Culture, Volunteering and Customers

I am personally quite thankful to work at a company that has a great culture. A culture that acts like it speaks – a team of people who understand that the world is too big and life too short to just keep making money.

We encourage employees to take on small volunteering projects, specifically applying our skills to organizations that are making a difference in our communities.

Thus, I volunteer for a small drop-in homeless shelter for young adults (ages 18-29). And mostly I provide technology or marketing solutions, support thereof and other basic business consulting.

Today my team at Launch was printing 500 new flyers. We had already completed a draft via email, so today I brought a printed draft for them to hold, read and use. After several small tweaks we approved it by the end of the meeting.

During the meeting, they needed to set up some single point of contact for clients and volunteers. We registered a google voice number and performed some basic setup. Then we messed with settings and added notifications.

Getting the decision makers in a room together can be extremely valuable for working sessions.

The outcome of this volunteering? People will be able to find a phone number to a group of people willing and able to help. This gives me hope.

And all it took was one hour and the commitment of my team to support me.

For my productivity it means I have to work from home on Wednesdays, and I eat up about 30 minutes driving to and from the place. My normal commute is 50 minutes, so I’m basically using the time gained by working from home to volunteer.

At a time to be thankful, I’m thankful for our culture, this team and the customers that believe in us.

Recently Updated Integrations

Here’s a quick update of integrations that have been added or updated. As always, all of our integrations can be found on our Community site
Bridgehub Adapters:
New Services
New Services
  • GitLab
    • Branch Create
    • Branch Protect
    • File Create
    • Project Create
    • Webhook Create
  • Jenkins
    • Job Create From Template
Updated Services
  • Amazon S3
    • File Upload
    • File Upload from Submission
  • ServiceNow
    • Object Create
    • Object Retrieve
    • Object Update
    • Object Delete

Release Roundup 2017 Q3

Product Updates

Product development has been going full tilt for quite some time now. As a result – we have made some changes to product management – to better meet customer needs (blah blah blah) — you have heard that before.

But it’s true!

We have made internal process changes and we have released more updates, integrations, and use cases in the last 6 months – than in the previous 2 years.

And – we have a lot more coming.

If you want to be a part of this, join our Customer Engagement Group and get involved!

The big driver in our acceleration is a system we call kinops. You can check it out at https://kinops.io … it is our Kinetic platform – pre-installed, hosted on Amazon and ready to use. Our goal is to allow companies of 100-1,000 people to quickly get up and running and benefiting from our Kinetic platform. (Get your own free kinops space here.)

One thing learned from kinops is that when systems get massive – logging gets harder. We think we fixed that with our log system changes. Go read the post here.

Oh yeah – and we have updated a number of integrations:

  • Chef
  • Salesforce
  • Puppet
  • ServiceNow
  • ElasticSearch
  • SOLR
  • GitLab
  • AmazonS3

As always, you can find all of those on http://community.kineticdata.com

Front-ends

  • We have released another front-end bundle to give another choice on how companies choose to manage and optimize their web rendering. This one uses the Facebook React system to give greater performance and flexibility in generating front-ends for the Kinetic platform.
  • We’ve developed a training course on Community.

Next quarter we will be releasing:

  • Datastore
    • Optimized for size and speed, the ability to manage massive (millions, 10s of millions 100s of millions (or way more) assets, people, or whatever you need. More to come on our blog make sure you subscribe in the right-hand margin -> 
  • Queue
    • Optimized for rapid working of assigned tasks. Queue gives the ability for teams to rip through big lists of tasks efficiently, effectively with an eye for automation. More to come.
  • Response aka Discussions
    • People want real-time chat (and more). When we first announced Kinetic Response (the ability for teams to work on crisis issues together), the response was overwhelming. Sadly – we had to back-burner it due to Kinetic Request getting the majority of our attention. Well; Response is back and better than ever imagined. We are rolling it into Request and making it a fundamental piece of our Kinetic platform. More to come.

Lots of great things are happening and it will be easier to share that with you as a result of our product development changes.

Click here if you’d like to join our Customer Engagement Group. A small group of people we talk to regularly to keep building cutting edge products.

A Structured Logging Success Story

How Kinetic Data implemented structured logging to drastically improve application support.

What is the new structured logging feature in the Kinetic Data products?

Starting with Kinetic Task v4.3, Kinetic Core v2.0.2, Bridgehub v1.2, and Filehub v1.2 a new feature was implemented in these applications referred to as ‘structured logging’. Structured logging essentially is ensuring that a log file is a preset, consistent, and machine readable format.

In our most recent releases we provide the following new structured log files:

  • structured.access.log
    • Log entry for every time a resource is accessed through the kinetic application. Who, when, how long, what, etc. This can be used for analytics.
  • structured.application.log
    • Contains entries for application warnings, errors, debug, or trace level messages. Used for troubleshooting.
  • structured.authentication.log
    • Authentication attempts get logged to this file. Who, when, and authentication type. Used for troubleshooting and auditing.
  • structured.system.log
    • Heartbeat checks, application startups and shutdowns, and other non-frequent events like that are the purpose for this log file.

Okay… What is the benefit?

Well, because these logs are machine friendly they can then be digested by Filebeat and thus Elasticsearch. Now the log files can provide more functions than diagnostics or troubleshooting, they can also provide analytics and monitoring as well.

  • Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
    • Fast full text searching on error messages
    • Searching by date and time ranges for errors
    • Find all users who experienced a specific error
    • Find any errors a specific user encountered
    • Check the average response times for a specific user over time. See exactly when things started to get slower for that user.
    • Check for any errors in any application in one search: Core, Task, Filehub, Bridgehub. All at once.
  • Monitoring and Alerting
    • Setup an alert for whenever there are more than 100 failed login attempt in a minute.
    • Alert on API calls taking longer than one second.
    • Monitor for anytime webhooks fail to execute.
    • Monitor current system usage per application.
  • Analytics, Auditing, and Reporting
    • Put together a dynamic graph showing the average response times for requests.
    • Trend on how many errors occur per hour. Little hint, you’ll see a bell curve most likely.
    • Quickly throw together a pie chart showing the top ten active users.
    • Find out the last time a specific user tried to login.

How did we use this to our benefit?

Here are a few things that we’ve already used Elasticsearch, Filebeat, and Kibana for with our structured logs:

  • Discovered numerous HEAD HTTP requests resulting in 405 HTTP responses
  • When John reported a kinops page showing a 500 error, the log entry for the error was quickly retrieved despite not knowing exactly when the error occurred. We were simply able to query for: app.user:john.sundberg@kineticdata.com AND level:(WARN ERROR)
  • Developed a ‘kinops Health’ Dashboard to show average request response times, errors counts, and access volume by spaces and users.
  • Setup alerting for when webhooks fail.
  • Helped improve our structured logging before release by using Filebeat and Elasticsearch.
    • Found multiple log entries that did not match our expected patterns which forced us to clean up our logging in the application.
    • When running a report to find top active IP addresses on kinops.io, we did not find nearly as many as we were expecting. This led us to realize we forgot to add support for X-Forwarded-For to get user IP addresses anytime a proxy is used.

Words, words, words. Show me something cool.

The following screenshots of graphs are all from Kibana

Dashboard Screenshot 1
Image shows HTTP response codes and Request times.

 

Dashboard Screenshot 2
This was a graph put together in less time than it took to listen to Waterfalls by TLC. The purpose of creating it was to illustrate how easy it is to get a feel for a user’s experience overtime.

 

Onboarding – Manager of First Impressions

This is the first in a blog series about onboarding; to read along and get updates, follow us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. To join our quarterly newsletter fill out the form in the right margin of this page ->

In this blog series we are going to focus on practical advice for one of the most complex, yet most common business processes.

Onboarding starts a new relationship. This is usually done in reference to a person or a business. And just like any relationship, this first experience accomplishes a lot. It sets expectations, communicates value and helps move the relationship along during the first critical moments.

The same can be said for business-to-business (B2B) companies. You will need to onboard new clients, customers and partners regularly. The trust and collaboration will be based on these preliminary transactions.

Being able to onboard well is a symptom of high performing organizations.

First impressions last forever! The onboarding process sets the expectations of the new employee, client or company. If it goes smoothly, they think things will go smoothly in the future.

Having the discipline, resources, foresight and leadership to make onboarding go smoothly is no simple feat. Oftentimes the complexity of a person or company destroys our ability to build something that works for every situation.

Nonetheless, through trial, error and sheer perseverance your teams can achieve an acceptable and delightful experience.

So how do we start?

Most designers agree that a map is a decent place to start talking about processes. Mapping out the workflow will help people understand what is being discussed along with the upstream and downstream impact. For example, if an HR role enters in a new hire name into a form; don’t make anyone type it again.

This might seem obvious, but if you’re drowning in paper forms you might not be able to see the forest through the trees.

Onboarding is a living and breathing process. It is always changing.

What happens prior to the on boarding process starting? Literally. What is the trigger to start onboarding? Did they accept an offer? Did they sign a contract? That’s a great place to start!

When they signed the contract, is that the last thing you need to get started? If not – work upstream to that contract or agreement so that you can gather the necessary information required to take on a new client/customer or teammate.

Next, how much lead time do you need?

If someone just signed a contract, how long until they have products in their hands? How long do you have to set up a new employee and prepare for their arrival? How long until they are trained?

When the first order of business is to do “all those things we didn’t do last time”, it looks like you are disorganized, your teams are disorganized and you can’t be bothered to make things better.

The stream of tasks and workflow to onboard a new employee should go as fast (or faster) than you expect the employee to also produce and contribute to the teams’ success.

And this is the most basic of all requirements for an onboarding process. You see the process should right-fit your culture and organization. Go as fast as needed for success. Not faster, nor slower. Both will cost you more than is necessary.

So hopefully mapping out the processes and seeing what needs to happen and when will start to make you look more organized. Like you care about this new relationship!

So how much of the experience of a new employee should we consider “onboarding”?

This is one of my favorite questions and it’s one of only two places left to innovate most onboarding programs. Many organizations already get the process of intake of personnel along with assignment of security and tools. Companies and teams looking to take onboarding to the next level, add security training to match their access and tool training as well. Then start career path activities and mentorship programs.

Putting these talent management basics in place at the onset of a relationship will help in very valuable ways. Things like attrition avoidance and risk mitigation. This isn’t just an investment in security, efficiency and recruiting; it’s also an investment in protecting intellectual property and talent retention.

The management of any relationship is, in entirety, onboarding.

From the moment a new relationship is formed, to the time professional ties change or sever, onboarding is happening.

If an organization has excellent ownership of internal and external processes, specifically in learning and development, there will be a continuous effort to grow and nurture relationships with and between staff.

This is also why it’s so hard to make improvements to onboarding as a process. You have employees, partners and clients participating in the process at all times.

The only time onboarding ends is when you complete offboarding. Lest we forget; if it’s important to give people access and tools, it’s probably just as important to remove their access and collect their tools.

This brings us to the next biggest innovation gap of most organization’s onboarding process.

Knowing what access, tools and skills each employee, customer or partner company has is an extremely valuable set of data. This value extends to multiple departments, processes and systems. It also keeps the information up to date for audit and reference within other processes and applications.

The easiest way to manage your most valuable assets (your people) is to capture their context when they start. Then manage the lifecycle to continue to keep this information up to date.

The opportunity cost of capturing what tools, access and skills an employee has during onboarding is too great for any organization to overlook.

As your team diversifies the skillsets needed to design and deliver great onboarding efficiency, content and procedures; the onboarding process will continue to improve. And so will your employees.

Stick with this series as we continue to explore on boarding. We’ll cover a myriad of related subjects on this topic.

Portals: Navigation and taxonomy

This post is the eighth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

Before search, the internet was pretty simple. You either knew someone who knew where to look for thing, or you knew where to look. Is your portal the same way? Is tribal knowledge required to find the right things?

Without search, it’s difficult for users to find what they need. Since search is much simpler technologically than ever before, this is pretty much a no-brainer. Enable search.

Okay, so now search is turned on – what’s next?

Make sure search works well! Does it find the things people want? Can you watch what people are searching for and landing on? Maybe what you call your “ERP system” is what most users call “The Dom” or “MyApp” or something else – enable search to find the right thing when these terms are searched!

Once search is working well – look out for other nonsensical “browsing” type taxonomies. This would include the ever-terrible categorization of things. What makes sense to one user may not make sense to another.

Again. TO THE USERS!

Personas allow you to present the right things to the right people. And if you ask the people, they will tell you the right time to present them.

Portals with personality are the best thing on earth. Yeah – amazon is great at suggesting things related to what I have purchased, but what if they could also change the navigation, browsing and prioritization of product presentation based on who I am?

This is one place where you have a major advantage over Amazon. You can know your people much better. You probably also serve a MUCH smaller market. Take advantage of this differentiation to know your customer and delight them.

One of my least favorite features of Amazon.com shopping is “departments”. You might know about this seemingly nonsensical categorization of products.

It does have a place. Some categories (like apparel) will have sizes. Some others (like computers) will have speed attributes you want to search and filter with.

So I’m not totally against it – however, do not force your customer to use something that doesn’t make sense to them. Unless you have the millions of products and services Amazon does, there may be no need to categorize all the things.

Put your categories/departments and various views in front of customers and see if they can tell where to find things. Time them. Then give them search. Time them again. Which one wins? Is there a use-case where the customer wants categories? Can you segment that experience? Maybe it’s for group conversation, or batch ordering – can you give that access to a select set of customers?

This basically covers most navigation needs – there are other non-product and non-services navigation items to consider. Things like profiles, shopping cart (if you have one), information, FAQ, contact and other secondary content should be accessible with navigation.

In short, navigation impossible to get truly perfect. Simplicity is usually the key.  If your portal software doesn’t have a default, consider hiring great designers and get constant feedback from customers. Do a bunch of user research. It’s going to take a lot of work to even get close to appealing to customers.

Otherwise, steal from something that works (gmail, twitter, whatever).

Portals: In your pocket

This post is the seventh in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

Team Leader: What do we want?

Team: Supercomputers in our pockets!

Team Leader: What do we got?

Team: Supercomputers in our pockets.

If you’ve made it this far in your journey toward a comprehensive customer portal: CONGRATULATIONS! You now have a system of customer engagement. This is a goal many brands fail at many many times before seeing success.

So – you know where I’m going next right? The customer. What do they want now? You’ve given them a voice, and enabled powerful access to your data and services.

What could customers possibly want besides everything?

Easy; they also want it all times and places.

They want this new system of engagement to be with them at all times. I’m working at 2am on my 23rd cup of coffee. I’m excited and inspired to make our company’s next new product.

Take the opportunity to delight your customers by fulfilling their needs at the time they need.

“Oh hey, I should tell finance about this material shortage that is predicted by our research partners” – goes to finance portal on iPhone.

“I need to order 300 pounds of rubber.” – goes to procurement portal on Android.

“I like Peter. What’s his email address?” – looks up employee info on a web browser on his child’s internet connected pillow.

These are the realities of today. These are not predictions. Your colleagues and co-workers deserve the right to work freely and to do so when it’s convenient to them and on their terms.

Does your portal require Internet Explorer 11 so that business rules can be enforced? Terrible.

Does your portal require a mobile version and a desktop version? Stupid.

Gone are these old perceptions of web development. Now there is only disruption, connection and communication. The rest is just a check-box on a management system.

Get every customer engagement on mobile to keep them as a customer.

Else; you may as well close the door on over half of your users, half of the time.

Portals: Seamlessness

This post is the sixth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

In the last five posts, you’ve gotten a website up and running – announced your team, set up a way for your team to talk to customers and another for customers to talk to your team. Last post we started exploring the possibility of integrating another system into your portal.

Whether you realize it or not, you have just made a terrible mistake.

No kidding.

The complexity of your little portal has more than doubled. Now that you have this other system “in there” it has the ability to hurt your customer experience! What if that system makes changes? What if the data fails? How will your customers feel? What perception are you giving them?

Which brings us to another element each portion of your portal needs consider; seamlessness.

Remember all that total-cost-of-ownership stuff I was rambling about last week? That’s what I mean. If that data source goes down, how does your portal look? Do the customers realize it’s down? How many ways can you stop a good experience? Too many.

Putting safeguards in place may help:

  1. Can you replicate the database/app locally and serve it through the website? This way if it goes down, your version stays up.
  2. Can you make the portal dynamic, so that if the data source is unavailable, users see a different page/experience?
  3. How about automated testing and alerting?

This stuff can be expensive – so it’s best to know what you’re getting into. Try things out, but always be ready to pivot.

What else causes a seamless experience for users?

Colors, text and words.

Ugh, I hate this one. But it’s equally important. To make the experience a good one, all your content “should” match. This phrase just makes me ill, because like perfection – this is unattainable. There will always be out of date content. One website will update before all the rest, one document will keep being out there without an update – this is just part of reality. Get ready to work on this for the rest of your career.

The look and feel should also match other websites and experiences – where possible.

Search is a huge part of how people interact with the web. Neglecting search is an active and intentional attempt to derail most modern technology users. This can also help make your portal seem seamless and get customers to engage.

Navigation has a large impact on experience. Designers working with personas understand that navigation for one person is not navigation for all people. And no matter what decision you make on the design of navigation, it will be wrong for some people. You’ll have to deal with it.

The best navigation supports permalinks for people that bookmark what they need, or use the autofill feature of their browser to navigate to exactly what they want. Here’s some awesome reading about navigation. Jared is a great writer about experience.

And as always – test these things and listen to your customers. They will tell you when your search results suck. They will tell you when they can’t navigate to their favorite spot in less than 2 clicks. They are here for you!

join us for the next segment “Is that a Portal in your pocket?” by following us on twitter or subscribing in the right-hand margin of this site —>