Picture This! Fulfillment

October 5, 2012

So, my new iPhone 5 arrived at the office yesterday. And true to the hype, it’s pretty cool. Revolutionary? Who knows, but it’s a big upgrade from my iPhone 4. It’s bigger, lighter, faster, it’s got Siri and can take photos at the same time you’re shooting video. Cool stuff.

One of the interesting things that business commentators picked up on last week wasn’t the actual product but the announcement and delivery. It was announced on Sept. 12 and delivered to stores on Sept. 21.

Millions of units.

Remember vapourware? The computer industry was notorious for announcing products only to miss promised delivery dates by months, even years. It was a problem that plagued Apple.

Today, Apple produces sophisticated products that work and delivers them when they say they will.  Seems like a simple equation.  It’s one that’s driven the share price and made Apple the most valuable company on the planet.  The new Apple delivers on its promises.

A lot of the credit for that has to go to new CEO Tim Cook. By all accounts he’s a numbers guy, not a product guy. As head of manufacturing operations for Apple he streamlined Apple’s notoriously inefficient supply chain. He understood that deadlines matter. In one of his previous incarnations, Tim Cook was Director of Fulfillment at IBM. Interesting title.

Fulfillment (Oxford online dictionary)

Definition of fulfillment noun

def: achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted

Sure Steve Jobs’ fingerprints are all over Apple. But the fact that I’ve got my new iPhone 3 weeks after the product announcement, pure Tim Cook. You could say that Steve Jobs held out the promise of Apple. Tim Cook made it happen.

What’s the Apple lesson for the rest of us? Sure incredible products matter, but there’s a lot to be said for delivering on your promises. In a creative industry like ours, it gets complicated. Quality and creativity take time. But deadlines are deadlines. Production managers and directors or graphic artists aren’t the best of friends. One familiar excuse for late delivery is, “Well the client changed their mind.” It’s often true, but if you’re ever on the client end of that equation it drives you nuts. Sure, people change their minds. Sometimes things don’t work and have to be re-imagined. Does is always have to cost more or take longer? It’s irritating.

So, how do you manage that conflict? If you’ve been through the creative cycle a couple of times, you have to know there will be changes. Plan for them, have contingency plans and contingency plans for your contingency plans. S**t happens. Be prepared.

At q media, we’ve built our whole production model around this reality. Video production used to be fairly mechanical: write a script, hire a production team, then head into the edit suite at an edit house. Seems pretty straight-forward. Except that when a client requested changes, you’d have to schedule time for changes at the edit house. Sometimes you’d have to wait for a day to get into an edit suite to do a ten-minute fix.  It’s nerve wracking. I always hated having to explain that problem to clients. So – we bought an edit suite and started to bring editing and all those little ten minute changes in-house. We controlled the process. It made us more responsive and improved the quality of our end product.

What’s our next hurdle? As we move more into the digital space we’re finding ourselves faced with a familiar problem.  Building a website like requires sophisticated programming and programmers who are in notorious short supply.  (Note: to would-be editors – learn WordPress or other programming languages – you’ll be golden).  I feel it’s a little back to the future. We’re beholden to outside programmers and companies, even for small tweaks and fixes. We list the bugs (or tickets in programmer parlance), then wait and hope for the best. Talk to any webmaster and they’ll nod in sympathy at the problem.  As for our clients – we feel that we’re doing a constant tap dance trying to meet expectations. So – what do you do?

Well stay tuned – it’s the million-dollar question, but we’ve started the process of bringing web development in-house. Right now – it feels a little daunting. But if we succeed… we’ll be poised for success in the digital realm. It’s fundamentally our attempt to deliver on our promise.

As a post-script, Apple delivered when they promised, but – Apple also promised a map App that would challenge Google Maps. A massive undertaking if you think about it. Did they get there? It’s pretty good – but it ain’t Apple perfect and they’re taking a pounding in the press and with would-be web comedians everywhere.

Kind of proves – deliver what you promise – or else.

Visit Picture This! to read more blogs by Richard.


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