The boring professional

I’m talking about professionals. Ones who just do their work without any fuss and get along with their lives.  Working with them is very uneventful. There are hardly any surprises. They seem to have all things covered, figured out. Its like a great Billiards player. They know which ball to hit and where to stop the cue. There’s no messing around there.

On the contrary, most of our software projects seem to be like a messed up puzzle. Few things hanging here, few hanging there. Gathering all the pieces together at the last minute. Get it in an wardrobe. Close the door of the wardrobe somehow. Get the damn product out the door. Repeat the process for every release. This seems to be an accepted norm.

The first company I used to work for had a delivery manager named Mr. Bali (name changed). He was this ultimate adventure lover. He could convert any normal project to a cliffhanger and then deliver it in crunch situation (mostly well past the delivery dates). He earned a reputation of the go-to man whenever the situation was tense and the management needed a ring-master. And, to be fair, he did a good job at that. After some point, it became a habit for all projects to lead up to this situation and managers/team members playing like superheroes. The whole account became a hub for super heroes. It almost resembled ‘The Avengers’ on every project.

Now our superheroes got into a habit of fire-fighting and would never strive to finish things off at a normal pace. Unfortunately for them, this kind of strategy doesn’t work for long and you’re sure to fail more often than succeed.

But its fun. Its a roller coaster ride for everyone involved. There’s emotion, tragedy, action, comedy.. all the masala that makes a blockbuster.

On the other side, there was this another delivery manager Mr. Semwal. He got into a habit of breaking down things, measuring progress, taking corrective actions well in advance. He’ll seldom get into such situations where he’d have to run around crazy to get stuff done. Most of his projects get done well in time ensuring full control on quality and well being of the team members.

But, of course, he’d never be a hero. He never provided the entertainment which Mr. Bali did.

Most management falter at this. They need to recognize calculated, methodical professionals too as they celebrate the heroic ones. Reward consistency and measured approach over heroic ones. This improves over time and keeps you away from heartaches. There are other ways of providing yourself with such cliffhanger entertainment.

Review: KiSSFLOW – the workflow as a service on Google Apps

Orangescape recently launched KiSSFLOW (workflow as a service) at Google I/O 12. I was privileged to see a demo of the app prior to the launch and tried it out for few days. Will probably be implementing it at our company too..

The value proposition is very clear. Many smaller and medium size companies use Google Apps account for their mail and document needs. Most of the organization processes happen over informal means, through emails or paperwork.  Providing a platform which allows company owners to set up easy automation flows to manage some of their processes will come in very handy. On top of it, if it utilizes the data already present, nothing like it. KissFlow comes across as one such platform where you can quickly automate some of the organization process without leaving the affordability and the environment of Google.

Some of the things I really liked about the app:

1. The User Interface

It has maintained a very consistent feel to the other google apps and is a pleasure to use. It didn’t need much of training or help to get started with the process creation, form creation or following a process from initiation to completion.

2. The Form designer

It is one of the better form designers around. Covers most cases for a typical company needs.

3. The workflow designer

This is the core of the app and lives up to the expectations. It allows you to add a step in the process and associate it with people responsible for executing that step. Again, all the users are fetched from Google’s repository. It supports different type of action like approval, input needed and also allows you to branch parallel processes.

It could easily represent some of the simpler processes like Reimbursement, Leave, and Procurement within the company. With some intense use, it could also be customized for some of the more complex ones like Sales Lead and complex Procurement flows.

It could be made better with pre-created templates and more help content to create the workflows. But, as it is, its pretty decent.

4. Query back and Follow request options

These are two nice touches. Query back allows for clarification related to requests and provides a nice discussion mechanism (would be nice if it displays all the conversations, though..).

Follow option allows people in the chain to follow a request till its completed. This enables other people to also be involved in whats happening with the request.

All in all, it looks a great app for smaller and medium size businesses who already use Google Apps for their company. Ability to attach documents from Google Docs, access it from within the google environment and feel like one too. Deployed to Google App Engine, it can get you started in minutes.

Its free for 10 users and charges post that. More on their price here.

On Orangescape, I’ve been following them since quite a few years and is one of the better companies that’ve come out of our place. Their contribution to the developer community in chennai and around has been inspirational to many of them. They recently raised a $1M fund from Indian Angels and would be raising some more very soon.

Kudos to the team on the launch and expecting more exciting news from them in the days to come.