Productizing Services Work

One of the best moves we’ve made for our consulting and services teams is to “productive” the work. What does that mean? That means that instead of quoting project work as a “bucket of hours” (e.g. 100 hours at $200/hour for $20,000) you have different “products” available like a Professional Quick Start Package that gets a client up and running, or a Newsroom Package that delivers a certain number of templates, pages, workflows, etc.

Productizing the services work aligns interests from both the client and vendor to focus on the benefit and outcome of the work — not how long it takes. This took a long time to realize, and we’re not completely away from quoting hours of work for certain projects, but the majority of consulting work around a product should be productized.

Example B2B App SaaS Infrastructure

After our hosting provider had internal network issues last week, setting up redundant datacenters became a top priority. After much debate, here’s what we decided on for our new SaaS infrastructure:

  • Enterprise-class round robin DNS with automatic fail-over
  • Two datacenters with identical infrastructure:
    • One Linux load balancer (1 dual core CPU, 2 GB of RAM)
    • Two Linux app servers (1 quad core CPU, 4 GB of RAM)
    • High-end MySQL database server (2 quad core CPUs, 12 GB of RAM, RAID 5)

The database servers are configured in a master-master replication setup such that each datacenter is fully autonomous.

Now, time to get to work and set things up.

One more thing put into the cloud

After reading Nicholas Carr’s book, The Big Switch (as recommended by my friend Wayt King), I’ve been trying to be more cognizant of what my company can put into the cloud and no longer worry about. Well, yesterday, we put our Asterisk PBX into the cloud courtesy of Aretta Communications. I must say, we should have done it a long time ago. Several benefits include:

  • Fully managed by a specialist
  • Daily back-ups
  • Phones still work even if the multiple T1s in our office go down

For $100/month, we should have done it a long time ago. I love the cloud.

SMART Goals

I was at TAG’s Georgia Technology Summit last week and enjoyed hearing a variety of presenters (thanks Appcelerator for the ticket!). Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics (which I just ordered) did a great job talking about mass collaboration. The last speaker of the day, Michael Gelb, outlined a nice approach to innovation including a little method to better achieve goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timeline

Very smart indeed.

Where’d all the spam go?

So, a couple months ago we switched from an in-house Linux email server to Google Apps for Your Domain. There were some hiccups like migrating legacy email (we paid the $50/user for the premier edition to get email migration support but it was still a pain) but overall it has been great. The most notable change has been the superb spam filtering. Literally, I don’t remember the last time I’ve received a piece of spam since the switch. That’s right, spam is no longer a problem as far as I’m concerned.

I highly recommend Google Apps for Your Domain.