Customer Communication

"Under Promise, Over Deliver"; "Always be honest with your customers, just not brutally honest" are both correct values, but mostly "Keep your customers informed NOW". I agree with the "take away" in Mozilla Drops Ball on NY Times Posters, a post by Mike Rundle in BusinessLogs. The story he relates tells of Mozilla not delivering on customer orders for posters of their NY Times advertisement, and responding to customers with the same information over-and-over in "email after email".

However, I feel that the real moral of the story is that good customer communication keeps the customer informed as to the progress, or at least efforts being made on their behalf. When a problem occurs, a bug is reported, a complaint registered or a "trouble ticket" initiated, the customer is almost always satisfied by timely information. A quick response that you are investigating, the results of that investigation, requests for more information, and even a time table for resolution are all necessary parts of communicating with the customer.

Over-qualified for the Job You Want?

Have you been turned down for a job because you were over-qualified?
The article "Over-qualified? Don't be a Dummy!" is an article worth reading.

Proposal Finale

Once all the corrections are made from the Proposal Review, all that's left is to print the proposal, bind it, deliver it, attend the opening (if public) and await the award. ;-)

The RFP usually has instructions about all of these.

  1. Usually, you must print out an "hard copy" of your proposal as an original, and then some number of copies (we've seen as few as three copies to as many as ten). We usually print the "original" on the heaviest weight, brightest white paper that we have in stock, at the highest resolution of which our best photo-printer is capable. We print the "copies" on lighter, duller, pre-punched paper, with a software "stamp" saying "COPY", at the "normal" or "every day" resolution of one of our other printers.
  2. Sometimes, one can submit a "soft copy", either in lieu of or in addition to the hard copy. If a soft copy is requested, the RFP usually specifies the file format, usually a Microsoft Word DOC or an Adobe Acrobat PDF, of a particular vintage version. At times, the RFP has asked for, or allowed for, supplemental material to be provided as soft copy. Usually the means of providing the soft copy is specified; normally CD now-a-days, but we've still seen floppy disc as the specified media - though often changed to CD during the questioning stage. We have a nice template for the CD label - always a fine touch.
  3. The allowed binding method is also usually specified. Three ring binders normally work for all proposals, especially larger, tabbed proposals. Sometimes, more permanent types of binding [spiral bound, comb bindings, spine bound, etc.] are either allowed or specifically forbidden.
  4. Sometimes the cost proposal must be sealed separately from the management and technical proposals, sometimes not, sometimes the cost must be in the original but not the copies.
  5. And speaking of sealing - make sure you understand what the RFP means by a "sealed bid", if required.
  6. Box up your proposal and copies and ancillary material, if any and seal it up.
    Print out a receipt for signature upon delivery, just in case the customer doesn't have their own method of providing one.

Basically, just make sure that you understand ALL directions in the RFP, and follow them.

We like to deliver by hand, if practical, and stay around for the opening, if public. Often at the opening, some things - like the proposer's name, address AND pricing - will be read aloud. 'Tis always nice to know if you have the competitive edge or not. :D

And now we wait for the award. In the proposal that we delivered yesterday, we found out two things. First, the deadline had been postponed until next Tuesday. The customer didn't know why we didn't receive the announcement and, while very friendly were unwilling to research the issue. Secondly, the award won't be made in time for an early March start date, as stated in the RFP, but probably not for six weeks. /sigh And, so we wait - and work on other things.

Proposal Review

The proposal is written; the costing is done; the price has been set. Now is the time to review it all. 'Tis best to have reviewers who haven't seen the proposal before. Familiarity can breed carelessness.

The first review should be a straight read through of the proposal.

  • Is it internally consistent?
  • Does it read well?
  • Are there any awkward areas?
  • Can someone not familiar with the RFP understand it?
  • Is it attractive?
  • Grammatically correct?
  • Compelling?

Following this, a more detailed review is in order, against the RFP and against the initial assessment that was done. This sometimes leads to discussions, as fresh eyes take a look at things. It can be good to have someone who sees things very differently do the review. That way you can have arguments rather than discussions. Wakes everyone up.

Did I mention that no proposal is really complete without a lot of lost sleep? XX(

Feeds Syndication

Three recent articles about feeds syndication came to my attention today. What struck me is that they all concetrate on just one type of RSS, Really Simple Syndication, ignoring the other RSS and Atom.

I've already written about these three Blog Reading Tools, though these XML based syndication protocols are useful for more than blogs.

  • wiki(RDF_Site_Summary,RSSv1) - Rich Document Format or Resource Description Framework (RDF) Site Summary
  • wiki(Really_Simple_Syndication,RSSv2) - Really Simple Syndication
  • wiki(Atom_%28standard%29,Atom) - a syndication protocol similar to the various versions of RSS, but aims to be more flexible

They are all extremely useful for keeping track of any web-based, XML based, or web service [SOA] data (structured), content or media (unstructured) that is frequently updated.

I went to Blogging about [Incredible] Blogs from our TIA Life Blogroll/Linkblog while taking a break from the proposal we're writing. Ken Leebow's article there pointed me to the article by Jonathan Dube in Poyneter Onlne and to Kevin Laws' article in VentureBlog [Venture Blog is on our Business Life Blogroll, but Ken got me there first] &#59;) And this also shows up the power of blogs, wikis and feeds syndication - the interwoven links.

All of these articles, as well as the ones to which they link, make very good points about how feeds syndication protocols are providing new tools for distributing content as well as leading towards new business models, or revamping current models [such as viral marketing].

I haven't seen any indication that RSSv2 is becoming the front-runner in feeds syndication. Especially, as the Google family has adopted Atom. So, I'll ask the question: "Is RSS becoming the generic term?" It is a bit more complicated than asking for a Kleenex and getting a Puffs' facial tissue instead. We support all three with the open source basis of the TeleInterActive Press and related services, so Scott's, Puffs or Kleenex all work for us. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next two years.

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The TeleInterActive Press is a collection of blogs by Clarise Z. Doval Santos and Joseph A. di Paolantonio, covering the Internet of Things, Data Management and Analytics, and other topics for business and pleasure. 37.540686772871 -122.516149406889

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