Troux: The answer to the new budget reality

Troux the answer to the new budget reality

 

I had the very good fortune to be invited to take part in a happy hour with great food and good drinks with Troux after the Enterprise Architecture (EA) conference I attended yesterday. Throughout the last few years where it seems as if every quarter has been their biggest quarter, they’ve also managed to consistently be rated amongst the leaders in EA in periodicals and places such as Gartner. I really believe that this is going to be their year in the Federal space and that everything will start to click for many reasons.

The first reason is the idea of Troux On-Demand. Some things that every customer is faced with when acquiring these types of decisions support tools is the big capital investment needed upfront, the resources required to get things going, and the sense that it’s going to take a long while to get to value. These can all be seen as strong deterrents. What has changed this perception in the Federal space is this idea of Troux On-Demand, a cloud service within the Amazon Gov cloud that can essentially be turned on and combined with the accelerator programs that Troux has developed to allow organizations to get to value quickly, in 90 days, 120 days etc.

The combination of those things is going to create this really unique package for Federal that allows organizations to come in, identify areas where they can save money, root out redundancy, and all the other things that organizations are going to have to do to meet budget requirements. The budget climate has gotten to where there is simply no way to continue on doing things the way they have always been done.  A lot of organizations that we’re talking to are just looking at what they’ve got for funding and trying to figure out how they are going to continue to deliver on the mission.

At last night’s event there was this real sense that the combination of need and the evolution of the technology was going to create this incredible opportunity in the federal space for folks that have cracked the nut on how to deliver answers in that space quickly, relatively painlessly, and of course cost is always a factor. By being able to address something as a service, you’re able to reduce that huge front end expenditure with some of these tools. You can see pretty rapid adoption even in the federal space which is sometimes a little bit more conservative.  So I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out. We’ve developed some federal specific offerings around the idea of coming in and understanding the portfolio quickly so we’re very excited about what they put together. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that see this as how they are going to continue to meet the mission given even the extraordinary challenges that we are facing today.

 

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.

Brainstorming dead end? Try doodling

Brainstomring

I keep a stack of legal sized paper, a pencil, and a couple different colors of pens on my desk at all times. When people first walk into my office and see the set up I’ll sometimes have people laugh at me but there is a reason for this. Whenever I have people in my office and we’re talking through a problem, I like to take a sheet of legal paper and just start drawing. I think part of the reason I’m getting laughed at is because I’m sitting at our high technology company and I’m pulling out a piece of paper to draw on instead of my computer; but I really think it’s one of the most powerful brainstorming tools at your disposal.

A pencil and paper gives you so much more freedom to make mistakes, to throw things away, and to just start over. The classic pencil/paper combo is also a timesaver across the board.  Being able to quickly sketch something out gives you that sense that remaking, erasing, crumpling up and starting over isn’t the end of the world because you’ve only lost a few minutes. I think there’s something to that. It triggers something subconsciously where you’re simply not as afraid to make mistakes and because of that, it encourages you to think outside the box.

If you insist on using your computer I’ve come to favor free form drawing tools such as Omnigraffle for building presentations. The best thing about this software is that it doesn’t come with any preconceived notion of what you’re going to put on a slide.  It is a tool that really allows you to have a blank slate and there’s lots of nice drawing tools at your disposal. Again I really believe that it keeps you from putting boundaries on yourself when you’re in the middle of brainstorming.  So the next time that you’re faced with a tough problem or you’re trying to do some brainstorming, maybe try writing on a piece of paper before you crack open that PowerPoint deck or start typing into Word. I really think your eyes will be opened to something new if you’re just willing to give it a shot.

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.

PowToon: Making my AppSumo addiction worth it


I admit it.  I’m an AppSumo addict.  For those of you that are unaware, AppSumo is not precisely a daily deal website but they push out deals on things that would be appealing to entrepreneurs, creators and technology oriented folks. I admit I am a complete sucker for a lot of these deals.  I have bought courses on marketing, I’ve bought Piktochart (which I’ve covered previously to rapidly develop infographics) and a whole host of other things here and there.  Recently though I had a deal on an app called PowToon.  Powtoon is a web based tool much like Piktochart, only what it does is it enables you to build out fairly professional looking cartoons that you can then use to drive home messaging.

One of the things that got me to pull the trigger was a conversation that we had recently. We were doing a review of our marketing materials with the product marketing director for Salesforce and while he was very impressed with our infographics, a lot of which was developed right out of Piktochart, he said we really didn’t have anything that spoke to the emotional side of people. Everything we had was very data driven. We didn’t have anything that was funny, or inspiring, or made people care for reasons other than sheer weight of the numbers.

Timing is everything sometimes and so when we got offered a deal to buy a year’s subscription to PowToon, I did. I thought I’d share with you my first draft of what we developed and then I’m curious what other people’s reactions ire.  It’s really kind of a unique way of presenting things and very user friendly. To put it in perspective, my first time out with what I’m about to share took about two hours to make on Independence Day eve while we were sitting around with family watching TV. So it’s really easy to use and there’s not a lot of ramp up time in developing it. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.

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.

Wanted: Correct Solutions delivered compellingly

Wanted Blog

I think that one of the most common mistakes made when delivering a product or deliverable is how easy it is to get so wrapped up in the correctness of the content and meeting the letter of the requirement, that we forget to make things interesting. We forget to take a little bit of time to make our content compelling. As a management consultancy organization, this is a rule that we break all the time. When you break it, you run the risk of not giving your client all the value that they could have had. Now some people will say, “Well you’re just getting paid to provide the answer.” While I think that’s a hundred percent correct, there’s more to it than that.

A lot of times you’re called in to deal with a complex question or an organization is trying to achieve a particular goal. They ask you to come in and look at things so you evaluate a lot of different factors to come up with a result. In theory, it shouldn’t have to be compelling it should just have to be right. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. It doesn’t just have to be the right idea. In a lot of cases, particularly in very large organizations, it has to win in the marketplace of ideas because a lot of times you’re not the only group that’s working on the problem. Now you may be the only group working on the problem from any particular angle but large organizations pain points oftentimes get addressed not just by one group, but multiple groups. Multiple groups will recognize the pain points and they’re all attempting solutions to address it from their particular angle. Oftentimes with the assumption that if they’re the ones that address it, they’ll be able to avoid a certain amount of organizational pain. This by virtue of being able to have crafted the solution. So I think it’s really important to look at things and go, “I need this to not only give the right answers, but I need it to be something that people will read the entire report through.”

You need to put things into the reports that will make it interesting to people that are notonly cutting fat, cut and dry, just the facts man type of people, but also to people that need to be pulled through a document. Those people need some visual cues. Maybe they need some facts and statistics that make it more relevant to them. Things that make it personal. In order to do this you need to know enough about whose going to being reading or seeing your report or presentation to make it compelling to them. Those are questions that need to get answered just as much as whatever the evaluation, assessment or particular problem is that you’re trying to address.  One of the things we’ve done more and more is utilize things like info graphics. I’ve included an example here.

This info graphic was developed to help us with a report we’ve been working on with a bunch of schools to address school safety issues. This was meant to spur action. There’s a lot of data that gets collected through the ExAM for schools process and we want people to go through and really take a hard look at those things. So we set up this info graphic with that goal in mind. Obviously we’ve got other things that we do throughout a full report but it’s meant to drive people to work through it by setting up the idea that it’s very important that they do so.

I’m actually very interested in feedback on the info graphic itself as well as the idea that you need to cater to people that might not go through an entire report that you deliver just because it’s not interesting. I know that a lot of people come from sort of the old school belief that people should do it because they believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s their job, etc. but that isn’t the case across the board. While those people are going to do it whether I make it interesting or not, it’s also really important you make the people that might otherwise only be casually interested to make it through it as well.  So if it was important enough for someone to engage you to do something, then it’s probably worth it on your side to make it as compelling as possible.

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.

ExAM: Putting security and safety first

Heiwa_elementary_school_18 One of the things that’s been incredibly exciting for me personally and for our company has been the development of the ExAM for Schools product.  As somebody who has three kids that will all be in the school system soon and a partner who also has three kids in school, safety is something that we take pretty seriously.  You’re expectation when you drop your kids off at the front door at school is that they’re going to be safe. You’re more concerned with are they going to learn the things that they’re supposed to learn? Are they going to make friends? Are they going to have fun today? Unfortunately, if you look at the statistics around what’s happening in our schools, you probably would be a little more concerned than you are even if you don’t have kids.  After all everyone here is stuck here with the kids of everybody else, those are the people that are going to shape the next generation.  If we want this place to be a better planet over the next 20-30 years, we need to get serious about what our kids are learning at school, what that learning environment looks like, and what are the lessons that they’re taking home every day.

Over the last two years we’ve taken the security expertise that we have and built out on top of Salesforce. We built a comprehensive school security operations platform with the flagship idea of it being security assessments.  This is something that we had a background in. We’ve done assessments for about 190 schools in terms of basic physical security infrastructure. This means we looked at things like how do they stand with regard to lighting? Lighting is an important part of being able to feel safe on a school campus because dark areas invite people to do bad things if they’re so inclined.  Bad lighting makes it so that CCTV is less functional which brings me to the importance of understanding how CCTV is deployed in your environment.  All of these pieces are kind of active monitoring things but just simple things like understanding whether or not the paperwork is up to date from a facility inspection standpoint or from a security officer certification standpoint are important too.

There are so many things that go into ensuring that you’ve done the appropriate amount of facilities and security planning. You need to know that you’ve done the right amount of work to secure the exterior of your facility with regard to fencing, parking, and visitor management and same thing goes for the interior.  How do we manage people within the facility?  What type of monitoring measures do we have in place?  There’s a huge amount of things that go into just the security assessment alone as we work to develop this more comprehensive security and operations package for schools.

As we’ve gone to look and gone into market, so many things have happened over the last two years including a lot of real tragedies. We had a lot of heated debate internally about how do we get this out into the market. We have spent a lot of time talking about it and we’d like to offer it out for free.  I think that as somebody who has a real stake in how we educate people this is something I don’t want to see people miss out on or understand how important this is. You don’t want price to be what keeps somebody from going there with this increasingly vital assessment. What I’m curious about and what I’d really appreciate feedback on from the people out there in the government community, is whether or not this is something that is going to be feasible?  Is free going to be ok given that it might have implications for how school systems leverage it?  Ideally what we’d like to see is everybody take the ExAM, go through and get their scores, and immediately begin addressing areas where they have deficiencies. Then we can come in and try to sell them on our larger approach to school security and operations but first and foremost, we want to start that process of gathering information and beginning to address security situations whether or not we end up with that school system as a client.  So I’m very curious what people think? Is free going to be a problem as a pricing model for us and do people have advice for how to best move forward in terms of trying to get something out there? How can we at least get people engaged around fixing some of the security issues while we work towards some larger set of objectives?

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.

Context: Looking beyond the obvious

One of the things that is pretty interesting as you spend some time talking to people about how they look at information to make decisions and what are the things that are really important is you hear about the power of context.  So to give a great example we’re working with an organization to create comprehensive security assessments. We want a way for them to understand, across all of their facilities, what are the critical factors in ensuring they were as secure as thy could be. This means what are all things that were directly related to the security of the facilities themselves like:

  • Are the fences in good condition?
  • What kind of fences do you have?
  • Do you have closed circuit televisions and where do you have it?
  • What type of policies do you have for people entering the building, background checks, and security planning

All of these different factors and an immense number of other things go into securing a facility. While those things are all important and this particular organization had specific standards, policies, and all these different things it had to adhere that went into how the organization was supposed to secure these facilities, it wasn’t taking into account some critical factors in how secure those facilities really were. So it was the contextual data that as they looked to plan what they were going to do in terms of shoring up their security, it couldn’t just be did they meet all of the standards alone.

While the standards are good and they help you get an understanding of how prepared you might be in a bad situation or if your existence is in a perennial troublesome state, it didn’t really give you a complete picture. To get a complete picture you had to understand the contextual data. You had to understand crime statistics. So if a facility that is in an area where, compared to the national average, there are an extraordinarily high number of homicides, violent crimes, assaults, thefts, and things like that, well all the sudden those physical security assessment characteristics take on a whole new meaning. It becomes a much more critical thing to have fences when those fences are the only thing separating you from an outside world that is very scary. So as the organization looked to prioritize where it was going to spend its physical security resources, the most critical factor wasn’t just the status of the assessment itself but it was the context at which that status existed.

Similarly it’s not just about the facilities themselves but also about what the value of the things in those facilities is. It’s hard to say that a facility with four people requires less security infrastructure than one with a hundred because everybody is important. On the other hand I think that for most people if you look at a facility that’s got 300 people, a daycare facility, a bunch of other high value assets, or just a mass of people, those are places where you might want look to secure them earlier. Other factors might be things like the age of the facilities themselves, the age and time of the last security assessment, or the last building upgrade. These area all factors that go into helping you understand just what the real status is as opposed to simply looking at do they meet the criteria or not. It just doesn’t give you enough information to make decisions.

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.

Why we built ExAM (our Salesforce.com based Facilities Operations & Security application)

This is the story of how we got involved in developing the ExAM application for Salesforce and the problems it solves for facilities managers, security personnel and executives. Below is a transcription of the above video:

Yesterday’s Salesforce event at the Mandarin in DC got me excited to talk about Salesforce but I also wanted to talk a little bit what got us engaged in working with Salesforce. A few years back we were faced with a really difficult problem to solve. We had a client that had facilities all over the United States that had to be maintained, managed, and assessed for security. Unfortunately, the cost to fly to all those places, put staff on the ground, and get it all done in the time that was allocated was just not going to be feasible in the long term. So we started working with them and the first thing that we did was help them do a better job of capturing the data. We then helped them standardize it, looked at best practices around facilities management and security assessments, looked at the various guidelines that were out there within federal and commercial best practice, and began to develop an assessment that would enable them to understand how each of those facilities was being protected ad secured.

The next step was to figure out how to get the information to the right people. We had already figured out how we want to get the data in and we understand the information that we need to make decisions about physical security across these 200 facilities nationwide. Now we need to figure out how do we get it out to these people? How do we ensure that everyone has the access that they need, that they are able to do reporting across all of the facilities but yet still be able to understand their security posture on a facility by facility basis? So what we did was go out to the marketplace and we found Salesforce and salesforece.com. We realized this was really an incredible solution for the problem that we had. It enabled us, through a secure web interface, to deliver all over the United States. It allowed us to rapidly build value for the client because we were able to, in 90 days develop an enterprise application. Something that previously with the similar requirements had taken almost a year to develop. So it was just a very exciting discovery and we didn’t have to give up anything.

We were still able provide it to them in the exact look and feel that they wanted. It looked like the rest of their organization’s user interface. There wasn’t anything that they really had sacrificed to get there. Now they had this really incredible ability to understand their facilities nationwide in a way that they never had before whether it was looking at a map and understanding scoring at any particular school or just being able to glance at a map and see regular green and ask how am I doing and focus in there. It’s just a very easy way to accomplish that.

We were also able to tie in all that best practices and manage all the documentation that goes into one of these types of engagements. There’s always the why and not just why but how do I work with other people, so collaboration and understanding what other people are doing was also important. This tool gave us the ability to have teams be able to follow each other and understand that even if they weren’t geographically connected, you could understand what somebody else was working on. If they made a change to their assessment of a facility, added pictures, documents, or anything changed in their report, we were able to know about it. It was really groundbreaking when you think about it.

It wasn’t just us delivering a solution, it was us empowering those users to build reports for themselves and for them to be able to do their own mining of the data. You come in and you begin to understand this platform and yea, there’s some effort that goes into getting the information in and understanding what information you want to look at, but there really is an opportunity rapidly create value. You create this value not just at an enterprise level with analytics that mean something to the one group at the top that came in and helped work with us at the beginning of the project but for people to come in on their own. They can create their own analytics and make something that works for the way that they want to do their work. That’s the part that came out of the box with the Salesforce platform and we just leveraged it. So we were able to drop in all this expertise and subject matter expertise around facilities management, security, and BI but it was all enabled by the platform. So we were able to take what we knew and get there very rapidly and it’s an ongoing process.

The nice thing about this is it allows us to continue to tailor really rapidly. So when it becomes about more than just security assessments and you want to track visitors or you want to do something that is operational you can do that. You can have people come in, register through a kiosk, and then report out. You’re talking about something that was developed in three hours after a client conversation. Again it’s just a very simple way to get access to this so if you want to learn more about this go to exam4schools.com. That is exam, 4 the number, schools .com and take a look at some of the work we’re doing. This is specific in this case to the school environment but this is something that is applicable across all facilities. You could do this if you’re a large retail organization or a large federal organization. A lot of this is drawn directly on federal security standards. It’s all best practice so I hope you’ll get out and take a look at it and please share back what you think.

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.