Ten rules for developing knowledge management solutions

One of the hot topics in many organizations right now is knowledge management. Whether its in the context of customer service, business strategy, human resources, or information technology managing knowledge is a serious concern in most organizations. Whenever one of these projects or programs is getting ramped up the temptation is always there to try to create the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom. DON’T DO IT!
K.I.S.S is the right approach for knowledge management, especially as you get ramped up. Trying to do too much out of the gate or getting overly complex is where you run into trouble.
With that said I here are my ten rules for developing knowledge management solutions:
10. Keep it simple – People want a solution, not to be impressed by your eloquence or wit.
9. Keep it relevant – People care less about why than how.
8. Keep it standard – People like consistency. It’s boring but effective.
7. Keep it short (but complete) – People don’t want to click through to many hyperlinks or read too many articles in order to solve their problem.
6. Keep it accurate – People don’t need to find very many wrong answers before they stop looking for the right one.
5. Keep adding to it – People want answers to today’s problem today.
4. Keep it small – People don’t want to search thousands of answers in search of their answer, prune aggressively and often.
3. Keep it communal – People don’t just want your knowledge, broaden your community and lighten the load.
2. Keep it measured – People want the best answers, have an approach to understanding which answers are working.
1. Keep it easy – People can’t manage these things on their own, make sure you have the right tools.

Need help implementing your Salesforce Service Cloud or Knowledge Management Solution? Try our six weeks to success approach to Six Weeks to Success Cloud Quick Start

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.

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.

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Almost every IT organization is looking toward a future where more and more of their infrastructure moves into the cloud. Unfortunately, many of these organizations will stumble on their way to the cloud. The problem is often one of understanding the opportunity and how it maps to your business. Even more fundamentally the problem can be a misunderstanding of how IT should work for your organization. I think one of the biggest changes that is coming to complex organizations is that IT is going to become fundamentally about providing services to the organization. As such it will once again be measured on the outcomes it provides–exactly like every other organizational resource.

This may be a bigger shift than you think because for years IT managers have played the complexity card for so many years that in many organizations the “business” has learned its place. They’ve gone through long deployment cycles, built costly custom applications and lived with the enormous costs of dedicated on premise infrastructure. Every time the business complained they were told they just don’t understand, or that the reason was “complicated.” I believe that some of the slow adoption we see in the cloud is related to the fear some IT managers have in giving up the “complicated” card. The problem for these managers is that the cat is out of the bag. People’s lives are being changed every day by services that live in the cloud and securely interact with people. At some point they are going to stop believing that this same level of capability isn’t possible at work.

If external public cloud solutions are evaluated side by side with in house solutions there is a fear that the in house solutions will come up short and thereby lose the confidence of the business.  This is a real possibility given the maturity of some cloud solutions, the inherent advantage they have in achieving scales of economy and the benefits of having in many cases thousands of clients to have developed best practice in a particular domain area.

That isn’t to say on premise can’t win. Some things may simply be judged as too sensitive to perform outside of the business, have legal requirements that prevent movement to the cloud or simply be so custom to the business that there is no cloud model that is applicable. This is becoming fewer and farther in between. Mature cloud environments like those at Amazon, Google and Salesforce provide incredible robust enabling everything from plug and place applications to highly configurable and customizable infrastructure environments.

 

For IT managers the trick is in transitioning to providing advice on when to use these various models when to provision internally and serving as an honest broker between internal and external services.  I’ve seen a lot of adversarial meetings where internal IT resources advocate against cloud solutions in a way that sounds a lot more like they are supporting their internal product rather than serving as a trusted advisor counseling the business on the choices they have for solutions.

IT organizations that fail to take on this trusted advisor role may find themselves losing the trust of the business followed closely by the business of the business. Don’t put yourself in this predicament.  The forecast for the future is cloudy. Positioning your organization as a trusted advisor capable of understanding the tradeoffs that are a part of organizational success in the cloud.

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.

What type of cloud (Saas, PaaS, IaaS) is best for your organization?

Using SaaS to solve problems.

Using SaaS to Solve Problems.

Everybody is talking about the cloud right now. Unfortunately they often aren’t making many distinctions. Cloud simply equals cloud. However there is a big difference between just moving dumping your on premise boxes to move into a public cloud offering (IaaS) and buying a true SaaS solution.

Moving your boxes “to the cloud” may help help you cut some infrastructure costs, but it doesn’t necessarily solve a business problem. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for finding infrastructure savings in the cloud. However I think people should differentiate between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS and and look at their business application portfolio for cloud opportunities in the following order:

1. Can we do it with a SaaS solution? Software as a service provides capabilities your organizations need “on-demand.” Start here because turnkey often equals the most transformative impact on the organization. Everybody thinks their organization is unique…and it is…however it is probably not so unique that it can’t use a standard solution to solve many of its problems.  A lot of money gets wasted every day because an organization simply couldn’t figure out how to achieve their business goals in a bit closer to a standard fashion. When looking at the possibility of SaaS keep an open mind about your existing business processes and how a SaaS solution might help you focus on your business not your business application.

2. Can we do it with a PaaS solution? Platform as a service typically includes operating system, database, and/or web server.  If nobody has a ready made solution for the capability your organization requires start looking at PaaS options. Getting your OS, database and other core capabilities served up can help simplify your life and lower your maintenance costs. Just be careful that you understand how upgrade processes work, etc because while you may not have to worry as much about maintaining patch levels and other application and OS level headaches, you may have to deal with issues that come with having others worry about them.

3. Can we do it with a IaaS solution? Infrastructure as a service are essentially virtual machines where you install your own OS, database, etc to build out your applications. If you are not ready to give up control, need complete flexibility or are only ready to take baby steps towards the benefits the cloud can provide this is for you. Let somebody else hug your boxes, while still preserving visitation rights. IaaS can help you take the first steps towards reducing costs, without causing any business layer repercussions.

Its about YOUR business

As a SaaS solution provider I’m a bit biased in my discussion above. However, we got into this business because I believe SaaS makes the most business sense for many organizations and for many capabilities. I’ve spent a lot of time working with organizations that are struggling to reduce costs and deliver capability that is useful to their organization. Millions are spent to deliver custom solutions to very common problems. We chose inspections, assessments and data calls for our app because everybody does them, but few do them well. Because of that I’ve spent much of the last two years migrating people out of access databases, excel spreadsheets and custom solutions and into a more standard set of capabilities.

This isn’t just the case with our software there is a movement afoot around SaaS because the value prop is so straightforward. Save money, save headaches, and get more features and functionality. Where it make sense SaaS solutions are an incredible driver of business value. It allows the organization to get out of the IT business and focus on their real business. Things like inspections, assessments and data calls are handled in a pretty standard way from organization to organization. Why would you build a custom application to handle something so straightforward?

We built ExAM4Enterprise.com to help organizations meet those business requirements without having to roll their own web or mobile application or manage onsite infrastructure. You still own your data, you can still bring it into your other capabilities and applications. You lose nothing except headaches and gain the benefit of our persistent focus on advancing the capabilities of the application in order to maintain our market leadership. For most organizations we offer an over 75% reduction in total cost of ownership while delivering increased capabilities.

How is it possible? We built our app on the Salesforce.com platform. They handle over a billion transactions almost everyday. That scale makes our infrastructure costs negligible. Essentially the backend of our app is built to the scale of more than 120,000 customers including most of the world’s largest organizations. At the same time we are able to completely focus on delivering the capabilities our customers need without having to focus on things like infrastructure and platform. In the end it means that we spend all of our time innovating – not implementing the backend. Our customers get a level of response that simply wasn’t possible 10 years or even 5 years ago.

Interesting in learning more? Take a look at the appexchange to see what sort of SaaS applications exist generally and of course if you have inspection, assessment or data call requirements – take a look at our app, or go to ExAM4Enterprise.com.

 

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.

Salesforce and Security: Trust them, it’s in their best interest to care

 

Salesforce and Security

Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service are being embraced broadly in both the public and private sector. In this video I focus primarily on Software as a Service but I’ll cover each a bit here.

Infrastructure as a Service leads to some efficiencies from a cost standpoint, but that it could also perpetuate and even accelerate some organizational problems by making it easier/cheaper to rapidly stand up new server instances, etc. This in turn simply adds to the complexity of what must be managed by the business, security staff, etc. On the other hand it also preserves the organizations ability to maintain much of the precise application profile it currently leverages. This can be a great comfort for organizations that have successful applications supporting capabilities but that are interested in the economics of the cloud.

Platform as a service is sort of the next logical step up from IaaS and helps address some of the complexity issues I mentioned earlier. Finally Software as a service is where I believe organizations have the most potential. There is a much more of a focused value proposition for the business and hopefully a better technology to business mapping. The downside of course is that it involves change and that of course change comes with its own issues. In this video I talk about the above factors and specifically about Software as a Service as embodied by Salesforce.com.

Our experience in getting into the AppEchange and talking to customers has included a lot of learning about how customers think about the cloud and I share some of that as well as our experience in dealing with security questions. One of the big things customers get concerned about with the cloud is the multi-tenancy aspect of it. Essentially your stuff is right next to someone else’s stuff, so how secure can it be? I think one of the keys is that essentially Saleforce.com manages a fairly homogenous technical environment. Saleforce.com benefits financially by developing economies of scale around hardware, software and even things like skills/HR, but that all of this lends itself to enhanced security because it reduces complexity and streamlines things like patching, etc. My first thought when he mentioned this was the 500+ systems that many cabinet level agencies in the federal government of the thousands of applications many Fortune 500 companies have within their organization. Most of these are built to purpose with limited standardization of hardware and software and diverse skill requirements. The level of complexity inherent in securing this is obvious when you look at it from this standpoint even before you think about the additional cost and inefficiency driven by this sort of environment. There is also a heavy incentive to align their security interests and that of their partners with their customers. The dangers of the fall out from a serious breach ensure that they are more likely to err on the side of secure.

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.

Salesforce.com: Flexibility, scalability, and security

EXAM logo

Today is a pretty big day for Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates. As many of you know, we have been doing a lot of work in Salesforce and in the force.com platform. Almost all that work to this point has been on behalf of other organizations as part of developing our privately listed app. We’ve been working with these various organizations to extend it to help them make better decisions to support data calls, help people get to enterprise value out of data calls and data collection efforts, and to help organizations re-platform low to medium complexity applications to reduce costs. Those are the big three use cases.

As of yesterday, we’ve now taken our privately listed application and made it public and we are officially in the app store. Any organization can begin to embed our unique value proposition into their organization. We are joining 450 other independent software vendors including very large organizations like BMC and their RemedyForce application as well as other small boutique businesses. In fact if you look at out of the more than 1800 enterprise class apps that are in the app store, the top ten are a really mixed bag of very large vendors and very small vendors. I think that in and of itself highlights the power of the platform.  That is what attracted us to it.

Building a truly enterprise application is very difficult and we’ve done quite a bit of work in that area. We were amazed at how quickly we were able to build a secure and truly scalable application that could meet the needs of our largest clients, which include some of the largest private sector companies and public sector organizations in the world. So it is a proud day for us. We’re very excited about what we believe this is going to do for organizations when this is global.

Public sector or private sector, everybody is facing a budget crunch. Fortunately we’re at a really unique point in technology where almost every organization has the ability to significantly reduce costs.  I’ve talked extensively about using things like the Troux enterprise portfolio management capability to find those areas of savings, look for redundancies, and look for things that can be re-platformed. There’s a whole bunch of work done in that area with the right approach. From there you need to take action because without acting on your findings there will be no savings. So you have to figure out a way to retire those applications in your portfolio that don’t make sense, find a way to re-platform the things that do you have, and find a way to reduce costs and this is a really great way to do it.

I think that a lot of organizations are coming to the same conclusion that we did, which is that if you’re going to build a new application that’s for resale and add it to the marketplace like we did or a custom application for your organization, you absolutely have to look at Salesforce or force.com as a possible place to support that application. Without it you don’t have the server and infrastructure spend that you’d otherwise have. There’s almost no organization that can get the type of economies of scale that Salesforce is getting on your behalf. It’s almost impossible to have the type of scalability, security, and flexibility that you can get with the software as a service application on top of force.com that you’re going to be able to get on your own because you are simply not buying things on that scale. So I’m curious where others see their organization moving, re-platforming to save money, or building out solutions. If you haven’t taken a look at it it’s really worth taking a look at Salesforce and the force.com platform. I know that we’ve been amazed at the ease of use, scalability, and flexibility that it has provided us.

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.