Mac fans around the world are anxiously awaiting next week’s big announcement from Apple. Those fanboys among us are eagerly looking forward to seeing a healthy Steve Jobs finally descend from Mt. Cupertino to deliver the fabled MacTablet/iSlate to the masses. One of the qualities that makes Apple somewhat unique in the technology landscape is that they’re not very keen on vaporware. I can’t remember the last time Apple announced a new product without committing to a rock solid delivery date. When introducing the first generation iPhone a few years ago, consumers could pre-order the phone the day it was announced and could expect delivery the same day the product became available on store shelves.
In the eyes of Apple, this is more than an expectation. It’s a promise. Imagine for a moment that next week Apple announces the new iTablet and tells the world that they can expect to lay their grubby little paws on the device promptly at 9AM on April 1, 2010. Now imagine that just a few weeks prior to the anticipated ship date, they say, “oops, we were just a bit off in our estimates. Turns out your JesusBook won’t actually ship until April 15th.”
How many hundreds of millions of dollars do you think would be shaved off their market cap? While the next six days will see endless speculation regarding which features this tablet/slate might or might not include, I can guarantee you one thing: it will ship when Apple says it will ship.
Few companies currently have as much at stake when it comes to calculating a project ship date as does Apple. And when so much is riding on estimating the delivery date for one of the technology industry’s most anticipated products, how do you go about picking a ship date with 100% confidence?
Obviously, I have no insight into how Apple manages their project plans but I think it’s a safe assumption that their product managers rely heavily on project buffers. These cushions of time provide teams with a measure of consolation when they don’t have a firm grasp on how long a given task might take (especially true when it comes to tasks that have no precedence). When bringing an entirely new innovation to market, you can imagine a project plan that is overloaded with such buffers. But because these buffers are really nothing more than arbitrary chunks of time, they only account for one side of the exit date equation (i.e., the worst case).
So yes, with enough project buffers you can set a promise date with a reasonable amount of certainty. But by overloading a project plan with buffers, you end up with a schedule that is stiff and unable to respond to market dynamics. This is one of the hidden benefits of incorporating ranged estimates into project planning. By accounting for both the best- and worst-case scenarios – which is especially powerful across an entire portfolio of projects – you can realize the best of both worlds while setting realistic promise dates.
(This post was originally published on the LiquidPlanner blog)
Like others, I watched the latest Burger King “Whopper Virgins” commercial with a mixture of horror, incredulity and not a small amount disgust. Beyond thinking that this could be a lost scene from Idiocracy, I got to wondering about the strategic reasoning behind such a campaign - one that I think was designed to offend.
Produced by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the auters behind the magically absurd “Subservient Chicken”, the Whopper Virgins campaign presents itself as an anthropological study-cum-documentary in which “researchers” set out to geographically isolated areas to taste test the Whopper versus the Big Mac (and amazingly, these uber-isolated communities happen to reside within 15 minutes of both a Burger King and a McDonalds – huh?).
Now these are not dumb people. And surely at some point in the process of creating a multi-million dollar national campaign, someone must have raised their hand to point out that this might piss off a few people – from the prigs on the right objecting to the use of the word ‘virgin’ to the leftist intellectualistas who recoil at the cultural inappropriateness of the ad (and who likely do not eat at Burger King in the first place).
So that leaves us with the likely scenario that they knew full well that this campaign would offend. They wanted it to. They well understood the risks and made a business decision that the ink such a campaign would generate would overshadow any long-term negative impact (and yet here I am adding to the virtual chatter). No such thing as bad PR and all that.
But here's the thing -- you'd think they would at least give the perception that they care about what people think. Why not even make a token gesture that ties into the campaign -- for every whopper purchased in 2009, Burger King will donate a portion of the proceeds to the indigineous commities they exploited visited?
One thing I'll give them credit for -- the burgers in the ad look like the genuine, unappetizing article:
Full disclosure: the last time I had Burger King was in the Mexico City airport and consequentlly spent the first three days of my honeymoon in a Oaxaxan hospital... so I might be just a little bitter.
A few weeks ago, LeapFish.com launched its new “convenient” meta-search engine (because, you know, Google is so dang inconvenient). No one really paid much attention except for Robin Wauters at TechCrunch who wrote a brief, somewhat snarky post that pointed out the many challenges ahead for LeapFish.
As is often the case, the comments that follow the story were quite entertaining in their own right. The TC community being a cynical bunch, the comments were predictable enough:
Leapfish…is a joke. It will take only a few minutes to design a web app like that… It just uses msn, yahoo, google search engine to search the word entered in leapfish’s text box. Surprisingly it is ranked 110k in Alexa…
And then of course LeapFish employees began posting hilariously obvious and utterly transparent shill comments, such as:
This site is perfect for all my searching needs. I get Google, which I always use anyway, by default then I can immediately see images and YouTube videos related to whatever I’m searching for…how convenient is that?!
However, what I found to be of particular interest is when the founder of LeapFish, , decided to get personally involved in the discussion. Most of the time, I think it's a great idea for the CEO or founder to chime in with a comment. It shows that they're engaged with the community. That they’re listening and receptive to other opinions. However, what could have been a dialogue quickly degrades into a good old-fashioned flame war (and best of all, the entire transcript will now forever be part of the Web record - which will likely find its way into future depositions).
I imagine this is an issue that other founders and CEOs encounter quite often. They read something they don’t like or disagree with and their first impulse is to respond. Just as in a relationship, sometimes the smartest thing to do is take a deep breath and step away from the computer. While it might feel good to set the record straight, it often doesn’t serve much of a purpose in the long run. Especially when it's being played out in front of a crowd (real or virtual) and in such a hostile manner. As for Leapfish and their attempts to secure long term keyword sponsors (which does indeed sound pretty fishy), this flamewar will now appear at the very top of any search results for "Leapfish". For those potential advertisers who wisely choose to perform their due diligence, they should ask themselves: do I really want to fork over precious marketing dollars to an unproven start-up founded by someone who has shown himself to be impetuous, hostile, and litigious? All I can say is: caveat emptor.
The other day our doorbell rang and my wife and looked at one another trying to figure out who might be there. We weren't expecting anyone and this being the political season, I suspected an Obama campaigner was canvasing the Queen Anne hood. Lo and behold, when I opened the door, there stood a bright eyed young woman with a clipboard wearing a black Comcast polo shirt. Ostensibly, the reason for her visit was just to make sure "everything was okay" -- though it became quickly apparent that she had no idea whether or not we were actually Comcast customers. When I informed her that yes, everything was fine with our Internet service she then launched into an aggressive "Triple Play" sales pitch.
So many ironies here. There's the fact that Comcast won't ever show up when you actually want them to -- like when they called me out of the blue to offer an upgrade to my Internet connection and then proceeded to blow me off (well, they did finally show up, randomly, several weeks after the scheduled appointment). Are they really that desperate to drum up sales that they're pounding the pavement or is it an earnest effort to improve their abysmal customer service reputation? Regardless, it would take a lot more than a six month offer to get me to endure that special circle of hell.
But still, I offer my congratulations to Comcast for being a finalist for this year's Golden Turd award! Next year you should have a clear path to victory now that Countrywide is out of contention...