The term “compliance” gets a bad rap. Immediately the term suggests rules, regulations, inspections, audits and punitive outcomes for those outside of the rules. We immediately think of the financial industry or maybe the manufacturing sector and health and safety compliance. Rarely do we correlate compliance to customer satisfaction. This is something I do daily when I talk about Action Card.
As a software development company, Volano Solutions understands systems well and the importance of clarity and definition in the daily work of employees. Franchises, multi-location companies and organizations who have a well-defined model have staked and scaled their growth based on consistency and adherence to the fundamentals that made that system successful. In this regard, compliance to those tenets is necessary not just for health, safety or legal reasons but to delight customers and drive revenue. Whether these are brand standards or best practices, we have learned that there are a few key success traits that good business managers demonstrate in the world of standards consistency and performance. Below are a few common denominators.
1.) Good standards are always directly related to the customer experience. Cleanliness, customer service and product quality are the core standards being reviewed
2.) Standards are objective, measurable and reviewed freqently
3.) Training of brand standards and communiation is ongoing
4.) Owners measure compliance and can correlate it to performance
The core attribute is consistency. The company Questback wrote a great piece to this point in regard to creating customers who love your brand and more importantly, will recommend it to others . They state that “providing a high quality, consistent service leads to good customer experience and increases the likelihood that your product will be recommended to others. Never, ever underestimate the power of consistency to generate loyalty and referral from your customers. Get this right and your satisfied promoters will be legion.”
Compliance Reviews and Revenue
Everybody in business understands the power of customer referrals. We all generally get that customer advocacy stems from the emotional response triggered from your product and service; their experience with every aspect of your sales process. The bridge that needs to be made has to do with vision and tactics. If consistency leads to revenue, we must be mindful of what is occurring regularly. I consistently slice the golf ball when I tee off on the two tragic days of the year that I play. So consistency is a negative here. Therefore before you manage adherence to your standards, you better make sure they are the right standards. What is your organization’s vision for delighting customers? What standards, if put in place and followed, will directly relate to your customer’s level of satisfaction with every part of the buying process? This is the vision. Once you have that, a system needs to be put in place to ensure that there us absolute clarity and buy-in that vision and reviews are being done consistently to ensure they are being followed.
The Omaha World Herald wrote a nice piece on some of the local clients benefiting from Action Card. Companies in diverse industries have a common challenge in managing best practices and brand standards across their network. We are proud of the value proposition Volano’s latest SaaS application brings to business owners and field agents.
As Volano continues to grow, we find ourselves again in need of a good developer to help us build custom software solutions for our clients. We’ve had a great run recruiting highly skilled, resourceful people who collaborate well with each other and communicate effectively with our clients and we want to find someone who will fit well into that culture. Our blogs tell our story. However, it certainly bears repeating for any potential candidates out there or anyone who knows one that might fit in well here.
Who is Volano?
Volano Solutions is a seven year Omaha-based custom software consultant. Founded by two coders, we understand how to build software that delights our clients and we understand well the importance that culture and environment have in that process. Our people create and build. They also work directly with our clients to ensure that what is needed is being built and that it’s done on time. That means that we look for both technical proficiency and strong communication skills. We also value resourcefulness, talent for problem-solving and people who are genuinely passionate about writing code. Those attributes are the building blocks necessary for newer developers to get their chops and senior staff to continue keeping their skills sharp. A sense of humor definitely helps.
So regarding the environment… Our team likes to play tunes on Sonos. It’s not uncommon to hear Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine on the same day that the older folk are getting the “Led” out. From Dire Straits to Black Keys to the Ronettes and 60’s Motown, we like to keep it hopping. At 3:01 we head down to the 6th floor for a game of darts. On Friday afternoon we shut down a little early, grab cocktails and beers and head down for more darts. First one there gets to play their music. We have one developer who will sing along to certain songs entirely in Chicken, substituting words with clucks and it’s as amazing as it is weird. OK, scratch that last part. Not a selling point… Team lunches are not infrequent and in my brief tenure I’ve enjoyed two killer Christmas parties, numerous team lunches, a field trip to the movies one afternoon and a lot of camaraderie.
Volano works primarily in Microsoft technologies and code ASP.NET MVC using C#. Having experience in SQL Server and knowledge in using jQuery and the Entity Framework are nice to have. Volano is a place where you need to be communicative, have a good attitude and have the aptitude to lead a number of projects for a variety of businesses. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, reach out to us today or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a $2,500 referral bonus.
Big Omaha wrapped up last week and Volano had some key takeaways. The Silicon Prairie News did a great job once again of bringing out the best in Omaha and attracting the best from the country to our city to teach, inspire and create a more attractive climate for aspiring entrepreneurs. As a young software development company, we participate in Big Omaha for a few reasons, not the least of which is to steal good ideas and learn from technology thought-leaders. This year we had some interesting takeaways.
Don’t Go to Sleep on the Midwest
Volano partner Don Stavneak liked the idea that the Silicon Prairie could be a better place to build a business than Silicon Valley. “There was an ongoing theme of work/life balance with an emphasis on healthy living and I think that Omaha gives you this ability to ‘have it all’. I don’t know exactly what to attribute this to, maybe low cost of living has a bit to do with it, regional or local culture favoring families and family life, or what, but my wife and I are both building our businesses, have a great house in a great neighborhood that has great walk-ability and are raising four kids and still have time to work out and eat right.”
Don’s business partner Rod Smith noted that several speakers commented that Omaha felt like bigger cities did that fostered a spirit of entrepreneurship and technological innovation. “Ryan Freitas, co-founder of about.me said that Omaha feels like San Francisco did four years ago.” With Rod certain points always resonate more when put to rock music and he liked the instantly viral Freitas reference to The Clash song lyric, “Are you taking orders or taking over?” Getting validation from successful business owners outside of Nebraska is validating. The challenge is convincing investors to consider investing in their own local entrepreneurs.
Taking Care of Business Means Taking Care of Yourself
Nebraska native and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams made great points about acting quickly and decisively, understanding that good leaders don’t get a lot right, just a few things and reiterated and often made point about the importance of taking care of yourself. One Volano developer in attendance said his immediate call to action was to get involved in yoga. We don’t disagree. The Silicon Prairie News has a nice synopsis of William’s talk. Ultimately, when the dust and excitement settled from Big Omaha 2014, you’re left with the challenge of execution. Volano will work on refining our recruitment and hiring process and continue to focus on creating a culture that values our people, is empathetic to their lives outside of the office and recognizes achievement in the office.
This week I read an interesting piece by Andy Zinga in the Harvard Business Review titled “A Social Brain Is a Smarter Brain.” . As an unrepentant extrovert, the title was immediately validating. The author asserts that social interaction is not only good for maintaining higher level mental functioning, but in fact may help drive meaningful innovation. I wanted to explore this idea.
Benefits of Collaboration
Zinga writes, “Open innovation projects (where organizations facing tricky problems invite outsiders to take a crack at solving them) always present cognitive challenges…But they also force new, boundary-spanning human interactions and fresh perspective-taking. They require people to reach out to other people, and thus foster social interaction.” He quotes two studies that found that the social process that facilitated the collaboration between two organizations were determining factors in the project’s success Interestingly, one of the studies showed that the broader benefits of the multidisciplinary social interaction outweigh the concrete results of getting specific solutions That might be a tough sell to the business owner. Boss, we didn’t close the deal. But the good news is we sure found the collaboration exciting.
Empowering Your People
As the Big Omaha conference on innovation concludes today, one of the recurring themes is innovation through collaboration. Many speakers emphasize the importance of knowledge sharing, community building and honoring alternative viewpoints as way to ensure you’re playing devil’s advocate to your business model and thinking from all sides. All of this requires frequent communication and social interaction. I am finding this to be true for one of our mobile apps, Action Card . The customers who currently use Action Card for conducting field compliance reviews have typically sought consultation from us and feedback from the various members of their teams who use the app in one way or the other. Most of the features built into it have been based on client suggestions. Operations Directors and business owners who realize the greatest utility have one thing in common. They created an open environment that empowered people to offer their opinions. When I sit in groups with these people or on conference calls, I can predict who our most successful clients will be by the number of people who contribute.
In my past life I taught sixth graders in Oakland California. The disparate learning levels and abilities made lesson planning extremely challenging. One of my more successful teaching methods for introducing literary concepts and discussing stories was through groups. A concept called “story mapping” that L learned through a workshop at The Bay Area Writing Project was critical. The kids collaborated to illustrate scenes from the literature, write new vocabulary words and concepts. The collaboration pulled all of them in and played off of their individual strengths. They helped teach each other. Are we doing enough problem solving and innovation through interaction in our business?
Last week the New York Times ran a technology piece titled “A Vision of the Future From Those Like to Invent It” about the seismic lifestyle changes that software development will bring in coming years. As an Omaha software design and business process consultant, we geek out on this stuff hardcore. It’s interesting to look at how these technological advancements will impact the workplace.
Proactive and Real Time
The ability to transact work electronically is not a novel concept. Automating workflow not only reduces unnecessary steps, it creates a greater level of transparency and helps managers track project status quickly and easily. Clara Shih, founder and Chief Executive at Hearsay Social sees promise in “Implantable chips that monitor the number of steps we take, hours we sleep, all of our vital signs, blood chemistry and beyond. The chip data will be used to adjust our medications, offer suggestions to change our behavior and automatically send an ambulance…” This real time data allow for faster and better treatment of now preventable death. It will also reduce what is currently a heavy paper trail requiring the coordination of doctors, pharmacies, health care providers and patients. When writing code, software developers strive to eliminate redundancy and create clarity for users in their tasks and subsequent prioritization. Implanted sensors are a great metaphor for workflow. The sensors trigger work to flow through preset, defined steps and you won’t see critical stoppage because paper is sitting in a file on someone’s desk. Offices that eliminate paper through automation will see higher employee satisfaction as well. People will better understand what s on their plate.
Simple and Utilitarian
One of the most useful tech changes in the pipeline will be wireless charging solutions. In the not too distant future Susan Wojcicki, Head of Youtube, believes that all of our mobile devices will be able to wirelessly charge. This kind of application design and development will increase connectivity in developing countries and be vital for communication during catastrophic events (think Hurricane Sandy). This innovation may not necessarily be as sexy as wearing computers in the form of contact lenses to access all of your cloud data anywhere, anytime, but it will inevitably save lives. First Responders will be able to more quickly locate people in need of help and loved ones won’t remain in the dark. Unleashing our technology from the chains of wall power will be liberating.
Access to Learning and Education
Reid Hoffman, a VC at Greylock and co-founder of LinkedIn sees increased opportunity for new business and job creation. He sites the Khan Academy as a model for new on-line learning centers focused around professional and vocational schools that will be easily accessible. The creation and growth of these learning communities will make robust learning platforms available to those who might be working full time and unable to afford attending traditional brick and mortar institutions. Volano Solutions sees productivity applications demand increasing as well. Smaller businesses will become less dependent on whiteboards, excel and QuickBooks to manager their work. In a previous blog we explored the changes already occurring in technology education with the advent of code schools. It is fascinating to see a reevaluation of traditional learning institutions occurring as new innovation is sought.
Most sales organizations’ businesses have a standard workflow process. They also have systems to help them manage everything from prospective customers (CRM) all the way to payment reconciliation in accounting (Quickbooks). A contact becomes a lead, a lead becomes a sale, the sale requires that work be completed. Ideally you are able to see where each client is at each step in this process to ensure maximum operational efficiency and client satisfaction. Our consulting experience with business productivity applications development has helped us quickly identify when businesses start to have work fall through the cracks of their process. There are three major signs that you’re not operating as efficiently or optimally.
Work is Falling Through the Cracks
Missing project deadlines or documents and files related to your customer are surefire signs that your workflow process is clogging up. When you’re dealing with multiple projects at once in various stages of your process, being able to move that work through it’s progression of steps with all of the associated documents, notes and instructions is critical. If you have people or teams that specialize in certain aspects of the workflow, they need to know when and in what priority they need to be working on steps that pertain to their area of expertise. Work falls through the cracks when your people are not crystal clear on what they need to do that day when they log into their computers. Our Steelwool app is a nice metaphor for this process.
Work Status Lives in the Heads of Employees
If one of your key employees holds the keys to critical details of your current or former projects, your workflow is compromised. Native knowledge and seasoned expertise are good things. However, as work moves through your process, the appropriate notes and documents should be accessible to anyone responsible for the customer. Information is everything and it can’t walk out the door when your people do.
You’re Getting Out of Your Desk to Check on Work
There are good reasons to get out of your seat. Coffee, exercise, shaking down the guy in AP who still owes you for the NCAA bracket are all perfect excuses to get the blood flowing. Checking on work status is not one of them. There are great off the shelf and custom software applications that ensure managers can drill in and see exactly where projects are at in your workflow. Cloud based technology enables you to check on work while you’re getting coffee. If your systems don’t show you work status, and you need to play Colombo in your office to provide a status update to your customers, this is a sure sign that your workflow process is not ideal.
There are good options for software development in Omaha. As a veteran of custom software programming, database management and database design, we have become adept at diagnosing deficiencies in business systems and can recommend the necessary application design and development when needed, even if it’s simply to recommend an off the shelf solution.