Creative Marketing Ideas For Hardware Stores

With large nationwide chains that dominate the market, small hardware stores sometimes have a difficult time being competitive. The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your business and to capitalize on it so customers see the value in choosing you over one of the larger stores. Here are some great ways to make your business stand out.

  1. Giveaways -When your store first opens (or even if you're just looking for an extra push), offer small giveaways to your customers with their purchase. These will be tools or products they can use that are branded with your store's information-hammers, tape measures, levels, etc. When a customer is using this product and runs out of something or determinates the need to visit a hardware store, they'll see your information and immediately head your way!
  2. In-Store Classes -Hardware stores often form a bit of a culture and social atmosphere, so find ways to play this up. One great choice is to sponsor training classes and educational seminars in your store. Work with your vendors to provide information that your customers will find valuable. Even your employees can instruct these classes-anything from minor home renovation products to full-scale remodeling. List the classes you're offering that month above your cash registers with a large, visible vinyl banner which clearly-informs customers of their opportunities to expand their skills.
  3. Charity Donations -Offer your products to charity groups and organizations in-town which build or repair homes for the less-fortunate. This is great PR for your business, it makes you look more-reliable, and in return you're often able to advertise at the home-site using a banner or yard sign. When customers see that you're giving back to your community, they are more-inclined to shop with you.
  4. Ladies Night -Most hardware stores predominately-market toward men. While the majority of your customers are probably male, do not neglect the ladies. Host a "Ladies Night" at your store that offers your educational classes and even a special discount on purchases made by women. Use removable window clings to give your store a slight feminine touch. There's a huge potential market here that is somewhat-untapped, and with the right approach, female customers can dramatically affect your business.
  5. Personal Shoppers -Some customers complain that hardware or home improvement stores are overwhelming. Counter this objection by providing customers with a personal shopping service. Your employees already help customers find products daily anyway, but creating a formal program provides a revenue opportunity. Customers can have one of your employees guide them around the store and help them find exactly what they need for their project, or for even-more convenience, your employee can preselect the products they need so that when the customer arrives, all they have to Do is check out.
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How Useful is CAD Software to Engineers and Architects?

The emergence of advanced technology has made people today dependent on machines. Using computers and software, for example, is a very common illustration of this. Computer experts are coming up with more and more software to make more and more jobs easier.

A more specific illustration of this can be found in the modern approach towards engineering and architecture. These days, professionals in these fields use CAD computer software which is a program that allows them to create designs faster, easier and with more accurate measurements. Aside from the convenience that CAD software brings, it also helps put architects and engineers ahead of their competitors. CAD, which can render designs that are two-dimensional or three dimensional, stands for Computer Aided Design and has been in use since 1982.

So how does CAD computer software work? And what does it do exactly to help engineers and architects? The program is actually multifaceted in the sense that there are many ways it can help. To make CAD work will require, however, a careful study of its features and the many ways it can be used. It is rather a complex yet flexible and highly functional program.

This article will not be enough to discuss the various ways that CAD works but pinpointing its advantages could give some very good ideas. One great advantage of CAD computer software is its easy-to-use tools in the creation and alteration of designs. Obviously, this is so much better than the old fashioned way of using a pencil and eraser directly on paper. This method of designing is obviously so much easier and engineers and architects simply have more time to finish other tasks. In other words, high productivity is going to be the main end result of using CAD.

Before the design is actually printed on paper, CAD also allows both the design professional and the client to preview what has been finished so far. Any alterations can be made simply by manipulating the drawing through the use of the software. With CAD, it is so much easier to spot errors because the designs can be rendered exactly as they would be in reality. Hence, modifications can be done even before printing, thus, allowing one to save.

With the tough competition that everyone has to face these days, it is wise to take advantage of new technologies that can help put them ahead in the race. While traditional methods hold a significant part in the history of design, advanced tools such as CAD software should only be welcomed as man’s way of furthering development in a field of expertise that he himself has created long ago.

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Futon Frame Maintenance and Common Replacement Parts and Hardware

A little preventative maintenance of your futon frame can greatly increase how long it lasts. We recommend checking the bolts on your futon frame every month or two, depending on how often it's used. If they are loose, gently tighten them, but be careful not to over tighten them. If you have a wooden frame, you can rub a bar of Ivory soap in the arm tracks every now and then, to keep things operating smoothly.

Most of the damage that we see is from forcing the frame to operate, when it's stuck. If you are converting your frame from a bed to a sofa, or from a sofa to a bed, and it does not easily convert, stop what you are doing, and remove the mattress, and carefully examine why it's not moving easily. Usually if you try to convert the frame and you pull on one side more than the other, something will jam, and if forced, you may break something.

Normally a guest will try to make their bed in the morning, and not knowing how to do it, they may break your frame. We suggest telling your guests to leave the futon as a bed, and you'll take care of changing it from a bed to a sofa for them.

Some parts wear out, and some of the plastic parts can dry out over the years. If the bolts are not tightened, a part can move around in a way that it's not recommended to, and that can cause it to break. People ask us why they do not make some of the parts in futon frames out of metal so they're never break. The reason is, if they were metal, and something jammed up, and was forced, the seat, or back, or an arm would crack, and that would be a more costly repair.

Here's a list of some of the more common futon frame hardware and parts. This is by no means a complete listing of all the parts, but it includes most of the common parts. Some items are called more than one name, so we list them twice. Futon store that has been around a long time, might even have obsoleste parts that you might need.

If you need a part that you can not find anywhere, consult a good futon store who's willing to help you, and give them a description and a couple of pictures showing what you need and see if they are willing to help you. They may need to know the name of the manufacturer of the frame because there are many frames that look the same, but the size of the bolts or seat decks and other items will all be slightly different.

Futon Bolts
Standard Futon Hinges
Click Click Hinges
Triple Click Hinges
Futon Mattress Storage Bags
Oblong Rollers
Carriage Blocks
Round Futon Rollers
Double Futon Rollers
Nylon Roller Inserts
Futon Barrel Nuts, Nuts, and Cross Dowels
Larger Futon Barrel Nuts
Futon Seat Stoppers
Futon Storage Bags
Allen Wrenches
Larger Allen Wrenches
Plastic Leg Caps
1/2 "Futon Hardware Sets
5/8 "Futon Hardware Sets
Angle Support Brackets
Decorative Bolt Covers or Plugs
Clevis Pins and Assemblies
Various Plastic Rollers, Glides and Carriage Blocks
Stretcher Support Rails
Futon Seat Decks
Futon Back Decks
Futon Arms
Cotter Pins
Washers and Clips
Futon Slats and Supports

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Wide Area Network (WAN)

Types and Characteristics of WANs

What is a WAN?

There are two prevailing definitions of a Wide Area Network (WAN). The book definition of a WAN is a network that spans large geographical locations, typically to interconnect multiple Local Area Networks (LANs). The practical definition of a WAN is a network that traverses a public network or commercial carrier, using one of several WAN technologies

What are its Main Components?

The main components for a WAN are routers, switches and modems. These components are described below in the hardware section.

CPE – Devices on the subscriber contracts are called customer premises equipment (CPE).
The subscriber owns the CPE or leases the CPE from the service provider. A copper or fiber cable connects the CPE to the service provider's nearest exchange or central office. This cabling is often called the local loop, or "last-mile".

DTE / DCE – Devices that put data on the local loop are called data circuit-terminating equipment, or data communications equipment (DCE). The customer devices that pass the data to the DCE are called data terminal equipment (DTE). The DCE primarily provides an interface for the DTE into the communication link on the WAN cloud.

Hardware

In a WAN you will need various types of hardware components for it to function. The typical items of hardware that you will need in a WAN are:

Router – An electronic device that connects a local area network (LAN) to a wide area network (WAN) and handles the task of routing messages between the two networks. Operates at layer 3, and makes decisions using IP addresses.

Switch – A switch is a network device that selects a path or circuit for sending a unit of data to its next destination. Operates at layer 2, and uses MAC addresses to send data to correct destination.

Modem – Short for modulator / demodulator, a modem that enables a computer to communicate with other computers over telephone lines. Operates at layer 1, where signals are converted from digital to analogue and vice versa for transmission and receiving.

Wan Standards

WANs operate within the OSI model using layer 1 and layer 2 levels. The data link layer and the physical layer. The physical layer protocols describe how to provide electrical, mechanical and functional connections to the services provided by the ISP. The data link layer defines how data is encapsulated for transmission to remote sites.

Encapsulation

Encapsulation is the wrapping of data in a particular protocol header. Remember that WANs operate at the physical layer and the data link layer of the osi model and that higher layer protocols such as IP are encapsulated when sent across the WAN link. Serial interfaces support a wide range of WAN encapsulation types, which must be manually specified. These types include SDLC, PPP, Frame delay etc. Regardless of WAN encapsulation used it must be identical on both sides of the point to point link.

Packet and Circuit Switching

Circuit switching and packet switching are both used in high-capacity networks.
The majority of switched networks today get data across the network
Through packet switching.

Circuit-switching is more reliable than packet-switching. Circuit switching is old and expensive, packet switching is more modern.

General Routing Issues

What is a Routing Protocol?

A routing protocol is a protocol that specifies how routers communicate and exchange information on a network. Each router has prior knowledge of its immediate neighbors and knows the structure of the network topology. The routers know this because the routing protocol shares this information.

Protocol

RIP (Routing Information Protocol) was one of the most commonly used protocols on internal networks. Routers use RIP to dynamically adapt changes to the network connections and communicate information about which networks routers can reach and the distance between them. RIP is sometimes said to stand for Rest in Pieces in reference to the reputation that RIP has for breaking unexpectedly and rendering a network unable to function.

Routing Algorithms

Distance Vector

This type of routing protocol requires that each router simply inform its neighbors of its routing table. The distance vector protocol is also known as the bellman-ford algorithm.

Link State

This type of routing protocol requires that each router maintain a partial map of the network. The link state algorithm is also know as Dijkstra's algorithm.

IGRP

IGRP is a type of distance vector routing protocol invented by cisco used to exchange routing data in a autonomous system. Distance vector protocols measure distances and compare routes. Routers that use distance vector must send all or a portion of their routing table in a routing update message at regular intervals to each neighbor router.

Addressing and Routing

What does routing mean?

Routing is the process of deciding how to move packets from one network to another.
The directions also known as routes can be learned by a router using a routing protocol then the information is passed from router to router along the route of the destination.

IP Address's

Every machine connected to the internet is assigned an IP address. An example of an IP address would be 192.168.0.1. IP addresses are displayed in decimal format to make it easier for humans to understand but computers communicate in binary form. The four numbers that separate an IP address are called Octets. Each position consists of eight bits. When added to together you get 32 ​​bit address. The purpose of each octet in an IP address is to create classes of IP addresses that can be assigned within a network. There are three main classes that we deal with Class A, B and C. The octets of an IP address are split into two parts Network and Host. In a class A address the first octet is the network portion, this determinates which network the computer belongs to, the last octets of the address are the hosts that belong to the network.

Sub netting

Sub netting allows you to create multiple networks within a class A, B or C address. The subnet address is the address used by your LAN. In a Class C network address you would have a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. A subnet mask identifies which portion is network and which is host. For example 192.168.6.15 the first octet three octets are the Network address and the last octet being the host (Workstation). It is important to subnet a network because gateways need to forward packets to other LANS. By giving each NIC on the gateway an IP address and a Subnet mask it allows the gateways to route packets from LAN to LAN. Once the packet arrives at its destination, the gateway then uses the bits of the subnet portion of the IP address to decide which LAN to send the packets.

Circuit Switched Leased Lines

A circuit switched network is one that establishes a dedicated circuit (or channel) between nodes and terminals before the users may communicate. Here are some terminologies associated with a Circuit switched network.

Frame relay is a telecommunication service designed for cost-efficient data transmission between local area networks (LANs)

Basic rate interference is a service used by small business for internet connectivity. An ISDN BRI provides two 64 Kbps digital channels to the user.
Primary rate interface (PRI) is a telecommunications standard for carrying voice and data transmissions between two locations
All data and voice channels are ISDN and operate at 64kbit / s

Packet Switching

Http://www.raduniversity.com/networks/2004/PacketSwitching/main.htm – _Toc80455261

Packet switching refers to protocols in which messages are broken up into small packets before they are sent. Each packet is then transmitted over the Internet. At the destination the packages are reassembled into the original message. Packet switching main difference from Circuit Switching is that that the communication lines are not dedicated to passing messages from the source to the destination. In Packet Switching, different messages can use the same network resources within the same time period.

Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asynchronous_Transfer_Mode

Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a cell relay, packet switching network and protocolwhich encodes data into small fixed-sized cells.

ISDN is used to carry voice, data, video and images across a telephone network. ISDN stands for integrated services Digital Network. Isdn also provides users with a 128kbps bandwidth. This is done through frame relay. Frame relay complements and provides a service between ISDN, which offers bandwidth at 128 Kbps and Asynchronous Transfer Mode which operates in somewhat similar fashion to frame relay but at speeds from 155.520 Mbps or 622.080 Mbps. Frame relay is based on the older X.25 packet switching technology and is used to transmit analogue signals such as telephone conversations.

PSDN stands for packet switched data network and is a data communication network. Packet switched networks do not establish a physical communication signal like the public telephone circuit (circuit switched network) Packets are sent on a fixed length basis and assigned with a source and a destination address. The packages then explicitly on the routers to read the address and route the packets through the network.

Mobile and Broadband Services

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is mainly used to bring high bandwidth connections to homes and small business's over a copper wire telephone line. This is can only be achieved if you stay within the range of the telephone exchange. DSL offers download rates of up to 6mbps allowing continuous transmission of video, audio and 3D effects. DSL is set to replace ISDN and compete with the cable modem in providing multimedia to homes. DSL works by connecting your telephone line to the telephone office over copper wires that are twisted together.

Asymmetric Digital Subscribers Line is most commonly used for home users. It provides a high download speed but a lower upload speed. Using ADSL, up to 6.1 megabits per second of data can be sent downstream and up to 640 Kbps upstream.

Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symmetric_Digital_Subscriber_Line

Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a digital subcriber line which runs over one pair of copper wires. The main difference between ADSL and SDSL is the difference in upload and download speeds. SDSL allows the same upstream data rate and downstream data rate as ADSL upstream can be very slow.

[Http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0],,sid7_gci558545,00.html

HDSL High bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line, one of the earliest forms of DSL, is used for wideband digital transmission within a corporate site and between the telephone company and a customer. The main characteristic of HDSL is that that provides equal bandwidth in both directions.

IDSL is a system in which data is transmitted at 128 Kbps on a regular copper telephone line from a user to a destination using digital transmission.

The Local Loop enables operators to connect directly to the consumer via copper local loops and then add their own equipment to offer broadband and other services. This process involves operators accessing local exchange buildings to connect to a network of copper lines which connect them to homes and businesses. BT is an Example of a Local Exchange. The local loop connecting the telephone exchange to most subscribers is capable of carrying frequencies well beyond the 3.4 kHz upper limit.

Benefits of using DSL

DSL can provide a virtual instantaneous transmission of voice, data and video over ordinary copper phone lines. A DSL connection can eliminate delays while waiting to download information and graphics from the Internet. It provides users with a cost effective high speed Internet connection. Another benefit is that a DSL connection is always on-line (like a LAN connection) with no waiting time for dialing or connecting.

There are now more than 10 million broadband connections in the UK. By December 2005 there were 9.792 million broadband connections in the UK and the average broadband take up rate during the three months to December was more than 70,000 per week.

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What Is The Difference Between ERP And Enterprise System?

Enterprise system and Enterprise Resource Planning System terms are similar but there is difference between an enterprise system and an ERP system. An ES or enterprise system is a large scale system which includes packages like ERP and CRM. ERP is a subset of Enterprise System or it can be said that ES is a superset of ERP. It contains a variety of solutions. ES contains applications and packaged solutions which can be directly used in an enterprise. On the other hand ERP system is the automation of the business processes and the solutions are in the form of modules which are designed according to the client’s requirements.

The functions are customized according to the client’s business environment. Enterprise system does not include architecture of other solutions whereas an ERP implementation automates systems using technical aspects. ERP system includes architectures and databases and is client server architecture. The system is server based therefore the consultant needs to be aware of the technical aspect too.

Another difference between an ES and an ERP system is that the ERP is aimed at improving the functionalities of the organization whereas the ES helps to improve the overall maintenance and accuracy. It provides for better solutions and aids in decision making. ES is difficult to implement compared to Enterprise resource planning and even the timeframe needed for implementation maybe more. The overall impact is high but so are the risks involved. If the ES is not implemented in the right manner, it can cause business failure and if implemented properly it can increase the efficiency and profits of the business organization. It is normally required when there is a big drawback in the current procedures and methodologies in the organization and need to be corrected. The company going in for enterprise system needs to be careful while choosing the software and the vendors due to the risk of failure involved.

The difference between an enterprise system and an ERP system is that ERP is mostly used for medium scale companies to big companies and ES is restricted to the big companies. There are many complex functions involved in big companies which cannot be provided solutions for alone by ERP. The role of ERP is restricted when compared to enterprise system because it does not include customer relationship or vendor management.

These applications are needed when the business process is complex and on a big scale. Therefore bigger organizations need to go with ES instead of enterprise resource planning alone. ERP is also an important system to streamline the internal processes but it does not provide for taking care of the external processes. Enterprise system takes care of the end to end business process of organization since it involves other applications also like SCM and CRM. There is quite a lot of difference between an enterprise system and an ERP and it depends on the company whether it wants to go with an ES to streamline the entire process starting from supplying, production and customer or whether he wants to go with an ERP system to streamline the internal process.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Professional Shopping Cart Software

Advantages & Disadvantages of professional shopping cart software As e-Commerce is becoming a regular technique in the business industry it appears that more and more software development firms are developing professional shopping cart software to be released in the market. There is currently a huge range of free shopping cart software that has been released, and it seems that most e-Commerce website owners prefer these free systems over paid for professional shopping cart software. In this article we are going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of professional shopping cart software.

Advantages

• Even though you will have to pay for the solution, you get a cart package that has been fully developed, tested and used in the real working world by other e-Commerce websites. If the solution is used by a popular website service then the chances are it has been under more than enough testing to be deemed ready for use.

• Professional shopping cart software will be supported by the people who developed it. A lot of free solutions out there are simply developed and then discontinued as the freelance developers move onto their next project. Support is essential if you are going to want upgrades as mentioned in our next point.

• As the system is supported, the development team are likely to fix any bugs that may occur and provide patches and security fixes. This means the shopping cart software will only get better as time goes on and furthermore improve your e-Commerce website.

• Your site is likely to be more secure when using a professional software solution as in most cases the it developed house private content management systems. This improves security as public content management systems such as WordPress are constantly under threat from hackers as they try to compromise the free source code.

• Another huge advantage of using professionally developed software in e-Commerce is that they will already support a huge range of different payment options for your customers. There are various carts – that only offer PayPal for payment by standard, and it can take a very long time to find plug-ins or figure out how to add other methods yourself. With professional software you can save time and possibly money as it is all included.

Disadvantages

• Your e-Commerce venture might be a small time project and professional cart does cost money which you may not have. In this case you may have to make do with a free shopping cart solution. The good part of conducting business online is that after you have made profit with the free system you can reinvest your money to buy a professional package.

• You trust the developers to do everything they promise to ensure the best experience. It might be slightly difficult to use at first and you might have to spend some time getting used to the bespoke system. You also have to understand that you are vulnerable until patches are made if a security flaw is found.

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10 Top Reasons Why I Have to Upgrade My Computer

The rate at which technology is improving is very fast and in the time you get comfortable with the computer hardware you have bought, several new and improved models appear in the market. While some people prefer to keep their computers state of the art, most of us have a 'If it is not broken, do not fix it' attitude when it comes to upgrading or replacing our computers.

This is a strategy that could prove expensive in the long run. It is always better to upgrade your computer on a regular basis, especially if you have had it for over 2-3 years. Even if your computer has had a large trouble-free existence, you really need to consider periodic upgrades and here are the reasons why you must dos so:

1. Increase in Processing Speed ​​- This is one place where you really get to notice an improvement in performance. If you are upgrading from a Celeron 433MHz processor to a Pentium 4 1.6GHz, you would really notice the difference in performance!

2. Faster Memory Access – Improvements in CPU speed are typically accommodated by improvements in the speed at which data transfer occurs between the CPU and RAM. This is another area that provides an improvement in performance.

3. Size and Capacity improvements – Technology drives a reduction in component size coupled with an increase in storage capacity. This means that a RAM card or hard disk of the similar size as the older ones in your computer could have double the capacity!

4. Software Compatibility – Many of the new software packages you may wish to use in order to improve your productivity or entertainment experience may not function well on you old computer. It is better to upgrade your computer to enjoy the benefits of new software fully.

5. Obsolescence of Hardware – As your hardware gets older; Getting a replacement will get more difficult once manufacturers start phasing out the production. With improvement in technology, the older hardware becomes cheaper initially and becomes expensive as supply dries up.

6. Technical Support Issues – Many manufacturers stop providing technical support for older components as they cease production. The older your computer gets, the harder it is to find help in fixing it when it malfunctions.

7. Development of New Hardware – New hardware products appear in the market frequently that revolutionize your computer experience and are based on newly developed technology. The chances of your old computer supporting new devices are very low.

8. Faster Devices – Your old computer may not be in a position to accommodate the speed at which the new devices communicate.

9. New, Fast Communication Protocols – You may not be able to implement new or faster communication protocols in your old computer because the hardware is unable to support them.

10. Operating System and File Format – Your old hardware may not be able to run newer operating systems and some of the file formats may not be supported.

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Schedule Slippage – Root Causes

“The single most important task of a project: setting realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on inaccurate estimates are the single largest cause of software failure.”- Futrell, Shafer

Introduction

With global and competitive market, it is very important to launch a product or service in the market on time, ahead of competitors. Definitely, timely launch depends on on-time-completion of the product development projects. Project planning has lots of challenges to overcome in order to finish the project on time – right from schedule predictability, envisioning future/possible risks and coming up with mitigation plans.

This article talks about some of the challenges, often faced in the Software Product Development industry that causes the schedule slippage.

Schedule slippage: Delay in the project completion from its initial estimated date of completion.

Each project plan will have a planned completion date (NRA, RA), and a bounding box or upper limit in schedule. Nowadays, it is a common practice to have three dates associated with any project plan:

  • Non-Risk Adjusted (NRA) date: Project completion date assuming no hurdles – Ideal conditions.
  • Risk Adjusted (RA) date: Project completion date assuming some risks will come on the way and will need extra time to attend to them.
  • Bounding Box (BB) or upper limit: The upper limit on the project plan before which the project has to be finished under any circumstances – Generally decided by the top management based on product/services roadmap and launch in the market.

Under ideal circumstances, any project is scheduled to complete by NRA date. Considering some risks that may come on the way and would eat some time off the schedule, the project should be over by RA date. If the risks were not envisioned and hence not planned well, then project may get delayed and would complete after RA date. Project completion crossing the RA or upper limit is neither good nor expected out of a well-planned project.

Root Causes

As we always plan for a project to get over before RA date, seldom is the case it happens as expected. There are multiples reasons for schedule slippage, right from improper planning, lack of resources to unplanned requirements and rework that eat away vital time off the planned schedule.

A typical project development process – Each project will have a team (development, testing and other functions) that will work through a process (requirement analysis, schedule estimation, design, implementation and testing) to deliver a product to the customer/end user. Each entity that participate in the project – directly or indirectly affect the schedule.

From the development process, we can identify the items that can cause delay in the execution of the project – for example, misinterpreted or unclear requirement adds up to completion time, unavailability of development tools or resources can prolong the project duration. Various processes like schedule estimation, detailed design and product development if not executed skillfully, may significantly blow up the project cycle.

For better understanding all these possible causes that may result in schedule slippage are categorized .

Let’s have a detailed look at the root causes of schedule slippage category wise.

1) Schedule Estimation: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

For a project to be executed on time, it is very important to have it planned very well. Any mistake in project schedule estimation reflects as delay in the project completion from its deadline. There are several factors that contribute to improper schedule estimation:

· Underestimation of technical complexities: At the start of the project, many of the team members may not have thorough knowledge of technical complexities and hence their estimation would be incorrect. Sometimes it may so happen that the person giving estimates for a particular task is having no idea about the technical challenges involved in carrying out that particular task. You might hear, towards the mid/end of the project life cycle when the task is not finished on time – “Oh, I didn’t know that this feature also requires 5 more tasks to be done!” or “I was thinking this task to be so simple, but I under estimated it!”. · Lack of Design/Big picture: It is important to have a bigger picture / overview of the complete project to understand how a particular module/feature would fit in to complete project. Product or system level design helps in understanding the interfaces among other modules and the required coordination for product assembly and hence, a better insight into the work involved. Often, estimates without focus on detailed design tend to deviate more from the actual time taken for finishing the job. · Integration Testing: While making a project plan, testing also needs to be accommodated in the schedule. At times, the unit testing or testing done by individual contributors on their module is taken into account but not the system level testing. Toward the release, when all the individually tested modules are brought together, a system level or integration testing is a must. Having the time for integration testing not accounted in the overall project schedule will cause delay in the project completion.

· Unplanned dependencies: Project planning is not only about breaking the project into minute tasks and managing them. A well-planned project schedule also needs to consider certain unplanned dependencies. Some of these are:

o People: Optimum utilization of human resources calls for same set of people working in multiple projects. A person may not be available to work for currently planned/assigned project due to extended/unplanned work in another parallel project. Another issue related to people could be unplanned/unexpected attrition that will affect the project plan. Time is also lost in mentoring of new member by a senior (more experienced) person which goes unaccounted if not planned.

o Tools & Equipments: Project can be delayed if team is waiting for release of upgrade or procurement of any vital tool (hardware or software being used in the project) or if the equipments required for development and testing are not available. “We had a 3-months project for validating our existing solution on new product platform using customer DUT (device under test). We had to wait for the DUT for nearly 1.5 months as it got stuck in customs. After getting the DUT, we realized that it’s been damaged partially during transportation. As a result we had to ask for another DUT and whole project took more than 5 months to get finished.” – I am sure that such cases will be quite familiar to many organizations. Other reason for timely unavailability of tools / equipments is that they are shared among various projects to reduce the operating cost. Any unplanned dependency on their usage or wrong assumption about availability of these shared resources would cause delay in the program. Team members might have to work on shifts to optimize the usage of shared resources which can cause reduced work hours and/or productivity loss and results to schedule slippage.

“I was waiting for Matlab license to be released by another person in the team but he left the office without doing so and I lost 3 hours figuring out what to do?” – is it something you faced before?

o Other programs: If multiple programs have deliverable dependencies, then delay in one project will have cascaded effect on other projects, which directly or indirectly depend on its deliverable. “We got delayed because we had to wait for a critical UI component from the framework project team” or “We didn’t plan for bug fixes for a component which was supposed to be delivered defect free for our usage” are the common scenarios for delays in program which are dependent on other program deliverables. Parallel programs may affect the schedule of your program in a different way as well – Sometimes, management changes the priority of the programs running in parallel. If your project is considered as a low priority one then there might be lack of resources assigned to your project that may result in schedule slippage.

· Beta releases: How many times we seek feedback on our product during development? And how often we allocate time for it? It’s important to plan beta releases if we desire to have our product validated by expert users or lighthouse customers during development. Getting feedback from beta customers becomes important especially when their requirements echo that of a mass customer base. Process of giving workable releases to customers, collecting their experience, having their feedback analyzed, and then incorporating in the final product version takes significant time.

· Risk mitigation and plan B: Every project will have some or the other risks. These risks can be of varying severity and probabilities. While making project plan, it is important to treat the risk individually based on their severity and probability of occurrence. If high probable risks with higher severity are not planned with their mitigation plan (or plan B), they will have huge impact on schedule deviation from planned one. As in one of the previous examples quoted, getting a DUT on time for validation was a risk. Had there been a mitigate plan (plan B) like – Validate with other DUT or if DUT is not available here, let one developer travel to customer’s place and finish the validation on time, the schedule slippage would have been avoided.

2) People: Ultimately, projects are executed by people who may not be skilled or talented. Hence, looking for perfection in projects involving human beings may not be a feasible thought. Certain unpredictable and hence unavoidable issues under this category are:

· Poor leadership: Before thinking of project execution, it is project planning that actually would set the platform of success. Execution of the project depends on its team while planning is taken care by the project leader. The project leader is expected to have enough technical know-how to understand the project goals and to the details of the tasks involved. Poor leadership and superficial knowledge of assignments often results in invalid effort estimation and ad hoc task delegation causing stress and possible delay in project execution. People leading the team are also responsible for keeping the team spirit and motivation level upbeat. Poor personal commitment due to lack of motivation results in loss of productivity and may cause schedule to slip. Another reason that adds up to delay in projects is inability of leadership team to track the schedule progress and take the correction action.

· Attrition: If the project duration is large and job market is hot, it may be difficult to retain people in the project till its completion. Attrition may further delay the completion especially if the person leaving the job was in critical path. A person leaving the organization would leave a gap in the project that a new person may not fill immediately, which in turn causes sudden reduction in the task force.

· Learning curve: When ever a new person or team member is included in the project, he or she may require some time to understand the project to keep in pace with other members. Learning curve is needed for new team members, joining the team either due to attrition or due to any specific technical competency requirement. · Context switching: In smaller organization or groups where people work on multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to have some buffer for context switching. A person planned to work in project ‘A’ for two hours after a gap of two weeks, would take more than scheduled time to complete that task. Gap of two weeks and the fact that he or she was involved in other project would require some time for the member to get back to the context of current project. · Global development teams: In an era of globalization and outsourcing, it is common these days to have development team distributed over different geographical regions. Project plan needs to account for different time zones and working culture. You might expect an input for your task on Monday morning your time but it may be Sunday late evening for that person and finally when the input arrives, you might be on your way to home after work.

Sometimes schedule estimation might go completely wrong if you have not understood the work culture of the region your teammate belongs to – “In my previous work, I was given a task to be completed with a heads up that its very critical task and needs immediate attention’. When I asked my project lead how many days/hours I have for it, I had been time for 2 weeks for high priority and ‘immediate-attention’ work.” Definition of ‘urgent’, ‘high priority tasks’ changes with culture and region.

· Communication Issues: People communicate differently. If important issues are not brought to the notice of the team members, or are not escalated on time, the entire project may suffer. Often fear of embarrassment stops team members from reporting issues faced during execution leading to more time being spent on that task that can easily be executed additional help.

3) Customer Involvement: These issues are quite serious if customer or end users of the product are involved in the development phase. Understanding customer’s priorities, defining your expectation from their involvement needs to be clear and in agreement with both the parties.

· Expert user testing: In the beginning of the project, expert user testing cycle needs to be planned. Process of giving builds or releases for testing and collecting their feedback, analyzing and incorporating them in your product takes significant time which, if not planned, can delay your program. · Timely feedback: “I got feedback from customers for features, delivered in development milestone-1, after milestone-5 towards the release. These feedbacks are critical but now I am worried how to incorporate them without affecting the schedule.” It sounds like a common problem. Incorporation of feedback from customers needs to be planned well taking a commitment from the customer. · Product requirement specification review: Having a product requirement review planned and executed will keep you on right track throughout the project. Reviewing the requirement specification will avoid requirement related defects fixing which otherwise would have delayed, the project.

4) Ambiguous Project Requirement: For any project to be initiated, the first thing is to have requirements for it. In the product development life cycle, requirement phase acts like a foundation. Clear requirement or vision for the project navigates the team to success. However, requirements may not be clear at the time of estimation and may result in delay in the project completion. Issues related:

· Evolving specs: If you are making a product based on a standard which is not yet matured or still evolving, you are more prone to have this risk. Frequency changes in the specs will change the requirement for the project during different stages of product development and team will continue to work on something that is not yet evolved. This results in rework that would delay the project if time for dealing with these changes is not accommodated in the schedule. “We developed an algorithm and hence measurement that was based on certain industry standard. Towards the release of the product, the specs changed and our measurement was no more valid. We had to redo the algorithm to reflect the changes in the specs. This caused our product release delayed by 2 months.” · New requirements: Sometimes new requirements are added as the project evolves towards completion. Implementation of new requirements is not planned at the beginning of the project and hence is not accounted in schedule. Adding new feature without revising the schedule may result in delay.

· Untold expectation: Requirements from the customers may be of two types – implicit or explicit. It is important to have the requirements well documented. Implicit requirements needs to be better defined and documented to avoid any confusion towards the end of the project. Customers may not describe their requirements related to system performance, memory issues, user interface quality and usability but they are very keen on providing feedback in those aspects once the product is given for expert user testing. If we are not clear about such requirements, out design might not address them. Addressing them towards the end of the project may call for design changes and extra work that would delay the project.

5) Unplanned Tasks / Reworks: Bounding box for the project is set by higher management and often lack buffer for unplanned task(s). Having more of unplanned task that creep up at different phases of project can cause schedule slippage. The unplanned tasks or rework may arise due to:

· Sustaining work: In smaller organizations, some of the project team may also be responsible for sustaining / customer support of existing products. These unplanned tasks, which come on event basis, related to customer support are always of high priority. Excess or prolonged sustaining work may take resource out of the planned project causing a potential threat for schedule slippage. · Defect fixes: Defects are bad as they degrade the product quality and consume extra time/effort to fix them. It is good to have testing of the intermediate releases of the project to find and fix defects sooner in the development life cycle. If the fixing-cycle for such internal-milestone defects is not planned, then either the project is either going to slip or product is going to be of poorer quality. Poor programming skill of the team, not adapting to modern programming practices and having ad hoc development processes may lead to higher number of defects which would take more time to fix then planned and cause slippage.

· Task spillover from previous milestone: Tasks that are not completed in previous milestone, due to whatever reason (inefficiency, vacation of the team member, resource crunch etc), will have to be completed in the next milestone thereby increasing the load on the team. If adequate buffer is not planned, these tasks spilled from previous milestone over to next, can delay the project. · Requirement change / refinement: Requirement changes during the product development will result in rework of what has been previously done with first version of requirement(s). Addressing changes in the requirements needs extra time and effort and may cause schedule slippage. In some cases, the requirement from customer is misunderstood resulting in wrong system design and implementation. Additional, unplanned time is lost in correcting the design/implementation which causes schedule slippage.

Conclusion

On time delivery is the challenge software development companies are facing globally. To have a complete control over estimated schedule, it is very important to identify the elements in the development cycle that cause schedule slippage. This article uncovers and explains the root causes of delay in programs using examples from real world. Having an insight to the root causes will help the program managers to make good decisions to avoid future schedule slippage.

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Corel DRAW – Best Desktop Publishing Software

Corel DRAW is a supreme supplier of graphics software, including the popular Corel DRAW program. Corel DRAW has tools that allow the user to both create and edit images. The type of desktop publishing tools that you use will depend on the type of project. For more information and assistance, use the Corel website.

Corel DRAW is the best Desktop publishing software that empowers users to create illustrations containing graphics, text and photographs. Corel has an extensive range of tools which enable the user to edit any shape or character with ease and precision, fit text to curves and create custom color separations. It is developed and marketed by Corporation of Ottawa. This tool can open files: Adobe PageMaker, Microsoft Publisher and Word, and other programs can print documents to Adobe PDF using the Writer printer driver, which such software can then open and edit every aspect of the original layout and design.

Several innovations to vector-based illustration originated with Corel: a node-edit tool that operates differently on different objects, fit text-to-path, stroke-before-fill, quick fill/stroke color selection palettes, perspective projections, mesh fills and complex gradient fills.

One of this software’s many strengths is the huge range of over 1,000 fonts that it comes with, provided in both TrueType and Postscript Type 1 format. Corel differentiates itself from its opponent in a number of ways: The first is its positioning as a graphics suite, rather than just a vector graphics program. A full range of editing tools allow the user to adjust contrast, color balance, change the format from RGB to CMYK, add special effects such as vignettes and special borders to bitmaps. Bitmaps can also be edited more extensively using Corel PhotoPaint, opening the bitmap directly from Corel and returning to the program after saving. It also allows a laser to cut out any drawings.

Expert believed it was the first of the Windows-based drawing programs and has built on this early start to become far-and-away the dominant drawing package on the PC. Its biggest strength – and its biggest potential limitation – is its all-encompassing approach. In the past this has led to accusations of unfocused bloating, but with version 7.0 Corel has addressed the criticisms with a far tighter and better rationalized program. Even so, there’s a huge range of functionality to cover.

Corel DRAW Download was originally developed for Microsoft Windows and currently runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. The current version, X5, was released on 23 February 2010.

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Effective Job Numbering And Cost Code Systems

Overview

Many companies have a sequential job numbering system, but have you considered the possibility of altering the numbering sequence so you can pull reports for a certain type of project or projects by year and the informational reports that could be generated?

And, are your cost codes sufficient to cover the details you need to see in your reports? Do you lump all site related travel and subsistence into one code, or do you have the details of hotels vs. Housing and meals vs. Subsistence?

Not all software programs are sophisticated enough to allow for customized job type numbering sequences; However, even the basic job cost software systems can be adapted to allow for an advanced numbering system.

Specific Job Numbering Sequences

Advanced reporting techniques can yield a wealth of information. How jobs are numbered so ease the reporting burden so projects of a certain type and / or year can be easily excluded from the software. Samples of numbering sequences could be based on the following criteria:

· Year project was awarded

· Public vs. Private works

· Commercial vs. Residential

· Construction vs. Service

· Division (s) of the Company

If your software allows, you may start the job number with the year awarded, followed by the job type and then a sequential number. Management may request a report for gross revenue on all the commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013. If you have a numbering sequence, this would be an easy report to pull, rather than go through all your 2013 projects and manually add the numbers to obtain the Results.

The job cost master file is another good source of information if all fields are completed and there is a common usage of custom fields that can be used to pull reports.

Cost Codes – Too few or Too Many?

Often we see cost code lists that spill onto multiple pages. Most job cost software programs allow for use of one cost code for multiple categories (Labor, Materials, Direct Job Expense, etc.).

A good source to use for establishing a cost code list is the bid recap and detail sheets used when bidding projects. This will yield the different stages of labor, types of materials to install associated with that labor, the different types of equipment to be rented, categories of subcontractors and the details of direct job costs to be incurred.

These activities can be "numbered" to establish a list of cost codes. If the software allows for use of one code across multiple categories, give thought to not duplicating descriptions, but arranging codes together by "type" of work being performed, rented equipment, direct job expenses, work typically contracted out, etc.

Keeping your cost codes consistent will then allow even more sophisticated reporting – management can now ask for all commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013 and the total cost of crane rentals for the year on those specific projects.

Why Go Through These Steps?

History is a great source of information when anticipating the future. Cost details can be analyzed for specific types of jobs when preparing to bid a similar project. Historical information can be analyzed for margins on certain types of projects or a division of the company to make decisions on whether or not a certain type of work is profitable.

If fields are available in the job cost master file, reports can be declined not only by type and year but by project manager as well to look at performance and estimate vs. Actual results.

Conclusion

When developing any numbering system, consistency is important in order to maximize the reporting results. Management should determine the information they wish to see and develop job numbers and cost codes that will allow for advanced reporting not only to themselves but provide useful information to estimating, project managers and accounting as well.

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