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ThreeWill’s Modern Digital Workplace with Pete Skelly

Danny Ryan

Host – Danny Ryan

Bio

Sam Marshall

Guest – Pete Skelly

Bio

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and A Microphone podcast. This is one of the Bald Brothers, Danny, and I am here with Pete. You’re also bald, right? Last time I checked, you’re bald, right?

 

Yes.

 

Pete:Yes, you are. All right. You’re a tall bald brother too. You’ve got some height on us as well.

 

Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

 

Pete:Uh-huh (affirmative). You sure do. Today I wanted to get together with you and talk about something that we are doing internally at ThreeWill with regards to digital workplaces and some of the things where I always joke around and say the cobblers children have no shoes, but I also want to make sure that we are able to utilize the technologies that are in front of us and apply some of the things that we do with our clients to us and try to take the situations where … We’re a specific type of organization and Office 365 has these things to offer and sort of cater it to what we should be doing as an organization. You and I have been working on that, which has been fun.

 

Danny:Yeah-

 

Pete:Go ahead.

 

Danny:… Just I think internally we’re having a lot of customers ask for these things. We’ve worked with customers on kind of modernizing things and so it’s a pretty revealing exercise to go through that internally, given that we’ve done very similar things to customers. We migrated from 2007 to 2010 on prem and then 2010 to 2013, 2013 to the cloud. We’ve got the same baggage that everybody else has. It’s kind of a good way to go through a learning exercise and put ourselves in the customer shoes.

 

Pete:Yeah. And for us we’ve even done things where we’ve migrated off of different platforms. At one point we were using Atlassian’s Confluence and then at one point we were using Jive’s softwares product and moved off of that. There’s been some history around all of this stuff as well. I think for us it’s been looking at what Microsoft offerings are out there and what … We sat down and sort of talked through what some of the goals were of doing this and I think one of the key things that came out of that was there’s certain technologies that we want people to be able to play around with, but don’t do that on our main tenant. Let’s keep gov environments off of this.

 

Danny:I know we all wanna kick the tires, I think is typically what the site that we create that we just go in and mess around with, but I think one of the things that we’re recognizing as well is that we need to control this. That comes into the governance piece of this as well where we wanna control … This is an important asset inside of our organization. I think you and I are recognizing that we need to put some additional controls around this.

 

Absolutely.

 

Pete:I think that’s another good thing that’s coming out of this as well. Let’s talk some of the nuts and bolts of things that we’re looking at doing. I know one of the things you did an inventory of all the site collections that were out there and then you and I created a spreadsheet where we’re going through and sort of doing this filtering of what are the ones that we can go ahead and clean up and get rid of? Then some of the ones that maybe I think we made this move from before, there was like portals and then there was sites and now we’re using teams pretty extensively. We need to go through and make sure we’ve moved everything forward and that we’re not leaving anything behind and also that there’s not two places for the marketing department or there’s two places for different things. I know we’re sort of evaluating what we have internally and making sure that we’re consolidating things and putting things in the right place. That spreadsheet was very helpful.

 

Danny:Yeah. That spreadsheet really came from the P and P tools GitHub repo. One of the tools that the P and P project and SharePoint P and P team really has … I don’t think they’ve done a great job of marketing, to be honest, but this is relatively new. There’s even a UI scanner and coming soon some transformation capabilities as well. They’ve got a lot of YouTube videos, so the community calls have gone through some of these things. Yeah, the SharePoint modernization scanner is what I ran. That very recently, as of June 1st, got an update to actually provide some Excel outputs for group connection readiness. So kind of groupifying sites and then page transformation readiness.

 

Pete:One of the things that is gonna change very soon is you used to not be able to groupify an old team site, site collection. That’s actually changing, so one of the things you and I are working on after the inventory, which really tells you an incredible amount of information. Things like what can and can’t be modernized, a bunch of output files as far as web scans and site scans. It tells you really if a site’s gonna be ready for groupify, whether or not you can actually do that, what blockers you might have. Does a site already have a 365 group? Is publishing enabled? Or whatever the case may be. Other warnings, permission warnings.

 

So one of the big things with modernization and being able to use Office 365 groups and take advantage of teams and planner and stream and all of those things is having a group, an Office 365 group back that particular feature. If you already have a group, that’s not a stopper but it’s okay. I’ve already got the group, who do I wire up those other features? Or can I even associate this with a group because I have really deep nested sub-webs and I have broken permission inheritance all over the place? It tells you a whole lot of information, just at the top level, and then you can dive into some of the additional files for web-scans and tell do I have custom master pages? Do I have alternate CSS? Some other things that might trip you up trying to modernize your site.

 

When you’re saying modernize, is that … I’m looking at that like we’re using the new modern pages that are responsive, that look good in a mobile device and has, I guess, a new set of web parts that you can use and it’s just a much cleaner interface as well?

 

Danny:Yeah. So modernization, modernizing … I’m trying to think of what their exact terminology is, but it’s modern sites. So modern Office 365 group connected site, whether that’s a team site or a communication site. All the functionality you get with mobile first, being able to see those pages and have them function in the SharePoint mobile app, being able to take advantage of the new SharePoint framework solutions and the new modern web parts. All of those types of things that in an old team site … For example, with the new hub sites, team sites that are based on the old team sites without a modern landing page, you won’t see the hub site navigation. So you can actually join the hub, but you lose some of the functionality of the hub unless that site’s modernized.

 

Pete:Then, so I know as part of this overall thing as well you’re talking about hub sites was … I think we identified a couple of key use cases. For us, we talked about accounts, where we’re gonna have a hub site for accounts and that broaches all the way through marketing sales to delivery so that we’re all on the same page. We identified certain types of sites that we know we wanna have and where they would roll up underneath a hub site. I thought that was … I think we maybe had like five or six different types of sites that we knew we wanted to be a part of this.

 

Danny:Yeah, and I think that speaks to a larger discussion that a lot of our customers are trying to grapple with as well. It forces you to think governance again, that word nobody likes. If you’re gonna choose to modernize and make changes to support modernization, you wanna do things like flatten your site collection hierarchy. If you’re in Office 365 and you’ve got deep sub-webs and you’ve got a hierarchy of sub-webs, you wanna rethink how are you doing that? Why are you doing that? You’re not gonna be able to take advantage of certain things, but that conversation should … it begs the question of what are my key use cases? So it goes back to what … a governance discussion. What business value am I trying to get out of this?

 

Pete:For us, you and I had the discussion about, well we’ve got some internal things with private groups or teams that are private and then that flows nicely into that corporate intranet mentality. There’s a departments use case for us. Obviously as a consulting company, we have sales, so there’s that sales use case. Collaboration over sales documents and collateral, et cetera, and then projects. We have our internal practices of improvement over time for those particular practices. We kind of, you and I, just to kind of be very explicit to folks listening, we discussed what are our key use cases and that cobbler shoes argument. We gotta go back to square one just like we do with our customers and say, “Where do we start from a value perspective?” And sort of build up from there. It means you gotta do the work, then you gotta clean up things that are old and you don’t need around, especially with GDPR. Should we keep data around? Does that data have anything in there we shouldn’t be storing, et cetera. It’s just a good practice to take a step back and clean up over time.

 

I know you’d love to talk about GDPR right now, right?

 

Danny:No, I don’t. This week has been horrible. So for those that have not dealt with it, May 25th was GDPR’s effective date, so now every … I’m sure everyone got all the privacy updates and agreements and email bombarded with those. Please read my privacy statement, but that means signing deals with clients and terms of how to deal with data that we deal with when we do migrations, for example. It’s been very fun this week.

 

Pete:So out of this I know we’ve been coming up with a list, and I’ve actually tomorrow in the company meeting I’ll run through sort of what the high level tasks are for this that we went through earlier this week. It sounds like our implementation of this is doing some of the clean up and it’s running some … I guess we’re gonna be modernizing some of the sites and moving some of the content around to the appropriate place. Then, I think the end goal of this is there is … I joke around with Tommy and I said, “I feel like we’ve got 10 different home pages. I don’t know which home page is the home page.” But just more of, we have one place that people go that’s a hub for the departments but then you can branch down into seeing all the accounts and seeing the hub for the accounts. Just a lot, I guess a cleaner environment and something that hopefully will make more sense to folks as well.

 

Danny:Yeah, and I think it goes back to we’re doing the digital workplace workshops with customers now, and I think it goes back to what’s the definition of that dig workplace, right? If its intention is to be that … and I’m doing air quotes on the radio. If it’s mean to be that virtual equivalent to a physical workplace, in our workplace as I mentioned we sat down and sort of mapped out what are the physical or the conceptual. What’s our conceptual workplace? And we had those key use places. You kind of have to take a step back and do that and then what are we trying to accomplish? Well, if we’re trying to lay that structure out and make it easy for people to get work done, that means finding information has to be easy. Engaging with that information, collaboration with other folks. We’re trying to find a way.

 

Pete:We’re all in on teams at ThreeWill, so I live in teams pretty much all day but I still have email with customers, I still have content that sits in SharePoint and those types of things. So how do we make it so I can use the SharePoint mobile app or the teams mobile app and make really good sense of how we’re organizing this stuff no matter where I am, no matter what tool I’m using?

 

I think it’s interesting as well that we’re applying these technologies and looking at the size of an organization and how we like to collaborate. About a year ago we decided we were gonna go all in on teams. It was about a year ago. It was a little more than a year ago. Right away we took a liking to it and there was instantly this overlap of what could go on in teams and what could go on on Yammer and we made a decision, “Hey guys, for internal use let’s just stick to teams.” I still use Yammer every once in a while for some external collaboration, but I think it’s just been good for us to take a look at who we are as an organization. And I also put this in the goals for our project, which was we’re not building out our clients type of intranet for ThreeWill because we don’t have that money. We don’t have the time. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. What we’re trying to do is leverage what Microsoft has and apply it to a small organization like ThreeWill.

 

Danny:Yeah. I think that’s really important for any organization that starts to look at well how do I … I look at it in the last six or eight months we’ve done a lot of migrations. We’ve had huge success with migrating some really large customers from on prem to Office 365. We’re starting to see that watershed moment of I’m int the cloud, now what? So now people have to figure out, “Well, how do I modernize? What am I not taking advantage of? How do I get teams?” The kind of marketing behind some of these things is finally catching up with customers where they’re ina position to take advantage of them and in our situation, like you said, we kind of do have that cobbler shoes issue all the time, but how can we get to really use the tools the way we wanna work?

 

Pete:For our customers, it’s answering the same question. It’s not gonna be the same for everybody. That governance question is not a one size fits all question. The answer to it definitely is not one size fits all. For us, provisioning things is pretty much a one time activity, except for projects. Our project processes are automated, but pretty much everything else isn’t. Well, in a large organization, that’s not gonna work. You get somebody with … We just migrated someone to 365 that had more than 5000 site collections. Well, that’s not gonna work. They provision probably 20 a day and they’re also de-provisioning or archiving roughly the equivalent over time. They’ve gotta look at their situation and say, “How do I take advantage of these modern capabilities, but how do I also make sure that I’m managing that environment well in the same vein? How do I get rid of things at the same time? Or how do I archive?” Or whatever the case may be.

 

Well, this has been fun working with you on this. I’m looking forward to maybe we’ll do a wrap up when we get to a good version one of moving everything over and modernizing it. Maybe do a follow up for next quarter of what we actually did. That’d be fun to do.

 

Danny:I think step one is some healthy deletions that folks are already aware are coming. The 20 … what did I say? The 29th of June? So there’s about 50 or 60 site collections that are just gonna disappear on the 29th of June. I think it was a Friday, so that’s step one. Step two will be how do we start modernizing some of these things. That’ll be interesting, see how can we convert those pages? The existing pages. And there’s some good guidance out there from Microsoft at this point as well.

 

Pete:Very nice. Well thanks for taking the time to do this Pete, and it’s been great working with you. It’s sort of like the business person who I have no idea how to go implement this stuff, but you just make it happen magically. All you need is a couple power shell scripts, right?

 

Danny:Yeah. That’s it. That’s the [inaudible 00:18:24].

 

Pete:Thanks everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care, bye-bye.

 

Danny:Bye.

 

Pete:

Additional Credits

Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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Estimating Jive Migrations to Office 365 with Bruce Harple

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Bruce Harple

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan, and I am here today with Bruce Harple, at least virtually here with Bruce Harple over Microsoft Teams. How’s it going, Bruce?

 

Bruce:Good, Danny, good. Glad to be here.

 

Danny:Excellent. You’re going to talk about a subject that we hit quite often around here. It’s like, “Danny, why do you have to come up with an estimate?” [I say 00:00:26], “People ask me right away. ‘What’s the estimate? How much is it going to cost us to move off of Jive and onto Microsoft?'” I appreciate you taking some time today. I know this has been something we’ve been discussing for years since we’ve been doing a lot of these migrations, but just look forward to talking to you about this. Thank you for taking the time to do this, Bruce.

 

Bruce:Absolutely.

 

Danny:Let’s get this started. I know from talking with customers, customers that are on Jive right now, one of the things that often happens is they just haven’t really thought through, they have no idea what the budget should be. When you don’t know what the budget should be, you start off with maybe zero or something along those lines. It just seems like a lot of people just underestimate the overall effort involved with these migrations.

 

Bruce:Yeah, they definitely do. Again, you’re kind of migrating from one collaborative platform, Jive, to a totally different collaboration platform, Microsoft 365. I don’t know, I think some customers probably take maybe their [SharePoint 00:01:36] Migration experience and maybe they use that to budget for a Jive migration. As you know, it’s totally different. In SharePoint, you’re moving kind of light content, the containers in SharePoint [inaudible 00:01:51] for example. They are going to be the same types of containers if I’m going from, let’s say SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2016. Even if I go from 2013 to the cloud, to Office 365, the overall containers are exactly the same but as we know, if you’re moving across totally different [disparate 00:02:12] platforms, it’s a lot different. I think sometimes they might be using their SharePoint Migration experience to do their budgets. I would say, Danny, customers’ budgets that they set before talking to us to get maybe better educated on the complexities of migrations, I would say we’re seeing that these budgets are a third to half of what they need to be to get that migration completed.

 

There’s a pretty big differential in our customers’ expectations of what it takes for these migrations compared to the reality of what it is going to take to not only move the content, which that’s a big piece of it that we focus on, but as you know and as we’ve experienced with customers, the whole user experience is totally different moving from Jive to SharePoint Online or Office 365. It’s a completely different experience. I think the customers, if they haven’t looked closely at that, they aren’t going to understand there’s a significant investment in just the overall kind of change management planning and communication plan development that is needed for these migrations. It’s a pretty dramatic change for the end-user community to be able to [inaudible 00:03:40].

 

Danny:Yeah. I think you’re exactly right with regards to people are used to doing upgrades of existing products, but then along the lines with this, if we’re migrating binary content or we’re migrating content, that’s one thing. In this, we’re migrating complex data types, which might or might not have an appropriate place to go to inside of Office 365.

 

Bruce:Yep, exactly. There’s probably in Jive 30 to 40 different data or content types. You’ve got to decide where does that content live in Office 365. In many cases, there’s multiple destinations where that content could go in Office 365, and you really got to know and understand. In the Jive world, what are those users of that content, what’s the usage scenario on how they’re kind of collaborating around that content because that could drive where we place that content in Office 365. I think that’s the other thing, the other kind of challenge. Jive, like a lot of collaborative platforms, there’s not a lot of governance in place, which in collaborative platforms in many ways, that’s good because you’re kind of letting the culture of the company define how they’re going to collaborate with one another and what that looks like. In many of these tools today, you can define different types of containers within Jive and different types of containers in Office 365 that you can use for collaboration.

 

All these containers behave differently and act differently, and have other content types attached to the that supports [a real 00:05:42] experience, but I think because of that kind of lack of governance in those current Jive environments, I think a lot of customers don’t really know at a detailed level all the different kind of usage scenarios that are out there and how people are really using Jive to collaborate. They certainly, in most cases, don’t have a handle on how much content’s there. That’s, as you can imagine in a migration, understanding A, the usage scenarios; how are people using this platform? B, how much content is there and needs to be moved? Those are pretty critical components of trying to figure out how big something is.

 

Danny:Yeah. I’ve been working with the team about our sizing tool that we have and getting that out there to folks. Is that a part of our process with trying to come up with an estimate?

 

Bruce:That’s right, yeah. One of the things I was going to talk about is how do you begin to mitigate some of the unknowns, and that is certainly one. Danny, I think that the Jive Size Utility, that’s a free download on the website, correct?

 

Danny:Yeah. All they have to do is make a small donation to me, and then they get it for free. Yes, it’s absolutely free. All I require is an email address so I know at least who’s downloading it and can send out the updated versions of it.

 

Bruce:Certainly as you look to how does a customer get better educated around their Jive environment that helps them better plan and estimate, the effort is by running that Size Utility. That does give us counts of all the different types of content. Danny, you’ve seen it. Typically, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of pieces of content in most of these Jive instances. A lot of these Jive instances, Jive is a platform that a lot of companies are really taking seriously and it’s becoming a key part of their enterprise collaboration strategy, and there’s a lot of content there. [You can imagine 00:08:06] moving…

 

Danny:So Bruce, what are some of the other things that are out there that lead to the complexity of these projects? What are we running into?

 

Bruce:Some of the things just technically getting down to a level of detail with these migrations. If you think about Jive being this large collaborative environment with a lot of different containers, with a lot of different collaborative content, some embedded in HTML, some contained in binary files. If you think about that environment, there is all kinds of linkages, [URL 00:08:49] linkages between all those pieces of content. Guess what? All those URLs are Jive URLs. Now we’ve taken all that content and now it’s in Office 365, and it could be an Office 365 team site. It could be in an Office 365 group. It could be in a blog site. It could be in a communications site. Now that content that used to be in Jive all connected; attachments, everything connected through URLs, now it’s in a whole different set of containers with different URLs. Guess what? We have to transform all those URLs. All that linkage between all those places in Jive, we’ve got to maintain all that linkage between all those sites and other containers in Office 365 plus all the supporting content that now might be document libraries or folders, or other pages within Office 365.

 

We get to transform, as part of that migration, all those URLs. We kind of call that our “referential integrity,” [crosstalk 00:10:00]. The technical effort there is big, but also as a customer you’ve got to invest the time to do that detailed mapping. You got to say, “This group in Jive that has this URL is now this team site over in Office 365 that’s got this URL.” We’ve got to have the URL of every single piece of content that’s going to move into Office 365 because we’ve got to map all that, and customers have to help us with that. That’s a critical piece of upfront planning.

 

Danny:With the content, it might be not everybody moves over all the content either. It might be in a different location. I know there’s things that you have to deal with with regards to how we’re linking up the content together, and that’s one thing we need to think about. The other thing that often comes up is some of these links are to people who might’ve left the organization, and some of this information about who updated what could be to someone left the company. I think through the years, we’ve hit into a lot of the edge cases that people might think about, “How are we going to handle this?”

 

Bruce:Absolutely. If you think about the whole process, if you think about the traditional [inaudible 00:11:38] SharePoint Migration from let’s say 2013 to 2016, you might just do a content database backup and restore, and boom, everything’s there. Here, because we’re moving from containers in Jive to different containers in Office 365, we have this process; we have to get all the content from Jive, then we have to transform all that content. Depending on where you content to live in Office 365, we’ve got to transform it into the right format so that now we can call the SharePoint API the Office 365 API and upload that content into Office 365. Again, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of pieces of content. One of the other challenges is as you’re pulling all that content from Jive and pushing it into Office 365, we often get throttled. You get two cloud environments, and they will throttle you. That’s just again, there’s time that it takes to move all this content. Even though a lot of it is automated, it takes time to push that much content through network pipes. It’s [physics 00:12:57]; it’s not anything other than that.

 

Danny:Yeah, yeah. I think a lot more things you’re thinking about that go beyond the, “Oh, I’m just upgrading.” I think one of the things I’ve wanted to point this out where everybody’s saying, “Hey, move to my cloud” is, what’s the portability of your content? How easy is it for you to take your content and move it from one place to another? This problem, it’s not like it’s going to get any easier as people move their content up into the cloud. Long-term, I think people are used to, “When things are [On-Prim 00:13:45], I can get access to the database” and stuff like that. Really thinking through, if I wanted to make a change from one platform to another, it seems like there’s whole thing with cloud lock-in that’s out there as well. We’re seeing it right now with some of our customers wanting to move off of Jive and realizing it’s not a simple task at hand, and it might take months to do it. They just didn’t think about it.

 

Bruce:Another area, as you were talking I was thinking through this, Danny, where I think customers tend to underestimate the effort, if you think about moving from SharePoint On-Prim to SharePoint On-Prim, or even SharePoint On-Prim to Office 365, if you look at validating that migration, it’s pretty easy. Your containers are the same, the names of the containers are the same for a user. End-user, let’s say a site owner, a place owner, to validate, “Hey, that content’s successfully moved. It’s easy, it’s quick. I can look at it. I know my site, I know my content. I can look at it in Office 365 and go, ‘Yeah, you got everything. It’s all there. Check, I’m done.'” Think about a Jive user that is used to operating in, instead of a Jive group, it’s got its own user experience. Content is organized a certain way. Now, you’re asking them to go in Office 365. That content might be in an Office 365 group. Other content might be in document libraries or folders underneath that group. That’s a whole new experience for them. That’s not a 15-minute exercise for that [end-user 00:15:32] to give you the OK that, “Yes, you got all my content. I see it all, I can find it all. Check. You’re good to go.”

 

The whole quality assurance parts of these migrations, the inspection and the validation, it’s a lot of manual effort and it’s a different environment. It’s a different world for the end-users. At some point, you’re going to rely on them to do some of that validation for you to make sure you’ve got it all.

 

Danny:Not to make your head explode, but the other equation that’s coming into a lot of these migrations are if they are going with a SharePoint internet-in-a-box, and how does that impact migration itself? I know we’re working with a lot of the different players that are out there with regards to this and we’re agnostic as far as where they go to. There’s been some ones that we’re used to working with and have built some relationships with, but I think that’s one of the factors as well when you’re looking at a high-level estimate for these things. It’s not the same cost to move whether you’re going to Office 365 itself or you’re also including one of the SharePoint internet-in-a-boxes as well.

 

Bruce:Yeah, absolutely. That should be a key piece of the migration that a customer should look at. Typically in Jive, it’s a very rich user experience. Typically out of the box, Office 365 is not as rich, and that’s changing as we know with modern sites, modern pages. It’s beginning to get to a rich user experience, but certainly as you said, Danny, many of our customers have turned to an internet-in-a-box product to provide that wrapper around Office 365 to kind of better present that content to the end-users, and make it so that it’s not so different maybe than their experience in Jive. That’s a big piece of it. I think customers, again, with migration they think, “Okay, it’s just about moving content,” but hey, it’s more than that. It’s moving content, but what’s the user experience going to be and how do I need to prepare my user community for this new user experience?

 

Danny:Let’s talk through some of the things that our customers can do to mitigate some of these costs. We typically will say, “Okay, let’s take this opportunity to maybe do a little bit of cleaning house with content.” Some of what we do is a little organizing and maybe going through and taking this whole opportunity to get rid of things that don’t need to move forward. That’s one thing, is probably the amount of content. What are some of the other things that are out there that help cost-wise for us as people are looking at doing these migrations?

 

Bruce:I think the other thing is, is really to be prepared and know up front that you’re going to really need to develop a good, solid change-management plan, as well as a communication plan. I think to start thinking about, again, it kind of goes back to understanding your current state Jive environment. How are your Jive users? What are those key usage scenarios? How are they using Jive today? Really begin to understand that because that’s going to help us map what user experience is best going to fit and what are the best content stores as we prepare to move into Office 365. Really investing the time to understand that the key in critical usage scenarios that you want to kind of bring forward into Office 365, I think, is a key piece of that. I think the other thing, we talked about running the Sizing Utility. I think, Danny as you know, once we get the output of that utility, we can provide an initial ROM estimation for that migration so people can begin to set expectations inside the organization on what it’s going to take for this, for these migrations.

 

Then you know, Danny, the key thing that we really push customers to do is to go ahead and schedule the Jive Migration Planning workshop and/or the Digital Workplace workshop. The Jive Migration Planning workshop really focused more on the content migration and getting down to the detail. We talked about the 30 to 40 different types of content in Jive and mapping that to where it’s going to live now in Office 365. It’s really getting down to that level of detail and doing all that mapping, and looking at how we can reduce scope. What are some of the criteria that we could put in place to start to exclude content? Maybe there’s content that we pull from Jive that stays archived and doesn’t get pushed into Office 365. As you know, the Digital Workplace workshop is really more focused on the user experience, and what are the things that we can do to make sure we effectively support those key usage scenarios that are key in Jive? How do we replicate those usage scenarios and that user experience in Office 365?

 

We talk about the three C’s in the digital workshop. It’s the communication, collaboration, and coordination. How do you want to implement that in Office 365? We’ve had great success, as you know, with the workshop. These workshops as much educating our customers on complexity somewhat, but also on the decisions that they’ve got to make and really try to help them make those decisions based on our experience, based on what we’ve seen other customers do, based on best practices that we’ve seen, and leveraging Office 365 as your new collaboration platform.

 

Danny:Awesome, awesome. This has been great. We’re past 20 minutes, so this is where I start losing people to…

 

Bruce:No, I think we got the main points across, Danny.

 

Danny:Yeah. When I post this up, I’ll have a link to the workshop for people to go take a look at that in more detail, and then also a link if they want to download the Sizing Tool. I’ll put that up onto the blog post as well. Bruce, I know this is a very difficult subject. It’s one where, I think, through the years maturing on, but it’s a big problem and big problems require big minds and big problem-solvers. You guys have been doing an awesome job on these projects, so I appreciate all the hard work that you do.

 

Bruce:Absolutely, man. Enjoy it very much.

 

Danny:Okay, thanks Bruce. Have a great day. Thank you everyone for listening. Bye-bye.

 

Bruce:Take care.

 

Additional Credits

Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorEstimating Jive Migrations to Office 365 with Bruce Harple
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Office 365 Periodic Table with Bruce Harple

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Bruce Harple

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan, one of the bald brothers, and I am here with … You’ve got plenty of hair Bruce, so I can’t call you a bald brother. I’ll call you a brother.

 

Bruce:For now. For now.

 

Danny:You’re a brother of mine, how about that? I’m here with Bruce. We’re doing this remotely via Microsoft Teams, which is a new thing for me. Always try new things, right? Always be up for new things. Today we are going to talk about a subject that I think is near and dear to a lot of folks, and specific about Office 365. Get us started Bruce. What do you want to chat about today?

 

Bruce:Yeah, so, what I want to talk about is there’s this great platform out there right, called Office 365. That many, many, many enterprises are moving to. The value proposition is just so great. It really is a sound, and very large … We kind of call it a collaboration, communication, and coordination platform. There’s kind of a good news, and bad news story to Office 365, right? The good news is there are 29 different products within this platform for you to leverage for collaboration, communication, and coordination. The bad news is there are 29 different products. You know, for collaboration, communication, and coordination, right? It’s this phenomenal platform, but it’s almost too much.

 

In fact, there’s a SharePoint kind of blogger, by the name of Matt Wade, who has put together this thing, he calls it the “Periodic Table of Office 365” and Danny, I know you can kind of add that link to the podcast.

 

Danny:Absolutely. I’ll put this up on the blog. Absolutely.

 

Bruce:Yeah, but it’s a great representation. I mean, it’s a play on the periodic table, but it just goes to show you how much functionality there is out there with Office 365. And the challenge for IT organizations is, I can’t just turn these 29 separate, disparate functions loose on my enterprise because they’ll be overwhelmed, right?

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Bruce:And they really won’t know. I mean… So a great example for communication do I use Outlook for communication? Do I use Teams? Do I use Yammer? Do I use Skype for Business? Do I use my Newsfeeds? What do I use and when do I use Outlook versus Teams, versus Yammer, versus Skype for Business. It can create a lot of churn in organizations. It can create a lot of confusion if you don’t have a vision, a plan a strategy for communication on this platform.

 

Then I think something that then if you’d take it a step further you’ve got these 29 separate functions, products, and Office 365. What a lot of organizations want is they want that unified, single, cohesive kind of homepage for their organization.

 

So if I’m going to collaborate, communicate, and coordinate with my teams I want to have one landing page, one homepage I can go to right? And from there … From that one page, I can do what I need to do if I have a project team I’m working with I can go and figure out how do I get to my team.

 

If I’m involved in sales and there are pursuit teams how do I work with those teams? Or if I’m trying to consume company announcements I want it all to come into one place. Kind of out of the box when you turn on all these capabilities in Office 365 you don’t get that single unified landing page for an enterprise. You gotta kind of create that. And you gotta kind of lay that on top of Office 365.

 

The challenge for companies is how do I consume all of this amazing functionality but consume it in an effective way? How do I wrap a cohesive user experience around that so people can consume it in a fast efficient organized way?

 

I think that’s the challenge right and kind of what I wanted to talk about related to that challenge. So how do I go after that challenge? How do I help my user communities out there consume all these amazing capabilities out there? Not just 365, and do it in a structured way and do it in a way that maybe I roll out capabilities incrementally. I don’t just turn everything on and overwhelm people. I do it in an organized way and I really addressed the needs for collaboration, the needs for communication and the needs for coordination.

 

Danny:I just got out of a meeting where we discussed something similar to this which was, if you have like six or seven- I was joking around with Jeff Meyer about this- But if you have so many different ways to share information and it’s so complicated as far as when, where do I share? It ends up stifling collaboration. I think you have to take the steps to simplify. You have to. I know we’ve done some stuff internally at Three Will where we’re using Teams and we’ve turned off things like Yammer and we’re trying to simplify the whole experience. You have to do that because you can’t just throw a bunch of products at your end-users and so go for it.

 

Bruce:Yeah you know Dan we’re big believers at ThreeWill in taking something that is very, very big, and Office 365 is big. I mean that’s the good news it does a lot. We’re big believes in taking something big and breaking it down into smaller consumable pieces. Don’t try to kind of- What’s the expression “eat the whole elephant at one time” right.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Bruce:You gotta kind of break it down and just consume it in smaller increments you know that your organization can consume and be successful with.

 

Danny:Absolutely.

 

Bruce:So what I was going to do was just kind of outline- how does someone like ThreeWill- How do we come in and help customers consume this platform? How do we, instead of consuming it in one gigantic bite how do we break it up and go after this in an incremental way?

 

So what I wanted to do was walk through the steps that we would go through with customers to help them understand the platform. Understand how to consume it effectively for their organization.

 

Danny:That’s great yeah, because I think it is- Like most things like this it’s a maturity thing and you gotta do this in phases and how do you go from where you are today to where you need to be as an organization? So awesome.

 

Bruce:Yeah and we really look at this just like in everything that we do, we feel like we’re a solutions-oriented company. What we’re doing is trying to help customers build and implement collaboration, communication and coordination solutions. That’s what we are.

 

The steps that we would walk a customer through as it relates to Office 365 are the same steps we would use back when it was just SharePoint or we would use if we were going to look at leveraging for a more custom solution maybe.

 

I was going to just kind of walk through to the steps Danny and the podcast, this one, and we can always, in later podcasts, drill into more detail.

 

Danny:Sure. Absolutely that sounds great.

 

Bruce:As it makes sense.

 

Step one is taking the time to understand your current state. So what are you doing today?  And by the way, it might be you go after this focusing just on collaboration or just on communications or just on coordination, you know how do we work together? You don’t have to bite all three of those pillars of Office 365. You can go after it one at a time.

 

But understanding your current state it’s trying to understand who your users are, your groups are, their usage today of whatever they’re using today to do their jobs. You’re looking at policies, governance, security. But looking at where are we successful and also where are the challenges and impediments and where are the opportunities for us to further help our organization work more efficiently, more effectively.

 

Really just kind of understanding where you are today.  Like I said, I think understanding successes, pains, challenges, impediments and opportunities is a key part of that. Because that’s going to feed into where your future state is going to be. So that’s kind of step one.

 

Step two is looking at your core use cases. Your core usage scenarios. This is looking at, again within the pillars of collaboration, communications, and coordination. What are the critical usage requirement within one of those? This is where we look at content management. Enterprise integration and collaboration. Portals, workflow, business intelligent search. All those kind of functional usages of a platform like Office 365 that you want to leverage. But really understanding, again, what are those core use cases? What is most important to the organization?

 

That’s step two and then step three is taking that current state analysis, taking those use cases, those usage scenarios and then designing that future state. So taking- and that’s where in that future state you’re saying, here’s this phenomenal platform called Office 365 with these 29 different functional components right. What of those components am I gonna use and how am I gonna use them within those pillars of communication, collaboration, and coordination?

 

This is where you’re looking at your overall information architecture. How you’re going to information management. How are people going to discover information content? How are we going to share content? How are we going to collaborate as teams? Either at a corporate level. At a project level. At an apartment level. At an individual level. What’s that future state look like? It’s designing that future state.

 

And then step four is developing the road map. Chances are you’re not going to be able to get to that future state all at once because it’s just going to be too much for the organization to consume. Too much to implement and roll out. Again, back to my point about breaking things up into smaller incremental chunks and back to kind of- You know Danny we’re an agile scrum company and we believe in that inspect and adapt and you do things incrementally right.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Bruce:You know the roadmap is really how do I get from where I am today to my future state and how do I get there incrementally?

 

So what does phase one look like? What does phase two look like? And what’s the reasoning behind that? So why does that roadmap look the way it does? Which should be driven back by those core use cases and core requirements. The challenges ,the impediments, the opportunities. It really should be driven by mapping all that into your future state.

 

The last step, and an incredibly important one especially in Office 365 is defining your governance, model, and plan. Because in this environment, in this platform you do what to govern it because you want to govern the growth of the platform. You want to govern the usage of the platform so that everything fits into that future state design that you’ve put in place. Governance is a key piece of that.

 

So those are the five steps that we would walk a customer through and help to get to the point where they’d have that roadmap. They’d have that future state, and they’d know how to get from where they are today to how they can effectively consume this phenomenal platform.

 

Danny:Awesome.

 

And is that some- Is that typically- Is that done over a couple of days, a week or what does that typically look like?

 

Bruce:What we do- I mean so the starting point for anybody would be, we have what we call a “collaboration workshop,” and we structure the workshop. It can be anywhere from one day to three days. Again we spend some time up front trying to understand an organizations vision for collaboration, communication, and coordination and just try to structure that workshop to what a customer is trying to accomplish.

 

But the purpose of that workshop is to spend a little big of time on the current state. Spend some time talking about the future state. And walking through some of those capabilities in Office 365. Getting to the point where coming out of that workshop, what we have is a communication, collaboration and coordination assessment with associated recommendations.

 

You’ll have a high-level future state design. Your Office 365 communication, collaboration and coordination roadmap, you know we kind of have a product [inaudible 00:14:33] estimation for implementing that initial phase of the road map. So the workshop is designed to be something where we can narrow in on exactly what part of collaboration, communication and coordination you want to focus on and let’s get to where we come out of that work shop with an initial view of your future and how to get there.

 

Danny:That’s great. As you mentioned earlier maybe we just in upcoming podcast break these out a little bit more and go into a little bit more depth. That’d be awesome to do.

 

Bruce:Yeah we could even pool our [inaudible 00:15:19] our collaboration practice lead, and maybe we do some joint podcast and drill into more of the details.

 

Danny:I like it. I like it, that sounds like we got a topic for the next one.

 

Well, I appreciate you walking us through this. I know you do have a lot of options with Office 365. I know you guys have been doing these types of workshops for quite a while starting with doing some of the SharePoint deployment planning services years ago and were update. We’ve got a lot of different things that we need to cover to come up with an effective strategy and plan around what people are moving to with an Office 365 and I appreciate the time and energy that you and Bo and others are putting behind this. This is great stuff.

 

Bruce:Yeah absolutely, we’ve got a lot of passion around this. We enjoy engaging in these conversations with customers for sure.

 

Danny:Yeah and when we look at the practices with migrations leading to collaboration and then sustainment I know the heart of what we do is around collaboration, and so I appreciate us having some good, especially workshops. Some way of us getting together with clients and furthering the conversation beyond just sales and just really getting into the heart of the matter with things. That’s great.

 

Bruce:Absolutely.

 

Danny:Awesome. Thanks for doing this Bruce and thank you, everybody, for listening and I’ll put the- at the bottom of this blog post as well I’ll put up more information on the collaboration workshop and how to learn more about what’s covered during that workshop and next steps from there.

 

Thanks, everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care.

 

Bruce:Take care buddy.

 

Danny:Bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorOffice 365 Periodic Table with Bruce Harple
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Dashboards are Key to the Digital Workplace

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Tim Coalson

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and A Microphone podcast. I am here with a dude that’s bald, it’s Tim Colsen, you want to be my brother?

 

Tim:I will be your brother.

 

Danny:My brother from another mother. It’s in the afternoon on a Thursday, we’re wrapping up things, hopefully before too long and Tim is ready to make his commitment for this quarter to get his podcast done.

 

Tim:I’m ready.

 

Danny:You’re ready for this. And we’re gonna talk about JIRA.

 

Tim:Not JIRA specifically, but then I’d like to expand that a little bit more into a conversation of dashboards.

 

Danny:Wonderful!

 

Tim:Because JIRA is a dashboard, which I found very helpful, but then it made me think about a lot of the solutions provided for various customers are related to dashboards that I thought are very helpful.

 

Danny:Now, JIRA it’s a product from Atlassian and we knew them from way back from doing stuff with confluence and they also have some … they have hip chat, which is some yammer type of functionality. And with JIRA, it’s usually used for issue tracking primarily.

 

Tim:Yep. Issues. So I work on a support site. So I work … I’m a consultant for ThreeWill and I work for-

 

Danny:What?

 

Tim:A company that has a support site. So they’re in the tax and accounting software business. So they have a support site that supports their products so, as a person working on their support site, we have tickets that get in or to either indicating new functionality that the company wants to add to the support site, or if there is some enhancements that they want to make or heaven forbid there’s a problem on the support site that we need to resolve. Then JIRA tickets get created and assigned to people.

 

Danny:So it’s not just tickets? It’s also enhancements that you using it-

 

Tim:Right.

 

Danny:Like to manage a backlog of things you’re going after?

 

Tim:Exactly, exactly.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Tim:In a lot of ways they’re like our product backlogs that we use when ThreeWill actually manages a product, we use more of a scrum methodology, so we’ll have product backlog on them. So essentially JIRA, in our case is a backlog of things to do, whether it’s enhancements, whether its bug fixes, but you know within there you can specify okay, is it a bug fix? What environment is it happening? Is it in production? What’s the criticality? Does it need to be fixed as a production patch or can it slotted for a future release?

 

Danny:Okay. And, since we’re talking about dashboards, is there a personal dashboard that shows you what to work on next? I mean that’s probably the key thing is you’re just … there’s plenty of things out there to work on, but what’s the next thing you’re working on?

 

Tim:Right, so it’s a very flexible customizable tool so our manager that, our project manager, or our boss on the project, he has created a dashboard, and we don’t necessarily use scrum, but we do have a release schedule so basically we schedule our JIRA items around releases.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Tim:So within a release we’ll determine, which JIRA items are gonna be worked on, which enhancements, which bug fixes are gonna be worked on and then each of those JIRA items can get assigned to a person. At a release level we can see, “Okay, here’s all of the JIRA items within the release.” But on that dashboard, then you can see among all those JIRA items that are for the release, which ones are assigned to Tim. And then, which ones are assigned to Danny, so then you can start to break it down and then each day as we go through our status, we’ll pull up the JIRA items assigned to that person and go through each of those JIRA items and say, “Okay, what’s the status of this JIRA item?” Or do you have any impediments on any of the JIRA items that you’re working on?

 

Danny:Do you have a daily stand up or something a long those lines?

 

Tim:Yes, we do. We have a daily meeting.

 

Danny:A daily meeting.

 

Tim:And this dashboard becomes the foundation for those meetings, so that’s the real value of it because our team is remote. We have team members in India, we have team members in Chicago, we have team members in Las Vegas, we have team members in Alfreda. Having something we can all look at, even though often times we’re using a screen share, we can all individually be looking. It’s a public site, so it’s publicly accessible. It’s a cloud based solution. So we’re all accessing it from our local location, and then usually the person who is running the meeting is pulling up the dashboard and sharing it through screen share software but, essentially becomes one thing we can all look at to agree upon, here’s our scope, here’s what you’re working on, and then each day, through the day as I work on these items, I can go update the status.

 

I can move it from an underdevelopment to a QA, so then the QA person sees it, okay now this has moved into my queue. So now it’s time for me to do QA on this item. And then that person, you know, once they have gone through and done the QA work, they can push it to a UAT status. So all these different statuses are driven within these dashboards, that way, along every stage of the development process, you can follow these items and see where they are.

 

Danny:And you aren’t using confluence or hipchat, hipchap … hipchat in conjunction with these? You’re using other collaboration tools, or are you using Skype or [crosstalk 00:06:03] or what are you [crosstalk 00:06:06]?

 

Tim:We use Skype for business mule. We’ll use it for like, chatting with each other or we’ll use adobe connect, generally what we use for our screen share at least, the person who initiates most of our meetings. We also use a lot of the Skype for business chat, screen sharing. Since everything we do is essentially remote. Remote software especially … Skype for business I like it a lot. I like using my headset at my laptop, that way I can continue to have access to my keyboard without a phone on my shoulders.

 

Danny:And this isn’t a client that’s dabbling with teams or that’s just Skype for business?

 

Tim:Skype for business, yes.

 

Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative) Nice. What else about dashboard? What’s been your experience? Tell me.

 

Tim:One of the customers that we did work for in the past, what they did is run energy efficiency programs for electric companies. Electric companies generally don’t want to build new infrastructure. They want to maximize their investment, and their current resources that they’ve developed. So, one way to that is to try to minimize power usage during peak periods. That way they can avoid maxing out their power. There’s various ways they do that. There’s things they install on people’s air conditions to be able to remotely control them and tune them down during peak times. There are other programs, where they’ll go into low income houses, and they’ll do caulking and insulation for the people, to just help reduce their power usage.

 

So essentially, this company would contract with power companies to run these programs. So, you know, part of their contract agreement was … they had various measurements that they wanted to be able to measure, you know, month over month, and year over year. To see, are they hitting the targets that were estimated for them to get the value for the service they were purchasing. So essentially, we created a dashboard that would allow the customer to go in and be able to look at each of these different measurements for all these different types of programs that were running, to see if they were hitting their targets. This also included some school education, where they would go in and give kits to students, which included some light bulbs, and some other educational material on ways to reduce power consumption.

 

Danny:I actually bought one of those smart thermostats for when I moved into this new house, and it’s part of that … there is a program that Sony MC, that’s who I use for electricity, that they have where they’ll help reimburse some of the cost for it. And then they’ll end up lowering your bill because they can turn it down on peak time, which I thought was pretty neat to be able to do that.

 

Tim:That’s essentially one of the different offerings that this company provided, that capability.

 

Danny:Nice.

 

Tim:This dashboard, it showed information at a … this was program that was run across multiple power companies and in this case, we actually used a cube on the back end and had it secured so that each company could see their own data, but could only see their own data. They couldn’t see other companies’ data, but then people with privileged access could then look at the data across the different companies. Dashboards can be created in such a way, that they’re secured by users and then … for example, sales, where sales reps could see their own numbers, however, a manager could look across all the different sales people and see all the different numbers, and see them in an aggregate level. You can see where these dashboards would be fine value for different levels of people within a process, and you can secure the data as necessary.

 

To only allow people to see what they should see, but it can be essentially driven from the same set of data being rolled up to different levels so that different people at different levels can make the appropriate decisions.

 

Danny:In this, the energy company that you’re talking about … That’s not related to JIRA, this is using like SQL server.

 

Tim:Right, this was a SQL server using power bi as a front end for that data. But generally, just the value of dashboards, as you think about the processes that you’re involved in on a daily basis, whether that be sales, whether that be some business process, there’s often times, you can think of data that’s really valuable for your team to look at and talk about together. So as a software consultant, working on different development tasks, you know, JIRA is very helpful for us to plan out our releases. For a utility company trying to make sure they’re getting the value out of the contract they’ve made with this energy efficiency company, a dashboard that lets them start to look, to see … okay, or the goals that were established that would make this program beneficial to us.

 

Are those goals being met? Being able to go to a dashboard and look at that data, and see okay are the numbers being hit? It is certainly a value.

 

Danny:If you turn around, you’ll see my dashboard, up on my whiteboard, I got-

 

Tim:Yeah, I see a graph. It looks like it’s going left to right, low to high. That’s usually a good trend.

 

Danny:Well, that’s what I need to stay above that red line, so I’ll be monitoring.

 

Tim:So that’s your goal?

 

Danny:Yes, that’s my goal. I’m old school with this.

 

Tim:Certainly, obviously the nice part about … many scrum teams do use, you know, whiteboards as their, quote dashboard, to be able to track their status. Now products like JIRA are very nice when you do have that, yeah. Geographically segregated team, that way you can all look at the same information without having a webcam shining on your board but-

 

Danny:Nice. Nice.

 

Tim:Yeah, it’s just a nice tool and I was thinking about the value of that tool. Our team and our collaboration, I was thinking about just dashboards in general. And as a business process, it’s often good to consider what data would our team find valuable to be able to look at together, and collaborate on that data. That way we have, kind of, a common vision. And their able to see the progress that we’re making against that vision.

 

Danny:One, I have to tell you a story to wrap us up here. It’s funny, and it makes fun of me. So, that’s my favorite type of story. So, when we moved to this new house. The heater downstairs in the basement, you know, did all the things that I thought I should be doing with it like changing out the air filter, and all the home maintenance things that I thought were necessary. And as I mentioned, I switched out the smart thermometer on the first floor, and it worked out great.

 

It was like Alexa … no she’s listening, but I can set the temperature using her. We know what we’re talking about. She will not be mentioned. So, I though that was awesome, and then it was about a month or two ago, upstairs, just no matter what we did … the heater wasn’t turning, cranking out heat. And I went around and said, I have no idea what this is, I thought I’ve taken care of everything here.

 

So, we called up the home warranty company, cause it was still under warranty, well we extended it out a year. They came out and it was like okay, and showed him up stairs and I showed him the thermometer, I turned up the thermostat and showed him how no heat was coming out. I’m sitting there and I’m walking downstairs to go down to the basement, to show him the heater and then he says, is it okay if I go up there?

 

He points in the laundry room to go up to the attic. I didn’t realize I had another heater up in the attic.

 

Tim:Oh no.

 

Danny:I go, “Oh I know this happens to you sometimes but I get the idiot of the day because I didn’t know …” I said, “You’re going to have, when you go and change the filter, it’s going to have like a years worth of stuff in it.” And so that’s what it was. He pulled it out. We ended up making a sweater out of that.

 

Tim:Oh wow.

 

Danny:He switched it out. There was some things he had to reset but it was easy enough for him to fix. He’s like, “You don’t know how often this happens to us.” I’m sure you’re saying that just to make me feel a little bit better but that’s my energy story of the day.

 

Tim:So back to our dashboard, he probably had a dashboard of appointments for the day, and saw your appointment and …

 

Danny:Dashboards are good.

 

Tim:Yeah.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Well thank you for taking the time to do this. Appreciate all your hard work out there, and good stuff. Thank you Tim.

 

Tim:Thank you Danny.

 

Danny:Okay, take care, bye bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

read more
empty.authorDashboards are Key to the Digital Workplace
2018.jpg

ThreeWill’s Plans Moving into 2018

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I’m here with the other bald brother Tommy Ryan. Hey, Tommy.

 

Tommy:Where it’s all. It’s Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone. Wow. 2018, huh?

 

Danny:Oh gosh.

 

Tommy:It’s another year. They go by way too quickly.

 

Danny:They do, don’t they? They sure do. They sure do. I wanted to get together with you and talk about sort of put a recap on last year and talk about some plans for this upcoming year. I really enjoyed getting together with you and the others at ThreeWill and these podcasts. Just a chance to getaway and have a nice conversation about different things going on at ThreeWill. Last year some of the things that we did besides rebranding it as Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast is we started to do some client interviews. I enjoyed that. I think we should continue to do that. What do you think about that?

 

Tommy:Oh yeah. That’s a win-win all around.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Win-win. Ding. We also did some books. We did the Danny reads the book and shares it with Tommy and Tommy gets hopefully some of the fruits of what comes out of the book. I especially like …

 

Tommy:Yeah. Especially the X stuff. It’s good. We’re talking about that a lot in our business planning.

 

Danny:Yes. Yes. That be some good things for us to hit maybe later on as what was the impact of reading some of these books. Yeah. It’s nice for me. I don’t really understand something unless I try to teach it to someone else. It has a lot of benefits to me as well. I think we continue to do that. What else? What else went well with last year as far as the podcast? Any thoughts?

 

Tommy:I think we talked about our values. I thought that was good. I mean it’s always important. It’s kind of core to what gets us up in the mornings. To not just talk about technology the whole time is good. I thought that was a good thing to do. Also, we continue just to rehone in on the practices in why do we do the things that we do so we can solidify that in our mind and be clear to our customers of why we’re doing it.

 

Danny:The quest to be best in the world at something. I think that’s what … Just something where we’re providing such an incredible service. To do that, we can’t be generalists in sort of what are we honing in on and where are we able to really have the capacity to blow something away. It’s fun seeing how this is evolving and seeing what’s coming out of that. I think the evolution of the practice is is sort of how we’re tuning into that.

 

Tommy:Right. We had a lot of expecting and adapting. Trying to have some consistency, but at the same time understand where your market is going so you can respond to that and not push an idea that is before its time or maybe not an idea worth pursuing.

 

Danny:Yup. 2018. What’s your overall? You feeling optimistic, pessimistic, beyond like status quo? How are you feeling right now?

 

Tommy:Feeling good. When we went back and looked at some of the data around how our make up of our customers have been over the years and some of the things that we’re doing that provide stability and growth, it looks like a good year. I think we’re trying to repeat what we did this year that we did so well and do it in a scalable way. I think that’s one of the themes, and not burning ourselves out. I mean it was a great year, but a tough year I think for the organization because we did not catch a break the whole year.

 

You want to make sure that production capacity are not killing the goose that has the golden egg to continue to nurture the environment that we have and make sure that we consciously do things that keep us in balance as we are having a healthy pipeline of business.

 

Danny:You keep on bringing this up, which is really important to folks, which is part of the … We’re a services firm. Like it or not, it’s utilization times the bill rate.

 

Tommy:You make it simple.

 

Danny:Make it simple. Along with that, how we try to build in. You’re not supposed to be billing 40 hours a week. You’ve got four hours. Sort of built into this is some way of looking at the production capacity side of things as well, but people get busy on projects. Oh my goodness. You and I know. We used to be on projects. We understand that, but we also understand how important it is to stay up on the latest technology, refine your skills, learn new things as well.

 

Tommy:Right. Right. No one wants to be on the bench. I think there’s a sense of I want to be … Bring me in on the court. I want to play. I don’t want to sit on the bench. There’s always great things to do on the bench, but I think there’s a sense of I want to add value. I want to be doing something for a customer versus doing something that is in between those customer engagements. That’s just the DNA of a good consultant wanting to be in on the game and making a difference.

 

Danny:Tell me some of that because one of the conversations we’ve been having recently has been about we’ve got a primary … Part of my marketing goals is to bring on enterprise clients, so larger clients that are typically want to buy the types of services that we have to offer. We define those as being companies with an annual revenue of a billion dollar or greater a year in annual revenue. We’ve been having some conversations recently of sort of the which do we continue to do, all that type of work for enterprise clients versus a mix of small and mid sized clients. Tell me what the thought is there.

 

Tommy:I think historically we’ve had quite a few mid-small sized clients. From the beginning, we’ve worked with the large companies. Our business hasn’t been geared around a small to medium sized market. It’s always been the enterprise market. That’s really where we get the bulk of our stability as an organization. The way we can serve those clients the best is the smaller companies are the ones that can go into the newer technology sooner. When we go into an enterprise situation, they don’t want to be doing it for the first time or they don’t want us to be doing it for the first time.

 

Having the smaller, medium sized businesses that Office 365 and Azure is strategy for them, we can try things that are going to be a big impact to them and it’s worth the risk of taking on newer technology. It’s a little bit easier to put your arms around for these smaller sized organizations. That’s been strategic and also it’s fun with some of these smaller clients where you’re working with the leaders of the organization and you can go after some pretty strategy, high impact type problems. We’re passionate about that. We love solving problems and solving problems that we’re solving for our customers.

 

You can get into these large organizations and a lot of times it’s hard to be connected to the true value and the excitement of the impact that you’re making in these bigger projects with larger companies, but you can get that typically in the smaller sized business. As a company our size in the work we try to do and the way we structure things, it’s not healthy for us to have all small company work. It’s not scalable. It’s not viable to us at this point.

 

Danny:Yeah. The analogy is is we serve up three hour Italian dinners and we’re not a fast food restaurant where you’re like coming in and get this, get out, get in, get out, get in, get out. For smaller clients, that’s really what they’re looking for is just give me a small intranet on Office 365. Get in, get out. We’re much more focused in on what typically large clients are doing where they’re building out line of business applications and really investing in Office 365 and Azure as a platform.

 

Tommy:I think it’s natural because of our desire for how we sell. We want to sell based on how we deliver and building relationships and that transactional sell, that small transaction where you have to keep cost of sales down really low to be able to turn a lot of small things and the efficiencies that have to go into turning a lot of small things. We like the larger ones because it gives us the opportunity to build relationships and it plays to our strengths where they want us to do the next project. If you’re with a smaller company, they can’t always afford that next project.

 

It’s good to be with organizations that can continue that relationship almost ongoing year after year on a continuous basis versus engaging, having to keep in contact. Four years later we’ve got the next project. That’s a lot harder to manage in a company our size.

 

Danny:Tell me about your process that you go through with the annual planning of looking at sort of like the revenue. Talk me through what goes on there.

 

Tommy:Well, there’s a little bit of an iterative process. You got to pick something as a goal and do some litmus test to say is that a viable goal, is that the goal we want to set, does it reinforce what is important to us an organization in terms of long-term where are we going as a company. We set typically looking at previous performance and saying what do we want to set as the next set of performance. We’ll do an HR plan around that to say, “Okay. How do we achieve that in a way that is viable and won’t burn us out?” Don’t plan on 110% utilization. Plan on something that’s a 100 or 95 that allows you to have some margin there to kind of adapt to.

 

Not overshooting what you’re trying to do as an organization. We really care about providing an environment that if everybody’s doing their part, that it’s a stable environment. As you know out there in the larger company environments, there’s a lot of overshooting and a lot of cutting back where it … I think that it’s naturally what they feel like they need to do because it’s easy for them to lose touch in the quality of their people that work at their organization. To cut 10% for them is a healthy thing to do, but for a company our size, we really put a lot of work into getting good people and wanting to keep those good people.

 

As we look at setting goals, it’s setting goals that will stretch us, but not put us in undue risk to having to let people go. We look at that goal. That goal comprises of a make up of hiring people and then also working with contractors to mitigate some of that risk too, but give us the capacity to go after the things that allows us to grow. How do we look at the work that we’re doing and how can we do that in a more scalable way? How can we respond to the market wanting more of something that maybe today we don’t have the capacity to do, but we can quickly ramp up to that based on we’re ready. We’ve done some homework to be ready for that scaled need of capacity.

 

Danny:You’re mentioning not wanting to overshoot. I think another thing that’s in the back of our mind as well, we were talking about values earlier, is not to have the culture change when you’re bringing on a bunch of people. It allows for us to bring people on, assimilate them to the ThreeWill way. No. Just be able to continue the great culture that we have. I’ll put it that way. If you’re bringing them on at a steady clip and not hiring 10 people at a time, 20 people at a time, that allows for the culture to stay around. Let me put it that way.

 

Tommy:I’m glad you’re saying that because that really is an implicit thing for me all the time. In the back of my mind it’s all about the culture because at the end of the day, that’s what keeps me coming back to ThreeWill. If we didn’t have the culture that we have today, it’d be the showstopper. We’re always making sure that that’s front and center. This year we put a value wall up, the ones that you see in some of the startup high tech companies, chalkboard type painting in a sense. That way we see it. We pass by it everyday.

 

It’s easy to kind of get caught up in the business of the day-to-day and just the stress of the day-to-day that sometimes you can lose sight of your values if you don’t reconnect to them. In our planning, we talk about those values as it relates to some of the things that we’re trying to do. We want to provide value for our customers, so there’s some proactive things that we need to do, and how do we squeeze that in as a consulting company that sets a goal of utilization that can fly on the face of some of those things that you need to do to stay healthy.

 

Danny:I also like that each month like most companies do they have like an employee of the month type of thing. You relate it back to one our values, which I think it’s a good reminder as we go through the year of what those values are. Not only having them up on the wall, but also looking at people because values are displayed through people and being able to call out a person and call out a value. We even do this up on the website, which each of our values have a statement by a person because people display … I mean they have certain values. I think that’s pretty cool as well.

 

Tommy:Yeah. Anything else about this upcoming year that you want to discuss or any thoughts on the upcoming year?

 

Danny:We like things in threes.

 

Tommy:Yes, we do.

 

Danny:We had four practices and we’re going to three. The tension we had there is there we have the migrations, portals, applications and sustainment. We kind of see that as a flow where not every customer has to come through the migration first, but it’s where we’re seeing a lot of our growth is through that migration as the first engagement, and helping people migrate to the cloud in a lot of cases. We see that. That could be the final migration for them for a while. Probably not forever, but I think these SaaS based companies are trying to make that a potential be their last migration.

 

We’re putting a lot of effort into that and that flows into okay, now that you’re in the platform, that migration, the value of that was to be positioned in a new platform to get more out of that platform. Just migrating to it is not where you get the value. It gives you the potential to get the value. Then we want to do … We say portals, which is the out of the box and the information architecture, all the foundational pieces that you can use the platform properly. Then building those applications on top of that either being something in Office 365 and SharePoint or in Word, Excel or websites in Azure.

 

As we look at building those things, a lot of our projects it’s a mix of a portal and an application. It’s not always clean to be one or the other. We felt that let’s bring that together because we don’t want to put too much emphasis on just helping people maintain their SharePoint environment. That’s not where we have our passion. I mean do we help people do that? We do, but it’s not something that we’re hiring and trying to say, “What can we do better at in terms of maintaining a SharePoint environment?” Because of the cloud, that’s really put in Microsoft’s hands. They’re trying to make sure you have a healthy farm environment.

 

We’re not putting emphasis on helping people do farm environments. That’s something that we think there’s people out there that can do that. We can partner with them. If they don’t want to add another partner and they want us to help, we have help there, but we see getting into the cloud and providing something that kicks it up a notch. We’re not complacent to just get the portal in place and start sharing documents and stop there. We want to take them further. We want to enforce business process through some types of workflow type applications, be able to collect data and share that data, and make sure you’re making good decisions around that data.

 

That’s what we’re passionate about. We kind of pulled that together so we’re not putting too much energy in just portals, but it’s really custom portals at the end of the day we’re trying to create for folks. What we’re grappling with, which we think all organizations are at this point, is okay, what should I be doing now in the cloud. I think we’re starting to see that turn where people are starting to do things in the cloud and we’re very anxious helping some of those smaller customers and some of our larger customers just to get more value out of the Microsoft stack.

 

Azure is one that we’re putting more energy in understanding the authentication, proper authentication and just all the services, and what are the key services we want to be the best at that will allow us to create those custom solutions. There’s a little bit of a guessing game there. There’s a little bit of inspect and adapt. We’re going to learn this. Talk to our customers about it. Does it get traction? No? Okay. Let’s look at something else. That creates some anxiety, but we’re there to take the journey with our customers and do as much proactive as we can to be ready for them when they take that step.

 

Tommy:It’s the innovator’s dilemma, right? There’s always something new coming out and what do you use at the time and what’s the right appropriate technology to use when you’re going after these projects and when you’re doing it. Great.

 

Danny:You try to keep that tension. I think we’re very practical to use what is going to work and not take too much risk with the customer unless they want to take that risk. There’s a little bit of concern of let’s keep on pushing ourselves because technology moves quickly and things that were the right thing to do three years ago maybe are not the right thing to do today. We continue to challenge ourselves to say are we doing the right thing and we approach a custom solution.

 

Tommy:I’m excited about this year. It’s going to be fun to repeat that we did last year and build on it. I think that’s the way you grow a great organization and hold onto the culture that you have. It’s going to be a fun time.

 

Danny:Yeah. We’ve got a new account manager onboard. That’s exciting to have the opportunity to have more …

 

Tommy:Shout out to Jon. Shout out to Jon.

 

Danny:Looking at ways that we can have more … Build better relationships. The way you scale that is people. You have to have good people that are caring people, that want to find ways to help and gosh, John is one of those guys that’s so anxious to help people and is not shy getting in front of people and helping them understand kind of what’s the next step. Excited to see that and start growing kind of our sales organization and have a better sales organization. It’s been a while. You and I do a lot of that and really everybody sells here of course, but there’s a part of it that is the sales professional role of keeping those relationships healthy.

 

We care about that, so it’s nice to be able to afford and add another person to the team.

 

Tommy:Nice. Thank you everyone for listening. Thank you for doing this, Tommy.

 

Danny:Sure.

 

Tommy:I hope everyone has a wonderful 2018 and thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Have a wonderful day. Bye, bye.

 

Danny:Bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorThreeWill’s Plans Moving into 2018
tim-tag-office.jpg

Catching Up with Tim Coalson (Nov 2017 Version)

Danny Ryan

Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Guest – Tim Coalson

Bio – LinkedIn

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tim Coulson. How are you doing, Tim?

 

Tim:I’m doing well. Thank you.

 

Danny:Very good. Very good. Tim sits right across the wall from me. Every once in a while, I get to hear some interesting things coming from his direction. Always keeping it professional, business-like but it’s a fun conversation …

 

Tim:Of course. Of course.

 

Danny:… we have to be in every once in a while. I will-

 

Tim:I am the epitome of professionals.

 

Danny:You’re an architect too, right? Is that correct or some-

 

Tim:Yes.

 

Danny:What’s your status nowadays? Have you reached any enlightened statuses at all recently? No? I wanted to catch up with Tim, see how things are going. Just have our quarterly chitchat, and I think, for this when we just wanted to talk about some, I guess, recent projects or projects that we’ve had over the last couple of years and just some of your thoughts on those projects.

 

Tim:Yeah. Since I didn’t want to take time to write a blog, I was thinking, “What can I talk to Danny about?” One of the things that prompted, I guess, what I wanted to talk about today was, within the last couple years, ThreeWill has started to focus in on the various areas, so the principal consultants are assigned as principals of each different areas that we, I guess, approach at ThreeWill, the things that we focus on. I figured I would break it down into those principal areas that we focus on and talk about the different types of projects that I’ve worked on as well as the ones I, I guess, like kind of least favorite to most favorite.

 

Danny:These are the different practice areas like migrations …

 

Tim:Exactly.

 

Danny:… portable apps and sustainment. Have you been on each type of project?

 

Tim:Yes. I’ve worked on each of those over the years.

 

Danny:Let’s start with your favorite, migrations, right?

 

Tim:Yeah. That’ll be my least favorite. I was thinking about, “Okay, why are some of these more favorite one do I enjoy some of these more than the others?” The thing I concluded was, really, for me, I enjoyed a personal interaction. Some people are going into a closet, burying their head in code and writing code for me is more interaction with people whether that’d be people on my development team, whether that’d be the customer. In, I guess, an ideal project, it’s both where I’m interfacing with the customer team. I’ve also got other team members I’m working with and then, together in a collaborative way, we create a solution that is not only functional and helpful for the customer but also something that is appealing, something that has a nice looking user interface that’s engaging that people don’t dread using and ideally, something that people will actually enjoy using.

 

As you think about migrations, one of the way I think about migrations is, if I were going from one email provider to another, in the end, it’s email and I’m not going to really feel like the only thing you’re going to get credit for is if you do a bad job. Because in the end, if you do a good job, then it’s pretty much what I had before. Maybe it’s on a different platform, but you move me, not, probably, give me a lot of different functionality. You’ve just taken me from having a certain functionality on one platform. Now, I have that functionality on another platform. Usually, people underestimate the effort involved. They’re disappointed when they realize, “Wow, it’s going to cost a lot of money to keep the same functionality I have.” A lot of times, it’s driven by licensing. Maybe they’re getting rid of an old product that has a expensive licensing renewal and maybe moving to Office 365 because maybe it comes with some new subscriptions that they’ve purchased. It’s essentially free or a lot cheaper.

 

For me, migrations, out of all the things that we do, is probably my least favorite. However, certainly, is useful for certain customers at certain times. Probably the next one I think about is collaboration spaces. Whether that’d be an internet, whether that’d be an extranet. Usually, places where people need to collaborate around certain content. In some cases, people wanted to make that appealing looking. We’ve done some, in addition to out of the box functionality of SharePoint, we’ve done some more custom UIs that make the experience a little bit nicer. In some cases, we’ve added some custom features within the site to make tagging data a little bit easier. That way, the search is more effective across the site.

 

Sometimes, we’ve created templates so that sites can be recreated, so that project sites can easily be recreated from a template where they’re consistent across all the different projects. That way, when someone moves from one project to another, they can already anticipate what the structure is, which makes it easier to find, the different types of documents they’re looking for. Those are also pretty fun to work on as well. Usually, you’re interacting with the customers to decide, “Okay, how do we want to build out this project site to make it the most useful or the most beneficial?” Sometimes, there are different types of project sites depending on the types of projects. There are different needs where there’d be document libraries or different list, features, custom list. That’s also pretty involved working with the customers. I enjoy those as well.

 

Public websites, I’ve done some of those both with SharePoint as well as outside of SharePoint. Currently, I’ve been working on a public website for two years now that says, “A support site for attacks in the other team product company.” They sell products. They sell books. They have the general types of support wanted on a site. You’ve got knowledge base. You’ve got search capability within that knowledge base. You’ve got the ability to create tickets, web cases. In this case, you’ve got the ability to chat live with a customer service representative. You’ve got the ability to search within the site, not only the knowledge base content but other content around their products. What’s nice about that is. Generally, it’s something that UI is very important because you want to make the user experience nice. We get to spend quite a bit of time working on the user interface. Those are fun to work with.

 

You have an intent of you put yourself in the position of the people that visit this site. Okay. If I’m visiting this site, what would I want my experience to be? What are the type things I’m going to be looking for? Based on that, then you want to try to customize or optimize the site to make that experience as good as possible. I’m a consumer. I use an AT&T website for my mobile phone. I use Comcast or Xfinity for my cable providers. I know the types of interactions that I have with a public website, particularly a support website. As I think about that, then I think about, “Okay, customers are going to come to this support site for similar reasons. How can I make that experience as good as possible, not only from a visual perspective but also ease of use? How can I make it as understandable as possible where they can find what they need and get on with their business?” Public websites are a lot of fun.

 

Probably, the ones I enjoy the most, however, are departmental applications. Usually, there’s a fairly small subset of people that use this site. There’s usually a defined process or business process that they’re trying to follow. It’s about, “Okay, how can I create an application that’s going to support that process whether that’d be a process that needs to work through some approval process?” Those are pretty popular. Those were able to leverage a lot of what’s built into SharePoint for those types of applications because SharePoint does have approval workflows built in. We’re able to customize those to meet various types of approval processes. Sometimes, that might be a single approval. Sometimes, it might be an escalating approval where we might have two or three people involved in the approval process.

 

Within those departmental applications, of course, we’re interviewing different users; understanding within the process, maybe, two, three, four different user types; what is their role within this process; what kind of views of the data do they need at any given point and time to say, “Okay, what invoices are being approved? What’s the current status of invoices,” for example. In some other cases, it’s been approval of messaging that needed to go out to customers in an envelope. We’ve done various types of departmental applications over the years. For me, it’s just a lot of fun to work with all of the different people to understand, “Okay, what are their needs within this application,” and then create something that helps support their process, that it gives each user the information they needed at the various points in the process to be able to do their job and in the end, just adds value, makes their job easier, makes them more efficient, more productive.

 

Danny:Nice. I guess the last type of project, have you done stuff with Sustainment?

 

Tim:Yes. Sustainment is, in a lot of cases, a lot of the Sustainment work I’ve done, at least, has been part of working on departmental applications or working on public websites. We’re doing the ongoing maintenance as new features come about. For example, today, on a lot of support sites to help call us for the companies and be able to provide quick answers to customers, a lot of bots, now, are being used to help answer questions sort of automated chat instead of chatting with a live customer rep, you’re chatting with a robot. That’s a fairly recent technology. Within that sustainment process, we might be asked to add that to an existing website. It’s not a brand new rewrite. It’s just a new feature that we might want to add to a public website.

 

Within Sustainment, I’ve added a lot of new features to different applications. Maybe a new report, a new view of data someone thinks about that would be helpful to help support their job. A lot of times, that’s where Sustainment comes in. They give us a call and say, “Hey, I’d like this new feature on an application that you wrote for us and that you’re doing sustainment for us. Let’s talk about what are the requirements. Could you give me an estimate and then let’s build this to help make the application better, help it evolve as requirements change over time?”

 

Danny:Nice. Nice. Well, I appreciate that I think, in the end trying to help out these different departments, something that’s going to make a difference in their day-to-day, I think, I hear you there. That’s going to be all nice to be able to do that and then …

 

Tim:That’s the rewarding part …

 

Danny:Yeah. Yeah.

 

Tim:… at the end of the day that you’ve created something that people find useful.

 

Danny:You must be excited that I’m focusing in on a lot of migration work, right? That’s-

 

Tim:That’s why I’m going to stay on this public website for another couple years.

 

Danny:No. Well, their projects come after that. It’s a really good way to get to work with new clients. I think a lot of people, even though you could have someone who’s not very educated about what it takes to migrate, that’s part of my role. It’s to communicate, “Hey, we’re not switching out email” or “We’re moving from one platform to another platform,” and that’s never easy. Somebody who’s been in the industry for a while will know that but still, you’ve got to be able to communicate that. Fortunately or unfortunately, it makes a lot of sense to have outside firm like us do that because why do that because you’re only going to do it once. That’s-

 

Tim:Right. Part of the concept of our practice here is, we’ve done this over and over and over. We know what to expect, one going from platform A to platform B. We’ve done that before. We know some of the gotchas that you can anticipate. We can communicate those to you upfront and set an expectation. “Here are your options to overcome that” or “We’ve figured out how to fix this so we can address that.” They’ll give you options in various ways you can approach it or if it’s something we’ve solved where a customer doesn’t have to choose an option. We just fix it. We make it work as they would expect. That’s, I think, one of the key advantages to our principal, to our focus areas. Our practice area says that we do kind of work within those to gain expertise and then can help as we work with the next customer. All the previous experience that we’ve gained with other customers, they get as a result of this practice area focus.

 

Danny:Are you sticking around for turkey day or going somewhere?

 

Tim:I’m not.

 

Danny:Where are you going?

 

Tim:Heading to my family’s house.

 

Danny:Nice. Very nice.

 

Tim:Yeah. I’m looking for the-

 

Danny:When are you taking off? Tomorrow?

 

Tim:Today.

 

Danny:Today.

 

Tim:Of course, I’ve got a deployment tonight at midnight. Tomorrow, I guess.

 

Danny:Well, thank you for all that you do. I appreciate making a difference in a lot of these departments and continuing to learn and continuing to be open to new things and learning new things and sharing with others and thanks for all that you do, Tim.

 

Tim:Sure, Danny. Thanks.

 

Danny:Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you, everybody, for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye-bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

read more
empty.authorCatching Up with Tim Coalson (Nov 2017 Version)
summit.jpg

Follow up from the 2017 ASTQB Summit with Brandon Holloway

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Guest – Brandon Holloway

Bio – LinkedIn

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is one of the bald brothers, Danny, and I am here with Brandon Holloway. Brandon, how are you doing?

 

Brandon:I’m good. How are you?

 

Danny:Good, good. I just want to catch up with you. You recently went to a conference. What was the name of the conference?

 

Brandon:It was the ASTQB Summit and ASTQB stands for American Software Testing Qualifications Board.

 

Danny:So you guys just geek out and sit around and test software the whole time you’re there?

 

Brandon:Yes, something like that. I want to say they limited it to a hundred people and it was about that that showed up so I think they did maxed it out. Yeah, just a bunch of testers sitting around trying to find what’s wrong with everything, I guess, right?

 

Danny:Excellent. Where was the conference? Where was the summit?

 

Brandon:It was in Irvine, California.

 

Danny:Have you ever been to Irvine?

 

Brandon:No, this is my first time. Beautiful weather, I’ll tell you that.

 

Danny:I heard you brought your beautiful wife with you as well.

 

Brandon:I sure did. We made it a little extended vacation. I went to the conference on Friday and then we stayed a couple of nights in California and actually drove out to Vegas for a couple more nights.

 

Danny:Nice. Did you have a good time?

 

Brandon:We did. We did.

 

Danny:Excellent. Excellent. How many days was the summit? Was it a couple of days? Was it a week?

 

Brandon:Actually it was just one day. It was a full day from I guess like 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or something like that. It was a full day.

 

Danny:Then do they have a keynote to kick it off?

 

Brandon:Yeah, there was a keynote speaker. Actually I forget the guy’s name but he’s the head of QA at I think Blizzard Entertainment which is video game, stuff like that. One of my previous jobs actually did gaming testing, different type of gaming. It was actually cool to hear about some of the stuff that they go through.

 

Danny:Very nice. Very nice. I didn’t know that about you. You were testing a specific game?

 

Brandon:Well, when I say gaming, this was actually like casino games is what I did. It was video slot machines, I guess. Blizzard Entertainment, that’s more of actual video games. It’s the same but not really.

 

Danny:Do you use any of that testing knowledge about casino games when you’re in Las Vegas?

 

Brandon:No, I did not. If anything, it helps me stay away from those slot machines because I know that you’re not going to win.

 

Danny:You will not win.

 

Brandon:You will not win unless you can rig them like we can, testing them which is not possible.

 

Danny:Yes. They don’t like-

 

Brandon:I’ve had many, many jackpots at work.

 

Danny:That’s how you plan to retire?

 

Brandon:Yeah, if I could find somebody that will cash those tickets, sure.

 

Danny:Nice, nice. The sessions, you got a keynote and then were there specific sessions that you signed up for after that?

 

Brandon:Yeah. They had three breakout sessions and basically you just got to choose which one you wanted to go to each time. I tried to find ones that, I guess, closely fit some of the things that I may do at ThreeWill. The first one was you had a choice between a breakout session mobile testing and then one of business analysis. I guess if anybody is also juggling being a [BA2 00:04:00] or just wanted to talk about requirements and things like that, they would go to that one. Of course I went to the mobile testing one because that is starting to be more and more required and necessary in testing nowadays so I thought that would be most helpful.

 

Danny:Very nice. Any big takeaways or anything from a mobile … I guess is this one of the sessions that you’d already taken a test for?

 

Brandon:Yes, actually I do have a certification through ASTQB for a certified mobile tester. A lot of it was the same content but it was … When I studied for these exams, I didn’t actually take a course. I would just study myself through online material. It was actually nice. Someone actually going through slides and explaining to us, like an expert in the field walking us through it. The main takeaway about mobile testing is this. Nowadays with the Internet of things and everything pretty much is a smart device and everybody wants to use their mobile phones to access applications and it’s really a big thing and an important part of testing nowadays. You don’t just jump online and do web testing on Internet Explorer anymore. It’s big.

 

Danny:What other sessions were you able to go to?

 

Brandon:I went to one on Agile testing. Basically, I deal with this everyday at ThreeWill and, I guess, they focused on Scrum and testing in that environment versus like a Waterfall type of environment. I was very familiar with all the terms that they were using and pretty much … Another one of my certifications is … There’s an extension on the foundational level certification that’s Agile testing so I had that one as well. A lot of this was a review for me as well but it’s always a good refresher to hear from the testing side of things, me being the only tester at ThreeWill. That was a good course to take.

 

Danny:Nice. Any other takeaways from the day that you had from being out there?

 

Brandon:Well, I guess my main takeaway, like I said, I knew a lot of the material being gone over but my main takeaway is like I just mentioned being the only tester at ThreeWill, it was really cool to be in this conference environment with a bunch of other testers.

 

Danny:With fellow nerds like you.

 

Brandon:I’m sorry?

 

Danny:With fellow nerds like you.

 

Brandon:Yeah.

 

Danny:QA nerds like you. It’s nice.

 

Brandon:Hello, hello perfectionist that look for every minor detail and critique everything. Exactly. It was just cool because … I don’t know. It validates my thinking on a lot of things. When sitting in these sessions and everything and everybody has the same thought process as me. I talked to a couple of different people and everything and it’s just nice being around a lot of testers to get that whole feel from everybody.

 

Danny:I’ve experienced that same thing where I think I’m coming up with maybe an approach … A lot of the marketing stuff that I do, I go about it a certain way. Then sometimes you go to these conferences and just by hearing someone else say they took a similar approach, it does validate. I just makes you feel like, well, I am maybe doing. Maybe I’m doing something

 

Brandon:Exactly because you’re not around other marketing people at ThreeWill everyday, I don’t think. This is like my situation. I’m not really around a lot of testers all the time so this was actually good getting out there and making sure I’m still on top of the game or whatever.

 

Danny:Great. I appreciate you doing all these certifications. I think it’s great that you’re also taking advantage of getting this training and it’s a wonderful thing. I love having you on projects. You just do a great job for us. I really appreciate keeping your skills up to date and going to conferences like this and bringing that back to projects. You’re up to good stuff.

 

Brandon:Well, I appreciate it and I think it’s important to keep up with certifications because a lot of these things like Agile testing … Before, I wasn’t doing Agile testing only with ThreeWill and mobile testing which is in recent years becoming bigger. I need to stay current with all testing methods and whatnot because, just like everything else, it’s evolving as well. I try my best to stay on top of it and get certified as many ways as I can.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to do this and we’ll talk you maybe next quarter and thanks for all the hard work you put on projects and I appreciate it, Brandon.

 

Brandon:All right. No problem. Thank you.

 

Danny:Take care. Have a great day. Thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye-bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorFollow up from the 2017 ASTQB Summit with Brandon Holloway
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Eat Mor Chikin – Cheap vs Quality

Tim is a Senior Consultant at ThreeWill. He has 15 years of consulting experience designing and developing browser-based solutions using Microsoft technologies. Experience over the last 8 years has focused on the design and implementation of SharePoint Intranets, Extranets and Public Sites.

Editor’s Note – I normally don’t pull screenshots from my personal facebook feed, but I saw this today and had to share…and Tim agreed to this when he found out this met his quarterly commitment of writing a blog post or doing a podcast episode.  – Danny

 

Tim Coalson

 

Another Editor’s Note – Not to get all personal, but while you were at the golden arches this morning, I was at a Men’s Group meeting at the Chick-fil-a at Avalon.  More than the food (which I crave daily), I know the people at this location and they know me – they ask about my family and they have the courage to share what’s really going on in their lives.  For example, I was greeted with a hug this morning and questions about our latest foster child.  We all think our jobs are insignificant, but in reality we have the opportunity to love/serve others by refilling a coffee or asking a question and truly listening.

A Final Editor’s NoteChick-fil-A® and Eat Mor Chikin® are registered trademarks and service marks of CFA Properties, Inc. (“CFA Properties“) in the United States and other countries.   Chick-fil-A does not endorse ThreeWill – but we endorse them and recommend eating Chick-fil-A on a weekly, if not daily, basis. 🙂

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Tim CoalsonEat Mor Chikin – Cheap vs Quality
oliver-penegar-star.png

Summer Recap with the Star Intern – Oliver Penegar

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Oliver Penegar

Bio – LinkedIn

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Key Points

  1. Oliver had a diverse set of roles this summer ranging from helping out with front line questions on our website chat to producing and publishing podcasts on a weekly basis.
  2. Oliver achieved three certifications this summer – Google Analytics, Google Adwords and Hubspot Inbound Marketing.
  3. Oliver read a book that Danny recommended (called Lynchpin by Seth Godin) and learned about how to approach difficult problems by doing research first, framing out options and taking on solving the problem himself.

Conversation Highlights

  • The roles of a ThreeWill Marketing Intern – 1:56
  • Discussion about Marketing Certifications – 6:39
  • How to solve a problem (Hint: It involves a search engine) – 12:18

Helpful Links

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. Or should I say one bald brother here today. You’ve got lovely hair Oliver so don’t get rid of that. You need to keep your hair for as long as you can.

 

Oliver:Well actually need a haircut.

 

Danny:Oh well.

 

Oliver:Not as far as yours.

 

Danny:Not as far as, you’re not going to get it buzzed off, are you?

 

Oliver:No.

 

Danny:No, no, no, no, no, no. So we’re coming to the end of your internship. You mentioned this morning it was a quick summer.

 

Oliver:It went by so fast.

 

Danny:That means you had a good time.

 

Oliver:Yeah.

 

Danny:That’s a good sign, that’s a really good sign. I wanted to do this podcast with you to summarize the stuff that you did this summer so that when you go back to school and six months from now, someone says, “What did you do this past summer?” You can go, “Just go listen to the podcast.”

 

Oliver:I’ll send them a link.

 

Danny:Send them a link. Here’s a link, go read this, or go listen to this. Excellent. You came in and made some, you and I joking around made some pretty bold claims that you were going to be ThreeWill’s best marketing intern or the number one marketing intern. Do you feel like you’ve earned the status?

 

Oliver:Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely lived up to the hype.

 

Danny:Excellent. Excellent, I love self-promotion. Self-promotion’s a good thing. You’re well on your way to becoming a beautiful marketer.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah.

 

Danny:If I go through, I’m just going to go through the website and what I said to you before you came out here which was what were you going to do as a marketing intern and so were assisting the vice president of business development, that’s me.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah.

 

Danny:With various marketing related activities. We ended up, if I go through the different stuff that’s out there, you got to a lot of this stuff. I’m amazed with how much stuff you were able to cover over the summer. It’s pretty good. Let me go through some of these things. You were publishing blog posts on WordPress, adding, editing images from Shutterstock and then I’d soon after that come and replace them with another image.

 

Oliver:Yeah. Big battle between what images.

 

Danny:This is a huge thing for me cause you know how time consuming this is, which is post production and publishing of podcast to SoundCloud, WordPress and transcripts on Rev.

 

Oliver:Surprisingly this is actually one of my favorite jobs to do. Just with all the editing and getting to play around and then when you post it you have a final product you can be proud of.

 

Danny:That’s nice. And when you head back to school, you’re going to continue to do this.

 

Oliver:I’m excited to.

 

Danny:Awesome, awesome. So that’s great. Hootsuite updates, that’s staying on top of social. That was, you were able to help out with that and continue to help out as you head back to school.

 

Oliver:And I never heard of Hootsuite before. Just got the name right for the first time. But it’s a great application, I love using it now, saves a lot of time.

 

Danny:And then we have bio updates, I had you helping out with those occasionally and the success stories and testimonials I needed to, I’ve got a little bit work on my end of going and getting more of those so I think when you’re around this summer I was quiet with that but I’ll probably pick that back up in the fall. Social stuff was discussed questions which is our commenting stuff, you saw that on our website. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn questions, continue to be the first line out there. That’s awesome.

 

Oliver:Face of the company.

 

Danny:Monthly newsletter, that one just because we only had a couple of them go out while you were to here, I continued on with that. Snap engaged, online chat on the website. So you were, you’ll continue to do this when you go back to school. Just having that run in the background so every once in a while.

 

Oliver:Get these complicated questions and then redirect them to the appropriate department.

 

Danny:You have the snippets to handle them, right? Okay, good, that’s good. You just have to answer the call and then redirect them. I appreciate that, that really helps me out quite a bit so I stay heads down on things.

 

Let’s see, SEO scores. Yost you went and did some stuff like updating the images, the featured images which helps out with social and some SEO and then learned more about Yost and what that is and SEO in general.

 

Oliver:That was probably the longest project I had go on cause that took almost a full week of just adding images, getting all the green lights on all the posts. It started off, it take me a while to get each post to green light but then near the end I was streamlining everything.

 

Danny:Folks who aren’t too used to, or don’t know what Yost is, it’s basically a social plug in for WordPress. It’s that and more. I should say SEO plug in. Green light is, is if you go in basically marking it up correct for certain keywords that you’re looking for and they give you a list of things that you can do to improve the page and for us, I think we get a lot of our majority of our website visitors are through somebody searching for our keyword on Google are shuttled to our site. Organic cause we just started with some paid search though. We’re going learn a lot about that.

 

Live events, helped with setting up, breaking down booths. This was the first week. Trial by fire.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah. I’ll remember the sign next time.

 

Danny:We’re good, we’re good. Help run webinars on Go to Webinars, that’s great. We’ll do the podcast over at Go to Webinar when you head back to school. That’s cool. Did I miss anything from this list?

 

Oliver:Pretty much covered everything. A lot of little tasks here and there.

 

Danny:And you got some certifications. What certifications did you get?

 

Oliver:That’s what I started off the internship with, pursuing these marketing advantages I could get going for myself. I got the analytics one first because I’d already had experience with analytics and so that one wasn’t that hard and it’s very useful especially to marketing.

 

Danny:Google analytics.

 

Oliver:Google analytics, yeah.

 

Danny:Cool.

 

Oliver:Google’s the number one search so you want to be able to see what people are looking for. That one was super helpful, I use it every day.

 

Danny:Which test did you take for that? cause you have to take two tests?

 

Oliver:That one it was just the one analytics test.

 

Danny:It’s just one analytic, the AdWords was the two tests. Okay, gotcha.

 

Oliver:After that I did the Hubspot inbound marketing exam. That one’s just super helpful, knowing how to generate traffic because the market’s shifted from just throwing all your information out there to then trying to get the specific people that you want to have to your company, get them to come find you. Very helpful. It wasn’t too hard, I’m pretty smart.

 

Danny:Nice.

 

Oliver:Then I did that AdWords and that one, that was the two exams. That one took a while to study for. But AdWords is super beneficial. Again Google’s the number one search that you want to have your ads show up on the number one search.

 

Danny:You’ve been listening in too when I make initial, when somebody contacts the company, and they’re like, and I ask them how did you find out about us. I searched on Google, it’s amazing how many times that is.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah.

 

Danny:It’s great, it’s one of those things you’ve probably seen some of the content that we put out there. We put a lot of technical content which is fine but also some of the ones that are more marketing, trying to capture the right people at the right time, like the one we were talking about earlier this week with the best share point partner in Atlanta.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah. That got your attention.

 

Danny:Got your attention like, how can you say that? Some of that content that we’re putting out there is trying to reach the right people at the right time which is a huge part of what marketing is.

 

Oliver:My second exam, you had to take two for it and my second was mobile. I thought that pretty important because mobile, everybody has a smartphone, everybody’s searching with their smartphone. That’s why we chose to do mobile as my second exam.

 

Danny:What did you learn about amp and what did you learn about menus for mobile?

 

Oliver:Mobile’s a completely different playing field than desktop and so to get someone actually stay on your website on a mobile phone is pretty challenging. You have to make it fast, you have to make it streamlined version of your normal website. You just kind of go through and pick and choose all the different menu bars you want from your main site and then pick the good ones, put it up on your mobile and make sure it’s all on one page, it’s quick and so your mobile users don’t, as soon as it takes more than three seconds to load they just go to the next person down on Google.

 

Danny:So what did you notice that you pointed out to me when you were looking at analytics? I think this was about midway through you noticed something interesting.

 

Oliver:It was actually tech was when I started and we noticed that we were, people were coming to our site on mobile phones but then they were leaving almost instantly. And that was not a good sign. And when we went and looked at it and our mobile bar just wasn’t working. Then we went and fixed and now our mobile views have gone up and people have actually stayed on the site and read what we have to read.

 

Danny:And we’ve improved the checked up and made sure all the pages were amp ready so that Google will return those in the search results as well. So we have a mobile version of the different blog posts that are out there which is cool. Then as soon as pages, the plug in doesn’t support pages yet, but as soon as that comes we’ll probably do the same where we check make sure everything can show up in mobile. And then you learned one of things that it was key to me is look for a WordPress plug in for something. cause you’re not a coder so you can’t go out there but you can look at plug ins and you can do some research on what different people are using out there. That was a good thing for you to learn.

 

Oliver:That’s what great about WordPress. It doesn’t work just find a different one.

 

Danny:And you wrote an article about what tool marketing tools. So we’ll link up to that from this conversation as well. Which was neat to see. You also, I think you had, you read a book on how to write copy that sells which we did a podcast on that.

 

Oliver:Yeah, I listened to the podcast, it was you and Tommy. And then I’d just went through the chapter of how to write copy that sells. It was pretty helpful. There’s a lot of good stuff in there.

 

Danny:Awesome. And then you read Linchpin which I had you read because I wanted you to have some key takeaways of I thought was good especially earlier. It’s probably one of those books I wish I read earlier in my career. I was trying my young Padawan, handing off some things. What was the big thing that you took away from reading Linchpin.

 

Oliver:Well something like I noticed but never put words to it and it’s that the factory systems dead. You’re not supposed to just follow orders. Some situations you are but not in marketing really. It’s more of like, plot your own course, find your way to make yourself indispensable, come up with what you need to do because every time someone tells you something to do, that’s a missed opportunity. It’s very helpful. It didn’t tell me exactly how to do it, I got to figure that out for my own, definitely pointed me in the right direction, it was a very good book.

 

Danny:And you were, we had a couple of great learning moments when you find something wrong, what’s the first thing I tell you once you find something wrong?

 

Oliver:Go Google it.

 

Danny:Go Google it and then find the solution to it and put into, we ended up using Wunderlist which we’ll move over to something else cause that’s not going to be around for much longer. I enjoyed it too, but hopefully it’ll, it was nice to work through that. You were good at, there’s this problem putting it in Wunderlist, going after it yourself and it’s going to be really important for you as you start your career cause I’m not spending my whole day coming up with things for you to do as you’re finding things, saying this is what I can go after, this is how, and also a part of it as well I think with Tommy and I want to tap into is what are you passionate about? What do you want to go do? cause you’re going to do a great job at that if you really want to go do that.

 

And so a lot of this is, there always be things that are part of your job that you just have to do and you just get those things done and they take a lot of willpower to get them done but there’s some things that fill you up and you want to do more of and can do all day long. Maybe it’s podcast production or whatever it is. It’s good for you, the thing is you got to know what those things are and communicate it to other people that you enjoy cause it’s, you think everybody has the same motivations, the same passions, they don’t. That’s important that you know what those things are and can communicate those to others.

 

What other things? Any other things that you picked up this summer in the internship? Any nuggets of wisdom?

 

Oliver:Really just kind of what you said, just go after it myself first. Always try it before I ask someone else for help.

 

Danny:Awesome.

 

Oliver:Like at the very beginning I would ask you and then your immediate reaction was go figure it out. I kind of picked up on that pretty soon. Well I should probably figure it out first before I go and ask him for help.

 

Danny:Have you Googled it yet? cause if you haven’t I’m going to give you some wise response. Wise, am I going to say the word? Response. So something, I want you to do your homework, that’s always … And a part of this as well is you’re seeing in this unique experience where I’m taking some of the stuff that I do on a daily basis and hand it off to you for you to go after and there’s going to be a day where you’ll do the same. Once you come back after you graduate and you’ll come back here and take on this and then some more.

 

Oliver:Oh yeah.

 

Danny:And eventually you’ll have your marketing intern and talk them through the same.

 

Oliver:That’ll be fun.

 

Danny:That’ll be surreal. That’ll be fun, that’ll be a lot of fun. Anything else before we wrap this up at all? You looking forward to going back to school? I mean I asked you that?

 

Oliver:Yeah I am. I’m looking forward to teaching my professors a thing or two.

 

Danny:You hear that? If you’re one of his professors, he’s going to teach you a thing or two.

 

Oliver:I’m going to enjoy me being your student.

 

Danny:What classes you’re going to take this fall?

 

Oliver:One digital marketing. I considered that class before I knew I was even interning here so I’m going in there and hopefully that’s an easy A now.

 

Danny:Nice, nice.

 

Oliver:And some international marketing which would just be helpful in general. Even if we’re not marketing internationally just to understand the markets and stuff. Hoping to learn a lot of really cool things.

 

Danny:Well we have international companies. You’ve heard the meetings over in London.

 

Oliver:Companies in India too that are always Googling us.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Cool, anything else? What other classes you taking?

 

Oliver:Some generics of business finance. That’s going to be a tough one.

 

Danny:Awesome, awesome. Cool. Well good luck in your senior year, go learn lots. Thank you for continuing to help as you head back too, I appreciate you doing that.

 

Oliver:Not a problem. It’s my pleasure.

 

Danny:That’ll help pay for the Jeep.

 

Oliver:Definitely help pay for the Jeep.

 

Danny:Awesome. Well thanks for taking the time to do this, thanks for producing the podcast and for all your help this summer, appreciate it and good luck this fall.

 

Oliver:Yeah, thank you so much.

 

Danny:Thanks everybody for listening. Bye bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorSummer Recap with the Star Intern – Oliver Penegar
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The Top 10 Marketing Tools by the #1 Intern

Oliver Penegar is a Marketing intern at ThreeWill. Oliver graduated from a fine arts high school and is a rising senior in the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He has designed multiple e-commerce and informational websites. He is also certified in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Inbound Marketing and he has produced songs, videos, and podcasts.

Danny asked me to create a list of marketing tools that I’ve enjoyed using this summer during my internship.  He created a list like this back in 2015.  Here’s my list of top ten tools.

1. WordPress

https://wordpress.org/

I’m sure WordPress is mentioned on almost every list of marketing tools out there, but for good reason. The number of options are almost overwhelming but it makes any problem manageable and all ideas possible. As soon as I started using WordPress for the first time I realized why it was so popular. You can try and test different plugins and if something doesn’t work correctly or just doesn’t accomplish what you had in mind, you can just disable the feature and move on until you have exactly what you were looking for. The support that comes with it is also super handy. With all of the different codes going into the site it is important that there is a solid foundation of support that can provide simple solutions.

2. AMP Validator Extension

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/amp-validator/nmoffdblmcmgeicmolmhobpoocbbmknc?hl=en

While this tool is specific and is only helpfully if your website uses AMP pages, it is extremely useful. Once you have it in your browser, as you navigate from web page to web page on your site you’re acting like a WebCrawler for google and it shows you what pages have an AMP version. If the pages are AMP ready but google hasn’t indexed it yet then the extension will verify it for you and google will have it indexed soon. This was extremely helpfully when our site was AMP ready but google was not getting to all our web pages.

3. Hootsuite

https://hootsuite.com/

Having both a social media presence and consistency are important factors for most companies. HootSuite provides both and is very easy to use. It’s mostly a time saver but it can also save you from mistakes. Instead of making individual posts for every form of media, one can instead make a single post and have that on all your medias. This provides for efficiency and consistency across various forms of media.  Scheduled posts are also very useful when it comes to planning future posts and then not having to worry about them, freeing up time and brainpower.

4. LastPass

https://www.lastpass.com/

LastPass is my favorite password manager but really any password manager can do the trick. With all the accounts, LastPass does a fantastic job of with organizing your information: be it different passwords and usernames, personal and work, LastPass can organize it all. Also, since it’s a browser extension the autofill feature can save copious amounts of time by automatically remembering your information even when the site has forgotten it. The extra security can give some peace of mind as well.

5. Browserstack

https://www.browserstack.com/

The importance of consistency cannot be stressed enough and not have the consistency you want can, itself, be stressful. Browserstack is great because with just a few tests you can know for sure where your consistency lies with all the different devices today’s society uses. For example, you could enter your homepage and get a preview of how your visitors might be seeing your company. It’s clear how that can be super useful.

6. Google Analytics

https://analytics.google.com/

Knowing how your visitors are interacting and behaving with your website is extremely useful information. While being certified in Analytics is beneficial, it is also fairly easy to use. I use it daily for seeing if mobile use is up and for seeing if certain pages are performing better than others. The amount of information is endless, you just have to be able to look at the information with a critical eye to know what is most beneficial.

7. Shutterstock

https://www.shutterstock.com/

This provides all the pictures you would ever need. Shutterstock has plenty of professional looking photos that are all licensed which eliminates the risk of using a photo that could lead to copyright issues. It lets you choose your size which saves a lot of time when it comes to making a photo fit a page without distorting the image.

8. Google AdWords

https://accounts.google.com/

Where would a better place for an ad to show up than on the most used search engine?  Nowhere. Google is easily the most sought-after place for an ad to appear and AdWords makes it simple. Google will optimize your bidding strategies, pick up on trends and recommend promising keywords for each campaign.

9. Wunderlist

https://www.wunderlist.com/

Simple and satisfying is the best way to describe Wunderlist. Whether you have a lot of to-dos or just a few, it really helps keep you on track with assigning due dates, tasks and helpful comments. Personally, my favorite part is the satisfying ding when I check off an item.

10. Adobe Audition

http://www.adobe.com/products/audition.html

I have to do a lot of music and sound editing and with that simple is not the way to go. I need to be able to customize the tiniest details and Audition is perfect. There is almost no end to what you can do and create with this application. All though it takes a while to get the hang of it, the precision it provides you makes it well worth the time to learn.

So there’s my list – what tools would you add?  Leave a comment below…

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Oliver PenegarThe Top 10 Marketing Tools by the #1 Intern
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ThreeWill’s Atlanta Braves Company Event

Oliver Penegar is a Marketing intern at ThreeWill. Oliver graduated from a fine arts high school and is a rising senior in the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He has designed multiple e-commerce and informational websites. He is also certified in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Inbound Marketing and he has produced songs, videos, and podcasts.

This past Saturday, ThreeWill had a company outing at an Atlanta Braves game at the new SunTrust Park and it was a blast. With nearly 100% of people showing up plus families, we had quite the crowd cheering on the hometown team. With seats in the shade, being close to food and the game, the first round of refreshments already paid for, even the non-baseball fans couldn’t help but have an enjoyable time. Add a win for the Braves (7-1) and the ThreeWill company event was a complete success.

This was my first company outing, first MLB game and first Tomahawk chop which made for quite the experience. Being the newest member, I got the chance to meet some of the ThreeWill family I hadn’t meet before and catch up with familiar faces. I’d always heard horror stories about company events (mostly from TV & movies) but when everyone gets along as well as ThreeWill does, it can be nothing but friendly and fun. I will admit, baseball has never been my favorite sport to watch but, never the less, I was excited just to be amongst the crowd, cheering with the rest of the fans. As soon as the first Braves home run and I’m standing alongside everyone with a beer in one hand and a tomahawk in the other, I realized I wasn’t next to the fans, I was a fan! Not only was the game great, but so was our vantage point. No matter how big a fan of America’s favorite pastime you are, no one wants to sit in the Georgia sun for 3 hours or the possible the rain that was forecasted for the game. Luckily ThreeWill was prepared for both with covered seats and still close enough to catch possible fly balls. The bonus was that they were also a few feet away from the vendors and restrooms which kept the time away from the game to the minimum. Since this was my first game it was important to me that I could see as much as possible and spend time getting to know other members of ThreeWill.

I had always heard an adage that claimed that the most important part of a business is the people.  I cannot think of a better way to get to know people in the ThreeWill team than by watching one of the most beloved team sports in America. The environment of the day was perfect for furthering the connections I have with the other members of ThreeWill, while forging some new connections as well. Overall, this company outing not only made me a baseball fan, but it also helped me get to know all the wonderful people that I get to work with and learn from. The game ended in a win in more ways than one!

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Oliver PenegarThreeWill’s Atlanta Braves Company Event
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What Do We Look for in New Hires?

Tim is a Senior Consultant at ThreeWill. He has 15 years of consulting experience designing and developing browser-based solutions using Microsoft technologies. Experience over the last 8 years has focused on the design and implementation of SharePoint Intranets, Extranets and Public Sites.

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tim Coalson. Tim, how’s it going?

 

Tim:It’s going good, Danny.

 

Danny:Good. Another quarter’s past. It’s amazing how quickly three months can go by, huh?

 

Tim:Time to talk again.

 

Danny:Time to talk again. You don’t want to write a blog post? No? You don’t want to sit around for a couple hours, just looking at a blank screen and saying, “What have I been doing lately?” What have you been doing lately? Same project that we’ve talked about a couple times, right?

 

Tim:I have been, I have been. So, today, I actually thought I would sort of switch gears from a technical topic and really more one, I guess, kind of HR related.

 

Danny:That’s great.

 

Tim:Recently, I was at a function and sat next to a guy. As you know me, I don’t meet a stranger, so I started talking to the young man-

 

Danny:Everyone knows Tim Coalson. I’ve learned that.

 

Tim:I realized this guy, he’s an IT guy, so I start talking to him about what he’s doing, and it just so happened he’s into the technologies that we’re using, so, as is my normal course, I start asking him does he like what he’s doing, and just … And tell him a little bit about our company. When I see people like this I’m excited to tell them what we’re doing, and if the opportunity arises that they are looking for a new opportunity to give us a call.

 

So, I told him about our company, and then followed up with him, and most recently we had lunch together with this young man along with one of our managers, just to get a sense for what’s this person about; what are their interests, because one thing we know is important for anyone that we want to potentially hire is one, that we’re always looking for what is that person’s passion? And, of course, then, looking for what do our customers need, and where those two intersect, and you got a great combination of the passion, and the need, and they come together. So, it turned out, from our discussion with this young guy, he’s a very motivated person. Seems like a person of integrity, so we were excited to get to know more about him, so we’re going to continue on through that interview process.

 

But that sort of got me thinking about what are really the types of characteristics of people that we want at ThreeWill? First of all, we want to make sure that they know who we are. We’re not trying to hire someone under some sort of deception, making them think we’re something we’re not, because we know long term, they’re going to come here and they’re not going to be happy if their expectation wasn’t set. So, we like to be very transparent in, okay, this is who we are, this is what our values are, and does that align with your interests?

 

So, for me, that’s always very important, that we make sure that people know who we are. We’re looking for long term relationships. We enjoy and value working together for a long time. One, there’s you enjoy it, but then two, there’s a benefit, because as you work together more, you learn each other’s strengths, your weaknesses you learn to mitigate those things that aren’t as strong, and accentuate the areas where people are the strongest. So, we definitely believe a long term relationship is best, not only for us as a company, but really, long term for our customers.

 

Danny:I think one of the places I often send people to on our website is there’s a culture page where it goes through what our shared values are, and a lot of it’s tough, because there’s overlapping values with what a lot of people would say that they have as internal values, but you sort of … You’ll find out if people live them day in and day out, and one of the things that I put on that page was a person who represented that value. It wasn’t necessarily the best person to represent that value, but some person who sort of reminded me of that value.

 

Of course, like everything, like all my writing that goes on when I’m … I suggested a quote that they put … They may or may have not modified what the quote is, but it’s a good place for you to go sort of see what is it … When we say that, what’s it like to be at ThreeWill, what do we sort of share as we’re making decisions together as a group. I think the way that you do it is you talk about your shared values.

 

Tim:Yeah, one of the … As I thought more about this, I realized that the actual technical skills really was fairly low on my list, because I think you can find a lot people out there with technical skills. It’s really a matter of, like you just said, from a culture perspective, will that person fit in, because there’s a lot of people with a lot of skills, but there’s not a lot of people who communicate well, who are humble, who are team players. A lot of times, people really are sort of out to their ego. They like to feed their ego on either the code the write, or something else, and that’s really not what we’re all about.

 

Even our compensation is structured in a way that only when the team has success does the individual get the bonuses, or the compensations. So, it’s really more about what we as a team can do together, not what me as an individual can do. Whether or not my peers do good or not, we’re incented to work together, and I think generally, the people we hire, that’s what they’re all about. They’re all about teamwork, so part of that involves a certain amount of humility, that when there’s areas of a project that maybe I’m not as strong in, and I think I need help, the willingness to ask one of my peers for their input, for their feedback. So, certainly being a team player is a big part of our culture, as well as humility.

 

Of course, with consulting in general, good communication skills. You got to be able to set expectations with your customers. We don’t want customers to be surprised by anything, which part of our process involves one or two weeks sprints, so we’re regularly communicating to our customers, usually on a daily basis, but even if not on a daily basis, at least a week or two at the minimum, to keep them up to speed on where we are on our projects. So, we want to make sure that customers aren’t surprised by anything, that we keep them up to date on a regular basis that they’re involved in the process of understanding, okay, here’s what the concerns are, here’s what the risks are, here’s what our options are. Let’s make a choice and move forward.

 

So, being able to articulate that to a customer and being able to keep expectations, that is certainly important to our customers, as well as internally, to be able to share where are you at on whatever pieces of the project you’re working on. So, good communication’s certainly a big part of it.

 

Danny:Excellent. What else were some of the other things?

 

Tim:We’re really about solving business problems. I mean, technology is not the end, technology’s a means to an end. So, for us, it’s making sure we have people that really, it’s not about trying to continue to pad their resume by learning new technologies just for the sake of learning new technologies, but to really be focused on solving our customers’ business problems, helping them be able to collaborate, work together, be more successful. So, just finding someone that really solving the problem is their goal, and technology is just a means to that end, not the end itself.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. I’m just interested, because you were talking about this earlier, which was you were … I guess you were … What’s the first couple things that you say about working at ThreeWill? Not to put you on the spot, but how do you describe the environment here?

 

Tim:Yeah, for me, I guess part of it is just in contrast to hearing other people talk about their jobs. For me, we have a open door policy, so I’m constantly talking. Being a relatively small company, I’m always talking to the leaders of our company, so I don’t have a lot of bureaucracy, this management structure that I have to go through to talk about things, or express any concerns. So, it’s a very transparent environment. To me, I enjoy that piece, just being part of what really is a team, where we do work together. It’s not about one person, about what they can accomplish, but it’s really about teamwork and about how together we can help our customers be successful.

 

Danny:One of the things along with that, and it’s just sort of a side note, we hear a lot during the monthly company meetings about sort of how the pipeline is, how we’re doing as a business. It’s interesting, because I think what Tommy and I … We want to share what we can, but we also don’t want you guys to worry about certain things. You have do this on projects as well, right? You want the client to be informed, but you don’t want them to not worry about … They don’t have to worry about certain things.

 

Tim:Right, there’s technical details at times that really, a customer can’t help with, so there’s really no need to … We involve them to the extent that they can make a difference. We don’t want to unnecessarily burden a customer with things that are really outside their scope of influence, so … Certainly, if it is within their scope, then we want to be transparent and let them know about whatever the risk is, and tell them what we think the options are, and of course, get their opinion as well. Then together, come up with what’s the best path forward.

 

Danny:I think with us it’s just the things that you can control, or at least have some control over, is … I know you’ve been on a project for a while, but I think this is sort of why we look at utilization, because it’s the one … You can’t really control that much what your bill rate is, but you can look at the project and look for ways that you can help out on the project, and trying to grow what you’re doing, or take on new things on the project. That’s sort of the one area where you have … At least could have the potential to make decisions, and to maybe build up a skill, or be able to apply yourself to be able to make a difference. So, yes. It’s interesting to see how that factors in, yeah.

 

Tim:One of the things I think about, particularly as I talk to young people, is I think with our company, most of us are pretty seasoned veterans. I mean, I’ve been doing consulting now since … I’ve been doing IT since 1988. I’ve been doing consulting since around 2000, so that’s what, about 17 years? So, as you talk about developers versus consultants, there’s a big gap in there where I view a developer as someone that is really all about writing code, whereas a consultant is really about understanding the business, understanding the people, helping define what this application should look like, and helping define the requirements.

 

It’s a much broader, bigger communication piece, and then there’s, of course, the management to make sure the right things get done at the right time. That way, come the end of the project, then everything’s in order. So, as I talk to young people, I just think of all the experience that they can gather here at ThreeWill by working with more seasoned consultants to learn some of the … They may know the technology pieces. In fact, they might even know some newer technologies than we’ve actually used, but the piece that we can help them with is the consulting part. They can learn how to better manage a project.

 

I hear so much about failed projects, and we rarely, if ever, have those here at ThreeWill, because we manage things so tightly, I just don’t see that happening, but I hear statistically that how many IT projects fail, and it kind of blows my mind, just thinking about how much time and money’s been wasted on that. So, for us, the agile process is just so important to make sure that we do stay on track; that our customers are making decisions all along the way; that together, that we can be successful.

 

Danny:Anything else to add before we wrap up here?

 

Tim:I think that’s it.

 

Danny:Awesome. Well, I appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule, and you’ll continue to be on the same project for a while now, or …

 

Tim:Right now I think we’re to the end of the year. We’ve got signed contracts, or soon-to-be signed contracts. It’s great to work on the same project and to see it continue to mature over time.

 

Danny:That’s great, and I appreciate you staying on … You’re sort of the … You know what’s going on here at ThreeWill. I think Tommy and I rely on you, just sort of getting a sense of what’s going on inside of ThreeWill, and I appreciate your … Because you honestly care about other people, and it shows, and it really comes out. So, we appreciate just who you are as a person, and how much you care about other people. It is more than what we’re doing on projects, it’s just the human, being able to relate with other people and being able to really care for other people, and you’re really good at that, and we really appreciate you, Tim.

 

Tim:Thank you, Danny.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Thanks, everybody. Looks like we’re slowly getting more and more softer as we talk, and we go along. We’ll see if I can fix that, but oh well. Thank you, everybody, for taking the time to listen. Obviously, if you’re interested in ThreeWill, it’s a great place to be, it’s a nice … It’s a great culture here. It’s a consulting environment, so it’s pretty fast-paced, but it’s a place that Tommy and I really want to be a place that you love to work at, and so if you’re interested in learning more, come to threewill.com. Underneath the company section of our website, you’ll see something about our culture. Go into there and sort of look at what different people at ThreeWill say about working at ThreeWill. It’s a good place to start, and you can also see job openings, and start the whole application process on the website. So, definitely drop by, see if there’s any openings that look like something you’d be interested in doing. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen. Have a wonderful day. Thank you. Buh-bye.

 

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Tim CoalsonWhat Do We Look for in New Hires?
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From the Docks of Charleston to a Desk in Alpharetta

Oliver Penegar is a Marketing intern at ThreeWill. Oliver graduated from a fine arts high school and is a rising senior in the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He has designed multiple e-commerce and informational websites. He is also certified in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Inbound Marketing and he has produced songs, videos, and podcasts.

Having everything on autopilot, built into a routine and then suddenly getting the guts to grab control and pull up to new altitude is something most of you reading this will have already experienced. However, a sudden life flip, for better or worse, was new for me. This is how ThreeWill leveled me off and had me flying higher than ever.

Born, raised and still currently living in Charleston, enrolled in college with a part-time job working on the water, I was as comfortable as a person could be in their hometown. Having just moved out of my apartment, within a week I found myself packed back up and driving out of state in my Oldsmobile. Along the way, I was calling friends and telling them “Sorry, I can’t this summer, I have an opportunity that I won’t pass up” hoping I wasn’t making a mistake.

The first day, I’m excited and crazy nervous but within minutes of stepping into ThreeWill, the nerves faded away to just pure excitement. I listen to Mr. Danny describe the good, the bad, and the ugly about my new job all I can think it “That all sounded like good stuff!”. My new coworkers took no time to welcome me into the team and I’m proud to be a part of it. Even though I’m only in my first week I know for sure this opportunity was worth every cost.

This Internship incorporates my academic studies with my other interests in an already well set up system. I get to experience the inner workings of ThreeWill and see the individual gears that make it run efficiently. From using a great website, full of content such as blogs and podcast, to going to events to get our message and what we can do out there, I have the opportunity to play a hand in most of it. Already I’ve learned so much about understanding data and how we can apply it to increase our customers and partners’ satisfaction, along with so much more. I’ve only had the chance to glance into ThreeWill but every day is full of new and exciting projects. All the risk I took has been rewarded in full for this opportunity to intern at ThreeWill and I look forward to spending the rest of summer working hard here.

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Oliver PenegarFrom the Docks of Charleston to a Desk in Alpharetta
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Where Does the Name ThreeWill Come From?

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tommy Ryan, my brother. How’s it going Tommy?

 

Tommy Ryan:Wonderful, just wonderful.

 

Danny Ryan:Okay, back away from the mic. Thank you. Thank you for stepping into the mic. Looking down, it’s a Friday. Did you wear special socks today? Let’s see what you got.

 

Tommy Ryan:These are my favorites.

 

Danny Ryan:Those are nice, nice, warm colors, I’m still doing my little conservative at the bottom, a little crazy at the top. We’re getting them real. Today, fun topic. Talk about where did we come up with the name of ThreeWill. I think it’ll speak a little bit to when we started the company out, what was founding values, those types of things. I guess, typically when people ask this, you hand this over to me to answer. I’ll take the initial cut and then you’ll follow up with some of your take on it as well.

 

When we were putting together the business plan for ThreeWill we kept on running into the number three, just kept on noticing that. It’s one of those things that … It’s funny. When the kids were doing a play … Now I’m going to blank at the word. Three’s The Magic Number, was one of the songs. Talked a lot about how things come in threes. That was the initial thing that started us off. We talked a lot about people, process, technology. That was one of the core things. That’s really, when you look at being successful in any venture in life, there’s sort of a who, the what and how that you have to address in order to be successful.

 

We kept on coming back to that and then one of our core values that we had was free will. We wanted to create a place that people were excited to be there. It wasn’t … Get rid of this whole idea of you’ve got a boss, you’re coming in and can’t wait until Friday. Really, people wanted to come in and really serve other people. That was fundamental to what we wanted to do, so one of our shared values was free will. Of course, I went out and, where every good idea for me comes from, which is, I was out on a run and I thought hey, why don’t I combine some of the things that we’ve been talking about into a new word that might have the domain name available.

 

Went out there and searched for ThreeWill.com and it was available. It just sort of summarized what I thought we were doing when we were stepping off to create this new venture. We originally talked about Ryan Solutions. What was it, Ryan Brothers? Just some different ideas based on our last name, but we wanted to be a little bit bigger than, hey, it’s the Danny and Tommy Ryan show. It’s really not. It’s about the people who are here and the clients that we serve. What do you have to add to that? Was that a perfect summary?

 

Tommy Ryan:That’s a great summary.

 

Danny Ryan:Thanks.

 

Tommy Ryan:We can finish right here if you like.

 

Danny Ryan:No. People will turn it off now. They’re all done. You answered the question, so move on. Anything else?

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah, a couple of things. I think you said at the end there that we didn’t pick Ryan Solutions, something that you might say some consulting groups will do that. Especially in law firms where it’s like Drew, Eckel and Farnum. Some combination of people’s last names that were the founders of the company. I think we looked at it as more of how can we leave a legacy as a company? One of my biggest goals is can ThreeWill last beyond the Ryan brothers? To name it Ryan Solutions, it can last to be honest, but I think the intent is there’s a bigger purpose there than just two guys.

 

That there is a certain vision and value that people want to stand behind and be a part of, to speak to more the core principles and shared values of the organization was much more appropriate. You’re more creative than that. You’ve got the ability to think about things that are beyond the first thought in ways to combine things together. You love the name. The name is so positive, three and will. Both of those, you think of good things, very positive things. We even had people think about us being a religious organization because of three and because of free will. There’s a very, I think, Christian or you could even say, broader than Christian principles, that’s that number three. Also, I look at it as anything that is going to stand up, you need that three-legged stool.

 

Danny Ryan:Yes, absolutely.

 

Tommy Ryan:To have concepts, a lot of the things that we do usually comes in pairs or three. That number is important to us. It speaks beyond, I think, the people process and technology. Those are the appropriate budget buckets for us to think about how to reorganize around our business, how to explain what’s important to us, is through that people, process and technology. In taking it through that progression of, when we think about someone joining ThreeWill, people is the most important part of that. That’s the first litmus test is to say, “Is this a person that’s right for ThreeWill?” Then process, how do we get things done together as a team who’ll work together better? It comes through good process. Then, technology is where most of these folks are very passionate about. To have those three things tied together and is integral to the name of the company, I think it’s really important to us.

 

Danny Ryan:Has the name changed, the meaning for it changed through the years? How have … Let me start off with that question. It’s been pretty consistent for you as far as what ThreeWill means to you.

 

Tommy Ryan:It’s been consistent. That’s the nice thing about it is I don’t think the way we describe ThreeWill as, you know, where did that name come from? That story has stayed the same since day one. We haven’t really had to embellish it. It is what it is. It’s people, process and technology and our most important shared value. I don’t think it’s just one of them. I think it’s the most important one, which is people choosing to come to ThreeWill to make a difference. It’s more of a carrot mentality type organization versus a carrot and a stick balance or just a stick balance. I think we put so much energy into the carrot side of what we do that you don’t need the stick. There’s situations where you have that, but it’s really pretty much exception to the rule. We have such high expectations of other people, that many people just raise up to the avocation of doing the best they can with their abilities and their skills.

 

Danny Ryan:As you know, I’m an INFP and INFP’s are constantly looking for meaning in their life. I think I like it because it gives a bigger reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. I think it’s … I just like that it’s a constant reminder of us that we’re choosing to be here. We have one of the best gifts from God is our free will, is our ability to choose. On a daily basis, we can make that decision. For me, just having the name of the company being that reminder that’s there for you, that’s been really good for me.

 

It just sort of keeps pulling me back to the, okay, in this whatever I’m up against, I have the God given ability to make a decision here. Am I going to make the best decision based on the information that I have or what I feel like my conscience was guiding me to or what I feel like God’s calling me to? It’s just part of this culture that’s here, that we all are. We have free will and then some of the other shared values are responsibility and teamwork, which I think backs that whole value up as well. Balances well is one of them and we have that leading value and then, along with that, have a lot of other shared values which emphasize different aspects of free will.

 

Tommy Ryan:I think what’s nice about free will and the rest of our values is, I think it’s integral to our personal life. I think we don’t bring on a different mindset when we come to work. It’s really just who we are as individuals that the “whole choose to succeed.” I know that tagline, we used to have on our business cards, along with the logo. I still think that rings true. We have “work together better.” I think that’s more towards what do we do versus who we are. That “choose to succeed,” gosh, it just rings through the people at ThreeWill.

 

We went to our company meeting this morning and look at all the projects that were going, that are going on. We probably have a project per person, basically. Three teams that someone would be a part of and it’s just the nature of what’s going on now. It’s just amazing to see. We’re not forcing people to do what here at ThreeWill. People that rise to the occasion of, “I’ve got a challenge here and I want to meet that challenge.” It puts a heavy responsibility on us to say how do we balance that? How do we keep that balance? We’re going to be out of balance every once in a while, but when we’re out of balance, making the efforts to bring it back into balance.

 

Danny Ryan:I wanted to talk, before we rap this up, was to talk a little bit about the logo, which our first logo, I think, was the biohazard. It was the whole Venn diagram of the three circles and focusing in on that center portion of the circle and the technology.

 

Tommy Ryan:Technically is correct. It’s just visually-

 

Danny Ryan:Visually, it just made you want to run for the hills. From a marketing standpoint, I was bright enough to say, “Okay, well, maybe you need to move to something else.” Then we went to one that was more like the three pillars. We had a logo that I liked that took what we … I would remind people of the name. We took the T and the W, put them together and created what I thought was a nice little badge. Then, within the last five or so years, have a new version of the logo that we worked on and really is emphasizing, you can see three people. The interaction between three people, which we’re very into creating collaborative applications. The whole “how are we working together with other people?” I’m trying to tie that together. You can distinctly see three people. I also like the idea of, I think for me personally, is when we interact with other people, we’re not just responsible for that other person.

 

Not to get all religious on you, we’re also responsible to God as well. There’s always a third person involved in every relationship that we have. For instance, with our spouses and everybody that we interact with. We not only have a working with them, but we also have a relationship with God which I like. That’s sort of a reminder for me. Then, if people don’t pick this up with the logo or the badge currently and, I’ll actually take a couple of pictures of this, but if you take our logo and turn it sideways, you have one and then an ellipsis and then three, which is, how does one turn into three?

 

It’s a whole idea … I hate the over used word of synergy, but of how do you make one plus one equals three? How do you make something larger than itself, when you’re adding two things together. I think, for us, there is always that thought in the back of our mind of, How are we able to do these projects where, basically one project per person, and there are multiple projects? How are we more than ourselves? How were we able to do this with other team members? I know starting out the company, I think one of the things I was most excited about was what we were able to do on small teams. We were able to multiply what we were able to do as individuals on teams. You know that great feeling that you have when you’re on a team and you’re able to produce so much more working together, with just a couple of other folks. That excited me as we started this whole thing out.

 

Tommy Ryan:We always value that small, effective teams mindset for us. To go into projects humbly confident in a way that we can work with the other individuals on the project. Where sometimes, it could be threatening to your client to work with someone on their team, where, oh, they bring in the consultants. A lot of times it gets put in the hands of the consultants. You go do it, take care of it. We really push very hard towards it being a team effort. Some customers don’t want to do that, but we do our best to get them involved as much as possible, because we know that’s where one plus one equals three, is it being an effort that they’re involved along the way. We’re able to create something that goes beyond just a solution, but something that they’re bought into, that they’re proud of, that they’re … They stick behind, when it gets launched and it goes out into their environments.

 

Danny Ryan:Well, it’s been, these 15, almost 16, I guess we’re working on that, 16 years now. We haven’t had to rename the company. That’s success that we at least start and … I think that is we started off with something that, the whole traditional Salesforce naming itself Salesforce, but it’s so many different things nowadays. I think taking something that’s more of a concept and this is our guiding principle, has helped us stay away from, “Oh my gosh, yeah, 16 years ago we started off doing this, but now we’re doing this.”

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah, like SharePoint Solutions. If we named ourselves something like that, then we’d have to rebrand as we look at things beyond SharePoint.

 

Danny Ryan:Yeah. It’s served us well. It’s been nice. Some day, I want to have, we have to have some sort of a mascot. We’ve gone through the whole whale as-

 

Tommy Ryan:Free Willy?

 

Danny Ryan:I think that’s a movie and I think someone owns the copyright to that. We have to talk to Time-Warner about that, but that’s always a possibility.

 

Tommy Ryan:They’re merging with one of our big customers. Maybe we’ll have some leverage there.

 

Danny Ryan:“What is this whole part in this contract where you’re asking for this name Willy and a whale? What does that mean?” Just sign it, just sign it. It’s okay, it’s okay. Just sign it and then we’ll have a whale all over our website. Which, a whale’s a good connotation, because a whale is going, from a project standpoint, is going after something really big.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah, we go after the whales.

 

Danny Ryan:We go after the whales. Not shy of that. It’s not bad a mascot at all. We’re working on that. Course, Linda gave me the little Free Willy that I often have here in my office. That’s the little whale. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to do this today. It’s often good just to go back to the roots. I had one, I think Haley was working on something a couple of months ago, and Amy came to me and she was like, “Where does the name ThreeWill come from?” Well, I answer that all the time, but I just didn’t have anywhere to point to on the website. Now we have a page we can point her to.

 

You mentioned humble confidence. Maybe we can cover that. I think that we could talk for a while about that.

 

Tommy Ryan:I love that. I love humble confidence.

 

Danny Ryan:I think it’s a balancing thing. How are you confident and how are you humble at the same time? I really think that’s one of the things that … I’m surprised that we don’t .. We talk about that when we talk about our values, but our people we, that’s a consistent theme that we have. Something we keep on coming back to, so I’d like to talk about that next week.

 

Tommy Ryan:Okay.

 

Danny Ryan:Well, thanks you everybody for taking the time to do this. I’ll take a couple snapshots of the logo and show it sideways. People are always surprised to see that. I really appreciate you taking the time to learn a little bit more about ThreeWill, and where we came from, and what we’re passionate about. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this today. Thank you Tom.

 

Tommy Ryan:You’re welcome Danny.

 

Danny Ryan:Have a great day everyone. Bye-bye.

 

Tommy Ryan:Bye-bye.

 

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Tommy RyanWhere Does the Name ThreeWill Come From?
crab.jpg

Using ADFS Auth with SharePoint

Lane is a Senior Software Engineer for ThreeWill. He is a strong technology expert with a focus on programming, network and hardware design, and requirements and capacity planning. He has an exceptional combination of technical and communication skills.

We’ve cherry-picked internal Yammer conversations that might be helpful to the community – this one comes from Lane Goolsby about using ADFS Auth with SharePoint.

[Original Yammer Post – Lane Goolsby – June 6 at 10:27am]

I learned something recently that frankly I am surprised I have never ran into before. Since we are starting to do more Single Page Apps (SPA) I figured I would share as it may have impacts to design and architecture, and certainly impacts implementation with SPA.

If you are using ADFS auth with SharePoint, when a user is authenticated they are provided the Fed Auth cookie as we all have seen one time or another. However, what isn’t readily apparent is that the fed auth cookie only lasts for an hour – period. Now, the user’s session with ADFS is good for up to 8 hours with ADFS (by default) but every 60 minutes (again, by default) the user’s browser will get a HTTP 302 redirect from SP back to ADFS to refresh the auth token.

The 60 minute timeout for the session token is not a sliding session. Meaning, if the user is clicking around and ‘doing stuff’ in SP the token is not updated to [Now + 60]. So in theory a user could click around for 59 minutes then try to upload a file at 60:01 and will have to get a new auth token from ADFS. This doesn’t appear to be too bad if the user is working from within the browser since the browser handles the redirects gracefully and ADFS has some tricks in place to handle form POST data on the return trip to SP.

However, if the action taken at 60:01 is a GET or POST made from $http or $.ajax, then things go all crab. This is because the redirect response from SP ends up throwing a monkey wrench into the equation.

[Kirk Liemohn – June 6 at 11:19am]

Thanks for raising this issue. @Brandon Holloway, you may want to include a test case for this.

[Lane Goolsby – June 9 at 6:11pm]

I am still researching ways to address this but as of right now there are only two viable ‘fixes’ I can find. The first is to enable sliding sessions in SP via PoSh (there are few examples if you Google for it). The second fix is probably the ideal fix but is also the most complicated (I suspect). In short, make the JavaScript code smart enough to chase the redirects. I have found anecdotal evidence that browsers should actually handle all of this automagically (at least for $http) but so far this does not actually appear to be the case.

After spending most of the past couple days looking at this I think I have the root cause clearly understood. The issue is when the AJAX call is made to one of the SP REST endpoints but the token has reached its 60 minute threshold, SP issues a HTTP redirect response code back to ADFS. The problem is this triggers the CORS routines within the browser. IF ADFS used IIS instead of http.sys this wouldn’t be a big deal and we could just add the CORS headers to ADFS to allow the preflighting to pass. But alas. I am still trying to find a viable solution, but so far all the ideas we have thought of either don’t work or are sub optimal.

[Lane Goolsby – June 13 at 3:28pm]

So after dealing with this for what seems like an eternity I have two viable solutions identified.

Option 1: Enable sliding as I mentioned before. There are security risks with this approach so highly advised against if traffic is going over the internet or content is sensitive.

Option 2: Use a reverse proxy between ADFS and the browsers to inject the Access-Control-Allow-Origin header into all responses. I used IIS as reverse proxy using the URL Rewrite module and added the HTTP headers in IIS. This is probably not a viable production configuration, but you should be able to lock it down to make it ready for prime time.

Links you will likely need:
http://weblogs.asp.net/owscott/creating-a-reverse-proxy-with-url-rewrite-for-iis
http://www.carlosag.net/articles/enable-cors-access-control-allow-origin.cshtml
http://www.iis.net/learn/extensions/url-rewrite-module/modifying-http-response-headers
https://www.tylenol.com/

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Lane GoolsbyUsing ADFS Auth with SharePoint