Increasing the productivity of a start up

Posted on September 30, 2006. Filed under: entrepreneurship |

If I had to sum up the past week at boso in one word it would definitely be “productivity”.  It’s a word that is used a lot but its importance has really only become truly apparent to me in the last week.  I always thought that one of the great things about being in a start up is the dynamic nature of the environment within which you are working, the flexbility that this provides to encourage creative thought and development has always been incredibly important to me.  I always thought that what differentiats a start up and a corporate are the processes each have in place – to me a start up was a group of people working hard towards a common goal whereas a corporate is a collection of different processes and workflows where everything is standardised.

I was completely wrong on this one.  Boso is only a team of four people, only two of whom are full time (well three now since we’ve brought Matt in on a trial as PHP Developer) and yet the benefits of having a workflow process in place are now apparent.  Ultimately I think that all employees, however smart, need some direction and this must come from the founders of the company.  However it is completely impractical for the founders to be checking that every specific task is done in the correct way and herein lies the benefit of establishing clear work flow processes.  By this I mean having a very simply strucure in place to ensure that standard tasks are done in the most efficient way possible.

To give an example – whenever we had a new idea for the website we would discuss it for an hour or so, jot it down somewhere and then address it later when we had more time to think it through.  What we do now is as soon as someone has an idea, it is put into Basecamp (a fantastic project management tool) and that person must schedule a brainstorm meeting.  The purpose of the brainstorm is to flow chart the user experience and create a brief tech spec.  This spec is prioritised and passed onto a developer, who assigns a time to get the first iteration up and running.  The next steps are implementation and execution.

This probably all sounds rather simple but I think having these types of processes in place (and even more importantly having them clearly defined) is something often overlooked by start ups.  This is probably quite natural, your day to day is taken up with issues as they arise and it requires a great deal of discipline to put everything on hold to develop a workflow process with no apparent immediate benefit.  However I really think it is quite crucial and can save a lot of long term inefficiency in a company.


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3 Responses to “Increasing the productivity of a start up”

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Dude, who in Boso priritises features. What we find at Jobably is that whil;e we generate hundreds of ideas and features we always have to drop back to the narrowest possible way of solving the core problem. So someone needs to product manage heavily. A meeting and spec for each idea is a bit much. An ideas bank is what u need (or maybe what u are using). Campfire is also kickass for random brainstorming.

Hey dude – the first step before priortisation is categorisation. Any new ideas for us are categorised as affecting core functionality and non core-functionality. The next step of prioritising core function is essentially down to myself and Kul – we decide what is urgent and what is not. Having group brainstorms is great but ultimately action needs to be taken and that requires a clearly defined decision maker.

Also I don’t think an idea and spec for each idea is too much – you’ll often find that when you begin to analyse an idea that sounds really cool it starts to fall apart. Imy opinion it is better to have that process done sooner rather than later as you then don’t end up with a big store pile of cool-sounding ideas that aren’t going anywhere.

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