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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Goldenberry in 2010

Officially, we started in February 2010, when our Ltd was finally registered.

Frozen above Crater Lakephoto ? 2007 Powderruns | more info (via: Wylio)

First projects started in May.

We don’t need to do annual reports just yet, but here are some highlights:

  • We started with a team of two, finished the year with a team of 7
  • We worked for 8 different clients during the year
  • We derived 75% of revenues from projects for new clients
  • 70% of revenues was generated in most challenging Financial Services sector
  • We completed our first project abroad

Next year… is going to be exciting!

Must be a better way to do business process documentation

The last project was all about process documentation. To be honest, these are not exactly my favorite kinds of projects, mostly because they can be easily associated with long hours of unthankful, tedious work.

Why tedious? Well, one reason is that process documentation tends to have large volume, while efforts required to produce it are mostly not automated.

I was wondering if there is any simple way to streamline this kind of jobs, aside from hiring more analysts or investing in a some BPM software package, which would probably be an overkill for most of the projects I did.

Making any amendments to the processes is especially pita, due to all the custom diagrams interlinked with detailed textual content.

(that is if you use diagrams + text – sometimes just slides are used, especially for high-level documents – I think text is much more flexible if you need to accommodate more information)

While in fact, amending the design based on remarks from business users is the core of process-related projects.

Process-related projects shouldn’t be such a chore – if you take away all the time wasted with Microsoft Office, these projects allow to get the best idea of how the business really works.

Looking back, projects involving deep understanding of processes provide most powerful references today.

The kind of customized process work that is done during relatively short strategy project shouldn’t be mistaken with implementing whole “process-driven” approaches in the company, for which elaborate business process management IT solutions exist.

The idea is to store process designs in central repository, where they can be easily versioned, accessed by large groups of employees (which can be assigned different access rights), monitored, and modified.

Truth is – maybe it’s because it’s Eastern Europe and we are backwards – I never saw any of these system in real world use at any of the clients. Perhaps they are more popular in production company than the financial sector. I remember one Russian client mentioning before the project started that they had one, and that deliverables (processes to a large extent) would eventually have to be integrated in it somehow, but it was the only time the topic emerged.

I think there are plenty of good reasons for such solutions to have difficulties in real life adoption.

Enabling new users (like external consultants) to access the system requires at least creating new logins, in worst case it might require to buy additional licenses. Hardly easier that just emailing process documents.

People are used to work with Word or Powerpoint documents, but might need time to master unfamiliar interface of the process application.

Even though usually it should be possible to export process information in format like PDF, it might not be possible to export in format that is editable, so ad-hoc participants can contribute remarks.

The reason are many and truly converting organization to be managed around a consistent BPM system must be a daunting task. And partial implementations often leave orphaned systems that are not used.

For now, I was rather thinking if there was any way to improve the way stand-alone process documentation is created, rather than an end-to-end system.
(read more…)

Just finished my first commercial project

Ogito is fun to work on and all, but it’s not going to be a huge money maker in a foreseeable future, so sooner or later there’s going to be liquidity problem.

I saw two obvious solutions: find an investor or do freelance consulting.

Finding investors is something I don’t have much experience in, and moreover the timing is not too good, crisis and what not. I was lucky to have some friends declare to invest if necessary (which was not necessary yet), but as far as investment funds are concerned, I talked to just two of them and that was it.

Consulting, on the other hand, is a proven and quite manageable (I hope) revenue engine. Having commercial activity in form of consulting, in which I have experience, would allow to finance all the other activities, in which I don’t have so much experience just yet.

A week ago on Monday I woke up to see an email which could go as an rfp, and voila, till the evening my first freelance project was sold (why bother to execute your strategy if you can just let it happen).

The client: an investment fund. Ironic.

Actually it’s not really my first freelance consulting, but I’m taking into account just post-corporate period.

We managed to cover quite a lot of ground in less than a week, and both sides are happy. Three sides even, since I don’t really like to work alone.

Maybe more will come. Will see. Need some business card eventually, if more are supposed to come.

There is no free lunch, except for EU subsidies

I attended a conference focused on EU programs for supporting tech innovations (programs 8.1 and 8.2).

The opportunity seems attractive enough to warrant some time to write an application… even though there might be important limitations under the surface, which I haven’t researched yet. For example, I’m not sure if ownership of the company can change during the period it receives subsidies.

So I have more paperwork to do. There is also a question if there will be time for it, because 55% of the budget was already applied for at the time of the conference (Monday).

Status: I’m almost done with the legal setup

Today I ticked tax office off the list, so the only thing remaining is visiting social insurance administration.

I registered for e-accounting solution (iFirma), which looks trendy, but whether they can provide enough expert support online is another topic. There is certain risk to it, but I wanted to give it a try.

I’m also finalizing desk research phase of Ogito and moving to actually talking to the people in the industry, which should be much more fun. Especially taking into account that the industry is fun in itself, by definition.

From technical side, I’m fascinated with Rails and waiting for the shipment of books from the UK.

I’m getting into ever friendlier terms with my Mac:

I discovered that I can use my legacy LCD as an extended desktop, which should be helpful later on.

City shops my data around as if there was no tomorrow

About a week ago I made the first step to formally become an entrepreneur – I went to the municipal authority of Warsaw (my district, actually) and applied for registration.

This was the first and only place that got the tip of this development, but I already received an unsolicited (but personalized with the data I gave to the office) offer from ING SME banking, and another from an accounting office.

Authority apparently has quite a liberal policy of sharing official information.