Week 40/41 Increasing Capacity

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Originally Posted on DINO Studio’s blog

(this was meant to go up last Monday. Oops.)
Ugh. Halloween, and by extension, October has come and gone. 2010 is nearing its end.

This has been a hectic couple of weeks for us. Transitory periods have a way of making you feel like time is rushing past and also like you’re not going fast enough.

Some highlights from the past these past couple of weeks:

  • Aaron and I participated in the IBM Place Summit 2010 conference. That deserves its own post.
  • We shipped some initial story scenes for our current book clients… these are going to be really, really amazing pieces — We’re helping these publishers put enormous amounts of thought and care into the experience of storytelling
  • I watched The Social Network, and coincidentally(?) we had a meeting w/ our lawyer to review a few things. 🙂
  • We pitched a Facebook-oriented “personal story of wellness” game for a potential client.
  • I listened to a panel on ebooks at the Why Books? conference at Radcliff/Harvard. Post to follow.
  • We launched a very cute flashcard app for toddlers for our client, Mezmedia.
  • Aaron has put some great effort into sorting through some infrastructure of AMP, our skunkworks project.
  • I bought a bottomless coffee cup from the nearby bagel place — either the smartest investment of the year or the direct contributor to my impending mental breakdown… probably both.
  • Iggy, our green-scaled HR director, has been unusually frisky… making laps around the studio — climbing onto her high perch and through the supplies shelving. Her request for her new heating pad finally went through, so she’s in a good mood overall. Also, we’re thinking she may be gravid.

Current mode at DINO

Aaron and I have found that while we’re simultaneously running the day-to-day side of our studio, getting current and future work through the sales and production pipeline, and building the tools and frameworks to support even more work and income, we’re slamming face first into important decisions about the “best” use of our time.

At any given moment, we have a number of competing concerns. Obviously, we take care of our clients/customers first. This often means we have to steal hours (and attention) away from the projects and activities we need to work on for DINO 2011. It’s a vicious and classic cycle of the opportunity cost of using services to bootstrap your product development.

In services, we have proven that we do a really good job of finding opportunities and helping clients feel comfortable with starting to work with us. However, I’d give us a solid B for our ability to efficiently move through projects once they are in production — Our clients, I hope, are pretty happy with our work… admittedly, sometimes things go way over-schedule, but we do deliver good stuff in the end.

The root cause of friction is context switching (i.e. trying to spin too many plates); we’re raising the red flag that this could eventually take a toll on our business and, frankly, our personal sanity. It’s an area where we could improve.

It happens to healthy studios, I think… We have growing spurts and pains. The dam of work is bursting at the seams as we’re trying to balance a reasonable workload with the pressure to grow. Take on too much too fast and you’re done; don’t take on enough and the revenue flow dries up.

Capacity Building

We’re going to make some major announcements regarding our work in the “Book 3.0” genre in the next couple of months that I think will make our studio in high demand for our interactive design work, adding to the high number of game/storytelling project opportunities already in the pipeline.

It’s become clear that we need more help if we’re going to take on projects in a way that preserves a quality client experience while DINO accepts more work.

A revelation for us lately is that in the same way we can bring on technical/art/production help, we can also delegate the development of a project management skeleton to handle that organic expansion. PM is not something Aaron and I need to be directly managing at this important phase of DINO’s evolution.

To that end, we’ve found someone who we want to bring onboard to evaluate our current projects in production, take on project management of some stuff in the pipeline, and help set up some workflow so that we’re making DINO even more awesome.

Opportunities

  • We’re looking for developers (Cocos2D, Flash, Django) pretty urgently
  • We’re also looking for content-creation people & studios to identify some potential collaborators on storytelling and book 3.0 projects in 2011.