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How to Create Repeatable Processes

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Do you have a finger on the pulse of the everyday processes that propel your organization? That really isn’t on anyone’s job description, right? Making sure X, Y and Z get done is something that someone is in charge of, but how it’s accomplished isn’t always managed as effectively as it could be, if at all.

Without established repeatable processes, you can’t ensure efficiency, quality or consistency. The term “repeatable process” sounds boring, but in all reality, establishing repeatable processes can take your business to new heights.

A repeatable process is when you take a routine or daily process and create step by step instructions that reduce that process to the fewest, most valuable tasks with a logical order of operations. Basically, you’re eliminating room for inefficiencies.

Creating Repeatable Processes

-Every step should have a clear objective; a defined stop and start.

-The next step can only begin when the previous step has been completed.

-Every step is laid out in a logical order of operations.

-The documented process is not only made accessible to all relevant people, but it is mandatory to follow.

The Benefits of Repeatable Processes

-Repeatable processes reduce or eliminate decision making. Therefore the outcomes of each process will have fewer or no differences.

-Fewer decisions will also increase the efficiency of work, creating fewer pauses or roadblocks.

-Repeatable processes create consistency.

-With a streamlined workflow, metrics can be more effectively and accurately tracked and acted upon.

When you consider how many processes are carried out each day, the idea of creating these documented repeatable processes can be overwhelming. We get it, but consider looking at it from a different perspective. Yes, there are a ton of everyday processes to streamline and document, but every one of them is an opportunity to save resources, instill efficiencies, manage quality and make consistency a priority.

Repeatable processes are extremely beneficial in any organization, but when they are part of your workflow software, the benefits are magnified. That’s what we do, we create software that makes repeatable processes simple and transparent. It’s not always easy to envision what that looks like in your own organization, so let us help with that vision. Contact us today.

The Volano Core Values

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When you first start out on a business venture, there is an emphasis on logistics, responsibilities and accountability -getting this thing off the ground, basically. What very often gets overlooked, are the reasons you started out in the first place. You can make money doing a lot of things, so what else is it about what you do or offer that drives you and your team?

At Volano Solutions, we wanted to make sure those things didn’t get buried and forgotten, or worse yet, never even established. So, us founders got together and ironed out the Volano Core Values; the five things we never want to lose sight of.

  1. Learn Constantly

This was a no-brainer for us. Being in the software industry, complacency will kill a business faster than just about anything else. The technology that drives our industry is constantly evolving. Beyond that, we make custom software, so no two clients or solutions are the same. Templatizing a solution isn’t even an option, so we established an emphasis on continued learning, not only for our company leaders, but for every member of the team.

  1. Perform to Completion

We knew we didn’t want to be known for providing “okay” solutions. We didn’t want customers walking away with an 80% solution and “making it work”. We wanted to be known for tailored, seamless solutions that make operational pain points a thing of the past. In this vein we knew our process and procedures had to be thorough and holistic to ensure accurate delivery and complete satisfaction.

  1. Take Pride in Our Work

We like to say that we enter partnerships, not transactions. Traditionally, custom software has been a one-time purchase, but that business model simply won’t work going forward. Software, and the technology that it works in and around, has to be updated. We are focused on life-time relationships with our clients to continually ensure those 100% solutions are still relevant and efficient. We realize that the software you run your organization with has a ripple effect. We don’t just want our clients to be satisfied, we want their customers, vendors and partners to be amazed.

  1. Adapt Easily

We also knew we wanted to stay as flexible as possible. Again, no two clients or solutions are the same, so getting to that holistic, seamless solution takes transparent communication and the ability to make smart pivots. So, we make an effort to remain a small but mighty team of flexible software developers who can go with the flow and find the best path to each tailored solution.

  1. Be Fun

It was also not too hard for us to establish we all wanted to create a work environment that we actually wanted to be part of. We emphasize the importance of a work/life balance, here. We want to give our software developers the opportunity for happiness in every facet of their lives. If they need to head out early on Friday, that’s fine, but they are usually down for a few beers and darts. There’s no way around it, happy employees make happy clients, that’s why “be fun” made it on this short list. Getting employees invested in your success is a two-way street.

Check out how our company culture delivers for Volano Solutions clients.

 

Answer These 5 Questions to Find Out if Custom Software is for You

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You may have caught the buzz about custom software in small- and medium-size businesses. For a while, this was a luxury only afforded to larger businesses, but today, custom software is a standard for nimble, efficient businesses of all sizes. The evolution of custom software for organizational workflows has made its way into even the smallest of businesses. Firstly, the technology is now more affordable, secondly, the ROI has been proven time and again, and lastly, custom workflow software smoothes out pain points, saving resources and sanity.

A lot of business leaders come to us unsure if they even need custom software. Here are some questions that will help you discover if custom workflow software is right for you and your organization.

Is your team trying to “share” spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets are great for small tasks with virtually no moving parts. They are not great for the efficient storage, organization and utilization of data where more than one person is involved. Simply put, spreadsheets are not designed to replace project management solutions or real databases. The functionality is simply not there.

Do your business systems dictate your processes?

One of the biggest advantages custom software brings to the table is that it works with your processes, rather than dictating them. When you have multiple, out of the box, rigid systems working “together”, your processes become cumbersome and disjointed. Custom workflow software smooths out those bumps and ridges, to make work flow.

Do you manually input data into two or more systems?

This is a time suck and increases the likelihood of entering incorrect information. There is no reason multiple people should be inputting multiple sets of data into multiple systems. Custom software ensures that data needs only to be entered once, and then populates the correct fields and systems seamlessly.

Are You Continuously Recreating Processes and Workflows?

If you and your team are having to continuously recreate the wheel, it’s time to use custom software to create, implement and maintain repeatable processes with work queues that increase accountability and transparency. Your team can work smarter, not harder

Did you accidentally lose track of over 500 weapons in Afghanistan?

So the answer to this one might be “no…?” but we had to work this in. Long story short, the Pentagon created an shoddy, albeit elaborate system to track the weapons they were sending to Afghanistan. Here’s the jist of it (this may sound familiar, only not with guns)…

“It turns out there are three databases meant to track the small arms, which include rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns. One is a Defense Department listing of all those shipped from the United States. The second is a Defense Department listing of all those received in Afghanistan. They rely heavily on the serial numbers of the arms. But these numbers must be entered manually, and the two databases — one showing shipments and one showing receipts — are inexplicably not linked together. The results are not pretty.”

The custom software to make your processes and operations seamless is here, it’s affordable, accessible, and it has become the new standard in business. Relentless in the study of business operations and the best ways to leverage technology as your competitive advantage, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Some challenges can be met with existing solutions, while others need to be created from scratch. Together we’ll implement a solution crafted to enhance the efficiency, accountability, accuracy and transparency of your organization as a whole. Let’s start today.

We Love Building Stuff

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The developers at Volano have a passion for building. Some of our developers are into woodworking, some of them are part of the Omaha Makers Group (http://omahamakergroup.org), and every one of us loves to build solutions. We love building solutions for businesses in the form of customized software; it’s what we’re great at. That being said, we don’t mind copping to what we aren’t so great at, and that is design.

There is something to be said for playing to your strengths and embracing your weaknesses. We know that design is not in our wheelhouse, so we have always brought in a partner for creative design talent. When design and function can work together, it’s a beautiful thing. In our process, design comes first, then we go to work on building the software to make that design interactive. After years of refining this tandem process, we have mastered the collaborative process between developer and designer to ensure we hold to the designer’s vision, while providing our technical prowess.

Our focus has always been understanding the flow of business operations and building solutions that make work easier, reduce resources or increase efficiency. Because we’re so confident in our proven process, we’re evolving. Our mastery of workflow solutions combined with our ability to implement the designs, incorporate interactive details and manage hosting, gives us the ability to be holistic in our technical approach with our partners.

We’ve decided it’s time to formalize this offering as Volano Interactive. We have partnered with local branding and design firm, Turnpost (http://www.turnpost.com). Their work speaks for itself, but we’ll go ahead and attest to it anyhow. For over 20 years, Turnpost Creative Group has been engaging and developing brands at every level of enterprise. Their strategic and tactical approach to developing the aesthetic of a website pairs perfectly with our approach to creating customized, seamless software that simply flows, beautifully we might add.

Put simply, we now have a core group dedicated to taking design work and building it out for the web. Our partnership with Turnpost allows us to offer the best in the worlds of design and software that Omaha has to offer.

Not only are we offering a superior finished product, our differentiator is that the completion of your site isn’t the completion of our working relationship with you; it’s the beginning. The “build and bye” firms won’t last. That business model is simply no longer sustainable with rapidly evolving technologies and consumer trends. We don’t enter transactions; we enter partnerships. We’re excited to take this relationship with Turnpost, and our passion for creating and building to the next level of website development.

3 Ways to Acquire and Retain Top Talent

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Human capital is arguably any organization’s most valuable resource. Your people are the face of your company; your competitive advantage. Investing in talent acquisition and retention is just as important as your products or services. While there are a myriad of best of practices out there, these are a few of the vital actions we’ve seen have an impact on talent acquisition and retention in our own organization, as well as in our clients’ organizations.

Create a Better Hiring Process

At Volano, we hire the best programmers in the area. Not only that, our programmers are client facing, meaning they need to not only be great at their craft, but also be able to lead a meeting, help our clients discover and talk through their pain points and above all, make the client feel heard and taken care of. Needless to say, filling a position around here isn’t the easiest.

We realized very early on that quality talent isn’t just waiting around for you. They have jobs, they have offers, they have options. They won’t put up with a lengthy, unorganized hiring process. Soon after we beefed up our own hiring process, we had the opportunity to work with an other organization on their hiring process. The YMCA was experiencing headaches and candidate drop-outs with their software-as-a-service. We brought their vision to life through a custom web application that makes the hiring process flow with ease.

Invest in Technology

Today’s top talent isn’t interested in walking into a cluster of inefficient processes and operations workflows that just don’t flow. While your run of the mill candidate will take what they can get, your rockstars, your innovators, your bottom line impactors want technologies and systems that propel them. By 2025 Millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce. These are the folks for whom an iPhone is considered an extension of their being.

Not only should you invest in technology to attract and retain top talent, but it’s a vital requirement to stay relevant and competitive in today’s business climate. If you’re still depending on email and spreadsheets to get you by, you’ve already fallen behind just about every curve there is, including quality talent acquisitions.

Empower Your Team Through Accountability and Responsibility

It’s a little bit of a buzz term when it comes to workforce retention and leadership – “Create a culture of accountability”. But what does that even mean? Haven’t employees always had to be accountable? Well, the answer is a big fat “No”, they haven’t.

Workforce leadership expert and author, Julie Miller said, “Trying to instill a culture where people are accountable can be difficult. People will not be accountable unless there’s some system in place that encourages it.” That system looks different for every organization, but that’s what we do, we create custom workflow solutions.

Quality talent is optimized in an environment that encourages accountability. Not only that, they know their worth and they won’t pull the weight for everyone. Good talent wants to work with good talent. Keeping everyone accountable in a transparent way with effective systems firstly,  fosters retention and secondly, creates an environment that’s attractive to other great talent. Win-win.

Talent acquisition and retention are just two of the million issues business leaders need to stay on top of. Stop fighting your way through resumes, failing processes and increasing turnover. Instead, invest in improving your hiring process, offer innovative technology as a candidate incentive, and empower your team with tools and processes that encourage accountability.

7 Crazy Stats About Office Productivity

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When you think about lost productivity, you might immediately envision the ubiquitous, blue “f”. While Facebook, personal web browsing and general laziness are big time wasters at work, you can’t place all the blame on employees. Leaders, operations and outdated processes are very often also to blame. Check out these stats…

The highest-performing 10% of workers tend to work for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break. (Source: DeskTime) Tweet that stat!

So maybe next time you have to break up a water cooler chat about “The craziness that will be the Beyonce Formation Tour presale”, (which, who hasn’t had to this week?) Consider how productive your team has been lately. If you’re not sure, then the water cooler gathering is the least of your worries. On the other hand…

23.4% of workers cited socializing with co-workers as the second leading office distraction. (Source: TrendHunter) Tweet that stat!

Talk about knowing when and how to strike a balance! So you want to give them the autonomy of breaks to increase productivity, but you also have to be able to know when to reel it in. The key is to always have a finger on the pulse of the productivity of your team. That’s leadership.

Happy employees are 12% more productive. (Source: University of Warwick) Tweet that Stat!

How’s your employee recognition program working for ya?

23% of workers believe that time spent in meetings is a waste. (Source: Harris Poll and CareerBuilder) Tweet that stat!

How productive are your meetings? Are you using all of the tools at your disposal to reduce the number of, and time spent in meetings? If you’re having to hold meetings about the same topics, tasks or issues, perhaps an aging process needs to be addressed.

An average of $1,800 per employee, annually is spent on unnecessary emails. (Source: Atlassian ) Tweet that stat!

The majority of organizations we work with try to replace project or workflow management with email. It does not work! Sure, you could eventually get to Texas on a bike, but there are far better mediums to get there, right? That’s the difference between email and custom workflow software -A to B in the most efficient way.

The average worker spends 1.8 hours each day searching for and gathering information. (Source: McKinsey) Tweet that stat!

When is the last time you revisited your processes and how your information is being stored, organized and accessed? Odds are, it’s time to consider investing in a custom database.

As leaders, we can’t always pass the buck when it comes to lost productivity. Sometimes we have to look at the tools, processes and support we’ve made available to them. It’s not always easy to spot an archaic or inefficient process because we get comfortable and stuck in our ways. But, “That’s how we’ve always done it” is a very dangerous mindset.

The 4 Emails that Everyone Loathes and What They Do to Productivity

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, email is great for a lot of things, but it definitely shouldn’t be any organization’s primary mode of communication. Instead of creating new processes and introducing efficient technologies, we’ve grown dependent on email, which was never intended as a project management or workflow technology. To highlight the pitfalls of email, we’ve identified the four types of emails we all get on a regular basis that make us go…

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The Forward -the email thread with about 127 conversations forwarded to you with little or no direction. You finally get to the bottom of the thread and realize you still have no idea what role you play in all of this. You read it again, and eventually ask the sender for some context. Next comes an overwhelming feeling of annoyance. You’ve read, reread, asked for clarity, and wasted a whole lot of time. The only real message “The Forward” sends is that the sender values their own time and not that of the recipient.

The Emotionally Androgynous -the all caps and exclamations email that has obviously been written by someone who is either extremely angry or excited…or are they? With email, intent and tone are not always obvious. And no, the solution is not to add smiley faces on the end of everything. When messages aren’t crafted with the reader’s perspective in mind, they can be detrimental to office morale, or even create an unprofessional atmosphere in the workplace.

The Article -isn’t it the best when your manager or co-worker sends you an article with no indication why? You’ve been sent an article on the latest ad retargeting best practices. Okay…am I implementing these? Am I giving you feedback on the article? Should I assume any deliverables and if so, what?! It’s annoying. Again, the sender is sending the crystal clear message that they don’t have time to make sure the recipient has all the information they need. Then, more emails go back and forth. An Atlassian report revealed that an average of $1,800 is wasted annually per employee on unnecessary emails.

The Siri -when the person sending you an email seems to not care in the least that their email makes zero sense. The same Atlassian report revealed that poorly written communications can cost your business as much as $4,100 per year, per employee. If your employees or colleagues have told you multiple times they need a translator, maybe let’s not have Siri send your messages?

Again, we realize email is an essential tool today and it’s here to stay, but there are ways to optimize the use of email. Here are a few tips from author and entrepreneur David Silverman aimed at making our email communications better:

Include a call to action. Does your e-mail ask the reader to do anything? If not, why are you sending it?

Be upfront. Is the e-mail’s purpose clear from its subject line and first sentence?

Assume nothing. Verify what you think the audience already knows, because it may not.

Think it through. Are your views or requests clear? Don’t force people to read your mind.

To conclude, there are better, more efficient ways to communicate. Email is now this puzzle piece that we continuously try to make fit into these spaces that is just isn’t supposed to be. It doesn’t fit into the CRM role, or the project management role, or the workflow management role, or the operations role. We’d love to talk with you about the technology that does fit. Contact us today.

Customer Question: Why Does Software Need to be Updated?

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Does it rot? Well, yeah, it does. Like everything else in business, life, the universe -software, the technology and people surrounding it are always changing and evolving. After discussing this with a client, we realized the discussion would lead to the meat of a great post. We want our clients to understand the necessity of software updates.

Software isn’t a set it and forget it solution. In fact, the investment in software is just the beginning of your relationship with it and with your provider -us. Workflow software in particular has to be able to grow with your team, other technology, and industry trends…

Software and Your Organization

Is payroll handled the same way it was 20 years ago? Are your operations the same? Are your marketing initiatives the same? Nope, nope, nope. Your organization is constantly changing. To think you will be running on the same workflow processes in the coming decade (or even five years) is even more unlikely than going back to ledgers and paper files (no offense if you’re still there).

We’ve done total overhauls on workflow software and we’ve done small tweaks. It’s important our clients realize that the creation of their software is really just the beginning of our relationship with them. The best part? The more we work with an organization, the more seamless and holistic their workflow software becomes.

Software and the Technology Surrounding It

Do you remember when your first generation iPad just started sucking? Or when you tried to update an application on your phone and it said you can’t because you need the newest IOS? Or when that Millennial made fun of your Hotmail address?

By definition, software is the programs and other operating information used by a computer. It’s technology within technology that operates with other technologies. Whew! What we’re getting at here is that you and your software aren’t in a vacuum. Your workflow software works with outside technologies. Depending on the purpose of the workflow software, it was can work in conjunction with any number of other technologies like your CRM, email marketing platform, accounting systems, employee or candidate portals, and the list goes on. As these other systems and technologies change, so must your workflow software.

Software and Your Industry Needs

Staying relevant means staying ahead of the curve, or at the very least, being able to keep up. I like to use Blockbuster as an example. When Redbox came out, it completely antiquated their business model. This happens to the best of us in business -someone comes out with a better, cheaper more awesome product. In those situations, what matters is that you’re able to make effective, swift pivots to your products and services. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s fast-paced.

So, what we really want our clients to know, is we’re in it for the long haul. We won’t set you up for a Blockbuster fail. We’ll help you create that nimble, pivot on a dime company you need to be to survive. Let’s talk about how to get started today.

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Owners With Some Hustle

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Anyone can think of New Year’s Day as just another day. Nothing really makes it different from any other, except your perception of it. You can watch it pass by, or you can join the millions of people who are choosing to, at the very least, say they want to make this year better in some way.

Over the last 8 years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with small business owners from every walk of life, in every industry. To put it plainly, we don’t get too many calls from business owners who aren’t driven or seeking out a way to improve. The stagnant, happy somewhere-in-the-middle business owners aren’t exactly flooding our inboxes with RFPs and frankly we like it that way. So, in the spirit of a better 2016, these are three New Year’s resolutions we propose all of the small business owners out there with some hustle consider…

1) Work on customer retention.

On the blog, we’ve discussed the importance of the 80/20 rule -about 20% of your customers bring in about 80% of your revenue. Finding out who that 20% is comprised of and how to retain them should pretty obviously be on your to-do list. You can’t and shouldn’t try to please your entire customer base. Consider how much further your marketing dollars can go and how much more tailored, refined, and effective your message can be, when you target that 20% as opposed to 100%?

Want to know more about figuring out who your 20% are and how to keep them? Click here.

2) Take control of marketing initiatives and understand their impact.

Do you have your finger on the pulse of your marketing efforts? Not everyone is a marketing expert and not everyone has time to stick an iron in every fire, but we strongly recommend business owners have a basic understanding of what is happening and what results are coming from their organizations’ marketing initiatives.

In order to measure the impact of marketing efforts, the right software is essential to determine the success of campaigns. While it’s fantastic to have an expert at the helm of your marketing, ultimately the buck stops with you. It’s hard to make pivots or call shots when you’re in the dark.

Need help getting started? Start here.

3) Invest in workflow management.

Whether you’re a helicopter boss, or you spend an average of two hours in the office per week, you need workflow management. Workflow management isn’t just about fixing a broken process (although we do plenty of that). It’s about finding the cut corners, locating the mysterious cracks that everything seems to fall through, and in general, making organizational resources go farther. What could be getting done with fewer steps, people, or processes? How can this department or entire organization run better? If nothing else, that’s the question to start the new year with.

If you’d like to talk about customer retention, gaining a better understanding of your marketing efforts, or running your organization in a more effective and efficient way, we’re the guys and gals to talk to. Let’s make 2016 better.

7 Ways to Improve Your Daily Workflow

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We are in an age of hyper-productivity. If you’re not doing five things at once, while ordering your paper towels on Amazon and catching up on Blacklist, then what are you even doing with your life? The problem is, with so much going on, has anyone noticed that not a lot is actually getting done. Our workflow software is ideal for transparency and accountability through processes, but there are some hacks you can add to your everyday routine to help you get more done by working smarter, not harder.

Take Breaks

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks while working, but breaks actually increase productivity. Researchers suggest eating small amounts of protein, taking a walk around the building, or reading a few pages from your latest book. It’s key to take these breaks before your energy is depleted. Schedule your breaks, so you get your recharge before you’re running on empty.

Stay Organized

This used to mean file folders and a place for your stapler. Now, your online workspace is what you have to keep in order, and that can often be harder than keeping your tangible items organized. The mismanagement of information eats up a considerable amount of time and energy. Yes, creating processes to stay organized takes time and discipline, but it’s well worth it!

Leave Work at Work

Burnout is real and it’s more likely to happen if there aren’t strong boundaries between work and your personal life. You have to be able to shut it off, put down the smartphone, and invest in your personal life and relationships. By keeping a healthy work/life balance, you give yourself the opportunity to recharge on a daily basis.

Use Collaboration Tools

Context, accountability and transparency are key pieces of team success. Are the project workflow tools you’re currently using actually being used? Truly being effective? Seamless teamwork doesn’t come naturally to well, just about any of us. We all need the right tools to hold us accountable and encourage transparency.

Step Away From the Email

We check our email far too much throughout the day. Yes, those emails have to be opened and responded to, but when we’re checking our email incessantly, we’re taking our focus away from other tasks, procrastinating and wasting time refocusing time and time again. We suggest checking email once every two hours or in between tasks. Stop the refocusing.

Learn to Say “No”

While we aren’t fans of the ol’, “That’s not my job” we also realize that everyone has a threshold. We can get so caught up in being team players that we take it too far and over extend ourselves. Then comes the burnout, things fall through the cracks and although you started off with the best of intentions, you’re now the problem employee who can’t get work done on time. Knowing your threshold and making transparency part of your everyday workflow can help prevent taking on too much.

Sleep Your Way to the Top

We stole this quip from a great speech by Arianna Huffington. The premise is that once she realized that working 13 hour days and bragging about how little sleep you get actually gets you nowhere, she decided to start putting herself first. She decided to start getting more sleep, taking time to exercise and making it a point to fuel her body with healthier foods. She saw her productivity increase and her work/life balance actually start to balance.