& Related Stuff
“Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardisation in your sales talk. If you find yourself one fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.”
– David Ogilvy, on what we now call Personalization
I’ve worked as a web developer, project manager, User Experience designer, and strategic consultant for four agencies over a seventeen year period. During that time I’ve helped design and deliver about 140 digital initiatives, several of them small and some very ambitious, for clients ranging from Tiffany & Co. and IBM to the University of Oregon and the Smithsonian.
My passion in work and in life is to bring together ideas, design, websites, software, cultures, languages, business problems and their solutions.
During the past decade, I’ve woven my work around Drupal and WordPress integrated with CRM and other marketing tools. To complement that product expertise, I have a broad knowledge of digital marketing methods such as A/B split testing, conversion tracking, SEO, and personalization.
I’ve learned about the e-commerce opportunities unique to universities, business associations, and online retailers. I’ve also learned a lot about digital marketing and engagement opportunities for government agencies, advocacy groups, and animal and human welfare organizations.
I am a generalist in my personal life and professionally. I love basketball, art, meditation, and swapping good stories.
Areas of Expertise
Digital Project Leadership
My core competency is bringing digital projects to successful conclusions. As a solutions consultant, product manager, and project manager — with agency experience dating back to the first dot-com boom — I have learned many of the nooks and crannies of the digital world. But the most important lesson learned as a digital project leader is to set the right tone; on fast-changing timelines where everybody knows a little bit about everything, how people treat one another is what matters most to success.
The most important lesson learned as a digital project leader is to set the right tone
Integrity is the foundation of my approach to project management and product ownership: that basis ensures everything we do as a team delivers superior ROI. It also makes members of a project team, on all sides, happier at work. On a more tactical level, I may implement either Agile or Waterfall methods to lead the execution and delivery phases of project work, while applying Waterfall to large-scale budget and timeline planning. I have a talent for using the iterative work cycle approach to consulting services as well as product development.
Whatever the approach, I believe deeply in empowering every single person I work with to find fulfillment and enjoyment from their work. And that goes for not just my team but everyone I work with — partner firms and our counterparts from the client side.
I approach digital solutions with three key pieces:
- Business Analysis & Discovery
- Digital Experience Design
- Technical Architecture
But for me, a key part of being a solutions designer is ensuring that you’re not the only one creating the solution. I have skill in all three areas, but my real talent lies in identifying others more skilled or knowledgeable than I. Digital Experience Design in particular works best when every stakeholder contributes.
part of being a good solutions designer is ensuring that you’re not the only one creating the solution
For example, a Customer Journey Map created by a broad coalition from the agency and client teams will more accurately depict real-world customer experiences. Clients always know their business better than I do — and many times my own team members do too.
User Experience (UX) Design
I’ve been designing, editing and evaluating information architecture and UX deliverables since working as an agency web developer 16 years ago. Over time, I’ve consistently improved my thinking on the subject and adapted to changes in design, language, and technology. Deep technical understanding of CMS software is key to my UX expertise. I have an eye for design and a talent for editing and refining UX designs on teams I’m a part of.
UX is a discovery and planning tool as well as an implementation and delivery one. Collectively reviewing UX diagrams — of messaging, layout, features, and how users experience them — is the clearest way to refine project goals. Beyond planning, UX is also valuable as a way of documenting the agreement about what will and won’t be achieved during a project. Well edited and reviewed UX is a resource for designers and developers alike when it comes to implementing complex solutions on a system like Drupal.
Enterprise Drupal CMS
I started my career in the web business before Drupal and even the concept of CMS software existed. Since then, I have acquired knowledge of several CMS products and above all Drupal. I’ve learned to design Drupal not just as a website management tool but as a unique software product with unlimited capabilities for driving digital experience.
Having used other CMS products like WordPress and Blackbaud Sphere, I recognize the common CMS patterns. That gives me insight into how and why to scale Drupal. I’ve cultivated a talent for creating Drupal technical architecture that is intelligible to Drupal developers and a guide to designers, while not compromising on quality when it comes to expressing business goals.
I’ve learned first-hand that CRM’s value multiplies exponentially when it serves as the hub of a digital platform. On top of CRM implementation best practices, in terms of business logic, field structure and data migration, I have deep experience in integrating CRM with Drupal and other products, like Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, Event Management, and E-commerce & Payments.
To fully take advantage of the best commerce and marketing products out there, it’s essential to centralize efforts around a CRM. But integrations require careful design and consideration. Designing a CRM-Savvy implementation of a CMS like Drupal gives that CRM-centralized platform a solid foundation. On the flip side, the CRM design should be “Drupal-savvy”; around segmentation, custom fields, and specific 3rd party product choices. Understanding how products are used on both sides is the key to a successful CRM integration.
Digital Business Analysis
Over many years, I have taught myself the art of business data analysis, and now it’s an important part of what I provide as a consultant. My method is to understand the opportunities and challenges of each project by examining relevant data coming from Web Analytics, Email Marketing, CRM, ECommerce, and any decisive data points that an organization’s CRM system might provide.
Conducting analysis informs work proposals, estimates, and important project assets like a Statement of Work, UX diagrams, or a functional requirements document. It also helps me advise clients on creating RFPs and selecting software and services. Looking at the data in a systematic way helps me understand how to respond to what clients need — at the onset and throughout the relationship.
Digital Commerce & Payments
My very first Web project in 1998 was a retail e-commerce site, and since then I have worked on all manner of digital commerce, from subscriptions to membership to online donations. I’ve acquired a strong understanding of multi-channel commerce solutions that may begin on the Web but span CRM, Events, Telephone banking, and Email Marketing. I have a particular interest in Checkout Usability testing, since I think it provides a lot of insight into the broader world of digital experiences in general, not just on the Web but everywhere.
From a technical and business ecosystem standpoint, I know the Payments industry pretty well; I understand how to assess features like vaults and wallets, multiple currencies and languages, security/compliance, fee systems, and the technical niceties of payment processing and APIs as they relate to integration with CMS software products like Drupal.
I’m an avid student of digital marketing with more than a decade of experience collaborating with designers, writers, and strategists to position products and ideas. I regularly read on the subject. My knowledge of marketing as a discipline complements a profound of expertise with technology and methods like content strategy, SEO, A/B Split Testing, Personalization, Web Analytics, and Marketing Automation. I’ve had a lot of success understanding the challenges and opportunities for marketers in creating a responsive/mobile web presence.
It’s important for me to continue building expertise in Digital Marketing; I’ve found it allows marketing specialists on teams I work with to find a lot more success than they normally would.
I was fortunate enough to work on the Tiffany.com site as a Sr. Web Developer at Oven Digital. I also worked on its non-US counterpart sites. 15 years on, Tiffany & Co.’s web presence has remained conceptually unchanged in terms of design and UX and is one of the most outstanding and successful enterprise e-commerce websites. Tiffany & Co. was an eight-figure, multi-year engagement that yielded a highly profitable online retail presence at a relatively early time period. The enduring success of the Tiffany websites, which traded on minimalist UI, top-line photography, personalized content, and email social sharing, has served me throughout my career as a frame of reference for what excellent Digital Commerce and User Experience looks like. Among the initiatives I led was a design and coding project that let users send friends a customized HTML email message that incorporated Tiffany’s superb product photography.
PetSmart Charities is the nonprofit arm of PetSmart Inc., and has a tremendous impact on pet welfare in North America, both as a sponsor of animal welfare programs and as a major grantmaker to thousands of animal welfare organizations. Our teams worked together with PetSmart Charities to revitalize their online presence with an enterprise Drupal implementation closely synchronized with propriety Luminate CRM and E-Commerce, Salesforce Luminate and many other powerful marketing and commerce tools. Over a series of several years, I worked with PetSmart to lead the rejuvenation and revitalization of their digital presence, overseeing a dramatic increase in fundraising and engagement with the public.
First, as a consultant for solutions for Blackbaud, engaged by the University of Chicago to build an alumni portal on its Sphere SaaS platform, and then as an independent consultant, I helped design technology solutions that met the demand for increasing alumni participation, networking, and fundraising revenue. The main challenge was how to build an online presence that catered to both younger and older generations of alumni.
Proceeding from that larger constraint, an interesting problem was the need to let students who registered online for accounts self-verify themselves, using either a social security number, a student ID number, or various other forms of proof of identity. This way the University of Chicago could involve the maximum number of students in the most economical way possible. As with other projects for alumni and membership organizations we had to create a complete digital experience, such that communications and events, whether conducted by a website, app, phone or in person, be synchronized among themselves in a holistic fashion.
Design is usually what gets perceived,” says Felber, “but we’re very strong in design only because we have very strong technology and strategy that makes it actually happen. My deep belief is that a good design company today is not possible without having amazing technology and strategy teams, because those three components work so tightly together.
Micheal Felber, Design Director at Oven Digital, New York, October 2000
ROWAN, HARDIN & PRICE
01/2017 – Present
Independent practice focusing on $4,000 to $18,000 WordPress and Drupal website builds and software selection and integration services in the areas of marketing, e-commerce, and communications.
Freeflow Digital LLC
Partner / Client services focus
09/2008 – 01/2017
With responsibility for the success and growth of all aspects of Freeflow Digital, I helped drive the transformation of a three-person crew into a trusted and reliable twenty-person technology consulting firm with long-term partner and client relationships. I was instrumental to reshaping the company identity from “Drupal shop + data integration” to a data-focused WCMS and CRM consulting firm.
My focus has been on business development and designing ambitious solutions for clients. By excelling at those responsibilities and mentoring my team along the way, I helped Freeflow cultivate a broad, loyal base of clients with many successful, long-term engagements.
Beyond client relationship management, the essence of my solution consulting work breaks down as follows:
– Reading and research: reading in-depth publications about a clients’ business/industry and conducting discovery workshops and customer surveys
– Analysis of marketing information sources like analytics data, SEO diagnostics, split testing results, in-site search logs, and activity histories from CRM and/or ecommerce
– Web Customer Experience analysis, with a focus on usability testing high-value areas like authenticated-user dashboards, help & support, navigation, search, and ecommerce
– Authoring and/or review of estimates, work proposals, and statements of work
– Delivery of information architecture, including web/mobile sitemaps & wireframes, Drupal architecture, data mapping of migration and integration, CRM/Ecommerce structure, and multi-product system diagrams
– UX design for the web, both as a sales tool for building understanding and as an implementation resource for guiding delivery of creative design and Drupal development
For me the recurring goal among all kinds of organizations I’ve worked with at Freeflow is to leave behind me an effective system for making strategic goals come true. While the specifics may vary, the systems often take on the format described in the diagram below:
Project Manager / Consultant
12/2003 – 08/2008
I came to Blackbaud via its acquisition of Kintera, where I’d been working as a delivery manager. I worked as a project manager and consultant on multiple 6 and 7 figure projects for clients like the NAACP, Heifer International, University of Virginia, Notre Dame, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. The company has about 4,000 clients, and I typically worked on the largest projects.
The core of my work was as a solutions designer and project driver around Sphere, an enterprise SaaS platform of integrated products, including CMS, CRM, E-commerce, Bulk Email Marketing and Event Management. The challenge was about how to create solutions in a way that Blackbaud’s products didn’t allow for; the Sphere platform was large and offered several useful products, but it was not Open Source and had a limited API, so it as difficult to modify it for particular business requirements.It often fell on me to lead projects which integrated Sphere with other systems, including Raiser’s Edge, Authorize.net and other Payments providers, and Drupal. This experience prepared me for success at designing the integration of CMS software with CRM and with SaaS products in general.
The thing that most impressed me from my tenure at Blackbaud was that when ideating a complex, enterprise solution, the only way to success was to start with design, Information Architecture, and the User Experience, and from there finalize the scope of work and the accompanying technical specifications.
Sr. Web Designer / Developer
03/2000 – 02/2002
I worked in the Manhattan office of a global design and web development agency, working on projects of all kinds; a Hong Kong-based dating site, the Bank of Japan, IBM (PC Division), Tiffany & Co, Consumer Reports, the MoMA, Harper Collins, Snoop Dogg, and more
At Oven, I was fortunate enough to work on the Tiffany.com site and its non-US counterpart sites, which 15 years later remains unchanged design-wise and UX-wise. That’s remarkable because most websites are (and should be) redesigned every 2 or 3 years. Tiffany was an eight-figure, multi-year engagement that yielded a highly profitable online retail presence. The enduring success of the Tiffany websites, which traded on minimalist UI, top-line photography, personalized content, and email social sharing, has served me throughout my career as a frame of reference for what great Customer Experience looks like.
E-commerce Web Development
06/1998 – 12/1999
I got my start in Web Development working on book publisher’s website, www.pelicanpub.com and book-selling site www.oldchildrensbooks.com.