Three things to think about before you build your next app

Everybody seems to be building an app these days and we spend a lot of our time helping those people achieve that goal. However, I am consistently surprised by how little thought has gone into basic things like the platform the app should be built on. The following isn’t an exhaustive list of things to consider, but it is a good starting point to help you frame your thinking when you start thinking about building an app for your organization:

1. Do other people use it? The community of people who are also building and using apps on your platform makes a big difference. It contributes to determining how available talent will be to work on your app, how comfortable people will be with the user interface and what the network of other apps that you may be able to connect to bring more value to your stakeholders will be. Bottom line the value of your app is in some part tied to how popular it is to build on top of the same platform.

2. Is it secure? This is a huge consideration that often doesn’t get the same attention as other factors until you start talking to the security folks in your organization. Then secure connections, two factor authentication and a myriad of other considerations start to get really critical.  Unfortunately, this is often well after the decision on where to be built has happened.

3. Can it scale and evolve? Even if your app is built in a cloud environment it is important to take scalability into account. Can you go from tens of users to thousands in a reasonable time line? Do you really get the economy of scale the cloud promises? Will success ultimately mean failure because it comes with lengthening response times and an inability to meet new user requirements?

The above are just a starting point, but I believe these simple questions are a good starting point for thinking about what to do BEFORE you decide to build your organization’s next app. If you want help thinking through the above get in touch.

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.

Using Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) to provide better customer service

Webinar: Service Cloud – Understanding Knowledge Management

One of the things most of us have experienced is the “newbie” customer service rep. Stuttering, sputtering and robotically reading from a script the rep stumbles through a time sucking call that inevitably ends with you getting disconnected en route to tier two support.

Whether it’s calling a company about a product or a government organization about a citizen service it’s always frustrating to hear confusion on the other end of the phone.

Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) is a methodology that focuses on knowledge as the key component of the customer service organization and it has been linked to significant decreases in the time it takes to onboard new staff, resolve customer issues and increases in customer satisfaction.

Salesforce’s Knowledge is KCS verified solution that can and should be married into your entire case management process. In particular organizations that have or require complex, compliance driven or standardized interactions with stakeholders can benefit from Knowledge. This video is part of a series built out of a training session on configuring Knowledge to support a generic Customer Service Knowledge Management process.

I think it becomes very easy to understand why knowledge management needs to be a consideration at almost every step in a modern case management process. When you start to look at each step in the case life cycle the opportunities to either build, edit, provide feedback or leverage become obvious.

 

 

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.

Lightweight project management made easy with Asana and Harvest

Asana & Harvest = Better Project Management

Asana & Harvest = Better Project Management

As we have grown and scaled one of the biggest challenges we have faced is ensuring that we maintain the type of collaborative environment we had when everyone sat in the same small office in Arlington, Virginia. Now with team members, partners and clients spread across time zones and the world we have had to work a little harder to keep everyone working towards the same goals. We’ve tried a bunch of different tools and combinations of tools with varying levels of success. While I’m sure this is something we will continue to evolve over time, I think what we have now is worth sharing.

We recently started using Asana  and Harvest to manage our consulting services projects and internal product development. Asana is a web and mobile application designed to enable teamwork without email and Harvest is a time tracking tool that tightly integrates with Asana. The combination is a great lightweight project management suite that while probably not capable of handling a heavyweight project management style marries nicely into our very agile and lightweight execution process. Basically Asana lets me assign tasks to team members, track progress and if necessary bring partners or other external stakeholders into a project simply by inviting them in. These partners can be provided access to just the task they are assigned, the project or the entire workspace (all projects).

One a project member has been assigned a task the first step for that person is always to estimate the time to completion and register it as a comment in against the task. When scope changes or if the assigned resource is going to exceed that time frame we ask that they provide an amended time estimate and an explanatory comment.  This is not meant to be punitive, in fact we expect 10% deviance within task estimates. The goals is to improve our estimating internally so that we can provide better estimates to our management team and to our clients. Understanding over time the level of effort associated with a particular type of UI change, data exchange or configuration task enables us to bid projects more competitively and understand where we may want to invest in order to reduce repetitive tasks. As a side note we also ask that resources request more information if they can’t provide an estimate without additional information. This helps us tune the type and level of detail provided by business analysts, project managers and other team members feeding requirements into the process.

Once the estimate has been provided its time to start working! Team members “check into a tasks” which directly tracks their time against the project.

Check in to track time.

Check in to track time.

This enables me to have literally up to the minute understanding of how our resources are being expended and better manage our budgets and client side execution. If a team member forgets to check into the task, they can simply log into Harvest directly and put their time directly against the assigned task.

Add time directly to Harvest

Add time directly to Harvest

As the time flows in I’m able to track what our resource means from a budget standpoint and maintain a tight control over resource allocation. For clients requiring weekly status reports I can automate much of the reporting requirement as the time keeping system (Harvest) also pulls in data from project management system (Asana) in order to enable a richer detail around what is actually being done during time keeping increments.

That’s really all there is to it. Our rollout of both was literally done over a weekend without any special consulting services needed. I simply imported pulled our existing projects list into Asana and then followed the very simple instructions for integrating the tool with Harvest. A month later the system is functioning fairly simply with very little instruction having been required to onboard internal staff or team members on the use of the application.

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.