we were escorted to the meeting in the second floor.

The Meeting Room

After registering at the entrance and receiving an agenda with the assigned roundtable, we proceeded to walk into the room.

White House Puerto Rico Task Force - Agenda

As we walked in, it was obvious that the attendees to this meeting were in another level. I again asked myself, what am I doing here? The who’s who of Puerto Rico’s Businesses and NGOs was there. Universities, local businesses, multinationals, non for profits, local and Federal Government … And the list goes on.

The greeting and initial remarks were given by David Agnew, co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico. He presented the agenda and explained that we were going to be separated in three group, one for each of the roundtables and after that we would come back to have a debriefing from the leaders of each roundtable. Then, he introduced Eduardo Carrera from The Boys and Girls Club to give a presentation and put everything that’s going on in Puerto Rico in context. You can see more in www.juventudpr.org.

White House Puerto Rico Task Force

After the presentation, the meeting was opened to questions before we left for the roundtables. Eduardo Bhatia, President of Puerto Rico’s Senate, asked, “What is the desired outcome from the roundtables?” David Agnew responded, “What steps can the federal government take to help? What are the big items? We want concrete actions.”

They acknowledged the huge response and that the time allocated for the meeting wasn’t enough. Maybe we’ll have another meeting soon … maybe.

Roundtable on Economic Competitiveness

So we walked to the other meeting room. It was a smaller room with a beautiful colonial feel. Wood everywhere and your traditional George Washington painting on the wall.

Economic Competitiveness & Knowledge Economy Roundtable

We started with a presentation from Dr. José Lasalde Dominichi and President Uroyoan Walker form the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). They explained how a joint venture from the NIH and the UPR allowed them to start a project to develop a manufacturing process on an HIV vaccine based on the only successful study on the subject. This was to prove how Puerto Rico’s advantage on STEM and in manufacturing drugs and medical devices was paying off.

Then, everyone started sharing his or her views on economic competitiveness and a knowledge based economy. We had very little time as the presentation took a good 15 minutes. John Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Education, did a good job making sure everyone had some time to speak and Antonio Medina, Executive Director for the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO), did an excellent job summarizing each of the proposals.

There were proposals on:

  • Green technology and how Puerto Rico could become a leader in the Caribbean in this area.
  • Patent generation and how we are last when compared to all the States.
  • Focusing on K-12 students to be able to excel in the knowledge based economy.
  • Making all federal opportunities open for Puerto Rico companies to bid on. Most of the time opportunities are open to continental US based companies only.
  • Bringing new capital to the system. Without it, it will be difficult to move the economy from the state it is to a growing one.

The Debriefing

As we got back from the roundtables, everyone had an opportunity to network. It was an amazing opportunity and that alone made the trip worthwhile.

Every roundtable gave a brief list of the proposals of each roundtable. Some were specific, and some were broad and general. Some of the most important proposals, aside form the ones in the roundtable I attended, were:

  • To expedite the Federal agencies permit process for infrastructure projects.
  • To allow the international airport to have a staging area for flights in transit. This would allow it to create more flights and traffic.
  • To make the whole island a HubZone. HubZone is a special certification by the SBA given to companies that are established in underutilized business zones.
  • How the FDIC requirements are not working in Puerto Rico and how rules had to be changed to allow lending to businesses relaxed.

In the end, a call was made to the Taskforce. “We are here in good faith presenting proposals on the things we think can help Puerto Rico jumps start its economy. We expect that you (the Taskforce) don’t let these initiatives die and that there is follow-up on them” said Alberto Cordero. When confronted with this statement, David Agnew responded with a surprising statement, “Very rarely the White House convenes public elected officials and the private sector in an event like this. Take that for what it is.”.

Final comments

I hope that these roundtables have some effect and help Puerto Rico move its economy in the right direction. The Federal Government is as responsible as we are for the precarious situation we are in. But there are a lot of people and companies that have the right intentions and the drive to do what they can to make Puerto Rico’s economy strong again. I know that at Wovenware we are doing just that.


Consistency Matters Too!

Yeah, Social Media…we have talked about it haven’t we? But we haven’t talked about how important consistency is in all of the social networks. I’m pretty sure you have created an account in every social network; at least on Facebook or Twitter so you must know how important it is for your company to participate in them and stay on top. Right now, April 2014, COMPANIES MUST GET SOCIAL and give consistent, new, and unique content to their followers, friends…customers.

If you have a blog on your company site you will have probably post links of blogs posts in the company’s Twitter or LinkedIn account so your friends can see it and read it…oh and share it. This is one of many things we can do with social media, we can also retweet cat photos and other stuff but if we want people to see our company as professional and a serious business we should post the same things (as blog posts, news, job openings) in all of the networks we contribute to in order to maintain consistency. Another thing that is very important when using social networks, and this is something we have discussed previously, is content…you need content that attracts your consumers attention. Even nowadays companies say they don’t have time or resources to invest in social media, well if you are not eager to risk a little you may remain unknown for some consumers and you are throwing away the perfect opportunity of branding through social networks. Social media is not just another channel; social media is the perfect tool for collaboration.

Wovenware Software Development BlogAs a company you can hire someone to be in charge of publishing constant content on your social networks; blog post, solutions, case studies and create engaging customer experiences. Social networks are essential in a marketing plan mostly because a way of communicating with our clients. Everyone is constantly refreshing their Facebook’s feed to read how good that burger was or how thrilled someone is because they are going to be a daddy, so this is our chance to post things that make us relevant and interesting; but let’s not forget that you shouldn’t stay with social media only, you should build your own customer network. Remember that your goal is to gain your customers trust, so please use these tools wisely and be careful with the things you post.

Wovenware Puerto Rico

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE….quit advertising through social media. Imagine if you were tagged in promotional posts constantly, what would you do? Social media is an essential tool for business these days and as we have mentioned we must focus on posting constantly and consistently content that’s relevant and is useful to your audience. Try to have at least one person in charge of all your social networks, someone who can post different topics and make your company known for its different approach and strategy. Your company wants to be different and stand out so take matters into it, if you have a blog stay alert to questions that can be asked and answer them as quickly as possible. This shows the consumer that you care about what they have to say.  When blogging remember to stick to your industry, this rule goes as well with posting things. You can post a diversity of content but all of them have to be related to your industry, staying on track assures your company a strong branded social media presence.

A Reflection Before the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico Roundtable Discussions

Two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status Roundtable Discussions. The meeting is on April 9 on The White House Executive Office Building.  The Task Force roundtable discussions are focused on 3 subjects: Making Puerto Rico Open for Business, Economic Competitiveness and the Knowledge-Based Economy, and Energy Leadership and Innovation

I have to be honest. I was really shocked when I received the invitation from James Albino to participate.  How do they know Wovenware and the work we’ve done? Who am I to represent so many Puerto Ricans in such an important platform?  It was a challenge to grasp the magnitude of the opportunity and almost didn’t confirm my attendance.

It was my partner at Wovenware and partner in crime Carlos Melendez who shook me into submission. “Do you know what a great opportunity this is?”, he said with a  disgustedly surprised face.

After a few days of disbelief, I accepted the invitation to participate in the Economic Competitiveness and the Knowledge-Based Economy.

Days later, I learned the names of some of the attendees. Friends like Nestor Figueroa from Nagnoi and Alberto Cordero from E3 Consulting with whom I share in the Puerto Rico IT Cluster. Success stories like Carlos Cobian and his company Cobian Media who has been motivating and advising entrepreneurs. My good friend Eduardo Emanuelli from CLC Insurance (Hub International), a self taught angel investor that works hard every day to help and learn from local entrepreneurs. Our champion Jaime Yordán, who has been a leader with his efforts to promote Puerto Rico with his work with PRIDCO. Dan Navarro from Pragmatics, who believed in Wovenware and Puerto Rico for Federal IT projects before anyone else. That’s just the ones I know.

The challenge was big and now it just got bigger!

And that’s when it hit me.  The benefit for Puerto Rico from our individual business efforts is more than the simple summation of those efforts. That’s what brought us to this moment and the opportunity to share what we’ve done and what we think has to be done to keep moving forward.

We are all doing our part and our companies have transcended our geographical limits.  Now we need to double-down and get this economy going.


How to Estimate a Software Development Project

Through the years several customers have asked us the following question:

“How did you estimate our software development project?”

Following an explanation on how we estimate custom software development projects at Wovenware.

At Wovenware we take a team approach when estimating a software development project. This means that several resources with different experiences and backgrounds are involved in our project evaluation process. These resources are usually:

  • Someone from the Executive Team
  • One or more Senior Software Developers and/or Senior Software Architects
  • A Project Manager

The first step on any project estimate process is to understand the software requirements needs of the specific software development project. The Project Estimate Team members are selected based on the specifics of the software requirements. Depending on the complexity of the project, the Project Estimate Team may meet in person with the customer to discuss the project requirements or a member of the team that has met with the customer explains to the team the specific project requirements.

Once all members of the Project Estimate Team understand the requirements, the team breaks into an individual estimate exercise. During the individual estimate exercise each team member will perform a separate project estimate using his or her favorite appraisal methodology. We always encourage the Project Estimate Team members to perform the estimates using several of the appraisal methodologies.

Some of the appraisal methodologies we use are:

  1. Duplicate Methodology – If a similar project has been developed at Wovenware we use the similar project actual project plan as a base for the new project estimate. We then modify the base plan with the specific tasks involved in the software development we are appraising.
  2. Grouping Methodology – We group all functionality in sets of similar functions. That is, if we identify 10 screens in the application we may group the functionality as: documentation, meetings, 4 easy screens, 4 normal screens, 2 difficult screens, testing, deployment, and project management. Once we have the groups we assign a number of development hours to the group. That is, easy screens will take 2 days, testing will take 4 days, etc. Then we multiply the number of members in the group by the number of estimated development hours. For example, 4 easy screens will take 8 days (4 *2 = 8). Finally, we add all the development hours to arrive at our project estimate.
  3. Detail Methodology – This is the methodology that usually takes the most time to complete, as a detail project plan is developed to estimate the project. Each project task is identified, individually estimated, and a detail project plan is prepared.

After all team members complete their individual estimate exercises a group meeting is held. Every team member presents his or her estimate and an estimate table is created. The estimate table contains the estimates of all team members. Usually the variance between the individual estimates is trivial and an estimate range can be presented to the customer. That is, let the customer know that the software development project will take between A and B.

If the variance between the individual estimates is significant then the Project Estimate Team performs a group estimate using a Detail Methodology. The resulting estimate is then presented to the customer.

It is not easy to estimate a software development project. Experience is the most important skill when performing a custom software development estimate. That is why only people with significant experience in software development projects can accurately estimate a software development project.

If you are a customer of a software development project always ask how your project was estimated and the experience of the people that estimated your project. The success of your project may depend on this.

Have additional software development appraisal methodologies? Let us know in the comments section.

Is there “unsexy” software?

In the past I have been ask why Wovenware develops “unsexy” software. What do you mean by “unsexy” software, I ask. Well, enterprise software, they reply. Up to that point I had never thought of enterprise software development as “unsexy” or for that matter, “sexy”.

A quick Google search confirmed that apparently enterprise software development is unsexy. So then, if enterprise software development is unsexy, what is sexy software? Could it be mobile consumer applications, games, or social media software? In my opinion all software is sexy, be it a consumer mobile application, a game or an enterprise electronic transaction management system. All software developments present their own challenges and design opportunities. There is room to invent and innovate in all software developments.

If we assume all software developments are sexy, then what is unsexy software. For me unsexy software is the software that gets developed and then is never used. For a software developer there is no bigger pride than seeing the software one has designed and developed being used. Likewise, there is no worst disappointment than seeing the software one has developed wasted and never used.

I spent part of the beginning of my career working for what will remain a nameless startup that was building a kiosk and an electronic payment gateway backend to bring electronic payments to emerging markets. (This was more or less at the same time PayPal was founded.) I spent two years involved in the development of the payment gateway backend and an ad delivery and management application. It was challenging and innovative work, but my work was never fully used as the company ran out of funding before we were able to effectively commercialize the solution. Those two years were spent developing unsexy software. Software that never met its purpose. Time, ideas, designs … wasted.

In part this is why we do not develop unsexy software at Wovenware. We develop software that will be used. That will bring value to its users. There is no greater feeling as a software developer than knowing that your software touches the lives of you parents, friends, neighbors … strangers. For us sexy software is what makes our company what it is, there is no space for unsexy software because our goal is always to bring value to our customer through our software solutions.

We are currently working on an application that will have a global deployment … software development does not get more sexy than this…

How to Manage Project Personalities

To be an excellent project manager you need to have a blend of what the, methodology suggests, experience and character. Through the year I’ve worked with different types of personalities in a single project. Every person on a project has a role, a unique talent, not everyone has the same knowledge or leadership.

But how can a Project Manager (PM) engage people in the project (stakeholder, developer, analyst, tester)… using the “World Peace” phrase?  Sending emails containing a long list of tasks to be performed? Complaining about the output? Pointing people about whose fault it is? Lecturing people working on the project?  These are options that some project managers might use or may consider good options; for me they are all wrong. That does not mean that sometimes they are the only option, but in most cases there is always a right way to do things and one that can benefit every side.

Instead of discussing more about these options and their repercussions, I’m going to address my focus on Personality. Engage people through their personality, learn what they like and dislike, their character and how they see themselves in the project. If we are aware of the kind of person we are working with, then we can prepare, and plan ahead. These are some of my rules in the workplace:

  • How to Manage Software Project PersonalitiesCOMMUNICATEDon’t wait hours to report an issue, if something does not look right talk to the project manager or a co-worker… For me if I don’t have a solution or an idea of what to do in 30 minutes, I know that I have to talk to someone.
  •  Get to KNOW your team, mean it and do it! As long as you know who you are working with everything will run smoothly, this helps emphasizes team work.
  • SEEK the good in people, it could be risky but most time, it is worth it.
  •  Everyone can BE A LEADER in their job, allow them. We are working in a very dynamic environment we need more good leaders.
  •  Make them LAUGH, We work with so much stress that we forget to calm down, a joke or two are not going to kill anyone.

 

Tips on How to Manage Project Personalities

  • RESPECT different opinions…LISTEN. Everyone works differently and sees things in different ways, it is very important for every project manager to remember this.
  •  Less talk more RESULTS. Do more. Don’t promise things you can’t accomplish, keep it low key so at the end, your work speaks for you.
  •  Always speak the TRUTH. Honesty is a great quality to have, don’t waste it.
  •  Anybody in a project can TEACH something new, LEARN IT!

 

Projects are challenging, don’t let personalities became one of them. If you work with a person who is difficult to deal with, the application of these rules can help solve the problem. But if this persists, the best option is to try to understand what might be bothering this person. Working with people that differ in personalities can be hard but you should visualize this as a challenge. Project success is the sum of all the effort of the people involved in the project and that includes the project manager’s effort in working with different personalities between coworkers.

Have additional project management tips? Share it with us in the comments section.