David RD Gratton

Category: Business

Risks as my office goes Mac

August 28, 2007

In 1998 I was living in Singapore working for a bank trading exotic foreign currency options. At the time I was using a Macintosh at home running Office 98. Our trading model at the time was Excel based, so I actually caused quite a stir when I order Office for the Mac. I had to run hundreds of simulations on our Excel program running on my Mac before it was approved. Trust me when I tell you that it was an enormous headache to get that approval.

After we had a couple of virus scares at the bank, I realized that my Macintosh might "save the day" if we were victims of a successful virus taking down our systems. I wrote a memo to my boss and to the IT department informing them of the high risk that we were taking relying on only one OS. We were professional risk managers but we were not "seeing" the risk to our systems. Needless to say my memo got pretty much ignored.

When I started my Web company in 1999, I was pleased with the mix of Windows, Mac, and Linux computers in our office. Everyone had their favourite and we would rage after work in Quake III battle after Quake III battle to settle the score. The general break down was: designers were Mac, business admin was PC, and Programmers were Linux.

However, something has happened in the last 24 months in my office. We are 75% Macintosh. Programmers and business admins are switching to Macs as we hire new staff and purchase new equipment. Today I asked Mandy to start pushing people toward PCs and Windows in the office much to the surprise of some of my staff and especially anyone who knows how hard I fought for my Mac while working at the bank.

The issue is entirely about risk management. We need to ensure that we are not dependent on any one operating system, plus we need to actively keep in mind that Windows is still the dominant OS. If everyone has a Macintosh at our office it is easy to slip into the sense that Macs are the dominant boxes.

How weird to start asking the team, "Was that tested on IE?" rather than "have you tested it on Safari?"

UPDATE: September 14, 2007

Jay Savage as always has an insightful response to this post. Though I do think he has my opinion slightly out of context. I will make a reply in his comments.

Forty under forty: Canada's emerging leaders

May 30, 2007

Yesterday I attended the Caldwell Partners 40 under 40 awards for this year's BC recipients. British Columbia garnered 6 of the 40 awards this year, continuing BC's over representation compared to the rest of Canada at this annual event. This is clearly a tip of the hat to the innovation and leadership that BC entrepreneurs are providing our Nation. having lived in EVERY region in Canada, I believe that Vancouver is without question the most entrepreneurial city in Canada. Montreal and Toronto, are sure to take exception at that, which is good. Nothing like competition to drive innovation.

I was extremely honored and pleased to be the guest of my friend and client, Neil Branda, who was one of this year's award winners. Neil is a nanotechnology genius. His new company Switch Materials is/will be making products that will blow your mind. I am not certain what I can say about them so I will err on saying nothing, but it is straight out of science fiction. Really Really COOL... and amazingly useful.

At the awards event, we saw some vignettes of the winners talking about their achievements, their dreams, and their secrets of success At the end of the video, each of the Vancouver winners gave speeches. Something I had suspected, and it certainly was confirmed to me at this event. Leaders and entrepreneurs are NOT cut from the same cloth. All the recipients had very different personalities and approaches to business. Some were quiet, humble and introspective, while others where gregarious and boisterous, some were highly technical, while others were sheer personality, and others still were somewhere in the middle. The only common element was their blind determination to succeed in the task at hand - their utter will to keep moving forward even during some of the most trying of times. Type-A or Type-B, highly technical, or techno-neophyte are simply not critical factors in entrepreneurial success. On the other hand, even though I'm certain that blind determination does not guarantee success, it is a mandatory requirement of success.


Making Good RFP Response Decisions

January 23, 2007

Greg at Airbag, wrote this blog post recently regarding some sad RFPs he's received recently. He notes that some RFPs

[..] come in the form of a well thought-out, concise plan while others are birthed from a horrible Microsoft Word template. And then there are my personal favorites which tell you absolutely nothing of the scope of work but request a cost estimate anyway. These asshats are the Ike Turners of the bunch: "I don't wanna baby, but I'll beat the love right out of you if I have to."

The 40 odd comments are good for a laugh, but the post brings to light a growing issue regarding our role as developers/vendors in the RFP process. I know many companies who have been burned by RFPs, and have sworn them off for good. However, I think this is short sighted. In 2006 my company Donat Group earned close to 60% of its revenue from RFPs. We won 5 of the 7 we submitted. In 2003, we won 2 of 8 and almost swore off the whole RFP process, too. The improved success ratio was a direct result of our company becoming very focused on what we will and will not bid on.

Here are some criteria we have at our offices for answering RFPs:

  • The RFP must have defined deliverables with a clear marking/grading criteria for assessing a vendor. It must also detail the time line and process for assessing bids. If it doesn't have these - throw the RFP in the trash can and move on.
  • Read every RFP that comes in and examine the criteria. Then detail why your competition is more likely to win it than you are. If your list is 3 - 4 points - think long and hard about responding. If it is 5 points or more - throw it in the trash can and move on.
  • The RFP must fall squarely within your company's vision statement. No exceptions. If you do not have a vision for your company. Throw the RFP in the trash can and move on.
  • The RFP must be public if there is no budget attached. A public tender has legal ramifications for the issuer, which should help with the integrity of the process. We use MERX, BC Bid, and Sigma. Even then be very wary of all RFPs without a budget.
  • If you get a private unsolicited RFP with or without a budget, throw it in the trash can and move on. Ok, call them up first and ask them why they sent you the RFP and what the exact budget is. If they say that they found you "on the web" and/or anything but an actual number for the budget, throw it in the trash can and move on.
  • Answer the RFP criteria in 10 to 12 pages. Appendixes and detailed work plans excepted. If you can't be succinct, chances are you don't really know what the RFP is asking.
  • You must have 3 references within the last 12-18 months for work of a similar scope.
  • You should be able to offer something "extra" that will be of value to this project outside of the RFP requirements. This extra must be unique to you.

By focusing on RFPs that suit this criteria you not only keep your company focused on responding to calls where you have a high probability of winning, but you also keep dodgy RFPs like those noted by Greg from receiving any kind of professional response.

One last thing. Unsolicited requests for quotes are not RFPs. Don't treat them as such. They are leads. Pick up the phone and make a sales call.

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