Category Archives: Research Blog

7 must-have project management skills

This article is obtained from here.

A good — or bad — IT project manager can make the difference between a project coming in on time and on budget and it being a failure. How can you spot a good project manager? talked to project management professionals and IT executives to find out.

Just because someone has the title of “project manager” does not mean he or she knows how to effectively manage projects, as many CIOs and other IT executives have learned the hard way.

To be an effective project manager, one who can keep projects and the team on track, takes more than technical know-how. It also requires a number of non-technical skills, and it is these softer skills that often determine whether a project manager – and the project – will be a success.

So how can you tell a good project manager from a bad one? surveyed project management experts and executives to learn what skills are required to successfully manage projects–that is, to ensure that projects are kept on track and stay on budget.

Following are seven of the most important non-technical skills for project managers.


“Being a good leader means that you do not only oversee and coordinate tasks and processes as a manager, but also outline the vision and define the road map, motivate and encourage,” says Tatiana Danielyan, deputy director of R&D at ABBYY, which provides document recognition, data capture and language processing software.

It is also critical that the project manager has the ability to quickly analyze data – or a given situation –  and make good decisions because, she adds, “at the end of the day, you are the one who has the final call – and the final responsibility for whether the project is successful or not.”

For more on leadership skills, see:


“A great project manager is able to keep their team happy during the tough times,” says Kofi Senaya, director of Product at Clearbridge Mobile, a mobile app developer. “Projects can get very difficult and stressful, typically when deadlines sneak up. As a project manager, your job is to ensure everyone stays motivated. Ultimately, this will improve efficiency and quality of work,” he says.

“Some tactics project managers can use is to praise good work, take team members out for a team building activity and cultivating a fun and collaborative environment.”

For more on motivation skills, see:


“Project managers must speak the same language as their clients,” as well as their team members, says Mike Mills, project manager at Sagefrog Marketing Group, a B2B marketing agency. “It’s somewhat of a cliché, but this phrase really does describe one of the most important skills that can make or break client relationships. Project managers are the sole translators, sharing information, updates and next steps from client to internal team and back again.”

“Communication skills are the core part of a project manager’s skill set,” says Danielyan. A project manager who is “a good communicator can resolve or prevent almost any issue by being clear [and] encouraging an unhindered flow of information, which means [getting] the right information to the right person through the right channel exactly when it is needed.”

For more on communication skills, see:


A stereotypical image of a project manager is someone who is the consummate multitasker, but the ability to “multitask alone won’t help project managers meet all of the demands they face in their role; organization is key,” says Mills. “This means prioritizing tasks, compartmentalizing projects to avoid confusion, and neatly documenting anything and everything for future reference and easy access. Part of the organization process also involves envisioning all steps throughout the life of the project and predicting problems that might arise.

“As a PM, your task is to make sure processes run smoothly and are in line with the common goals,” says Danielyan. Therefore, “the ability to organize multiple complicated processes in uncertain conditions is essential – [and] prioritizing, planning and scheduling skills are critical. You need to always be ten steps ahead to quickly and efficiently achieve the desired outcome – or deal with a challenge if needed.”


“Information overload is a very real phenomenon, especially in the modern workplace,” notes Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, the developer of project management software. “There is a limit to the amount of stuff our minds can process, a.k.a. our cognitive load.” So “to succeed in the next decade, [project managers] must be able to manage this deluge of data and extract the useful bits from the noise.

“They need to be masters at prioritizing [and] time management if they intend to be successful,” he continues. And they have to stay focused and “be strategic despite all the pings and notifications that will have them running to put out fires.”

Problem solving

Much of problem solving in a project management context revolves around being able to identify and manage risk. “Many projects miss their scope, budget or delivery timeline due to unexpected surprises,” notes Tim Platt, vice president, IT Business Services, Virtual Operations, an IT support and managed services company. “The great PM is always on the lookout for risk – and how to mitigate that risk.  He or she knows how to ask the hard questions of the team and continuously confirms decisions, timelines and dependencies. In a well-run project, there shouldn’t be a surprise. There should be a risk log and mitigation plans for all items, and the PM is in the best position to ensure that’s covered.”

“Dealing with obstacles is without a doubt an essential skill for a PM,” agrees Danielyan. “A good project manager [can] identify risk early, find the cause(s) of the problem, weigh different options [and] define and implement the best solution possible.”


“In a fast-paced environment, particularly in the tech industry, changes – whether that’s new processes, standards or technologies – happen fast,” explains Senaya. “Planning is vital, but the ability to adapt to changes and work with your team to overcome challenges is just as important.” That ability to quickly come up with a workaround or change course is absolutely “necessary to be successful in a fast-paced environment.”


IBM Partner Mark Fisk Explains How Blockchain Enables Public Sector Digital Transformations

This article is written by Marquis Cabrera.

The original article is obtained from here.

What is blockchain? And, why is it important to government?

Fisk: Think of blockchain as a a New Capability (not just a technology) which allows me to build new Business Networks between semi-trusted entities that want to transact business – driving more trust, accountability, and transparency in the interactions – and resulting in value for all members of the business network.

It is important to government as government entities are likely to both be participating in commercial blockchain as members of the business network as well as bring together the network to solve some of government’s biggest challenges. In the latter scenario – that could be to solve tactical challenges with short term benefits and results and/or for more digital re-invention types of challenges – where the current business process can completely change when the members of the business network are able to interact via blockchain.

What are 2-3 common government segments or functions that would benefit from the introduction and application of blockchain?

Fisk: 1) Government Mission organizations solving a tactical problem involving information sharing between government entities, commercial entities, or a mix of the two. The blockchain can be used to facilitate that data sharing, limit sharing to data needed – what, when, and why, and keep access/log of who accessed what data for what purpose. An example of this is the FDA blockchain project around sharing of data around clinical trials.

2) Government organizations with responsibility of delivering value to those outside the business network – such as to citizens, small businesses, etc. – where the government entity can connect the citizen/small business into the blockchain where it can receive the services needed from other members of the business network. An example of this is the recently announced Digital Trade Consortium in Europe.

3) Any area where a superset of information shared amongst members of the business network allow for better visibility to support a business process. A great example is dispute resolution (see IBM Global Financing use case).

The Future is Now: Innovations in the Legal Industry

BY PABLO FUCHS June 30, 2017

This article is obtained from here.

As organizations demand more from their legal teams, in-house counsel can look to innovative technologies to help them become more productive. Many of these tools focus on removing menial, time-consuming work so counsel can focus on higher-value judgment tasks and spend resources more effectively.

Here is a closer look at some up-and-coming Canadian companies that offer unique, productivity enhancing tools for in-house counsel.

Codify Legal Publishing

Codify offers two products to lawyers: Codify Updates and Codify Automation. The former is a tool that tracks changes to legislation while the latter is a contract automation tool.

Those who use Codify Updates can create a personal watch list of certain laws, and once there’s a change to a key piece of legislation in any jurisdiction in Canada, the user receives an email explaining the changes. Further, users can log in to a dashboard that shows a side-by-side comparison between the old law and the new law, with details on what has changed.

Codify Automation is different than what competitors offer, according to Paolo Tonelli, Codify Legal Publishing’s CEO and Founder, because the company doesn’t just hand over a tool for clients to program themselves; rather, the firm designs the contract and does the programming. This can range from simple non-disclosure or vendor agreements to more complex contracts with hundreds of variables.

While Codify currently offers the tools as separate products, it does have plans to integrate them.

Both tools rely on automation, a technology Tonelli describes as “tried, tested and true.” Automation involves the standardization of very complex processes and “is a safe and reliable method of handling enormous volumes of data.”

The aim of these tools is to free up lawyers’ time so they can spend it on more meaningful work. As Tonelli explains, “For in-house counsel, it’s a huge win to spend their time analyzing the changes, rather than tracking them.”

Diligen Software

Diligen has developed machine-learning software for reviewing legal contracts. The user uploads contracts into the software and the algorithm quickly produces insights into those contracts.

Using machine learning compared with some of the older methods means “a big increase in accuracy,” says Laura Van Wyngaarden, Diligen’s COO, because of the machine’s ability to identify certain clauses. “It also gets better and better and smarter and smarter. So, for users, the software produces better contract reviews over time.”

Diligen is constantly working on improving the algorithm and making it more accurate. The standard version of the software looks for and finds the key clauses in the contract, but the firm is also focusing on allowing users to train the algorithm to search for specific clauses outside of standard contract review—which is a huge value-add for in-house legal teams looking for specific elements in the contracts they’re reviewing, she notes.

The software also has a project management component that helps legal teams review documents together. So, if in-house counsel have a high level of contracts and a sizeable legal team, they can assign documents for team members to review, keep track of who has done what and when, and read team members’ comments.

The main benefit of using this software “for corporate counsel is all about knowing what’s in your contracts really, really fast,” Van Wyngaarden says. “The tool expands the team’s contract review capacity, gets deeper insights and identifies the critical elements that are in your contracts, which can be very helpful when dealing with many contracts and/or smaller teams. It also reduces the reliance on outside counsel.”

Blue J Legal

This company also relies on machine-learning algorithms but leverages this technology to produce high-quality predictions about what courts would say in specific situations. Its first product, Tax Foresight, has made accurate predictions on tax-related matters more than 90% of the time, says Benjamin Alarie, Blue J Legal’s CEO.

What allows the tool to be so accurate is that it collects a rich description of the facts by asking users 20-30 questions about their particular situations; the algorithms then base the analysis on a sophisticated understanding of those facts and compare them against every single case.

This tool has various benefits for in-house counsel, says Alarie. For example, the software provides an independent, data-driven analysis so they can verify if their perception of a case is accurate. In addition, it provides an explanation why courts would rule a certain way and identifies cases that are similar or that may be obscure but provide similar facts.

For example, Tax Foresight and a new tool that focuses on employment law, Employment Foresight, have a worker classifier component that lets in-house counsel know whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. So, if the Canada Revenue Agency comes asking, counsel doesn’t have to spend the resources to figure this out.

Employment Foresight will be available toward the end of the year. It will predict the amount of reasonable notice a court would give when an employee is being dismissed without cause or whether someone is being wrongfully dismissed.

“We’re now moving into computational world of legal research in which algorithms are helping lawyers figure stuff out. We see a lot of promise in [this technology],” Alarie says. “There are no limits. Wherever there are contentious legal issues, corporate counsel will use artificial intelligence (AI) and other related tools to get better predictions.”


This start-up’s name comes from its first product, an online negotiation platform through which bids are made to reach a settlement. Citizens or businesses go online, make monetary offers and counteroffers, and when the offers overlap, the website automatically generates a binding out-of-court settlement.

The process is based on blind bidding, although the company is working on the second generation that will allow for visible monetary offers, says Philippe Lacoursière, Lawyer and Co-Founder. Although it’s targeted mostly at citizens who don’t have access to the legal justice system, there are various reasons why in-house counsel should consider this tool.

“Companies typically let go of smaller amounts owed to them because they’re not as important,” he explains. “We provide them a user-friendly platform to go and get that money—whether it’s the online negotiation platform, which has a really user-friendly dashboard with all the information, or custom-made solutions for businesses that white-label our products on their websites.”

The white-label platform allows a company to send out mass claims outstanding, which is much faster than having a person send individual emails. After that, the company just waits. If nothing happens, it doesn’t cost the company anything, as the model is based on paying BidSettle 2.5% of the final amount of the settlement. The other advantage is that the tool puts emotions aside, Lacoursière adds, which is beneficial for good negotiations.

The Pitch

The CBA Legal Futures Initiative’s inaugural event to showcase entrepreneurs in early-stage legal technology start-ups was so successful, it’s making a comeback in 2018.

“The Pitch,” which was held at the CBA’s annual legal conference in Ottawa last year, will be a part of the CCCA National Conference and ICW Summit in Toronto in 2018.

The first event saw five start-ups compete for a two-week residency with LegalX at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. In addition, these five finalists, chosen from a group of 35 applicants, were guaranteed an interview with the Chinese Angels Mentor Program. Those selected would receive an equity investment of no less than $200,000 (pending due diligence).

Beagle Inc. was chosen as the first place winner by the judges’ panel, while Loom Analytics won the people’s choice award.

“The feedback we received was very positive,” says Fred Headon, Past President of the CBA and Chair of the Legal Futures Initiative. “For many, it was the first time seeing the power of what technology could do for law. And the entrepreneurs themselves appreciated it because of the exposure they received. The participants have gone on to further refine their products and get more opportunities as more people have become aware of them, and we’re happy to have been a part of that.”

Anyone interested in the 2018 event should keep an eye on the CBA’s website: Last time, the prerequisites were firms that were up and coming and had technology related to the legal space, with less than $120,000 in annual revenue. Those parameters will likely be similar for 2018.

Pablo Fuchs is a writer based in Toronto. This article was first published in the Summer 2017 issue of CCCA Magazine.

How companies are learning to thrive without anyone in charge


This article has been obtained from here.


Is it time to banish bosses?

Workplace hierarchies can be a right pain in the ass.

Managers who can’t manage, leaders who are lost, and human resources departments which are anything but resourceful.

Maybe the solution is just to scrap the lot of them – that’s exactly what some companies are doing.

Flattening the management

Flat management is when a company gets rid of managers and lets employees self-organise instead, it’s a niche practice embraced by only a small handful of companies around the world.

“There’s no how-to guide to what we did, it’s more of a philosophy,” Jason Trost, CEO of betting exchange Smarkets tells me.

Trost came across flat management in 2015 while reading Frederic Laloux’s book on the topic, Reinventing Organizations.

Given Smarkets had no real formal hierarchy (there was only one ‘manager’ besides Trost), he decided to take the plunge and flatten his management.

Read more: How To Boss It Like… Jason Trost, CEO at Smarkets

How Will AI Affect Project Management in the Future?

This article is obtained from here.

Companies are just discovering the potential of AI to unburden project managers, who are already spending too much time on paperwork or management tasks rather than crafting strategies and future plans on the macro level.

The average project managers today have so many responsibilities that it’s any wonder they can get things done other than filing and signing documents, making sure everybody follows the schedule, crafting budgets, and other administrative duties.

This routine has been maintained for so long that companies take the delay as par for the course. In public organizations, a large bureaucracy can add to the Gordian knot to the point wherein a project submitted on time is now sometimes greeted with surprise.

According to the Harvard Business Review, over half of the project manager’s time is wasted on administrative tasks. In fact, if they have their way, almost nine in 10 of the survey respondents replied that they could benefit from AI support so they wouldn’t have to focus so much on administrative tasks.

The good news is that there are already AI tools on the market today that can help project managers unclog their desks., for example, has an app that can work as an effective smart assistant. The Monte Carlo app, meanwhile, can submit a risk analysis through probabilities. Admittedly, developers are just scratching the surface of what AI can really do for project managers.

Scott Middleton, the CEO of Stratejos, a smart assistant software maker, says that despite skepticism by employees about AI stealing their jobs, the future of machine-learning in relation to business tasks is bright.

“AI isn’t to be feared,” he explained. “It may even be your best team member, especially for project managers. AI for project management is on the rise, and the way things are going, it’s going to help teams make smarter decisions and move faster.”

A survey from software developer Atlassian revealed that more than 70% of those surveyed claimed that half of their tasks can be done by robots or AI tech. Right now, almost 40% believe that they are already utilizing AI in their office.

Middleton predicted that developers—and companies in general—would place more focus on smart assistants for project managers to relieve them of some of their more menial tasks. In the future, the amount of complicated tasks assumed by robots will have increased.

But the AIs of today are severely limited in scope. For instance, they still rely on data collected and input by humans. These robots are not self-updating, nor do they make corrections automatically if they spot a mistake.

That will change in the future, of course.

To allay the fears of middle managers, as well as the rank and file, it seems unlikely that machines will take over whole organizations because they lack the capacity for creative thinking in solving complex problems.

What they do, however, is cut back the amount of errors committed in the implementation of the project until its submission. As the technology advances, they will become invaluable tools in reporting and monitoring.

Instead of project managers defining the scope of the work, assigning tasks to the teams, analyzing the data, adjusting timetables, documenting the process, predicting outcomes, and gauging the risks, these can all be done through machine-learning.

This is the reason why companies are well advised to start thinking about investing in AI as an assistive tool in everyday tasks. In the same vein, instead of being viewed as a threat to human jobs, project managers should teach themselves to better harness today’s advances in machine-learning to come up with solutions to their core project problems.

Using agile project management for SEO & digital marketing

by Marcus Miller on January 25, 2017

This article is obtained from here.

Using Agile Principles for SEO & Digital MarketingSEO and digital marketing are incredibly complicated, and the digital landscape is in constant evolution and flux. New platforms. New competitors. The new world of marketing has evolved, yet processes for managing and adapting to change have not always kept pace.

There is much to learn here from the worlds of manufacturing and software development. New project management strategies have evolved that have revolutionized these industries. We hear very little about these approaches in the world of marketing, even though they are well suited to the ever-changing landscape of SEO and digital marketing.

At the core of these approaches is a burning desire to inspect and adapt, to eliminate waste and to strive for constant improvement. This is coupled with an agile approach, which leads to improvements in speed, reductions in costs and improved results.

In this article, I discuss Scrum, the project management strategy we use at my company to manage client projects and improve our internal processes. I explain what Scrum is and detail how we’ve taken this framework (typically used for software development) and applied it to our SEO and digital marketing projects.

Scrum: Continuous improvement

Scrum is a lightweight approach to project management that helps small teams develop complex software systems. Scrum is typically used for software development, but it can work for anything from a house renovation project to managing a marketing campaign.

A Scrum team usually consists of several people who work together in short bursts of work, known as “sprints.” These sprints include time for review and reflection, with the driving goals to remove wasted time and effort while striving for constant improvement.


A Scrum team has only three distinct roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Team Member. These three roles work together to deliver the stated goals of the project.

Product Owner/Project Owner

The Product Owner has the overall vision and goals for the project. They drive the project by focusing efforts on the most important work. That is, the Product Owner prioritizes tasks that will deliver results. Typically, the Product Owner will take the customer’s requirements and then add them to the to-do list (known in Scrum as “the backlog”).

In a marketing capacity, we refer to the Product Owner as the Project Owner.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master (cool name) exists to keep things moving as fast as possible and to remove any barriers the Team Members have to doing the work. The team’s deliverable is always the project and objectives, yet the Scrum Master focuses on delivering a high-performing team.

The Scrum Master will help team members understand how Scrum works and how to apply agile thinking to the project. The Scrum Master should always be available to remove any obstacles a team may face.

The Scrum Master is not the boss (just in case that Scrum Master title got you excited and ready for a power trip!). The Scrum Master is the most knowledgeable and experienced team member, the person who helps the others work in the most effective way. The project Yoda!

Team Member

The backbone of all agile teams is, of course, the Team Members. These teams should have total authority over how the work gets done. Of course, the Project Owner and Scrum Master can help and set priorities, but the team should own the actual implementation of the work.

For an agile team to succeed, that team must be made up of members who have all the skills required to do the work. In a digital marketing capacity, this usually means SEO, PPC, Social and Content, with some analytics and conversion rate optimization skills thrown in for good measure.

While a team will have specialties, they must work together to deliver the end result: the project objectives or goals. This will mean that, while most people will play to their strengths, there will be times when people chip in and help where possible to move everything along as quickly as possible.

The key takeaway here is that the focus should be on doing the job and not doing my job — and generating results rather than just doing work.

Project Owner & Scrum Master

At Bowler Hat (my company), the Project Owner and Scrum Master tend to be the same person. Typically, this person is also the digital marketing strategist. Often, that is me. Not to say this is the way you should or have to do it, but we have found this to work best for most projects.

Agile tools

The team uses a series of tools to make the process visible to all team members and to accelerate results.

Project backlog

The project backlog is a list of all jobs. Ideally, these will be attached to a clear deliverable or objective. We want to keep that connection with the client’s actual goals (more business), rather than focus on the minutiae of day-to-day SEO tasks.

The Project Owner should order tasks by priority. That is, stories at the top of the board are the highest priority. These high-priority tasks should be small enough that they can be picked up and worked on by team members. Tasks lower down the board may not yet be fully fleshed out and can be higher level — just remember that as they move up the list, they will need to be more clearly defined.

Project tasks should all have the following information:

  • Business objective
  • What needs to be done
  • Work/time units
  • Acceptance criteria

Sprint backlog

Work is broken up into short cycles often known as sprints. A sprint could be a day, a week or a month, but typically no longer. For an agency where there is a focus on multiple clients, the sprint is likely pretty short. For example, one sprint of five days may be conducted each month for that client.

Project tasks are moved from the project backlog into the sprint backlog by the Project Owner. The Team Members can then determine how to best tackle the jobs in the current sprint.

Burn charts

Burn charts are a visual tool that show the relationship between time and scope. Where a project has five people for a five-day sprint, it may have 200 hours of work (or units). The burndown chart shows how as time progresses, work is completed. This can be a strong motivational tool and something for the Project Owner and Scrum Master to glance at and provide input.

Burn charts work well for bigger projects where there’s work to be done over a sustained period of time, but they can help a team see progress. At the end of each day, work units have to be shown against the burndown chart for completed tasks. This can’t use hours as such, but rather estimated hours based on completion of tasks.

The burndown chart then gives visual feedback if the team is on track and helps give them a nudge if they are not. This helps teams pull together when not on track and drives team happiness when things are going well.

burndown chartVisual task board

An important aspect of agile project management is visualizing the work that needs to be done. This allows all team members to easily see and review the work that needs doing or is in progress. Tasks for the current work cycle (sprint) are moved from the project backlog to the task board for team members to work on.

The most simple boards have three columns:

  • To do
  • Doing
  • Done

Tasks are simply moved across the board as they are in progress (generally using sticky notes). Team members can see what everyone is doing, communicate and help each other. And project owners can quickly and easily see the progress a team is making.

visual task board

The sprint cycle

Work is tackled in short bursts known as sprints. Sprints can vary in length, and this is where using this for a marketing agency with many clients differs the most from using this for software development teams (or even for marketing teams with one unified objective).

Ultimately, your sprint or cycle is a fixed period of time where you take care of small chunks of the overall project. This could be one person doing a day a month or a team working on something solidly for a month. The important takeaway here is that we are looking to inspect and adapt our working practice and learn from that.

Sprints typically consist of:

  • Sprint planning — what will be done
  • Daily meeting (or scrum) — no more than 15 minutes
  • Sprint review — demonstrate results
  • Retrospective — identify a couple of strategic changes that can improve results

Let’s look at these individually to see how they contribute to the overall process.

Sprint planning

Where a project has a backlog of prioritized tasks, this should be pretty simple. The Project Owner makes sure tasks are ready to be worked on, and the team members pick them up. The Scrum Master can then support the team with any questions or problems.

You have two questions to answer here:

  • What will we do this sprint?
  • How will we do it?

Scale is important here — if this is a one-day sprint, then spend 10 minutes planning. If this is a week’s work, then spend a few hours on your sprint planning.

Daily meeting (or Scrum)

The daily meeting, or Scrum, is an integral part of the process. The idea is that this should be brief (15 minutes maximum), and often these meetings are held standing to ensure brevity.

The main objective here is for each team member to detail what they have done, what they are doing today, and any problems or hold-ups they encountered. Problems are not solved in this meeting, but rather a team member may state an issue and another team member may pledge to help them solve that issue.

This drives the flow of communication and knowledge sharing, and it ensures hold-ups are quickly removed.

Inspect and adapt — inspect in the meeting, adapt after the meeting.

In an agency setting with multiple clients, this often means we are looking at problems with processes and always striving to optimize and improve the processes that underlie the various marketing activities.

Sprint review

This is where achievements are detailed and connected to objectives. In an agency as we use it, this often forms the basis of our client reporting: what we have done, how it helps us achieve our objectives and what we will do next in the next work cycle.


The retrospective is a meeting held at the end of each sprint cycle. At Bowler Hat, this is something we do at the end of each month. Here, we are really looking to inspect and adapt our own processes for SEO, PPC, social and content marketing.

  • What was learned during this month?
  • What problems did we have this month?
  • How can we improve?

This is not intended to generate a long laundry list of tasks. Rather, the idea is to identify one or two small strategic improvements to the process. This often takes the form of one or two issues for each tactical approach.

Inspect and adapt. Continuous improvement. These are key to doing better work for our clients and getting better results. These are also key to staying afloat and on top of new opportunities in the rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape.

How this all works together

The magic here is when all of these small components work together. The daily Scrum helps teams continuously inspect, adapt and share knowledge. This removes hold-ups and creates happier teams. The retrospective helps to underline where strategic improvements can be made for the coming month.

Putting this into practice for client projects

At Bowler Hat, we have a hugely varied customer base. We have companies that use us for a single tactical channel like local SEO, and we have customers that trust us to take care of SEO, PPC, social and content marketing. This means a client may have a single team member taking care of their work or a larger team with several team members.

Applying classic agile approaches here is a little tough and has needed some tweaks to the basic model. We use agile thinking here to review and improve our approach to agile marketing: inspect and adapt, make strategic changes. There is always room for improvement, so we strive for it.

The following is an overview of how we tend to put this into practice for our own clients:

Project backlog

To know what to do, we need to determine the project backlog. This is typically the job of the strategist and will often involve audits. As an example for an SEO project, we would typically perform a detailed SEO audit and create a list of tasks. We will also look at creating a basic digital marketing plan, which will also detail various action points.

The Project Owner will then prioritize these tasks into the project backlog.

Sprint planning

For a client’s work in any given sprint cycle, we will pick the highest-priority tasks from the project backlog and add them to the sprint plan for this coming period.

Task board

We have a two-sided approach here:

We create digital boards for each project using Asana. (Historically, we used Trello — both are free.) We can then have comments and keep communication and information regarding the project on the digital board. All followers of that board are alerted whenever there is an update, and all information is kept in one centralized place away from email.

We also use actual boards with sticky notes for internal processes and larger projects. This would likely be recreated in Asana and notes added there, but the physical board makes the work and progress visible.

Ideally, I’d want to combine the two and use a projector to display boards visually but centralize all changes in one place — the best of both worlds.

Doing the work

Team members do the work. No matter how efficient we become, the work still has to be done.

Daily Scrum (15 minutes)

We have a daily Scrum where everyone details what they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today, and any problems, lessons, improvements and so on. When a team member airs an issue, another team member (or the Scrum Master) will arrange to help after the daily meeting. When a team member overcomes a problem, that knowledge is quickly shared. This keeps the flow of communication strong and creates happy, helpful teams.

Sprint review (reporting)

The sprint review forms the basis of our reporting. An individual or a group will review what has been done, what the results are, and what we need to do next. We may also look at what metrics/KPIs we expect to see movement on after this work has been completed.


We have a retrospective meeting at the end of each month. Typically, we are looking at work completed, successes, problems and what we can do to improve across all tactical channels and the sub-tasks within each channel. What worked in link building? What worked in local SEO? What worked in paid search? What worked in social ads?

In our retrospective, we review each client as a team and look at the information from the sprint review. We then review all of our internal processes for each marketing activity.

Here, we are trying to identify wasted time and opportunities for improvement in our processes and client work so we can improve the results we generate for our customers. At the very least, we don’t want to repeat mistakes or repeatedly go down rabbit holes where we are not seeing results.

Inspect and adapt

Learning to inspect and adapt is crucial. Whether an entire strategy is not performing or a specific approach for a given client is just not delivering the goods, this inspection allows for change. What works well for one client can fall flat on its face for another.

Creating an “inspect and adapt” culture improves the work you do for clients, helps spot problems or wasted time/effort more quickly and ensures you do the very best work possible at all times.

We are still adapting our approach. Asana for task boards. Projectors to make these digital boards centralized and visible to all. Merging Project Owner and Scrum Master roles. We constantly tinker and make changes. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. Inspect and adapt.

We operate in a marketing environment where change can be swift and the slow can be left behind. Inspecting the situation for all marketing activities ensures you are agile enough to spot opportunities and react to develop a strategic advantage.

Eliminating waste

The old 80/20 rule is key here. Twenty percent of the effort creates 80 percent of the value. This also means that 80 percent of time spent is often wasted or could certainly be more productive. By striving to identify weaker areas of our approach, along with those that are really delivering, we can better focus our time and deliver better results.

What worked this month? What did not work? What really delivered? Could any of the time be better spent? Individually, we often know the answers, as we are doing the work and seeing the results — but this inspection surfaces them so we can make that strategic improvement.

Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement is also key. Twelve months of small iterative changes to your internal processes results in far more improved results for your clients. Sharing of knowledge and resolutions ensures constant improvement for your team members. Team members knocking down problems that seemed previously insurmountable creates happy teams. Customers’ problems resolved by knowledgeable and hard working teams creates happy clients.

SEO is a black box. Digital marketing is really tough. So many moving parts. Inspect and adapt to eliminate waste, focus on what works, and strive for constant improvement.

This process is helping my agency do better work than ever before and to some extent hold on to our sanity in the crazy, multichannel, ever-changing, interconnected world of digital marketing.

Chances are that an agile approach can help improve your marketing projects, whether you are an agency or an in-house marketer. And of course, if you champion the approach, you get to call yourself the “Scrum Master” — which is always a big win.

Marcus Miller is an experienced SEO and PPC consultant based in Birmingham, UK. Marcus focuses on strategy, audits, local SEO, technical SEO, PPC and just generally helping businesses dominate search and social. Marcus is managing director of the UK SEO and digital marketing company Bowler Hat and also runs wArmour aka WordPress Armour which focuses on helping WordPress owners get their security, SEO and site maintenance dialled in without breaking the bank.

ways technology is revolutionizing the world of construction as we know it

by The Manufacturer

Technology has changed the world we know in many ways. The rise of the on-demand consumer economy where you can order something from home and have it delivered in a matter of days from around the world or minutes from a local warehouse, is only matched by the on-demand availability of information and entertainment. So how is technology revolutionizing the construction?

3D printing

3D printing is one of the five ways technology is revolutionizing the world of construction as we know it. China proudly produced the world’s first 3D printed house in 2016. To be honest, it was a concrete shell of a house. It lacked plumbing, electrical connections and a roof. As 3D printing technology matures, you’ll see more 3D printed concrete structures like the playhouses being printed in the US to resemble Disney castles.


While drones get a bad rap for spying on people, they provide invaluable insights for the construction industry. Sending a drone flying along the power lines to check for damage or locating downed lines is cheaper and safer than sending human teams to climb or drive along them.

Drones are being sent up beside buildings to check for damage that previously required someone with experience best used mountain climbing. If the drone finds damage, than a human is sent up to verify or assess the severity of it. But by using drones, you don’t have to send someone scaling the side of a tower to look for damage, minimizing the risk to humans and associated labor costs. Then there is the use of drones checking aging infrastructure like pipes for leaks instead of sending people underground.

Building information modeling

3D computer aided drafting is already the norm for designing products from furniture to cars. Building information modeling software brings this technology to the construction industry.

Combining building information modeling with geographic information systems (GIS) ensures that you don’t plan on building a patio on top of a critical utility line or connection point. Some building modeling software applications also perform energy usage calculations such as determining how much the building will cost to heat and the amount of natural light each area receives.

Construction management software

Construction Management Software is a type of project management software specific to construction and renovation projects. Construction management software brings lists of the tasks for the project into one database. It identifies scheduling and resource constraints for a project while making the critical path obvious. It alerts project managers to problems such as when an electrical contractor’s delays could hurt the entire project timeline and gives them the opportunity to rearrange work to speed up the whole project or prevent people from being idle while another task is delayed.


GPS tracking of construction equipment has become routine. Insurance providers incentivize it so that equipment is found almost as soon as it is stolen, and tracking software lets you know almost immediately when the equipment is somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Technology like construction management software, drones and GPS offers project managers new ways to save on time and money while reducing the risk to the crew. Building information modeling and the design verification it permits helps prevent the horror stories of costly corrections during construction.

Mykie: Bosch’s Little Robotic Elf for Your Kitchen

This article is obtained from here.


By Evan Ackerman

Mykie, Bosch's Little Robotic Elf for Your Kitchen

At CES last week, one of the major themes was connectivity. Absolutely everything was covered in sensors and connected to the Internet with some sort of app, even if it wasn’t obvious why you’d ever need it to be.

Kitchen appliances were no exception, and Bosch announced both a connected fridge and a connected oven. While an oven that you can control remotely and a fridge that knows what’s inside it are handy enough by themselves, the whole point of a kitchen is to use the food you have in combination with the necessary appliances to create tasty and nutritious meals. Mykie is a little countertop robot that Bosch developed in order to help tie your kitchen hardware together to recipes to make cooking easy and fun.

Mykie is short for “My Kitchen Elf.” I have no idea why it’s an elf, except that it’s small and, er, helpful, I guess? More generally, Mykie is a product concept designed to to be a personal kitchen assistant that can interface with the other appliances in your home. It’s intended to be an embodiment of your smart kitchen—rather than talking directly to your stove or your fridge, which might be weird, you can talk to Mykie, who will listen to you, talk back, and then control the rest of your connected appliances for you.

In addition to voice control, Mykie has a touchscreen you can poke at, but its most useful feature has to be a powerful little projector in his butt. Or, where his butt would be if he had one. Rather than having to rely on Mykie’s little screen, you can just set the robot on the counter, and it’ll project a much larger image onto your kitchen wall. This is especially useful if you need help with your cooking: Mykie can take you through recipes step by step, displaying pictures and videos of the cooking techniques you should be using.

Bosch is hoping that a substantial amount of Mykie’s usefulness will come from the way it can integrate into the rest of your kitchen. For example, you can ask Mykie to come up with recipes that use the food you currently have in your smart fridge, and as you start cooking, the robot will preheat the oven to the right temperature for you at the right time. You can also use Mykie’s “virtual social cooking” to remotely attend cooking classes in real time, following along in your kitchen at home as both Mykie and a human instructor help you cook something that you might not otherwise be comfortable cooking on your own.

Mykie does seem to have a potentially useful niche picked out for itself among a herd of social robots promising to do a little bit of everything. We asked Philip Roan, senior robotics engineer at Bosch Home Appliances and a software developer for Mykie, about what he thought about Mykie’s very “social robot” look, and he told us that Mykie’s designers simply “went for a design that meshes with the rest of our kitchen aesthetic.” In other words, the robot needed to be small and white to fit in with most people’s kitchens, which is the sort of thing we’ve been hearing from other small home robot designers as well.

Mykie is a product concept right now, and as such, Bosch isn’t sharing any information on price or availability. It seems reasonable to expect that they’re not just designing and building robots for fun, though, and our guess is that that Mykie might show up in kitchens within a year or so, if we’re lucky.

Meet BALLU, UCLA’s Humanoid Blimp Robot

By Evan Ackerman

This article is obtained from here.


Image: RoMeLa

The 2016 IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots kicks off today. It’s taking place at the Westin Resort & Spa Cancun, which sounds awful, but at least there are some cool new robots, and one of the coolest has to be BALLU, from Dennis Hong at UCLA’s Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa). BALLU, or Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit (Professor Hong loves a good acronym), is a humanoid-ish robot with a body made of helium balloons and a pair of thin articulated legs. Since it weighs next to nothing, it never falls over, and can walk, hop, and perform a variety of other useful bipedal motions as long as you don’t take it outside on a windy day.

“To get creative ideas, sometimes we ask ourselves crazy, ridiculous questions,” Hong told us. “Oftentimes these lead to crazy, ridiculous answers, which lead to ingenious ideas.” He added: “We asked ourselves, ‘What if we could change the direction of gravity?’ and this led to the concept of BALLU.”

Strictly speaking, BALLU is more like a hybrid airship than a blimp: It’s not lighter than air, so it doesn’t float by itself, and requires some assistance (legs, in this case) for support and to control its motion. Since the robot’s legs don’t have to handle a bunch of weight, they can be skinny little twiggy things, and in fact there’s just one single degree of freedom per leg, in the knee. The knees are cable driven, with the actuators in BALLU’s feet, along with communications and power components. This results in a robot that has the majority of its mass at ground level, making it intrinsically stable, even as it walks forward, walks backward, steps sideways, turns, hops, and more. When we say “mass” we’re not talking about much: As you can see in the video, BALLU can walk on water.


Photo: RoMeLa

Of course, BALLU is not the kind of robot that’s ever going to carry anything heavy, or do any kind of substantial manipulation tasks: Hong describes it as more of a “walking information device,” whose main asset is the fact that it is lightweight, low cost, and inherently safe. BALLU is in the very early stages of development, and at the Humanoids conference this week, Hong and RoMeLa grad student Sepehr Ghassemi are just presenting the above video along with a short abstract. The video does give some exciting hints as to what they’re working on next, though: There’s a quadruped version, a version that can carry more payload, and a version with some kind of articulated upper body. Hong also told us that they have a method that allows BALLU to climb or jump over very tall structures, although they haven’t implemented it just yet. We’re definitely looking forward to videos of all of this stuff, as well as more new robots from RoMeLa.