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.

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3 reasons the cloud is more secure than you think…

6 weeks to Salesforce Nirvana

When you are in the cloud business (as we are) you get used to people making some pretty bold statements about scalability, agility, cost and all the other miracles that are supposed to come with “moving to the cloud.” However one thing that I think goes unmentioned often times is that enhanced security may be something that comes along with a move to the cloud. Despite the fact that security is among the biggest worries for new clients moving to the cloud, I think security is often enhanced when you move to the cloud. I’m going to base the following statements on the Salesforce model so please don’t think what I say here applies everywhere but I think some of the same concepts apply. Here are three reasons why:

1. Nobody wants to be on the front page of the Washington Post for the wrong reason. In the case of a FedRamp approved vendor like Salesforce that provides a “walled garden” approach to development in the cloud in the way AOL did for the internet so many years ago the cloud is truly a safer place. This is because Salesforce enforces strict security policies for development on all of its tenants. After all if MB&A makes a serious mistake in the way we build an application on the platform we may be in the story but Salesforce will be the headline.

2. All the solutions are built on one solution. Cloud platform vendors like Salesforce that have a consistent infrastructure, patching, and security model based on economies of scale and a relatively homogenous IT environment are easier to secure. Even when you do almost 2 billion transactions a day across 130,000 clients like Salesforce you still can have less complexity within your infrastructure than are involved in a place like the Department of Agriculture with more than 700 systems each with its own infrastructure, support contractors, and other unique elements.

3. They are watching the big picture and the little picture at the same time. At salesforce you can always go to trust.salesforce.com and see how the platform is performing across the platform. In fact because of their size and scale when Salesforce is watching its tenants in the cloud it is watching the big picture enabling it to meet the evolving security landscape. Also, because of the Salesforce community which enables customers across the platform to interact and share information issues that might not see the light of day are vetted by the entire community helping create a safer platform for all.

I’d love to tell you that we built ExAM4Government.com and ExAM4Inspections.com on the platform because of the security but we did it primarily on the basis of its many features from being natively mobile to scalability to affordability. The security angle is something we really came to appreciate after the fact. Now with FedRamp and the many security concerns that government customers have we are glad we made that decision. If you are interested in learning how we can help you move your Service Cloud or Salesforce platform implementation along in six weeks check out our offer at: info.mbaoutcome.com/salesforce/ if you are interested in how we help public sector clients manage inspections, compliance, risk and forms check out: try.exam4inspections.com/demo/

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.

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Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton – This is Stones Throw Records

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton

I watched Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton – This is Stones Throw Records last night about avant-garde Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records. As someone who has always loved music the movie is exceptional because it gives you some rare behind the scenes look into some of the better off the beaten path musicians that aren’t being pushed by major labels, but that are putting out some of the most unique and truly new music available today. However, as an entrepreneur and for anyone looking for the guts to see their ideas through to the finish this is a great film because of Peanut Butter Wolf.

Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak) had a vision and stuck with it until it succeeded. This is very much a story about an entrepreneur who believed in his own vision through thick and thin. He continues to innovate within the music business to achieve success for artists who otherwise would probably not be able to get their music out into the mainstream…or at least as mainstream as Stones Throw Records audience is.

The film includes live concert footage, archival material, and in-depth interviews that show the charismatic leadership and innovative thinking that has powered Stones Throw for more than 2 decades as so many other independent music labels have been acquired, gone out of business or otherwise faded away. For myself and I think for anyone who has worked hard to build something on their own it’s always refreshing to see someone grinding it out, sticking with their vision and succeeding. Stones Throw is a great reminder that there’s more than one way to do things and that going with what everyone else is doing isn’t always the secret to success.

When we started ExAM a lot of people thought we should stick to management consulting…after all what do a bunch of strategy and technology nerds know about inspections and compliance. Two years later our software powers the second largest school district in the US, our Nation’s Capitol, the largest non-DoD public sector organization in the US and many other organizations large and small. If you haven’t seen it yet you can get a demo of our summer release here and save 10%.

 

 

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.

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Just change the name already and start working forward

I grew up a Raiders fan. My Mom’s side of the family is from El Segundo, California where the team practiced for years and it was just a natural thing for a kid to grow up love Marcus Allen and the Raiders. When we moved to DC, I tried to hold out and stay true to the Raiders but eventually the home team won out. I converted to the burgundy and gold and never looked back…until now.

I’m a sixteenth Blackfoot which isn’t enough to become an official member, but my opinion on this has nothing to do with my tiny drop of Indian heritage and everything to do with something most people learn in kindergarten. Step one to getting along with people and being successful is just being nice. My mom would always say “Just start by being nice and think will generally be ok.” I’m pretty sure the team didn’t choose the name to be hurtful. So why should they change it? Because if a large group of people are hurt by something you should stop doing that thing if you can.

Rather than debating who is in charge of who’s feelings or talking about the “storied” history of the franchise. Just change the name. This isn’t going away and eventually the name is going to change. The question is when and how gracefully.

For management this is an opportunity to do make the right decision. I guarantee there are people in the organization that know this is going to happen and will be relieved when it does. There are also those thinking that changing now is an admission they were wrong to not change the name before. That changing is an admission of previous guilt and wrong thinking. There may even be a few who think the name is ok and don’t understand why choosing a name for their team that a large number of people find offensive is ok.

I think its the first two groups of people that need to think hard about what the future holds. The third group missed the just be nice lesson in kindergarten and probably isn’t going to change their minds anytime soon. In business there is the concept of sunk cost and I think that applies here. While the team’s management has expended resources both real and emotional on keeping their tradition and their name, that time has passed. It is now simply a matter of when the name change is going to occur. The sooner it happens the sooner you can begin the process of building new traditions and focusing on the game and their on the field product. Instead of spending precious time and resources fighting change and maintaining this link to the past the team should be working to move forward.

In management clinging to the past and tradition can often hide a fear about the path forward or how to change. I’m not saying there aren’t people in the organization that believe that keeping the name is ok or that don’t understand why anyone cares. I’m just saying that I don’t believe the team will be called what it is today in five years and rather than focusing efforts on pushing that date out further management should embrace the inevitable and begin working towards a new era. I think that the team’s focus on maintaining its name shows an unwillingness to understand that this is unwinnable fight and a lack of thinking about the opportunities a name change might bring. Great managers know what battles to fight and find opportunity in challenging circumstances.

Until this team figures out how to move forward I’ll be putting the silver and black on and trying to stay up late enough to re-discover my Raider roots.

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.

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Hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard…

Be better, not just bigger

Be better, not just bigger

I never missed a meal growing up…ever. As the oldest of six kids you can tell who made the dinner table a priority. Our family has five skinny kids and me, the guy who never met a menu item he didn’t like. Along with it came all the stupid big kid nicknames like Moose, Big Poppa, and BigUn. One thing you get told over and over again when you are always the biggest kid is to be careful not to hurt the other kids. Of course it wasn’t all bad and being a bit bigger helped me get recruited by schools and pay for college, something that was otherwise going to be a challenge.

As I’ve gotten older and taken up jiu jitsu as a means of staying in shape I’m still often the biggest guy which still means being careful not to hurt people. It also means focusing harder on technique and the proper way of doing things. One thing that is easy to do when you have a 100 pounds on the guy you are working out with is to become focused on the outcome and use size to ensure you win. This may make you feel a little better about yourself in the near term but it is a surefire way to slow your development. In fact it completely ruins any feedback loop you may be trying to establish that would enable you to measure your progress. One thing I have done because of this is to really try to focus on proper execution over results and ensuring that I’m doing things correctly so that I can compensate for some of the natural advantages that size and strength bring, so that I’m prepared should the day come when I don’t have those advantages. I’ve also made it a habit of finding people who are better than me that can expose my weaknesses despite any physical advantage.

These are the same challenges that many of us face in developing new skills as managers and executives. Its sometimes hard to tell if we are getting better because the power of the position makes the feedback loop a bit more fuzzy. Nobody really wants to tell their boss that the new skill they are working on really isn’t hitting on all cylinders. Because of this is is critical to focus on your execution and really try to build your own ability to gauge your progress. It is also critical to identify and encourage those that are willing to provide you with constructive feedback to be forthcoming. As we move through our careers and advance it becomes harder and harder to get feedback on our performance because there are fewer opportunities and individuals that can provide that feedback. Contrary to the popular belief that things get easier as you advance in your career, increasing your skills often actually gets harder. Figuring out ways to ensure that you continue to progress means improving your internal capability to critique your performances and cultivating relationships with others that are willing and capable of providing this feedback to you becomes more and more critical as you refine your skills and advance in your career.

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.

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

EXAM logo
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.

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

EXAM logo

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.

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