You are the Software you Buy.

Software reflects the beliefs and assumptions of those who make it.

The mundane decisions developers make affects how companies function. Thus; developers can have a large impact on your functions, teams and success.

Good companies chose platforms, languages and tools that enable their success. Great companies find partners that are enjoyable to work with and share common values.

teamIt’s up to your vendors to be transparent with their culture, sharing their beliefs. And the responsibility is on the enterprise to explore that vendor’s philosophy.

This becomes even more important as you consider platforms that determine long lasting success. If you’re going to have an application for three years or more, how do you expect the software to change? What new decisions are the product managers at that firm going to make in five years?

Can you influence their decisions?

Diligent buyers develop a relationship with a software company before purchasing. Some attend user groups and build something before a sales cycle. Others inspect or fork code on github, or use a trial version.

So, what are you buying? How do the users feel? Have you made a good match? Ask!

To learn more about our culture, watch a short video here. We’ll also continue to post our beliefs and values here, so stay tuned!

You Released a Catalog; Now What?

Adoption: Getting People to Use your Catalog

If people don’t use your portal, there is a risk of missing returns on your investment. This is important because an initiative like a self-service portal is usually sold to leadership as part of a cost-savings initiative.

catalog open

Marketing

How do you get your customers to think about your portal when they need something? To understand this, consider the lifecycle of technology adoption. Innovators and early adopters will be easy to convince since a new portal to make requests is a disruptive change. For the rest of your audiencemarketing is key to making people aware the catalog exists and what value it provides.

Some keys to marketing your catalog include simply talking to people about it, putting it on your hold music, send links to the portal and have service agents talk to callers about your catalog. Partner with your internal marketing teams and corporate messaging teams to share stories about the self-service catalog. Of course, linking to your catalog from intranet pages and emails is also important.

Informational sessions, brown bags, new hire orientation and all-hands meetings are some more great platforms to share the stories and value of your catalog.

Experience

Having a great experience is a non-negotiable requirement of any self-service portal. If the first interaction customers have with your catalog is not a good one, they may never come back. To achieve this, partner with your customers to capture and provide input to what they would like the experience to be like. Watching people order things is a great place to start.

Improvement: Making the Catalog a Part of Company Culture

Build analytics and measurement into your catalog to determine what services people are using, which ones they aren’t using and identify what your customers are looking for. Having access to what people are searching for can help you understand what services they are looking for that may not be available yet.

Surveys help you understand if people are happy with your portal, upset with your portal and gives people a voice and input into your systems. To increase survey response rates try rewarding respondents and adding incentive to users helping you build the portal. And when something changes on your portal, make sure you communicate and understand the impact on your customers.

Making frequent small improvements keeps change simple for your end users. Make sure your items have a similar look and feel, and make ordering easy. Focus on the customer experience, and never stop improving.

Expansion: growing the use of your catalog

There are lots of ways to expand. Adding departments, services or even a new portals are challenges you may need to overcome. Seeking out the power-users, information brokers and persuaders to discuss the design and functionality of your portal will be exponentially valuable.

There are a couple ways to scale your expansion. One way is to build items and technology features to be reused and leveraged by power-users. Building activities and functions that are repeatable and modifiable will make your catalog easier to use and therefore more likely to I used.

Another is to build your technology in such a way to distribute the details of your services. This might include being able to leverage a standard approval workflow, or giving business professionals the ability to customize their own forms. This may take some careful planning and maybe even re-work, but the investment is worth it when demand increases.

Support: How to Scale Innovation

Since most modern technology platforms can literally do anything, we need to break the habit of asking “Can it…” and start planning how to approach a solution.

Exploring what your platforms are capable of keeps you in the role of “early-adopter” which makes you a key resource to the people leveraging this technology. This role will often start automating solutions or fixing problems that people have been complaining about for years. This is an important step in the life of a self-service platform.

Expand who is using the platform, give them a framework to work within and cross-train. Having multiple people involved in a system like this removes the risk of having a single point of failure.

Nobody knows everything, so getting others involved will also help scale exploration. Continuously learn more about the technologies that are providing the value your team and company need.

Lastly, keeping your platforms up to date keeps you leveraging new functionality and feature sets as well as keeping you learning more about the enabling technology.

Get Started

Ready to get started implementing a catalog that can grow? Start learning more today at http://kineticdata.com.

Kinetic Data creates business process software that delights its customers, making them heroes by transforming both the organization and the people who work there. Since 1998 Kinetic Data has helped hundreds of Fortune 500 and government customers — including General Mills, Avon, Intel, 3M and the U.S. Department of Transportation — implement automated request management systems with a formula that is proven, repeatable and ready to implement. The company has earned numerous awards for its superior products and support. Kinetic Data serves customers from its headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., offices in Sydney, Australia, and through a valued network of reseller partners. For more information, visitwww.kineticdata.com, follow our blog, and connect with us on Twitter andLinkedIn.

Trying is Everything

How are we going to solve this problem?

It’s impossible to know all the possible solutions to a given problem, and the more complex the problem, the more possible solutions there may be.

Nothing inspires me to grab my toolbox more than problems that need solving. How do you add solutions to your toolbox? How do you hone your skills in applying those tools?

This is why trying is everything.tools

Without the upfront work of experience and trying things, you may not know which tool is sharpest, or the best fit for problem.  In tech work this means trying lots of things, platforms, technologies and approaches to applying those technologies. It means talking to people who have tried lots of things and connecting to people who carry a bigger toolbox or sharpened tools.

Get involved in communities, join meetups focused on solutions and try everything!

Ready to try something new? Join our hackathon: http://developer.kineticdata.com/hackathon

Scoping Technology Differently, Differentiates

tl;dr (too long, didn’t read) – Switching to the latest toolset just catches you up to competitors, it doesn’t take you past them. If your goal is differentiation and increasing value past “par” then design for rapid technology change, perform regular system evaluations and have an honest and transparent tool selection processes.

 

Your enterprise has several platforms that are capable of accomplishing literally anything. With enough development these systems can likely perform many business functions. But should they? Just because your jackknife has a saw doesn’t mean you will enjoy using it; there may be a better tool.

How can you tell what each system should do? Enter the “Enterprise Architect” (EA), this person is essentially a business analyst and technologist, and hopefully has a great deal of understanding how systems fit together. They are ready to tell you which tools should do which tasks. They do this by analyzing toolsets and balancing the goal of optimizing value while decreasing overhead. For instance, building an intranet site for department use on SAP is going to take quite a bit of customization and org-change, while Sharepoint is built for this purpose (and your company already has a license). Bring them your goals.

This applies to all functional areas. Daily work in human resources (HR) handles aspects of talent and career paths, these functions are unique to this team and have specific tools that work great for this space.  Building something from scratch is not a wise investment and can lead quickly to waste and missed opportunity. But if the organization is a talent agency, it’s likely they have a custom system for managing people. This is their differentiation.

So what happens when new tools or demands are raised? Enter the “Business Relationship Manager” (BRM), this role is essentially a business analyst with great listening and persuasion skills. These people partner with the architects mentioned above to make things happen – this can mean pushing features that didn’t exist before, switching platforms or finding better data sources or integrations.

In the HR example above you can quickly see how HR uses these features and technology to differentiate their value. They are collectively better as they improve and iterate their tools and processes. Perhaps their toolset allows them to cross-reference LinkedIn data with compensation, or compare performance with career path; whatever the case, if there is business value in quality talent, enabling these toolsets is the goal. This should be clear to the BRM and Architect alike, and they should know whether the talent management system can handle an integration of that sort. Maybe they get a business intelligence app involved or just work slowly toward this goal.

This applies broadly across the enterprise. If you aren’t able to differentiate, you run the risk of missed value and ultimately irrelevancy. As technology continues to be the differentiator of choice, the importance of having quality Architects and BRMs increases. Getting quality masterful value out of your toolsets is their sweet spot.

How Come Our Culture Isn’t Better?

Week 3 in a three-part series about differentiation.
Hiring the right people. Have you seen this done well? If we accept that failure is inevitable, meaning you How Culturecan’t hire perfectly well %100 of the time, then how do you make sure you’re getting the right people to fill your needs?
That’s easy!
Are you accomplishing your goals? Are you exceeding them? These two questions capture the urgency and essence of how truly great companies look for ideas.
This desire for new ideas, a thirsty exploration and acceptance of ideas is something I’ve seen firsthand at only a couple organizations. If you find it, take note, for you are in the presence of something very great. A culture that begs for change is not something you can create overnight, and something that I suspect doesn’t scale.
In both cases, the culture of the organization was the first goal right at the beginning. If you have competing goals, and a different primary goal you will be quickly distracted with profit, product or performance and one of the millions of details of running a successful organization.

How Come There Are No New Ideas?

Week 2 in a three-part series about differentiation.
We don’t have time to innovate.Ideas and Listening
Everything’s already been tried.
We just aren’t a very innovative company.
Heard them all? Your team has. And the person who doesn’t hear, doesn’t recognize and doesn’t believe them is the employee that’s sure to be innovating. New ideas are everywhere. However, in some cultures, ideas must go into hiding for self preservation. Idea abuse is a real problem and can be recognized by the symptoms including cricket sounds when conference calls open up for questions, people hide their best ideas and people are used to hearing “no”.
Why is this?
What suggestion did your mail room employee just mention to his co-worker on the dock while taking in the daily barrage of Amazon boxes? What if their supervisor doesn’t listen? What if they do, but then their manager doesn’t? How can co-workers cut through the beauracracy quickly and prove ROI without being enabled?
The answer is that they can’t. Or if they can, they won’t.
Here’s the story.
An inspired and new employee has been mentioning new ideas to her boss for 3 years, one day a consultant came in and sold an idea to management. After a lengthy and expensive project, which failed, your new employee is livid. She even takes the time to analyze and report why the idea wouldn’t have provided value even if the project were successful. Yet her ideas go unnoticed, unrecognized by management and never realized by her coworkers.
This employee might muster up the courage to quit, or even look for a new position where their voice will be heard and valued. But maybe they won’t. Maybe they are the primary earner in their household and they can’t take a risk on a new job. In both of these cases this woman will keep quiet and do the minimum possible to complete her “duties as described”.
How can you break this cycle?
Some say new leaders are needed, some people think a feedback process might work. I usually go for something a bit more direct and impactful; transparency.
Your employees need love and care. People want to be heard, valued and rewarded. They want to be part of a team. Not just watching from the sidelines. So cut to the core, build systems of engagement that scale and stop silencing voices with process, approvals and hierarchy.
Next week: Culture as a measure for your ability to differentiate.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Week 1 in a three-part series about differentiation.
 shutterstock_369924926
In knowledge work, there are typically several unspoken things teammates are expected to contribute. One such tool is brainstorming. Although not many job descriptions really include this in the “required skills and experience”, hiring crews are always trying to understand a candidate’s ability to come up with new ideas. Critical thinking, questioning and trying things are essential skills in any teammate.

 

The second thing most people bring is a network of people who help think through or talk out ideas. Almost every teammate brings this too, along with former co-workers, industry connections and networks, not to mention friends and family.

 

These are the things that can’t be automated, can’t even be ‘manufactured’ per se. Talent takes pride in that kind of value. There is comfort knowing that a person’s skills can’t be replaced by a system, or automation.

 

So?
Your people are your differentiator.

 

Your people may have a passion about work that is so genuine, so pure, that they can’t help but talk about the next project. When they are out and about, their minds wander, usually to topics in which they have real interest. People can see your employees honing ideas and jotting them down everywhere. They take ideas and experiences and apply to them to their craft. Sharpening it and honing it with little oversight and minimal micro-management

 

Pioneering Change with Learning and Courage

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”

-John Maxwell

Thirty years ago the Challenger Space shuttle exploded as America watched in shock and horror. This tragedy was perhaps one of the biggest speed bumps in our humanity’s progress toward furthering space exploration.

The men and women who gave their lives that day were the brave pioneers that took the biggest risk for their team.  And how did we respond? By mourning, remembering and honoring them by continuing to fail well on our path toward space exploration.

The amount of planning, work, engineering and money that led up to the mission was massive. The amount of review work, post failure; also massive. These are all the costs of innovative change. The political leadership, development of NASA and funding of the space program; all of these things might seem impossible if they hadn’t been done yet. And they hadn’t. So how did we get here?

Human beings traveling to space was unthinkable.

Without starting there is no failure. Without failure we will never succeed in something that was once unthinkable.  Why?  Because failure offers us the best opportunity to learn and evolve.

So how did we get to that point? How does a group of people start exploring the unknown? How do we start taking the right path toward failure? And once we fail, how do we learn and adjust?

No matter what your goal is, having the right team is where you start. Once you’ve got the necessary people, just start. Talk about what you are going to try, and don’t forget to discuss the elephant in the room: how will you respond to failure?

Do everything you can to plan and account for failure in all you try. Because failure is eminent, including it in your planning means you get to decide how you react. Planning on putting in a business critical system? How flexible does it need to be to account for new situations? What happens when your system goes down? Does it completely destroy your ability to be productive?

Is there a better way? If so, you’ll probably learn it during your journey.