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7 Ways to Instill Trust in Your Website Users

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A couple of months ago we launched our interactive division here at Volano Solutions. Every project is different, but there are a few things every client wants: increased revenue, more sales, and customer loyalty. Those are standards in our website project objectives. Whether you have an ecommerce site or your site is simply meant to be informative, there are some elements we consider essential in establishing trust with your users. So, let’s talk about how Volano builds trustworthy websites…

  • Reviews and Testimonials

According to a Bright Local study, almost 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. When you make these reviews readily available, you can establish trust sooner without making your customers dig for the information.

  • Showcasing Clients

Showcase your clients by adding their logos and links to your site. A nice touch would be adding case studies for those really successful projects and relationships. It’s always best to gain consent first.

  • Press Mentions

Be sure to share your positive press mentions. A simple slider with excerpts from articles in which your organization is given props can go a long way in reassuring potential customers and clients that you have a solid reputation for taking care of your customers.

  • Memberships and Awards

Do you have A+ ratings, certificates, memberships, awards, etc.? Be sure to add mention of these on your website. These acknowledgements let your site visitors know what they can expect from you. They are further proof that you can guarantee the level of service they’re looking for.

  • Security Policy

Your customers want to know what measures you’ve taken to ensure their information is secure. Be sure to offer a security policy that includes what systems and tools you use on your site, complete with logos/badges.

  • SSL

An SSL is now a standard online security feature. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies the authenticity and identity of the merchant or organization. This certificate proves to visitors or online shoppers that the website is secure and reliable.

  • Presentation

Last but certainly not least, presentation is key to gaining trust. You need a professional site with authentic imagery and relevant resources. Additionally–we beg you–please be sure your text is grammatically correct and proofed for spelling errors. Nothing will discredit an organization faster than an unprofessional site.

Not too bad, right? These are all really easy additions to make to your site to instill trust in your visitors. Want to know more about how you can offer your site visitors a safer, more reliable online experience with your brand? Read more about our interactive division here. Then, give us a ring.

Top 5 Reasons to be a Developer at Volano

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We are one of many custom software development agencies in Omaha looking for great developers, but that’s where our likeness with local firms ends. Everyone offers cool perks and the promise to deliver great code, but those are expected variables, not differentiators. The same way a ping pong table isn’t an employer brand.

It’s tough to find great talent that’s in it for the long term and fits the company culture. It requires more than a classified ad, it requires real transparency of the value proposition of employment. So, away we go…

Project Diversity: At Volano, you get to work on a myriad of projects, not just the same old project month after month. We have a diverse client base and lasting relationships, meaning our developers and clients work together long enough to establish a true understanding. Still, new and exciting projects are always coming down the pipeline. As a custom workflow software development agency, it’s not only clients and industries that change, but the problems, solutions, successes, and strategies that change as well.

Software De Novo: There’s nothing quite like a blank canvas to foster collaboration and ignite creativity. This is how most of your projects will begin: from scratch. Our tagline is, “We make work flow.” We revel in finding dynamic, innovative ways to optimize processes and workflows with our clients. You will never deliver a product you’re not proud of because we don’t offer 80% solutions.

The Latest Software Development Tools: Around here, we’re picky about a few things: clients, technology, and whiskey (or whisky, depending on your palette). We want to be the best, so we settle for nothing less. We fully understand and appreciate the ROI of using the right tools, being selective about clients, and… who cares about the cost of whiskey as longs as it’s amazing.

An Open, Collaborative, Team Based Environment: We’re not siloed here. In fact, our software developers work directly with our clients. We saw an intrinsic flaw in the traditional client>project manager>developer flow of creating custom software: a massive game of telephone in which all parties speak a different language. We saw work environments in which developers would walk in, soak up some third party information about a client, and code for hours to create software for problems, organizations, and people they’ve never met and have no chance of understanding. Little to no collaboration seems to be the norm, but that’s not how we develop. We believe in an open, collaborative, team-based approach to innovative software and solutions.

Fun As a Core Value: Be it daily darts, Whisky Wednesday, or ‘putting the week in the books’ on Friday, we provide a fun work environment. We’re in this together and we’re in it for around 40 hours each week. Fun and a work/life balance are not lost on us. From the top down, we want everyone to walk into and contribute to a positive work environment. Something, somewhere along the way sparked an interest, or dare we say passion, for software development–the way it challenges you, the excitement of “going live,” or when you finally find the bug! We want to keep that spark alive.

If this sounds like a company you can get behind, contact us and let’s see if we’re a fit. Or, if you know someone that sounds like a fit, we are hiring a mid-level and/or senior-level developer with placement bonuses for referrals after 6 months. Thanks for your time and we hope to see you slingin’ darts in the Volano office soon.

Work Management Is Not Task Management

Posted by | Accountability, Accuracy, Efficiency, Transparency, Workflow | No Comments

You often hear of people complaining they need a better task management system. That’s why there are so many different apps for task management. But who needs an app for something that is relatively easy to manage with a good, old fashioned pen and paper?

Work management, however, is where people generally need help, but most don’t know the difference between managing tasks and managing work. There are so many differences that we’re going to cover the similarities first, of which there are two.

With both work management and task management, you have something to do and after you take care of it, you check it off the list.

Those two instances are the only similarities between work management and task management. Since work management tends to be a bit more involved, we will delve into its key features.

Steps

Work is always part of a multi-step process. In order to begin managing your work, you need to determine the steps and where they fall in the workflow. You also need to define who is responsible for each step.

Fields

Pertinent and ancillary information associated with your work will fall into fields. The information in these fields can range from contact information to the date a contract was signed. You define what type of data will be stored in the fields, including: text, numbers, web addresses, geo-coordinates, pick lists, or anything else you can think of.  We have found that many times, particular fields are filled in by the people responsible of certain steps.

Work Queues

Work queues foster the accountability we talk so much about.  They allow people to see what they need to work on and in what order. How does work end up in a particular queue? It can either be directly assigned to a person or can appear based on which team they are assigned to. For example, all of the work in step 1 is directly added to each team member’s queue. Pretty nifty, huh?

History

Having a history of work completed is essential to good work management. It brings the transparency necessary to know where the bottlenecks are in your process or to answer your clients when they ask, “what’s taking so long?”  It would be short-sighted to not keep a running history of who worked on what and when.

Reporting

The purpose of capturing fields, tracking steps and recording all other detailed information is to be able to produce reports. Reports are essential for both a high-level and micro-level view of the work. At a high-level, it is important to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks. On a micro-level, you need to be able to answer the questions of who, why and when for each aspect of the work.

Over the past 9 years, we have focused on architecting and implementing custom software that helps businesses manage their work, allowing it to flow through their unique processes.

What Has Workflow Automation Done for Me Lately?…A Lot.

Posted by | Accuracy, Efficiency, Transparency, Workflow | No Comments

It’s no secret, we are big fans of automation. We love finding processes of all kinds that can be automated with thoughtfully developed software. It’s very satisfying to work with a client and find those processes that be redesigned to save time and valuable resources. The ROI of this type of software development makes workflow automation a no-brainer. In case you’re still on the fence about your organization’s need for workflow automation, we thought we should share some of the more impactful benefits of workflow automation.

Reduce Errors

It’s the simplest way to reduce errors -reduce the number of decisions a person has to make in a given process. At its core, workflow automation is an interactive checklist wherein the completion of one action, triggers the start of the next action. Everything happens in a predetermined order, making errors a thing of the past. The right software will notify relevant members of the team of late work, missing approvals and overlooked tasks.

Improve Communication

Manual notification of completed tasks is no longer needed. The moving of responsibility to push an action forward is no longer up to teammates. Instead, automated notifications keep every project moving forward. Communication isn’t eliminated, it is fostered. With automated workflow software, notifications and project status updates are designed to keep all members of the team communicating about and working toward the same goals in a central hub.

Foster Employee Success

Workflow automation drastically reduces human error and lag times inherent in unguided processes. Employees are given the tools, information and accountability they need to be successful in their given role.

Reduce Costs and Save Resources

The element of human error in manual processes can have a domino effect and become quite costly. Additionally, the lag time in manual processes can be crippling. When a process is automated, it is optimized and streamlined, saving time and resources.

Provide Scalability

When the day-to-day tasks that burden your workforce can be automated, organizational resources are opened up for other, more dynamic work to be done. These vital resources are now available to drive the success of the organization, rather than continue to slow employees down with mundane, mindless tasks.

Improve Organization

Chats, email and the human memory will only get your organization so far. Organization is essential to growth and success, no matter what data or information we’re talking about. Information needs to be searchable and accessible and automatically presented to employees to move progress forward as quickly as possible.

Real-Time Reports

Paper-based processes can be painfully slow and inaccurate. With automated processes, information is documented and shared in real time. This makes reports immediately actionable, rather than suffering intrinsic lag times that often make information irrelevant by the time it is acted upon.

What Does a Successful Project Look Like at Volano?

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There are a lot of components that define the success of a project. Most would use budget and timeline to define the success or failure of a project. However, if the project is completed on time and under budget, but the product of the project isn’t optimal, that can hardly be called a success. So, we think it’s important for our clients and prospective clients to understand how we define a successful project.

Complete or Complete Success?

Everyone defines a successful project differently. Beyond that, successful project management doesn’t always necessarily mean project success. An author at the International Project Leadership Academy classified common definitions into five tiers:

  • Tier 1 – The project was a success if it delivers all or most of what it said it would (the scope), regardless of schedule or budget performance.
  • Tier 2 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule and/or within the agreed budget.
  • Tier 3 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule, within the agreed budget and to the expected quality standards.
  • Tier 4 – The project was a success if it delivers on all agreed project objectives, be they scope, schedule, budget, quality or outcomes based (i.e. goals to be achieved or strategic positions to be attained).
  • Tier 5 – The project was a success if the product produced by the project creates significant net value for the organization after the project is completed.

Communication is Key

It’s a lot right? Because there are so many different definitions of success, it’s important to have an open dialogue with clients about what the success of every project looks like. When you’re on the same page from start to finish, expectations can be communicated and met at every step. I know what you’re thinking, Shouldn’t this all be mapped out in the initial contract or scope of work? Well yes, but there aren’t too many projects that go exactly to plan and sometimes that’s for the best. And since we know to expect it, we can communicate it.

Our Client Relationships Are Never Complete

Not only are there many different definitions of success, there are different perspectives. A project can be deemed a complete success, but then a few months down the road things start to look quite different. Let’s assume we’re talking about custom software to fix a pain point. The software development project might stay on budget, get done ahead of the deadline and do exactly what it was designed to do. However, after some time, it becomes apparent that no one is using the software, they don’t know how, they don’t have the time to learn the new process and keep up with business, etc.. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, that’s not a successful project.

All of this is to say, we actually don’t define what a successful project looks like. Instead, we work with clients to flesh out what their definition of a given project is. After all, it’s theirs -their software, their investment, their solution. Let’s talk about what this all means to you and your organization.

 

3 Common Development Roadblocks in Custom Workflow Software

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Our whole schtick is, “We make work flow”. So, it wouldn’t go over too well if our process wasn’t optimized for a smooth client experience. Can you imagine having the people promising to make your life easier guiding you through a total mess of a process? Yeah, that can’t happen.

Every custom software development project is different, because every organization is different. However, we’ve been in this business long enough to identify the common roadblocks in the custom software development process. If you’re thinking about investing in custom software, this is a quick and easy read to help you prepare for success.

Disconnect Between the Decision Makers and the People Actually Using the Software

The decision makers for investments like this are usually not the people who will actually be using the software. That means they are also not the same people facing the everyday pain points that lead to the decision to invest in custom software. Naturally, there is almost always a disconnect here.

Be sure to have a team of people who will be using the software involved in the development process. Ask them to supply you with a list of client-facing pain points, as well as their own. Then, ask them for a wish list -a list of tools or features that would be great to have, but aren’t necessarily must-haves. You might find that some of those wish list items make a lot of sense financially. We often find daily manual processes that can easily be automated, saving large amounts of company resources as time passes.

Desired Features vs Wishlist

Speaking of wish lists, they have a tendency to get a little…out of control. There is a big difference between automating a workflow and deciding what you really wanted looked more like the Star Ship Enterprise. Don’t get us wrong, we love when the creative juices get flowing, brainstorming gets exciting and problems begin to untangle. It’s exciting, and we definitely depend on our clients’ unique insights and industry experience for that to happen. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you would like a solution to look and feel like. It’s never too late to add the bells and whistles.

In fact, that’s part of what makes us different at Volano; we don’t enter agreements, we enter relationships. We make sure our clients know software updates are necessary and they’re given the support to know how to maintain their software and get the upgrades they need.

Failure to Properly Integrate and Train

Let’s say you’ve got this beautiful, customized Ferrari and then you realize that no one knows how to drive a stick shift. Don’t invest in custom software and then let it collect dust in the garage! Training and integration of your custom software is vital. There will often be an aversion to new technology or processes in the workplace, but that is easily overcome with the right leadership and encouragement. In true Volano fashion, we have a blog for that, here. Here’s the general outline:

Give Context -Why is this change happening? What benefits can the employees expect? What are the benefits to the organization? How will this change their everyday routine?

Customize TrainingInstead of whizzing through a one-size-fits-all training course, communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis about their specific training needs.

Plant Ambassadors -Target your most tech-savvy go-getters and get them familiar with the technology before you introduce it to the entire team.

Reward Buy-In -Consider gamification of the training process; making it fun, engaging, and exciting. Creating a buzz around the change with rewards is a really effective tool.

Avoiding these common roadblocks is easy; do some internal research, have a vision of the desired solution and don’t sabotage your own investment by not properly integrating or training. Custom software is intended to save resources and optimize processes. We want to do everything we can to make sure the entire process is as smooth as your new workflow.

The Power to ACT: Transparency -Part 4 of a 4 Part Series

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If you didn’t catch the first three articles in this series, the beginning is always a very good place to start. We’ve covered Accountability, Collaboration, and this final article will center around the clarity that comes when Transparency is introduced in an organization, top to bottom.

Ok, so now you have that culture where accountability thrives. The team knows what to do and gets it done, and you have the confidence in the completion of their work. You KNOW who is doing what, and when. Communication is rich and you’ve stopped using email as the project management tool that it most certainly is not. Getting un-stuck feels good, right? You now have the time to lead, navigate and maybe even plan a summer vacation.

To call transparency the “icing on the cake”, would imply that it isn’t 100% necessary, but let me ask you this, “Who in the heck wants cake with no icing?” However you take your cake, organizational transparency is essential to employee empowerment, productivity, and it fosters a positive image publicly as well as internally.

Transparency is clarity and clarity allows for vision. Seeing your business at the highest level.  The ability to look at the top and bottom line with perspective. Seeing the full landscape; no more forests and trees. Traditionally, this has been the vantage point of the few at the top of the ladder. Now, with all we know about organizational transparency, information no longer pools at the top of the ladder to trickle down.  

Transparency is like a zipline. You go through the hard work of climbing to the top of the platform and when you get up there, you find the view is breathtaking.  You’re above the tree line; you can see the horizon.  You totally get the metaphorical sense of clarity. You can see for miles…you can see where you’re going, and where you’ve been. And it gets better. You strap in…and launch! The acceleration is exhilarating, forward movement in pre-defined direction.  This is how your business should be.  Moving fast with a clear vision.  

The power to ACT – Accountability, Collaboration, and Transparency.  No more losing sleep wondering if the nuts and bolt are in place, no more notes to grandma, no more being lost in the forest. If you’re dealing with systems, be they internal, external, or purchased software, … whatever you do, remember the principle of the power to act.

The Power to Act: Collaboration Part Three of a Four Part Series

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Last week we discussed how infusing your culture and processes with accountability at every step can transform an organization. This week, we dive into collaboration and the impact it can have on a team.

Collaboration

“Collaboration” -it has become somewhat of a buzzword when we talk about organizational processes and company culture. It’s to the point where the Harvard Business Review is writing about Collaboration Overload. “Two heads are better than one”, is the theory and we’re all about it. We write about it, we talk about it, we have the benefits down pact…but do we really understand what it means or looks like? Do we understand how to implement it in a way that makes an impact? We have to pose these questions because right now, it really doesn’t seem like it. It looks more like what we like to call “email hell”.

Can you define how your team collaborates and identify the tools that make this collaboration possible? Most leaders we speak to say, “email”. By the way, a Volano team member dies a little inside every time a leader identifies their collaboration tool as email, and a lot of us have kids.

Don’t get us wrong, email is 100% necessary and it’s a powerful communication tool, but that does not make it an effective collaboration tool. In fact, email can be one of the biggest hindrances to collaboration there is. In many ways, email is an albatross. Long email threads, vague directives, poor search ability…and it’s getting worse. 140 character conversations, emojis and why does that person keep putting a “J” at the end of everything?!

When you have time, we suggest you read, “The 4 Emails Everyone Loathes and What They Do to Productivity.”

Email isn’t collaboration. It is for one-to-one communication. Email is a note to your grandma. And is there any context in email?  Typically, not. Gallup says that 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged in great part due to communication barriers. But it can be better. Real collaboration is changing the world of work.

When collaboration is done right, it is about sharing with context, including the whole group, not just one-to-one. Collaboration is when everyone is working around the same table, but in a virtual sense. It is sharing, it is feedback, it is mobile. It is not email.

Not too long ago we had the privilege of working with a wireless retailer via our field visit app, Action Card. In short, Action Card’s mobile and web-based solution eliminates time-consuming paper reviews adding efficiencies to field visits. When it came to collaboration between their field team and just about anyone else in the organization, the struggle was real.

The field visit team was communicating with their operations officer to report on quality for 20 different locations via email, then the operations officer was also using to email to manage the whole follow up process. It’s hard to wrap your head around just how painful this process was. Group emails would be crafted with instructions, then there would be a wait time for various teams and individuals to respond, confirm reconciliation of action items, or simply ask questions. Think about how that would work -reconciling who’s responded and who hasn’t, following up, following up on the follow up, and so on.

As you can image, there were so many pain points in this process, very little was accomplished without several rounds of email threads and likely more time inbox searching than performing actual job reqs. It wasn’t working, especially not on this scale. To compound the issue, corporate was demanding that independent wireless dealerships expand, or get bought.  Obviously their ability to successfully scale further was an issue.

That’s where the Action Card app came in. We brought in our collaboration software and they are now able to communicate richly up and down and across the organization. No more time consuming email threads, no more follow up on the follow up, no more lag time. Now, action items collected from the field visit are brought to light in real time with automated work queues that make it impossible for issues to fall between the cracks. Reviews become actionable, bringing location staff into the process. This establishes a more transparent, accountable review process and better results through education. When an action item is flagged, it doesn’t get lost in email chains or loose leaf papers. Following through on Action Items is made easy and following up is even easier. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.

Stay tuned next week when we wrap up the Power to ACT series with Transparency.

The Power to Act: Accountability Part Two of a Four Part Series

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In case you missed it, last week we published an article defining the Power to ACT and what it means to us here at Volano. Click here to check it out. This week we’re diving into “Accountability” and what it looks like as a holistic part of a culture and workflow.

Accountability

Lack of accountability in an organization can be fatal in business. Without a culture of accountability, leaders get weighed down and forced into micromanaging. If they’re stuck looking over shoulders and picking up slack, how is anything supposed to actually get done? Lack of accountability holds an organization in maintenance mode and makes growth nearly impossible.

The idea of a culture of accountability is rather vague though, right? People doing what they’re supposed to do. If you’re a leader, you want to know how to take action. How is accountability infused into a culture and what systems are used to foster and maintain a culture of accountability? So, we like to show people what accountability looks like in action, through the work of one of our favorite clients, Planet Water.

A number of years ago Volano was lucky enough to be introduced to Mark Steele. Mark is our kind of guy, he’s entrepreneuric, he has a grand vision, and he’s interested in the greater good.  Mark runs a foundation called Planet Water and their mission is making sustainable clean water in developing areas around the world readily available.

The Planet Water organization builds sustainable clean water towers around the world. They have their system down. They can install a tower in as little as one day on-site. Impressive right? But the trick is to ensure that all the components are staged and ready when the volunteer team shows up in a remote Indian village. Organizing, managing, and orchestrating these efforts around the world was causing Mark to lose sleep. One missed step means the mission is off track in a big way. The impact of roadblocks in an effort like this are felt deeper, and carry more weight than your average workflow snag.

Volano worked with Mark to find a solid, dependable solution. We collaborated with him to create a workflow that made the organization, management, and orchestration seamless.  Accountability became part of the system. All tasks, team members, and their status became visible. Mark now has peace of mind knowing that all the “nuts-and-bolts” have been handled.  That ‘mental weight’ has been lifted and now Mark can invest his full energy into the Planet Water mission…not ‘nuts-and-bolts’.

When organizations embrace a culture of accountability and use the tools necessary to enforce it, the aggravation of micromanaging expectations is gone, teams move forward seamlessly, expectations are clear, efficiency increases and things get done -towers get built. For details on our work with Planet Water, click here for the case study. Please also tune into the Volano blog next week when we dive into Collaboration.

The Power to ACT -A 4 Part Series

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Part 1 -What is the Power to ACT?

CEO’s often are frustrated by how slowly their business seems to move.  They feel mired down, trudging through the day-to-day actions, never really feeling like they’re gaining momentum or propelling the organization in a tangible way. You get too involved in the business to actually run it! That might only make sense to those of us who have been there.

When you go into business, you do so because you have a passion for your products, services or customers, not really because you know a lot about taxes, leadership and employee engagement. So, you try to find the balance between your drive to be effective and the necessity to be the leader you read about in every other Fast Co article. Should you be more invested in your bottom line, or your company culture? Is there a balance?

The Power to ACT is a philosophy that we have adopted here at Volano. We find that making accountability, collaboration and transparency pillars of our organization helps us organically strike that balance between propelling business (getting things done) and building a healthy company culture, focused on engagement.

Accountability, Collaboration, Transparency

Accountability

There is an intensely gratifying peace that comes with knowing expectations are being met, but it’s very hard for most leaders to let go and empower. That’s pretty natural actually; this is your organization, your success on the line. Without instilling a culture of accountability, we see bottlenecks to progress and roadblocks in communication. You can put your effort towards to controlling everything, or you can put your efforts toward building and empowering a capable workforce.

Collaboration

Every business leader, trained or not, knows that collaboration is a building block of success. That’s why every quarter or so you’ll implement a new project management app…the last one just didn’t have what you needed, right? Well neither will this one, or the next if collaboration isn’t part of your culture, and fostered by leaders. Get out of the inbox and the fourth project management app and engage in real information sharing.

Transparency

When accountability and collaboration are an intrinsic part of any company culture, something fantastic happens, and it’s called transparency. Walls come down, big picture goals come front and center, clarity and context are part of every moving piece of the organization.
The Power to ACT has been very impactful in our organization. We now understand how thoughtful, purposeful leadership can drive success, while fostering a healthy, effective work environment. Please head back to the Volano blog every Thursday in April for the rest of the series as we cover each pillar of the Power to ACT.