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Transparency Archives - Volano Solutions

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting from the Field

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Volano was very fortunate this year to help two companies, Hunt Electric and Miller Electric, as they teamed up for the construction of a multi-phased million square foot data center. They were challenged with scaling their proven processes to a project this size and decided to leverage software to overcome this hurdle.

Volano created an end-to-end solution building both a reporting & management portal for the office as well as a mobile app that works together in real-time providing the communication and insight necessary for the successful installation of the electrical systems.

“Volano listened to the challenges we were up against and built us that solution. Their role in creating a mobile app for more efficient reporting helped our communication and process tremendously.” – John Lepak, Project Manager | HUNT ELECTRIC

Download the Volano Success Study for Hunt and Miller Electric (15 downloads)

Work Management Is Not Task Management

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

The Need for Strong Workflow Management Increases Over the Holidays

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‘Tis the season to be undermanned. The holidays are hectic for everyone, both personally and professionally. Even if the end of the year happens to be a slow time in your particular industry, there is always work to be done, an opportunity to catch up, or even get ahead (who are we kidding with that last one?). None of that happens though because our lives get down right hectic this time of year. People need to take time off to travel or host guests from out of town, or do the unthinkable and carve time out just to be with their loved ones.

Requests are pouring in for PTO days or work from home time. Although stressful, your employees earned that time or that flexibility. With strong workflow management, everyone can get what they want this holiday season, and business doesn’t have to suffer.

Take Inventory

Perhaps more than any other time of year, you need to know exactly where you stand with deliverables and projects in a prioritized fashion. The Monday before Christmas isn’t when you want to find out you’re behind on a deadline. Firstly, productivity slows down during the holidays and secondly, there are fewer hands on deck, and you’re likely working with a short week. Strong workflow management is essential to ensure nothing falls through the cracks during the holidays.

If you’re like most organizations, you’ve tried about 342 different project management softwares and either couldn’t get employees on board, or the software simply didn’t work for your organization and the established workflow processes within it. Tailored, customizable workflow management software is the solution. Invest in software that your people will actually use, software that does what it says it does, manage work!

Plan Ahead

Now that you know where you stand, you can be transparent with your team about needs and work together to see that they are met. If we can get A, B and C to stage D, then we’re golden. If we can’t, these will be the expectations… It really can be that simple, the problem is that leaders are more often than not, out of the loop with the status of what needs to be done. That’s when you end up with a fully staffed office on Christmas Eve, although a few people would have been adequate. And now everyone hates your guts.   

Offer Structured Remote Work Opportunities

We know why so many leaders aren’t willing to offer remote work or flex work opportunities; they believe they’ll be taken advantage of and communication will suffer. Actually, that is completely the case, unless you have the right workflow management tools. Flex and remote work opportunities are one of the most favored employee incentives you can offer, but without the assurance and proof that work is getting done, employers aren’t willing to let that power go. When a team leader is offered a virtual bird’s eye view on every stage of every workflow, they can let go of that fear, and instead embrace accountability and transparency.

What would you need to see and be in control of to offer an incentive like work from home days, or flex hours? Whatever it is, I’m betting we can make it happen. We create customized software that can track and report on, well, just about anything. Let us help you get through the chaos. Call today 402-943-3733

Transparency as Part of Your Retention Strategy

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“Transparency in business” Yes, it’s a buzz phrase. No, it’s not a trend. At Volano, we create customized software for workflows that center around transparency. When context, accountability and responsibility are incorporated into each moving part of a workflow, something beautiful happens. You see improved efficiency, better communication and a cohesive organization that in turn produces a better product or service.

Organizational workflows are just one facet of business that transparency can touch and improve. We’re going to take a hard right here and talk about how transparency in business can drastically increase retention rates. Yeah, we build software, but we build software centered around transparency and that leaks into every aspect of our own company culture. I guess you could say we’re experts on transparency, and not simply in the capacity of workflows, but as a leadership and organizational standard.

In 2011, companies spent $45 billion on recruiting, yet 46% of new hires still left after their the first year. –Fast Company

As business owners, retention is something that most of us struggle with. Between recruiting costs, the investment in training, and then the learning curve before the employee becomes profitable, you end up investing a small fortune. While there’s no fix-all for this issue, we contend that organizational transparency is an incredibly effective place to start.

Consider these turnover cost stats from a CAP study:

 

  • 16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (earning under $30,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would be $3,328.
  • 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $40k manager would be $8,000.
  • Up to 213% of annual salary for highly educated executive positions. For example, the cost to replace a $100k CEO is $213,000.

 

Providing Context Gives Purpose

When employees get the big picture goals of the organization and how their individual role impacts that big picture, you’re giving them context and purpose. They can see how their role helps turn the wheel and drive success. When overarching organizational goals are shared and celebrated, employees are able to become a part of those goals and invest themselves in them.

Context in work is also known to increase the amount of discretionary effort employees give to the organization and discretionary effort is the single strongest sign of employee engagement. Context leads to engagement and engagement leads to retention. It’s really not complicated or far-fetched, it’s how humans operate. When they are given the opportunity to work toward a goal, they are more likely to do so. If they never know what that goal is, who’s to say what they’re working for -likely a paycheck, and that is not a retention strategy.

Instilling Accountability Creates Drive

Another fantastic thing that transparency brings is accountability. Sure, you might know your job, but do you have any idea what the guy behind the computer, four cubicles down does? Do you know how your job impacts his, or visa versa? Who ends up with your crap work, or who is accountable for 50% of the messed up orders that come across your desk.

When we’re held accountable to our co-workers, we are more likely to perform at the standard we would like to experience from those around us. Beyond that, when accountability is transparent, everyone is keeping everyone in check, performance reviews become more effective, and work doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Reconsider the Traditional Corporate Structure

Top-down transparency is tough; we’ve had the corporate ladder, or pyramid, whatever you want to call it, for years and for some organizations it’s not going anywhere. If you’re married to your symbols of seniority that’s fine, but consider getting rid of the idea that 90% of the information stops with the c-suite. This massive game of telephone that we’ve been playing for decades just isn’t cutting it.

Don’t conceal information, share it. Don’t decide what’s relevant or not, be thorough, give context. Don’t assume the bottom of the ladder won’t understand your vision, help them understand.

Is it even possible to be invested in an organization that doesn’t share its path, vision, goals, mission? Transparency is the key to fostering and maintaining that investment that is so crucial to retention.

The ROI of Information Management

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When employees constantly have to sift through resources, dig to find passwords and find the right person to grant them access to information, it’s more than just an annoyance, it’s a serious waste of company resources. There is a surprisingly high cost associated with the mismanagement of information and resources.

A McKinsey study revealed the average worker spends 1.8 hours each day searching and gathering information. That’s insane, right? One fifth of your payroll is paying for information mismanagement. This is a problem.

Email is a Culprit

Another McKinsey 2012 study reported office workers spend about 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails. A large portion of that time is dedicated to searching email. You’ve done it, scoured through several emails to find one little snippet of information that likely should have been captured and stored in a centralized, easily retrievable place. Email is not a tool to store or organize information and it certainly can’t take the place of a project management system. It just wasn’t built for that, yet, we continue to waste time and search.

Lack of Accountability is a Culprit

Email doesn’t provide the environment where accountability thrives.  Here’s a scenario: Your sales guy just won a new deal and a week later the client calls him up to ask for the delivery date to be a week sooner.  The salesperson says sure and later emails the operations manager and cc’s the project manager to let them know this.  That operations manager forwards the email to a few supervisors which end in the abyss that is the email server.

A few weeks later the client calls the account manager and asks where we’re at on the delivery.  The account manager has no idea that the delivery date was pushed up a week.  They can’t reply to the customer with any confidence if the order will be on time.  They need to “research the answer”.  They need to find who may have taken accountability for this because expectations were not clearly defined.

This process happens in different ways and scenarios all the time because there is no explicit accountability in everyday processes.

Take a moment and think about what your work day would be like if you had all the information you needed, without roadblocks. Obviously, there will be external hold ups no matter what you do, but what if everything internally were to flow exactly like it was supposed to? The correct information was in the right place, expectations were defined and explicit, and accountability of for each step of the process in this wonderland workplace was built in.

We help businesses find their workflow wonderland. We create software that makes work flow the way it’s supposed to. Find out how to get more work done now.

How to Keep the 20% of Customers that Generate 80% of Your Business

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While there are many pieces to this customer retention puzzle, today we’ll focus on operations. Obviously, you still have to give ‘em the ol’ razzle dazzle with fantastic customer service but for the most part, this sale is won. The 20% of customers that generate 80% of your business are your recurring revenue stream (the ones you can’t afford to lose). So, let’s talk about how to retain these precious few with a flawless operations workflow.

Work Queues

How many times have you experienced operations delays because information was passed along via the telephone game? How many times has an operations process come to a halt because no one was there to take over at the next step? The worst part of these all too familiar scenarios is that no one is held accountable, because no one has been made accountable. Furthermore, your 20% doesn’t really care who’s accountable; all they know is they don’t have their order.  

Every operations department, or group of departments, should have automated work queues. The idea is that with every step of a process, the right person is notified of their expected action. Going further, these work queues should include all information needed to carry out the action, as well as a timeline for the process. Once one step of the process is complete, the next queue is triggered.

Automated work queues don’t forget to pass along information and they don’t give vague instructions. Work queues let employees know what is expected of them and what they are accountable for, making it easier for them to deliver.

Transparent Workflows

At Volano, we probably overuse the word transparency but with good reason. Firstly, transparency in operations specifically, grants each moving part a bird’s eye view of the whole process, increasing accountability and virtually eliminating bottlenecks and those wretched cracks that things are always falling through.

Secondly, and just as importantly, transparency creates context and where there is context, there is engagement. When a person knows how their efforts tie into the big picture, a sense of ownership occurs. It’s leadership 101 –engaged employees make happy customers. Engaged employees by definition are invested in the goals of the organization. If your goal is to retain your 20%, it’s your employees’ goal too.

Repeatable Processes

Transparency and automated work queues sound awesome, but they are part of a bigger workflow solution -repeatable processes and business rules. Establishing these rules and processes will take some trial and error, but they are 100% worth it. A customer can feel every pain point in your operations process -every time they get a product in the wrong color or size, every time their order is shipped 3 weeks after purchase, every time they can’t get someone on the phone. Tailoring and fine tuning your repeatable processes means a consistently positive experience for your customers, leading to their retention.  

Not very surprisingly, we found that operations failures aren’t caused by laziness or lack of attention, but rather ineffective processes. Please don’t be fooled by the current loyalty of your 20%. If they aren’t looking for a better product, service or solution now, they will be. Unless you work at improving your operations, they’ll find it. Their loyalty to you depends on your investment in their retention. Let’s talk about customer retention now.