Have you ever watched the last preparations that go on just minutes before the event organisers open the doors? The last few moments where someone steam irons the last crease on the tablecloth with a handheld iron? Give it a few moments and the crowds moving past the rows of pristine banquet tables won’t tell in a million years that someone was applying that last finishing touch just a second ago.

That’s what it felt like a few days before our Narrowcast Alpha launch. So many creases to iron out, so many glasses to polish and so many one-bite snacks to prepare. Nowhere near enough time.

The difference between a one-off event and a startup Alpha launch is that the event (be it an award ceremony, a fashion show or a theatre premiere) has a definite deadline, a point in time where you realise all the preparation is now coming together and things are kicking off.

As we found out at Narrowcast, setting a deadline for the startup launch can be a massive task in itself. Should we call it an internal deadline? A provisional deadline? Why do we even need it? How can we be sure it will be ready by then? How long will it take to complete what we’ve set out to complete?

Fubra’s Managing Director Brendan McLoughlin shares his thoughts on deadlines: “The only problem I have with the term ‘deadline’ is the word ‘dead’, it’s too imposing. Using deadlines for absolutely everything isn’t a good thing, but having some structure which allows us all to understand what we’ve all agreed, and to check our progress against it, is really helpful.”

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Most businesses have been there – you start up small, in a tiny team, with several key people doing just about everything, from admin to sales and (last, but not least) even office cleaning. The ball starts rolling, and more people come on board internally, when suddenly it dawns on everyone – we can’t continue shouting at each other across the office ‘It’s Jane on the phone calling about that contract, remember her?’

Fast forward this by a couple of years, and businesses think they know so much more about their customer than just their name and an email address, and that there are so many great ways of managing that data. In fact, in the digital age there is so much data out there that consumers seem to be more measurable than ever before.

There are bits and pieces of acquired data about the aforementioned Jane scattered all over the place – in the company’s internal support system as she has emailed before, in the list of newsletter subscribers, on a piece of PostIt note as she has rang up a few times, in the company’s Twitter followers list as she has retweeted one or two tweets, her name and phone number is in an old CRM system that the sales team uses, and she might also be registered as a user with the company’s online store but with her maiden name! Jane is essentially providing more and more data about herself and her behaviour. How can you capture all this and store it in an intelligent and cost-effective way?

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