Watching the Workflow
“Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow”
– Bob Dylan
Ideal Environments Breed Ideal Employees
Maybe it’s just me but it’s hard not to think of Bob Dylan’s classic “Watching the River Flow” every single time we discuss the concept of workflow. And we talk about workflow management and business process a lot at Volano Solutions. Building software systems that create accountability, accuracy, efficiency and transparency are hallmarks of what we do. Our work helps yours move faster and with fewer errors. So what does good workflow management have to do with good employees? The answer is a lot.
When Gallup decided in the early 1990s to look at all aspects of work life in the context of how each drove concrete performance, their findings were not surprising. The common denominator to productive, engaged employees was clarity regarding their job expectations. Conversely, when employees were not clear on expectations, production suffered as did job satisfaction. Unhappy employees tend to breed negativity and we’ve all worked at that place before.
Clarity and Accountability
Each of our workflow applications begins with a home page of work queues where the expectations of the work to be completed are clearly displayed to the user. These queues set the expectation to which each employee is accountable and as they complete their work, it flows to the next person in the group so that they can complete the portion that falls in their wheelhouse. When everyone can see this status, and your staff knows what they need to do, conversations can be focused on more important things. Higher level things. What is the best way to handle this specific work item? Who has the bandwidth to take on a project? What you’re not talking about or asking each other is “where are we at with?” and “what is the status of?” Your customers win and your employees know how their day needs to go. You don’t want to be the one slowing the funnel down and that’s the accountability piece.
In this piece by the Nielson Group , role clarity is critical in job satisfaction. They go beyond job satisfaction and productivity and talk about overall personal satisfaction and recommend auditing the time spent at work doing tasks that directly pertain to your defined role versus time spent on other tasks that do not. The extent to which the 80-20 rule slides is a great predictor of lost productivity and job dissatisfaction. Our focus is on helping reinforce defined roles in your daily processes through workflow management software.
Volano Solutions welcomed another new hire to a team already stacked with talent. Brandon Norris started what we hope will be a long tenure with us yesterday and we initiated him to the group with a five star lunch at Taco John’s (it was taco Tuesday). A little bit about this guy and why we’re so glad he chose Volano.
Brandon is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Omaha Code School. Although is is new to coding, he came very highly recommended by Sumeet Jain, the head instructor. Sumeet took a lot of time to write a nice recommendation for Brandon in great specificity and with an understanding of what we were looking for and where he would fit in on day one and over the long run. This was a testament to Brandon and his abilities and to the Omaha Code School’s dedication to meaningful curriculum, student development and helping place graduates into the workforce.
Brandon is also a founder and current board member of the Omaha Maker Group and intrinsically loves building a creating. This is great because we pride ourselves on making custom software for our clients, not just maintaining legacy systems. We look for people who are excited about building things. Brandon builds RC cars, planes, quad copters and dabbles in 3D printing and CNC mills. He’s been “using computers since 5.25 were valid storage devices.” Brandon also made a robotic cocktail maker for a New Years party, a powerful anecdote for this writer in his initial interview.
Welcome aboard Brandon.
A CIO recently asked me what guidelines I use when consulting on a build vs buy decision. This is a fair question considering Volano Solutions is a premier custom software developer in Omaha.
My answer: only build custom software when it makes sense. By this I mean if you can purchase good software to satisfy your need, you shouldn’t build. Volano wouldn’t advise a customer to “build GoToMeeting”, but many times building custom software is the right choice. Here are three considerations:
Using software as a competitive advantage. If you’re using software as a utility, gaining a competitive advantage is not likely. For instance, everyone has email, so custom building a better email system isn’t going to give you a leg up on the competition. However, if your business involves managing a complex workflow process, like auditing medical records or installing water filtration systems around the globe, then a custom software system can put you ahead of the competition. Volano has built both systems and a good number more. We can attest that solutions like these allow companies to be highly specialized and very efficient. Would-be competitors cannot purchase off-the-shelf software and play in the same league.
Package software products don’t always fit the need. In our formative days, Volano used BaseCamp to track details about our projects, including our time entries. We quickly found the software didn’t allow us to effectively report our time. We couldn’t easily see actuals vs estimates. There were other irritations too. It became obvious that we needed to create our own system for managing project details and so we did. We call the system “Timefly,” and it is central to all aspects of our business. Timefly allows Volano to run effectively and efficiently across multiple teams, without the use of whiteboards or spreadsheets.
A simplified, native, tailored approach is preferred. Software should be easy to use, but if the software is ‘everything to everyone’ then ease-of-use is lost in a sea of buttons and un-used fields. Custom software is, by definition, tailor fit. Software is much more approachable when it is distilled to its requisite functions, and it is built from the ground up around your unique business processes.
Check out this post if you’re interested in 4 symptoms that your business needs software in the first place.
Monday was the first day at Volano for the newest member of our team, Matt Kyriss. To honor the beginning of his tenure, we went to Sam and Louis’s Pizza, a company favorite and one of our first clients to use our mobile compliance review app Action Card. Matt fits the mold of many of our developers whom we value. He demonstrated an early love for technology, even writing a few simple video games in college while everyone I knew was simply playing them. He travels outside of the country and likes to look at things from every angle, not simply the conventional one. Matt was an Army brat as a kid and became adept at meeting new people, adjusting to new surroundings and moving around. He is great with people and will undoubtedly become a great resource for our clients who appreciate the human touch as much as technological aptitude. We’re excited to welcome Matt to the team.