People power: Our LA schools project is succeeding because of the people

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I got a chance to spend the week with a great team this week in LA with the LA Unified School District. We are implementing our Extensible Assessment Manager (ExAM) solution to support inspections and compliance across the 2nd largest school district in the US. The mission is simple and complex at the same time – provide a safe and healthy environment for thousands of Los Angeles staff and students to prepare the next generation to succeed and lead. Our application is just a part of this task helping to ensure that mobile inspections can be conducted electronically with analysis and workflow enabling real time decision support across more than 900 schools.
I’m often impressed when I get on a client site by the passion and dedication our clients have with regard to their work. Maybe this is because our clients are generally those that are looking for a better mousetrap and are willing to change in order to get there.  LA has been exceptional in this regard. Sure we’ve hit snags along the way as we try to move their operations from a 10 year old Access database into our bright and shiny Salesforce platform based app (ExAM4Government.comExAM4Inspections.com), but at every turn we’ve been able to find a solution.
In working with them this week, I’ve noted a few things that I believe have helped us along the way that are probably true for every successful transformation project:
1. We have an internal evangelist. Every project needs someone who sees the solution to an internal project clearly and advocates strongly on its behalf even when times get tough. In LA we have a strong internal advocate that really believes that this project is going to change things for the better and is passionate about ensuring it comes to fruition.
2. We have executive commitment. An evangelist can’t operate without authority and if you don’t have an executive in your corner you won’t get the access to resources you need to succeed. In LA our internal evangelist has been given free reign to support the project because it is being backed by an executive who has bought into the program.
3. We have a committed team. It takes more than two people to change complex organizations. Our internal evangelist has sold the project to the broader team making it so that we get the right people in our meetings and the active participation every project needs to be successful.
I don’t think the three things above are all you need to be successful, but I’ll argue that it is awfully hard to succeed without them. Obviously, you need the right tools, technology and knowledge to make things go, but without getting the people side of things right you are asking for trouble. I’m excited about the next few weeks and about working with this team to finish what we’ve started. There is no better feeling than feeling than succeeding with a great team.
Check out our Spring 2014 Mobile Inspection Video! ExAM & Salesforce1: Mission Attainable

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Speaking, Training or Presenting? Don’t forget the most important thing…

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I love getting out and working with clients, giving workshops and otherwise directly interacting with our customers and our product. Today was one of those great days where there are no monotonous meetings. Just an all day series of training sessions and workshops with various groups using ExAM to support inspections, operations and services for DC General Services. The Department of General Services (DGS) has a mission to elevate the quality of life for the District with superior construction, first-rate maintenance and expert real estate management, our job with ExAM is working to help them achieve this mission.

I spent the early part of this week working with our team to get in all of the last bits of configuration in order to support our pilot effort. We tweaked profiles, finished documentation and made last minute changes to meet user requirements. This included making a last round of cosmetic changes. I decided to personally make some changes to simplify the user interface after I had already finished my dry run. After completing everything I polished my slides and went to bed early.

The training and workshop went great, however I did have one small glitch. In my efforts to simplify the user interface I found I had removed the tab that provides inspectors and field services staff with access to their list of assignments. After sending everyone a log-on and issuing a training assignment. I had watched as everyone received the e-mail and went through performing their task. One after another hands went up and chatter broke out. Nobody could find their assignments.

As I walked around the room I realized – I’d slimmed one of the most important parts of our application right off the interface. Fortunately, I was saved by the power of the Salesforce platform and I assigned people the correct tab and we were able to go forth without much impact but despite all my preparations I’d broken one of my cardinal rules. Don’t make changes after you have done your dry run.

The net result was a live opportunity to demonstrate how easy it is to make changes in Salesforce, but it could have been bad. By making changes after the dry run I opened myself up to simple, dumb user error. I try to always start over – no matter how boring it is, or how trivial the change. If I make any change. I restart. Dry runs help you catch errors both big and small. Always do a dry run and always do it after you’ve made the very last change. To do otherwise invites problems or as I like to think of them: Opportunities to show your ability to think on your feet.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.