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Roadmapping with Volano

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Fall is here which for us at Volano means, we revisit our goals and start planning for next year before the holidays are upon us.

When you think of how work is flowing through your company, are there areas for improvement in efficiency, accuracy, transparency or accountability?  Are you finding it increasingly difficult to track and/or manage your day-to-day operations because your “systems” don’t talk to each other? 

Volano can facilitate a review into the potential ways collaboration and workflow can improve your business moving forward. 

Here’s our roadmapping process – 

Define:

Envision – How would you like to see the future? 

Prioritize – What are the most important objectives?  How can you maximize?  

Budget – What is an appropriate budget to create and support your productivity tools?  

Deliver: 

Roadmap – Connect the dots between your priorities and set timelines, tying vision to results. 

Implement – A budget based phased approach is the most successful way to achieve your vision.  It allows you to manage to a set budget and always see where your company is going. 

 

Contact us for help facilitating a roadmap for 2019 and beyond!

4 Things to Consider When Creating Your Employee Portal

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An employee portal can be a very powerful tool. It can save company resources, increase employee engagement and expedite processes, but it must be created thoughtfully and with the end user in mind. Employee portals have become (watch out, here comes a software buzzword) robust! Truly though, employee portals are now far more than an access point to the employee handbook. Be sure to consider the following when designing your employee portal.

Offer Self Service

Although employee portals are expanding, their traditional core functions should remain IT and HR functions. When employees need to make a request or access information, they should be able to rely on the employee portal as the centralized hub. Now, the employee doesn’t have to track down emails, information, forms, etc. to accomplish a simple task. Furthermore, instead of reaching out to IT or HR, waiting a few business days for a reply and wondering what stage the inquiry is in, your employees can get things accomplished quicker and with fewer company resources.

Make It Mandatory

If you’re a business owner or leader, that part about using “fewer company resources” probably caught your eye. While custom software isn’t one of the cheaper things on the budget, the ROI can be pretty fantastic if created and deployed correctly.

At Volano, we create custom software that works for you. Your employee portal should be streamlining processes and saving company resources. There’s just one catch; your employees have to actually use it. To put this into perspective, a recent study reported that two thirds of the respondents say their employee portal has reduced the administrative burden on HR.

Don’t maintain antiquated systems for the folks who simply don’t want to create a log in or “figure it out.” Optimize your ROI by making certain functions of the employee portal mandatory. With a little training and patience, you can get more out of your software investment.

Populate It With Information Your Employees Care About

While the core functions of HR and IT should be a big part of your employee portal, it doesn’t have to be just the stuffy, corporate stuff. You can house information about company events, the calendar for the softball team, or employee recognition and rewards. Make it a fun, social place for employees to connect.

Make It Mobile

Did you know that here in the US we spend an astounding 4.5 hours each day on our phones? It doesn’t even sound possible, right? Well, it is. They’ve become an extension of our bodies. Currently, only 11% of employee portals offer mobile access despite the fact that those portals which do offer mobile access gain more than 2 times as much engagement. Your employees want barrier free access to information, they want mobile access. Ensure that your dollars are well spent by making mobile access a must for your employee portal.

10 Things the Volano Team Loves About Omaha

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Some of us are transplants and some of us are lifers. Some of us have strong roots here, and some of us admittedly long for the coast or a mountain range, but we can all agree that Omaha is a great place for the Volano Team for several reasons…

The Tech Community

We’re in what’s known as the Silicon Prairie; an emerging tech hub right smack dab in the middle of the US. Tech talent has recently been drawn to cities like Omaha for the abundance of job opportunities and our strong economy. There are even great resources like code schools and internships all over the city to get the next generation involved in tech and keeping the tech community growing strong.

The Entrepreneurial Support

Not only can Omaha area entrepreneurs lean on our great economy and strong pipeline of tech talent, the community support of our entrepreneurs is pretty insane here. Investors and connections don’t just fall in your lap, but they certainly aren’t impossible to find. Coworking spaces and incubators are popping up all over the city to foster the growth of startups and entrepreneurs.

Omaha is Becoming More Walkable and Bike-Friendly

We’re seeing more bike lanes and more people using them. The city has also made plans to bring in an expert on making cities more walkable. We’re about a 7 minute bike ride from the heart of downtown, in NoDo (or North Downtown), so safe walking and biking is a huge plus for us.

The Music Scene

With several awesome, funky, divey venues around town, you can have your pick of genres in the underground music scene here in Omaha. You can catch a show somewhere around town just about any night of the week. We’ve even had a few successful recording studios pop up with great promise.

We Have an Abundance of Great Food Trucks

The food truck scene exploded in Omaha in the last few years and we couldn’t be happier about it. Every Friday a different food truck comes to our building and we have yet to be disappointed. That might just be the best part. You can find food trucks in any other city just as easily…but are they anywhere as good? We think not.

The Art and Craftsmanship Community

We’re builders, it’s what we do! Some of us are even part of the Omaha Makers Group. There are a lot of events and organizations that support the arts and craftsmanship in and around Omaha. You can see a strong embrace of the repurposing movement here in Omaha, with a unique blend of old and new; you can see it everywhere from our art to our architecture.

The Economy

The strong economy here makes it a little easier to compete for and attract great software development talent. It also makes it easier for us to offer a healthy work/life balance. The folks in Omaha don’t live to work, they work to live and fortunately, that’s a currency we can get behind.

The Folks are Friendly

It’s kind of like an airplane around here, if you don’t want to chat with someone, you should keep your earbuds in…and even that doesn’t always work. People are just plain friendly in Omaha. There are always outliers, but you’ll just about always catch a smile and a wave on your walk, whether you know a soul or not.

Craft Brewing is Huge

Not gonna lie, if this list had an order, this might be #1. The craft brewing scene has blown up. We now have several really top notch breweries around town. There probably isn’t a day you can walk into the Volano office and not see a growler sitting around waiting for the next fill up.

The CWS is in Our Backyard

Not literally, but if we had a backyard at the office and it was one block away, the CWS would be in our backyard. It’s a really fun time in Omaha and a really fun time at the Volano office. We can walk to the stadium, hang out around the tailgates, or make that short bike ride to the heart of downtown.

Workflow Automation Fails

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As they say, “Every rose has its thorn.” Workflow automation is intended to create efficiencies and increase consistency, but that isn’t always necessarily the case. Custom workflow software needs to be created thoughtfully, with a team of professionals who have seen it all and done it all. As leaders in custom software development in Omaha, we know exactly what the common pitfalls of workflow automation are, and how to avoid them. In this industry, knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

Fail #1: Information About Process Management is Being Hoarded

Let’s say Suzie (not Suze, for all those Seinfeld fans out there) was part of the creation and management of a core workflow. Everything was flowing perfectly, until Suzie left the company without passing along vital process management information. Now, the employee taking her place either spends company resources figuring out the process, making and correcting errors, then eventually gets it. Or, they simply abandon the established, working process and create their own to get work flowing again. Neither of these outcomes are ideal. Be sure to procure documentation about every process with context around details and functions. A documented workflow system effectively kicks down the walls that castle builder Suzie has erected. This will seem like a back burner task…until Suzie has left, then it’s a full on situation.

Fail #2: The Workflow Prevents Manual Error Manipulation

There are many situations in which a person in a workflow or post workflow sees an obvious error but cannot manually fix the error or effectively alert relevant persons about the error. In these situations, the person using the software and the person having to clear up the mess the error caused might just wish for their old pen and paper process. The last thing we want is for your custom software investment to work against you. We will always suggest manual intervention in certain areas of your software development.

Fail #3: Your Workflow Lacks a Transparent Look Into the Sequence of Events

We see this roadblock cause the most damage in employee portals. Every employee loves the convenience of an automated process they can complete on their smart device. The problem arises when they have made a request or filed something that requires follow through…but it never comes. They’re not sure if their request got lost in the series of tubes that is the internet, they’re not sure if someone is working on it, or if they performed their submission incorrectly.

In any workflow in which a sequence of events would be relevant to someone involved, we suggest offering that transparently. It’s an oversimplification, but we love how Pizza Hut created their app; it shows a clear timeline from order to delivery; who’s making your pizza, and when it went out the door. ‘Cause people need to know about the status of their pizza!

Experience in workflow automation is really the only way to avoid these common fails, and we’re proud to say we have plenty of it. Not all software is created equally. The planning and thought that goes into your custom workflow software, is what will make the finished project a success. For more on the Volano process, click here.

3 Ways You’re Killing Productivity

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Every business owner is concerned with productivity. It’s one of the most important metrics a leader can measure and improve upon. It’s usually pretty easy to focus on outside distractions and seek out obvious inefficiencies. It’s not quite so easy to realize when you as leader are the roadblock or the bottleneck. Take a second to reflect on these common ways leaders are killing productivity in the workplace.

You’re Bogging Your Team Down With Tasks That Could Be Automated

Have you embraced technology? We mean really embraced technology. You’ve probably ditched the filing cabinets and ledgers, but there’s so much more. There are endless possibilities when it comes to automation.

When you automate tasks you enhance efficiencies and consistency, and reduce the use of redundant resources. Take a look at each task that is repeated on a daily or weekly basis and at least consider the idea that it could be automated. What would that look like and what would be the return over one, five, or ten years?

Read more on automation here.

You’re Hoarding Information and Responsibility

Information is power, so why do we tend to find all the information closest to the top of the ladder? Sometimes leaders don’t think the information is necessary for the task, they don’t want to take the time to give context, or they might even think giving too much information can be overwhelming.

Stop underestimating your team and start empowering them. First, figure out why you aren’t delegating and sharing information. No time? Maybe you need a centralized information hub. Worried about follow through? Perhaps you need automated work queues and accountability alerts. Doing it yourself is just easier than training someone? We know it’s hard to give up that control, but it’s 100% necessary in order to foster growth and support scalability.

You’re Not Conveying Clear Expectations

Do you ever get frustrated because you can’t seem to get your team to do exactly what it is you want? Well, have you stopped to consider whether or not you’ve made your expectations clear? Communication can be a really funny thing, especially when your main communication medium is email. So much can get lost in translation, and lack of context can be a productivity killer.

Stop assuming your expectations are clear. Stop relying on email as a project management system. Instead, create concrete goals for staff members. Be sure you and your team have a shared understanding of what success looks like with each step. Does this feel like a lot more trouble than it’s worth? Trust us, it’s not. Conveying clear expectations and standards consistently will set the bar going forward.

Could you use a more productive staff? Let us help you help them! It’s what we do; we help leaders find the inefficiencies and productivity blocks in their team (including themselves). Let’s talk about how we can make work flow in your organization.

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 -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.

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.

 

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.