Thomas Koulopoulos writes these words in his 2012 book “Cloud Surfing: A New Way to Think about Risk, Innovation, Scale, and Success”:
“The cloud is exponential in its impact; it has a multiplier effect that goes well beyond the power of any collection of individual skills. What we lack is not brains but the ability to connect them.”
I’ll prepare the ground for this post by mashing up the thought above with another one from Josh Kauffman on his book “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business”:
“The best businesses in the world find ways to attract the attention of qualified prospects quickly and inexpensively.”
Now having read these statements, I’d like you to picture a day in the life of Mark. Mark is a group creative director in a global advertising agency in Madison Avenue in New York. He manages the work for a group of very known, international brands. They range from consumer goods to banking and fashion. But he’s constantly frustrated about the overall quality of his team’s creative output. He has great people under him, but he thinks that the agency is too slow to find and hire the kind of diversified expertise that he now constantly needs for his ideas (programmers, 3D artists, sound designers, motion graphics experts, icon designers and/or illustrators with a very specific trace and style). It’s just not in the current business model of his agency to sustain these hires, and he would only need them on a per-job basis anyway.
Mark dreams of a tool that would help him with that, that would free his time for what he does best: create.
Now imagine Mark comes across a platform called “Hand Shaker”. Hand Shaker is an enterprise software that sits in the cloud. It’s a tool that allows Mark to define his current creative challenges, starting with defining which client or brand he’s working for at the moment.
The first battle with his agency’s IT team (and the IT rules of their parent holding company) have been won already, and Hand Shaker was adopted by him and the team he leads. Hand Shaker is now integrated with the agency’s current CRM (customer relationship management) software and time sheeting systems, so Mark doesn’t have to input client data from scratch, or worry about manually keeping track of his time in this job.
The first thing Mark needs to do is define the situation at hand. He does that by creating a new “Project”. In this project — which acts just like a case folder — he drags and drops the contacts from the client’s team that are involved in the decision-making of this particular creative project. To lower a bit the communication overhead, Mark also adds in the creative team assigned by him to this “Project”. From now on, major milestones, highlights and important messages around this project will be sent via transactional emails to all people involved, automatically. Mark also writes a one-paragraph description of the creative brief to be solved. He also assigns a category to the project, let’s say “Product Launch”, and adds tags to it, like “outdoor”, “retail signage”, “branding”, etc. His agency’s account team has already listed down a proposed budget into the CRM tool, so he knows how long his money airstrip is for this creative project.
At this point, Hand Shaker starts to do some magic for him. Because Hand Shaker is already hooked up to his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail and IMAP (work email) APIs, it loads for him all the interactions he and his team had with any of the client’s decision makers. The client’s contacts are also loaded with interesting social information, because Hand Shaker has reached out for that in those same APIs. Things like Klout Score and latest tweets for each person are also available. He knows automatically who talked to whom, when and what’s the topic and content of the conversation.
Hand Shaker also helps out Mark by automatically looking at Behance and Dribbble’s APIs for any projects done for the same client or brand. It does that by looking at the client’s information and tags and searching these databases. It also lists all the people that have worked on these projects, so now Mark has direct access to a range of people with experience on this brand, around the world.
The project is at a stage that a Non-Disclosure Agreement needs to be signed, and a Statement of Work document needs to be written. Hand Shaker has an integrated PDF engine that pulls the client data to generate these files automatically, based on a template that had to be created only once. For the SoW, Hand Shaker generates a landing page on the web for the client to see and approve. Analytics tracking of this landing page allows the agency to see if the client has seen the document or not, which pages, for how long, and if he has digitally signed it or not.
Mark now proceeds to set some project milestones, like meetings and presentation dates. Everyone involved is automatically notified, and a project calendar is updated. He might choose to make some dates internal and some external.
Hand Shaker keeps on doing its magic. It knows the client is based in a certain location (based on the address located in the CRM’s contact entry) so it goes snooping in at Sharedesk’s API for available workspaces near the client and plots all the information into a custom Google Map (using the Google Maps API). To this map, any relevant geographical information is constantly added, like the addresses to contacted project suppliers or proposed meeting locations.
Mark has now brainstormed a bit about the creative solution to the project, so he updates the brief and adds a few more keywords based on the resources he will need: “social media strategist”, “motion graphics artist”. At this point, Hand Shaker gets Mark’s current location and reaches out to LinkedIn, Behance, Dribbble and Elance or oDesk APIs. The result is a dashboard of freelancers that might be of help on this particular project. Hand Shaker’s algorithm here could evolve to start understanding better and recommending users based on a series of factors (like reputation, and previous feedback).
Mark goes on to shortlist relevant people using a simple Yes/No system. Users marked Yes are automatically sent an introductory email from Mark’s email address, containing a request for a chat and some basic information about the project. A drip emailing schedule keeps reaching out for users until they make a first contact.
All along this time, time sheeting has been automatically done using Hand Shaker’s desktop and mobile app widgets. The personnel costs for this project are being automatically tracked and deducted from the initial budget set by the account team in the very beginning, and invoices are generated accordingly, just waiting for the time to be sent out for the financial decision maker at the client. Any important expenses can be added by the team as the project evolves.
Mark selects a few collaborators from the cloud, proceeds to add them into Hand Shaker with a special supplier authorization level, and the files they need to get the work done are shared. All working files are stored using Google Drive API, so everyone has access to everything at the same time, from just one cloud repository folder.
Hand Shaker uses Google Hangouts API to integrate video chatting between all project users, so they can all see their online statuses and chat with a click of a button. And so they do, continually, until the design comps, code files, iconography, copy or whatever else is needed for this new “Product Launch” project is finished.
Mark reviews it all, takes it to a presentation meeting with the client (in beautiful printed A2 boards), and gets a good feedback from the client. The project is approved with minor corrections, which are done by a supplier from the cloud.
Mark goes back to Hand Shaker and assigns the project as finished. At that point, invoices are shipped out to the client, and payments to collaborators are issued using Stripe API or PayPal. The funding is debited from the project’s budget, and a time sheet and expenses report is generated.
Everyone de-briefs on top of these files, and happily move on to create another project inside Hand Shaker.