Catching Up with Owen Allen from Akumina

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Jeff Meyer

Guest – Owen Allen

LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and Microphone podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I’m here with my co-host Tommy Ryan. How are you doing, Mr. Bald Brother?


Tommy:I’m doing well. It’s a good day. Speaking with Owen. Going to be fun.


Danny:It is. Yes, catching up with our good buddy Owen. Owen Allen, how are you doing?


Owen:I’m doing great. Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you guys. I don’t get enough bald brother time these days.


Danny:We like catching up every once in a while. It seems like it’s been a while, though. Let’s start with the back story. Where did we first meet each other? Is this when you were in the SharePoint product team? Is that where this whole thing started?


Owen:Boy, it would’ve been maybe 2009 or twenty ten.


Tommy:It was the night training, I believe, for early adopters. You were down in Atlanta.


Owen:Oh, the training in Atlanta? Yeah, that could have been it.




Owen:Yeah, definitely. The early, oh wow, what was the name of that, it was some sort of an early Ninja training that we did for developers.


Tommy:I want to say that they called it Ignite.


Danny:Did they call it Ignite back then?


Tommy:It was before they got accomplished.


Owen:It might have been an Ignite program, definitely. That was a good training tour and then after 2010 launched, we did a bunch of Azure training and I came back to you guys when I was with Pingar and you guys developed a good portion, if not the majority, of the Pingar SharePoint application as we interfaced that entity extraction artificial intelligence tech into SharePoint.




Danny:Nice. That was us. Was that Tommy or me? I forget which one of us did that.


Tommy:We didn’t do that.


Owen:I think it was a late night coding session and both of you guys were just bald brothering it away. It was amazing.


Danny:And we worked on the white paper too. The ISV white paper.


Owen:Oh, that’s right. That’s right.


Danny:I know you’re trying to forget that, but we did do that together.


Owen:That was a good white paper. We should refresh that for SharePoint 2010.


Danny:We should. I wonder what that…I love the, in the back of it, where you had sort of like the landscape of all the different vendors that were out there.


Owen:Remember that ISV map? That ISV map based on–


Danny:Yes. How could I forget, Owen? How could I forget? I thought it was really helpful.


Owen:It was at the time and, you know what, I think that it’s actually a cycle that we’ve reached now where SharePoint 2010 was a very solid platform for ISVs to build on. I think only in the past six months have we finally reached a platform with SharePoint Online that is solid enough for ISVs to take a real big bet on.


I’m really looking forward to the May SharePoint conference where we will hear the road map for the next year because I think that we’re going to see some great incremental improvements but I think that SharePoint Online is a very solid platform. ISVs can take large bets on it.


I just joined an ISV again, January 1st, I joined Akumina and part of the rationale was that, hey, you know what, it’s ready now. Now is another cycle just like 2010 where we’re going to see some incredible innovation coming from ISV partners. The SI, the system integrators, are going to add their imagination and their wisdom to these ISV solutions and, I think, over the next two years, we’re going to see some really good stuff coming on top of SharePoint Online, even better than we’ve seen so far.


Danny:That’s great. It’d be interesting to take a look at that and see if it’s the same players who are going to come out because you did, it was both vertical and horizontal solutions, right? I want to say. I haven’t looked at it in a while but I wanna say it was both.


Owen:Yeah, it was. We had a couple of pillars based on the type of technology and then a couple of pillars based on the industries. I actually tried to see if it made sense to reimagine that a couple of years ago and, the number of partners has ballooned so much, there’s no way you’d fit it on a slide. It would have to just be…You know that old gray bar paper or green bar paper from the mainframe printouts? It would have to be reams of that stuff, there’s so many partners out these days. It’s crazy.


Danny:One of the things that, in a recent podcast with Sam Marshall, your good buddy Sam, from the UK.


Owen:Good old Sam.


Danny:We had a conversation about, and one of the things that people are often coming to us about, is build versus buy for their intranet or digital workplace or whatever you want to call it, on SharePoint Online. I wanted just to talk with you about that. Get your thoughts on that, especially with what Akumina does. Just want to have a conversation about that. First off, there seems to be, I guess Akumina differentiates itself from just sort of like a layer on top of SharePoint. Just tell me more about the product and sort of like the philosophy behind the product.


Owen:Well, thanks. That’s a great opportunity to tell you about Akumina. Akumina is a scalable intranet platform on top of Office 365 and I use the word scalable because you have to scale it in a couple of different ways. Technologically, you can scale it because we do a magic thing with the SharePoint web parts where we can host that functionality in our Azure service and then we can scale the distribution of what we call widgets across many, many different SharePoint sites. When you have to update functionality, you don’t have to update every SharePoint page, you can update it in one place and it scales across the enterprise.


The other place where you have to have scalability is you have to be able to cross between an IT solution and an HR or corp comms, a people solution. You have to be able to scale at how are you messaging and how are people going to interface with this. People need to be able to choose their own experiences and we need to be able to scale in all of these third-party applications that the company is using from other parts of their organization such as finance applications or ERP applications or time management or learning management systems. We have to scale to bring these kinds of things in.


I think the workplace, this digital workplace, that needs to be provided to employees uses Office 365 as the base but it really needs to have a larger umbrella on top that’s bringing this in and Akumina is doing a good job with its customers of bringing that in. We provide the product and we have wonderful system integrator partners that help make that a tremendous experience, building on top of our scalable portal interface.


Danny:This is something that, I would say, in between the build versus buy. This is more of something where you’re able to put something together so you’re not building on top of Office 365 directly. You’re working with your product to put together the building blocks for the final solution.


Owen:That’s correct. I think you’re right. It probably is a little bit in between a build versus buy. We don’t necessarily replace the Office 365 pieces. You’re buying additional capabilities on top of Office 365.


Danny:Gotcha. Gotcha. Sounds like you work closely with SIs to go and develop more like line of business applications or how does that work?


Owen:That’s a great question. We actually have what we call workspaces, which is a configurable business object, configurable envelope, that can work in any industry. We have customers using it in the finance industry and in the architecture industry and in the commercial real estate industry and all of these people, they can build an industry solution based on this building block. So you use Akumina and you buy this workspace, which lets you manage all of these entities, and then the system integrators can help the customer target that into their industry. It’s kind of like buying the framework for an industry solution.


Tommy:Nice. Nice.


Danny:Any questions, Tommy, as we go along here? I’m going to pull you in.


Tommy:Yeah, within that, are there specific web parts that are included or what are the components that go into that package?


Owen:Inside of the workspace element?




Owen:So when you define a workspace, you define, for example, we have a customer that would have two types of workspaces: one, a commercial loan, and one, a residential loan. When you define a new loan application comes in, let’s say for a commercial loan, a new workspace is created, and what you’ve done is you’ve defined what is created in that time. It might bring in a feed about the latest interest rates. It might bring in a feed where you type the loan application, the person’s history or their history with your company or history about the product that they’re asking for the loan on, etcetera. It brings a defined set of data feeds and dashboards so that the loan adjuster can have all the work that they need to do there in front of them.


Tommy:Okay, so it’s like provisioning out of site based on some key data elements that define what need to come into that site.


Owen:That’s right. A site that has different states, different milestones, different metadata, different people assigned to it…It also includes a monitoring system and a reporting system that lets you track and filter across all of the define workspaces.




Danny:Does Akumina, does it run on Azure? How is it set up?


Owen:That’s a great question. The logic behind these pages are in Azure but the pages themselves are all SharePoint pages. Whether it’s a classic page or whether it’s a modern page, both types of pages you can use to build out the Akumina solution. But there’s an Azure-based logic element, we call the application manager, that runs inside of Azure and that can run inside the customer’s Azure or inside of an Azure that we host to make it simpler for the customer.


Danny:My understanding from previous conversations with you is the data that you guys are accessing are stored in SharePoint lists and document libraries. There’s no other data store out there that you’re working with?


Owen:That’s right. While some of the widget and application logic is in the application manager, all of the data is in document libraries and lists so your other applications then act on that data or populate that data work fine. Then you open up a workspace in Akumina and it’s working on the same data. I will say that the modern site pages are really turning out to be a pleasure for us to work with. We have a web part that goes right on the modern site page that lets you choose any of our widgets and put them on the modern site pages so you can take the widgets that you’ve built anywhere and stick them on the modern site pages so you can have the Akumina scalability regardless of what type of sites that you’re building.


Danny:Awesome. Saw that you guys won, and we mentioned Sam earlier, you’ve won an award for multinational corporations, which is cool. You must be working with multinational corporations then. Yes?


Owen:You know, we do. We have a multilingual capability set up both for the content and for the menus and navigation, etcetera, and for the static side of the sites, etcetera, as well as the content management side. We have multilingual throughout and we have quite a few customers that are in Europe and Southeast Asia that are using this. Whether or not they’re using multiple regions in Office 365, they may not be, they may still need to have multilingual requirements for their site, or multinational requirements for their sites. It can be independent of whether of not they’re leveraging the Multi-Geos in Office 365 or not. Some of them are. Some of them aren’t.


Danny:And one of the things out of the report was that more and more product companies are working with larger organizations so people on the tens to hundreds of thousands of people using these products, which is great from our perspective, great to see, because the reason why we build collaborative solutions is because we want lots of people to use them as a greater impact so it’s good to see that it’s not just addressing the SMB space.


Owen:Right. In fact, I think that there’s a little bit of a spectrum between the smallest companies or the smallest sites inside of a company, you know, might be looking to buy just add-ons or looking to buy just web parts or looking to buy skins all the way up to, hey, I’d like a portal that skins my SharePoint site. You might get more and more complex and there might be seven, or eight, or nine different layers of complexity up here. We certainly do target the medium to large company. We think that there’s a…While a small company can use us, and we have some small companies that use us because they have some complex content requirements and some complex scenarios for delivering their portal. But the biggest value-add for this type of technology for scalable portals is where you do have a larger number of employees.


Danny:How does workflow fit into all this? Are you utilizing what Microsoft uses? How does that fit into Akumina?


Owen:We’re big fans of workflow. We think workflow makes a big difference but we do not supply a workflow engine so whether using Nintex or K2 or Datapolis or Microsoft Flow, or if you’re building your own state management engine, you can interface to the SharePoint underpinnings, document libraries and lists, in any standard way.


Danny:Awesome. How does mobile fit into all of this? Do you have a separate mobile app or how does that work?


Owen:All of the pages that we build, whether it’s a classic site page or modern site page, are responsive. We actually try and make sure that we’re configuring the portal site, the portal experience, to work on a mobile device. That being said, there are times when you want some of the native capabilities of the mobile device. For those cases, we do provide the ability to build a native iOS or Android application. That then gives you interfaces with notifications or interfaces with other capabilities of the device, like data collection and capabilities of the device, that you might want to integrate into your app. So you have your choice there. Generally, until they need the capabilities of the device, they just use the website in its mobile form because it’s designed to be responsive for different sizes.


Danny:I know you’re working with a lot of customers and seeing what they’re doing to focus in on what’s being called the digital workplace. Anything that you’ve seen from customers that you thought was really cool or a trend that you’re seeing or anything with regards to what’s going on out there that maybe you didn’t think of but you saw customers doing that was pretty neat?


Owen:That’s a great question and I’m really glad you asked that because there’s been two ways that my mind has been expanded in the short time that I’ve been with Akumina. Before I was with Akumina, I did  teams a couple of different places and I helped companies implement technologies and helped them build strategies around that. But now, with Akumina, when I’m talking to customers about the digital workplace, there’s two primary areas.


One of them is that, traditionally, we’ve always been focused on corporate applications and corporate usage. There’s probably somewhat of an argument to say, hey, some of that corporate is going to be the branded cultural piece, the intranet portal that Akumina can provide on top of 365 and then other pieces of that corporate piece would be out of the box SharePoint, out of the box Office 365 components. But then, when you expand beyond the corporate employees, and you say, “Who are my field employees?” and “Who are my workers at my plants?” and, “Who are my workers across the company?” Now, all of the sudden, you have a higher importance on how do I communicate the culture to these people and how do I make it so, they don’t know how to use Office 365, they know how to…We need them to do their work. We need to make that experience as easy, and as straightforward, and as discoverable and as easy for them to learn as possible. That takes a more branded experience and a more cultural aware experience that fits with their company so that importance has raised in my mind in the short time I’ve been here.


The other one is that, if I’m only building a people solution, or if I’m only building an IT solution, those are great, but they’re not helping the most of the employees until I combine them. Until I get my IT leadership and my HR leadership in the same room, and we’re talking about what’s the real purpose and how do we meet that purpose with IT. I think that that is a conversation that is going to continue to grow throughout this year and the years to come about how do we make our organizations work together with common goals and no longer do we have an IT goal to enable and an HR goal to enable but we’re putting them together to enable the whole company.


Danny:Awesome. One last question. I know you were recently at a conference in Branson. How did that go? Anything you took away from that?


Owen:Oh, it was great.


Danny:Tell me more about that.


Owen:Well, I’ll tell you, it was the North American Collaboration Summit, and it was hosted by one of these Microsoft MVPs named Mark Rackley. Mark is one of the most passionate and down to earth and just solid people inside of the SharePoint and Office 365 community. I saw him again this week at the MVP summit here in Redmond and he had his personality effused throughout the event. Wherever you were in the event, you knew that it had the Rackley seal of approval on it, if you will. He curated the list of speakers that was there. We were blessed enough to be able to give a session and he curated the list of sponsors and then watched over the event. He focused on activities for the events with the community so that the attendees got to know each other as well.




Owen:I guess I see that as a precursor to this May SharePoint conference because it gives me confidence and hope that–


Additional Credits

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

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empty.authorCatching Up with Owen Allen from Akumina

Augmented Reality in Manufacturing with Bob Meads

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Jeff Meyer

Guest – Bob Meads


Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is one of the bald brothers, Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tommy Ryan. Hey Tommy.


Tommy Ryan:Hey Danny.


Danny Ryan:How are you doing?


Tommy Ryan:Good.


Danny Ryan:Good. Welcome back. I think the last couple of podcasts you haven’t been there with me. It’s just been the lone bald brother. So good to have you back here, Tommy’s here in the room. We’ve got three folks in here. We have Bob Meads. Bob Meads, how are you doing?


Bob Meads:I’m doing well guys, how’re you doing?


Danny Ryan:The man in the flesh.


Tommy Ryan:The man in the flesh.


Bob Meads:The man in the room with hair.


Danny Ryan:And Bob wanted to learn what not to do for a podcast and I told you, Bob we can show you what not to do.


Bob Meads:That’s outstanding. I could use all of the bad experience I can get.


Danny Ryan:Learn from others, that’s a very important thing, absolutely important thing. So just to get us kicked off here, how do you guys know each other? What’s the background between Tommy Ryan and Mr. Bob Meads?


Tommy Ryan:Oh we met back in the days of Siemen, so Bob is more that traditional engineer that knew about HMI’s and programming and my kind of world into the programming world was going to Siemens. I was a chemical engineer and looked at Siemens as a way to get into information technology. And we met there, and we were on a hotline …


Bob Meads:Yeah. WinCC Hotline on the Alpharetta, that’s right that’s right, and I had just gotten my degree. I was ex-NAVY, submarines and then I went to school to be a software developer, so my first job as a software developer was Siemens, and then Tommy came on, and he was more of a technical sales. Had lots of fun experiences with large customers, if I can remember.


Tommy Ryan:Drilling oil.


Bob Meads:Yeah and he taught me how to talk nice to customers and things like that so I had a lot of great experiences, and we’ve certainly kept in touch from our Siemens days.


Danny Ryan:In everything you guys learned about technology comes back to the relationship with Emilio Matt, is that correct?


Bob Meads:Yeah, Emilio. Surely he’s going to be listening to this at some point, how are you doing?


Danny Ryan:Excellent, excellent. So neat background, you’ve stayed in manufacturing now and then started your own company. Tell me more about that.


Bob Meads:Well I’ve actually got two companies. I started a company called iQuest 20 years ago this year when I left Siemens if you can believe it. And I started out doing consulting for WinCC which is the SCADA that Siemens has, and I knew quite a bit about it, and I branched out into doing entire plans, doing PLC programming and things like that. So I got a partner, we have a machine shop, we build panels, and I’m always kind of looking at what’s coming next, what technology’s coming next. So I’ve progressed with that, and when the iPad 2 came out, we started looking at ways that we could use that out on the plant floor other than just hey here’s a portable computer, because that’s not the point of a mobile device, right.


So we started a company called IQ Agent and we’re looking at this iPad and my partner Patrick Mir and I were sitting around thinking about okay how can we do this? And he said well let’s do a SCADA client, an HMI client, but put it on an iPad. And I said well that’s not interesting, that’s what they already have. They already have those screens, and we pitched a few ideas around and I think he got a little irritated with me because I kept knocking him down, and finally he says what do you want to do with it? And I said I want to look at the plant through my iPad, and when it sees a machine it recognizes, I want it to pop up all the data that we have about that machine. And that’s what IQ Agent does, and so we got a developer, we started banging out code, we got a prototype in late 2011, we put in for a couple of patents that we were awarded and so we started IQ Agent. And that’s about 80 percent of my focus today.


Danny Ryan:Wow, and then you started … the background has been primarily with Microsoft software, and now you’re getting into the AR stuff now, so it’s Hololens or … how did things come along?


Bob Meads:With IQ Agent we started out on iPads, which is IOS because the iPad 2 was really the first hardware that could run what we want it to do. It had an accelerometer, it had a really good camera, it was fast, and people wanted to use it. So we started developing for that and as other people caught up like Microsoft came out with the Surface tablets, and so we created a client for that, it’s up on the Windows store as well. And then the wearables, when Hololens came out, it was pretty awesome. We were very interested in it and what we always wanted to do was do a fully augmented reality application. So Hololens allowed us to do that. Now with Apple, they have AR Kit, which we’ve created another version of IQ Agent called IQ Agent AR, which works with tablets and phones and it allows us to do similar things that we can do on the Microsoft platform. And we also have an Android version, so we’re trying to hit all of the platforms that people are going to use it.


Danny Ryan:Interesting. So now you’ve moved beyond just Microsoft and looking at, sort of, what’s the device that somebody has in their hand typically.


Bob Meads:Yeah that’s right. We like doing native apps because we take, like with the Hololens, we can use the stuff that Hololens has to put out holograms out on the plant floor, place pieces of data, documents, and schematics around the areas of the equipment where it makes sense. We do that in other ways out on IOS simply because it’s a different platform; it’s got different strengths and weaknesses.


Danny Ryan:Nice. I love that you’re passionate about this AR stuff, I can tell. I can tell you’re excited about it and that is wonderful. That is just good stuff.


Bob Meads:I have goosebumps. I really, I actually have goosebumps.


Danny Ryan:So start me off at a high level. I know virtual reality and you are in a completely different place, you’re not seeing anything about reality, and then you have augmented reality, where it’s combining what you see with additional information. I know this is going to be tough, but imagine I don’t know anything about what you are talking about. Just give me a definition of what the different types of reality are.


Bob Meads:This is kind of important, and I see a lot of questions like this. Virtual reality is when we’re creating an entire world. So gaming is a really good use of this, so if you think about Halo or you think about some of these other games where you put a headset on and everywhere you look, you’re looking at that world. Now at this point, you can’t see the real world, so you have to restrain yourself. You can’t do virtual reality in the middle of your kid’s playroom because you’re going to start stepping on legos and tripping over furniture. So virtual reality, basically we’re just recreating everything. Then we have what we call informed reality, which is really just kind of like a heads-up display when you have a live view maybe through a camera and we’re just popping up relevant information based on things in there. It’s not really part of the world, but we see it. So if you watch football, and you see that they do the yellow line for the first down and things like that, some people call that augmented reality, some call it informed reality where they’re putting up data.


Augmented reality basically what that means is we’re actually creating computer-generated objects that look like they’re part of the real world. So you could put out a globe and you’re viewing it through your mobile device and you can walk all the way around the globe, and you can move the globe, and you can see the globe, and it would look like it’s actually there, maybe sitting on your desk, but it’s not. So we’re viewing that. And then we have what Microsoft, I believe, has started calling mixed reality. And the difference between augmented reality and mixed reality is the level of interaction and occlusion. So with augmented reality a lot of these apps, if you put something up and somebody walks between you and where that object apparently is, you don’t lose sight of that object. It’s still in your field of view. In mixed reality, it’s different. If someone walks between it, you may not see the object, or if it’s behind a door it might occlude part of it. And plus I have the ability to interact with that and Microsoft uses the term hologram, I think it’s dead on, it’s really relevant. Does that answer your question about the different types of realities that are out there now?


Danny Ryan:Yeah. You should’ve come in here this morning and had a red pill and a blue pill and said Danny which one do you want.


Bob Meads:Yeah I left them out in the car man. I wouldn’t want to start breaking out …


Danny Ryan:Do you want the truth?


Bob Meads:Yeah I’m telling you, I’d start breaking out in my …


Danny Ryan:Are you going to start talking about jacking into the matrix and stuff like that? No, leave that alone.


Bob Meads:Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Yeah, I watch that movie every week.


Danny Ryan:Let’s talk about what you’re working on now, where you see this going, paint the picture there.


Bob Meads:Well augmented reality and mixed reality is what we’re very very interested in IQ Agent, and when I first launched the product back in 2012, we called it practical augmented reality because what we were doing is, we used QR codes to identify pieces of equipment and there’s a lot of cool technology out there, object recognition, network triangulation and stuff like that. Not of that stuff is really deterministic and a lot of that stuff is not really ready for the plant floor and when you start trying to add infrastructure to support your app in a plant, that’s pretty much when you get shutdown. But QR codes are no problem, so we use QR codes and we had the idea of creating points of interest out in a plant, just like Google Maps. But a point of interest in a plant might be a motor, it might be the output of a production line, or whatever, and so our original app, it would find that QR code, it would scan it, it would know exactly what equipment it was and where it’s at, and then it would popup what we call a POI display. It would show live data coming out of the PLC or the SCADA system, you could chart it, we could pull up the schematics, we could watch a video on how to change filters, stuff like that.


Now since Apple has come out with AR kit, we can go one further. So we use the same backend, the same POI configuration, but now when we scan the QR code with AR kit, it uses the POI to tell it what data is relevant to this AR scene, and it also gives us a physical frame of reference, so that when I place objects like a speed by a speed sensor or something like that, we have a frame of reference so I know that it’s going to stay there. So what we’re doing with AR kit is basically that. We’re using the QR code, you scan it, and then you can create a scene on a machine by placing live data points around sensors, videos, voice recordings, schematics, around the areas where it matters. So like if there’s a filter, I might place a video of how to change that filter right where the filter is or something like that.


Danny Ryan:Nice.


Bob Meads:And you can actually save that and then anyone else using the IQ Agent AR app scans that QR code that scene’s instantly created right then. So it’s not just on that mobile device, it’s global. And we’re really excited about that. The beauty of what augmented reality does, and it’s a game changer, I mean this is a paradigm shift happening right now, and I’ll explain why I think that in a moment, but basically with augmented reality, one of the things is we can place data in context to the real world. We don’t have to think about it. And I think we talked about this before but if you know about manufacturing plants and plant floor, we’ve come full circle in about 30 or 40 years because before we had programmable logic controllers, when we built machines, we had to put all of the indications and the measurements about how it was doing right there, that’s how it made sense. So we would have valves, we’d have gauges, we would have lights, it’s all wired in, right. And so we could look at the machine and we could know what it’s doing.


Well when we got PLC’s in the 70’s after the transistor was invented, it allowed us to create programmable logic controllers, and so we didn’t have to have all of this physical information right there, we would put the sensors in, and then we would wire it back to a computer. So now you’ve got a guy in a control room that’s looking really at a virtual representation of that machine, maybe it’s a motor or a pump. And I’ve got a little drawing of a gauge, and it’s got a little needle on it, and I’ve got a pressure indicator, and I’ve got a temperature indicator, but it’s all in the computer, right?


Danny Ryan:Yeah.


Bob Meads:Well that’s great because I can be in one place and see all the information about the machine. The bad news is you’re not at the machine. So, if a maintenance guy walks up to a machine today, he can’t see anything, because all of that stuff is sitting on some 2D display somewhere. This is the problem that we are solving, and so with augmented reality I can take all of the visualization components that are on that SCADA screen, and actually place them in context to the real world, augmented reality. So I can put my gauges and my dials and my switches right back where they need, and I can see that on my mobile device, I can see that on my Hololens, I can see it on … I believe Apple’s coming out with some glasses, Tim Cook get on that man. You know, I can see it on my Apple glasses, and so it’s full circle. And the reason why I think this is such a paradigm change is because there are a lot of electronic manufacturers out there that sell displays. HMI displays that people are putting their expensive OEMs or embedding these HMI displays, why? So that people can see information about the machine.


When we have augmented reality and the operator can just simply put on a pair of glasses, or pull out their phone and view the machine through that, they can not only see all of the information about the machine, but they can customize it and put it exactly where it makes sense to them. And they don’t have to pay the price for that panel; we don’t have to pay somebody to wire it, we don’t have to buy that electronic. So I think that very soon, all of these electronic manufacturers that are creating these HMI displays and panels and things like that, are going to be getting a lot fewer sales because of the rise of augmented reality.


Danny Ryan:And traditionally manufacturings of technology lagger, it’s interesting to see this, where you have a technology that’s coming into play where it could drive innovation and to other industries.


Bob Meads:Well I can tell you Tommy and I were talking about this, and when Tommy and I were at Siemens, we both remember when Windows NT came out, and it took a long time for the plant floor to get on Windows NT and then remember, I think Windows 95 had come out, and it took a long time for people to really embrace that and things. And what do you think, the lag was like really 5 to 7 years for new technology for plants, and what I’m seeing with things like augmented reality, you know I’ve got some major customers using this. Major household names, pharmaceutical companies, textile companies, and every big company that I get into and that I’m successful with, I’m selling to the same job title, and that job title has something like either external technology acquisition, innovation, things like that. And basically part of these people’s job description is to go out and look at new technology, augmented reality, internet of things, mobility, and they know that they can profit from these, and they know the use cases of these types of things, so they have people going out and looking to go out, identify technology, doing a pilot, doing a use case, seeing if it’s really going to work and then they can roll it out. That’s where I’ve been really successful getting my technology into some big companies.


Danny Ryan:That’s awesome, that’s awesome. So right now, are people prototyping this now inside of organizations or what does it look like as it stands today? If I went to a typical manufacturing plant, do you see people with Hololens on or how far off are we from that being something that’s a part of …


Bob Meads:I mean the biggest thing, I’ve actually sold product for people who only want to use Hololens. But you don’t see people with Hololens a lot out on the plant floor, it’s still kind of big. It’s still kind of bulky. You know, Microsoft came out a couple of months ago and said that Hololens has this certain safety rating, there’s some bigger safety ratings that people want. But the Hololens is great, it’s cool. If you haven’t seen it, go on YouTube, look at some of the videos. But it’s not something I could comfortably wear for a long time. And then there’s other factors like when you start putting things in people’s field of vision, and they’re out on a plant floor, you know then safety, right.


So with the Hololens, we see it mostly in labs, and we see it in environments where they know the technology is coming, they know that it’s going to be useful. The headset, the hardware is not quite ready. However, it’s coming. Hololens and this is my opinion now, Hololens is so far ahead of anything that’s on the market that they announced they’re going straight to generation 3, I think in 2019. They’re not even doing Gen 2, and I believe that that’s because there’s other stuff out there.


DAQRI’s got a pretty good solution that’s kind of expensive in my opinion; there are some pros and cons on it against the Hololens, Magic Leap, we don’t know if they have anything yet other than lots of money because we haven’t seen anything.


ViewsIQ’s got some nice stuff, I’m still kind of digging into that, but nobody has the comfortable safety rated glasses yet. I predict we’re going to see those in 2019 and when we do, this is a point somebody made, we’ve got the IQ Agent AR app for our iPhones and iPad Pros, and so we’re placing data in context to the real world and you can hold the tablet up and you can view these data points as if they’re part of the real world.


Now that’s really cool, but it’s not as useful as regular IQ Agent where you just scan the QR code and you’ve got the data, simply because I have to hold my arm in a place to see this data. And so people say well that’s not as useful, and they’re correct, they’re absolutely correct. So they said Bob, why did you spend all of this money creating this app. And I did it because I know that we’re going to get Apple glasses, and the day those Apple glasses come out, my IQ Agent AR app is going to be from very cool to this is something I have to have on the plant floor, because now we’re hands free and you just put the glasses on and then IQ Agent works, we see this data.


Tommy Ryan:You can build the apps now …


Bob Meads:I can build them now.


Tommy Ryan:… and then it becomes even more powerful.


Bob Meads:Well the thing is one of the unique things about the business model we have is if you take somebody who’s just doing AR, they’re banging out AR and say hey here’s a Hololens and here’s our AR app or here’s our DAQRI, whatever, if you’re not using it as AR with that platform, it’s useless. It doesn’t help you. So unless you can find an immediate use case, you’re not going to get your ROI. You know, how long is this $3000, DAQRI glasses I think are like $5000. With IQ Agent, you can put it out there right now, and it’s going to work on any iPhone, any iPad, and Android device now. If you want to get into AR, great, it already works. You go get an AR capable iPhone, whatever, it works. If you want to do Hololens, it just works. So we’ve tried to reduce that risk of having too much technology, and things like that. We’ve tried to really reduce that, but yes you can build it now or you can use it now, and I call that future proofing.


Danny Ryan:Okay. I didn’t hear anything you said after you said the word DAQRI so that just sort of through me off. Because it’s Friday, you know that …


Bob Meads:It’s not that kind of daiquiri. DAQRI’s a cool company; they’ve got this … Are you familiar with their …


Danny Ryan:I’m not, no I’m familiar with DAQRI, but not that, probably not the same daiquiri.


Bob Meads:No, these aren’t flavored daiquiris, but DAQRI is D A Q R I, they have an augmented reality helmet, which was, it was pretty expensive when it came out, but you can build augmented reality apps, augmented reality base procedures. They’ve just recently come out with glasses that are a lower cost that you can do the same thing. They use a different method than say, Hololens does, it’s all voice controlled, voice engaged, where Hololens uses gestures. And personally, to me, the DAQRI system is nice, but I like using gestures. And I think going forward, when we talked about a paradigm shift away from 2D displays, that includes the keyboard and the mouse. Those are the beta maxes of UI’s, and those things are going away. When we get our glasses, I don’t want to pull up a virtual keyboard and type stuff on it, why would I do that? I want to do gestures, I want to speak, I want to use voice, I want to point at things and interact in that way, so gestures are really just a natural extension of that.


Danny Ryan:And I haven’t heard anything you’ve said since you said the word helmet, I’ve been thinking about Spaceballs.


Bob Meads:You know, I get the same thing, man. It is funny; I watched that movie, I just cackle my butt off.


Danny Ryan:“I see your schwartz is as big as mine.”


Bob Meads:Yes, right. Dark Helmet, yeah. It’s funny, and you know, John Candy’s role in that, you know the, “I’m a mog, part man part dog. I’m my own best friend.” My son just looks at me; he’s like what are you doing. He just doesn’t get that kind of humor.


Danny Ryan:Well the places where Tommy and I have seen, in particular, the Hololens, one is we saw there was a demo that Microsoft does where you have people collaborating … we do a lot of enterprise collaboration …


Tommy Ryan:Holoportation


Danny Ryan:And the idea of people working across Microsoft teams, and being in different locations, and seeing physical objects together and working on those objects. That’s one place we’ve seen where Microsoft’s trying to drive, sort of this is where we can go with this. You don’t even have to be in the same room together to interact with something like that which is cool.


Bob Meads:Well, the whole idea of Holoportation, or holographic collaboration, and they show the demo where the guy and his daughter comes in, and I think that’s coming. I mean you have to have pretty specialized equipment right now to actually have that experience, but people want that experience, and there’s a lot of science fiction books out there that talk about a time when you just go into a room and then now boom you’re in a meeting, and it’s just like you’re there. I think that’s coming as well because we’re going to have that technology. Basically, all you’re going to have to do is digitize yourself, and have an avatar that can be recreated.


Tommy Ryan:Emojis.


Bob Meads:Well you know I was going to bring that up because we already, Apple has already shown us, and I think you can do this on Google now but the animojis, where it’s actually doing what you call a dot scatter on your face, and then basically the size and angular changes of those dots gives you feedback, and so the animoji can actually mimic your facial expression. Well, think about that. Extend that out a little bit, and then we can easily imagine an avatar of ourself having a conversation with someone somewhere else, and it’s just like we’re face to face because why do we want to meet with people face to face? It’s because we convey information through body posturing and facial expressions and you don’t get that over a phone call, and you don’t necessarily get it as much over a video call. But with where I think that technology’s going, you would get all of this stuff, and I think it’s part of it, so.


Danny Ryan:Tommy and I were talking this morning about the emotional bank account. I just want to have these Hololens to put them on and when my wife comes in the room to see her emo… maybe I don’t want to see this, her emotional bank account. It’s the whole idea of whether you’re …


Tommy Ryan:[inaudible 00:25:23]


Danny Ryan:… yeah, like a heads-up display on people’s emotional bank accounts.


Bob Meads:Well you know the thing is we’re going to a part where, you know you talk about the singularity and are you guys familiar Ray Kurzweil’s work, and we’re all going to be robots in 2045, that’s where he’s going with it. He’s not crazy, he’s written a lot of books on it, but I do believe that we are constantly digitizing ourself, and it’s going to be to a point of where if you have augmented reality or mixed reality built into glasses, contact lenses, direct brain implant, if you think about it, if I had that technology, why would anybody ever create a physical sign? Why would anybody create directions? In the real world, it would be featureless buildings, but everybody’s augmented, and they see the signs and they see the lights and things like that. I think ultimately, that’s probably where it’s going, but I’ve read science fiction stories that talk about the ability, kind of like you said, where if I didn’t like somebody in the room, it would erase them out of it. I literally would not see them; they’d not see me. Seriously, seriously.


Danny Ryan:Tommy’s like, “I haven’t seen Danny in years.”


Tommy Ryan:It’s like, where’d he go? Why is that coffee cup floating?


Danny Ryan:Well the other place that Tommy and I have seen it is, there’s a restaurant that creates an addictively delicious chicken sandwich.


Tommy Ryan:Oh yeah.


Danny Ryan:And the whole concept of building out new stores and prototyping new stores, they had a room that they could work on prototyping what the next version of their store was, and seeing that. So I think that’s another place where people … it’s a physical thing too, so they’re trying to simulate what’s the next version of a store looks like.


Tommy Ryan:A more productive environment regarding flow, and how do you serve the customer.


Danny Ryan:Where is this going to go, how is this going to affect when I put it here, and …


Tommy Ryan:Then we talked about introducing say a new product that you want to sell, well, how are you going to make it, where are they going to stand, how does that flow in the store, and is that viable. Because they’re always competing with the footprint, and making sure they give the best customer experience.


Bob Meads:Well you know IKEA does that. IKEA has an app that allows you to say hey I want this table and you can put it in your room, and I believe that it’s scaled and you see exactly how it’s going to look and will it fit in that space. Coca-Cola has an app, and it’s really for vendors, that if they wanted to get one of the new coke machines that does all of the mixing and stuff, it shows them what it would look like and things like that. I foresee these types of apps where I’m trying on clothes, or I’m trying on certain things, and it just portrays it on you. I mean I think there’s already stuff out there that does the same thing.


Danny Ryan:Yup.


Tommy Ryan:Yup.


Danny Ryan:We’re coming up on our 30 min … when you’re talking about stuff you love to talk about, it just flies by doesn’t it?


Bob Meads:Yes it does.


Danny Ryan:Well thank you for taking the time to do this, and I’ll share everything, and we were joking about what not to do with podcasts, and I wish you the best of luck. My only piece of advice is, just do it. It’s like anything; you just have to try going after it for a while and also, with anything, just have low expectations. And then build. And then learn. And then build. And then learn.


Bob Meads:Well you know marketing and things like that, it’s just not going to happen overnight. You can’t just create a twitter account and have 50,000 followers the next day that mean anything.


Danny Ryan:Well you could pay for them and have 50,000.


Bob Meads:Well I mean that’s what I’m saying, but they don’t mean anything, you know they don’t mean anything. But I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you guys.


Danny Ryan:Absolutely.


Bob Meads:You guys have a great business.


Danny Ryan:Well thank you, I appreciate that.


Bob Meads:I appreciate working with you so, hey.


Danny Ryan:Stay in touch, and next time maybe you’ll bring some stuff with you to show us as well.


Bob Meads:Well we’d have to do a video version of this, but I do have some cool stuff to show, so yeah I would love to do that.


Danny Ryan:So tell me, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you? Is it through a website, is it through Twitter, is it through something else, or?


Bob Meads:Well if you just go to IQAgent.com, we’ve got videos on all the different platforms. You can see what IQ Agent looks like on the Hololens, on the RealWear HMT-1, which is a wearable, something that we’re very excited about on the iPad. You can; if you have one of these devices, even an iPad or an iPhone, we have a demo kit that you can download that’s got the QR codes, and you can just scan it and you can create AR scenes, or you could see exactly how it looks.


Additional Credits

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

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empty.authorAugmented Reality in Manufacturing with Bob Meads

Scaling Up for Upcoming Jive to Office 365 Migrations

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Chris Edwards

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers on a Microphone podcast. This is one of the Bald Brothers. This is my second podcast for the day. Now that Tommy’s out, I’m catching up on all my podcasts. Tommy’s taking some time off, well needed time off. You look like you could use some time off too, right?


Chris:I could definitely use some time off.


Danny:When’s your next vacation coming up? Anytime soon?


Chris:Actually, probably in about a month or so.


Danny:Okay, good. I am talking here with, if you’re wondering who that is, that’s Chris Edwards, the famous Chris Edwards. How you doing, Chris Edwards?


Chris:I’m doing pretty good. Definitely ready for that vacation. I think I’m not too far from that Bald Brother myself.


Danny:You’re working on it up there.


Chris:I’m working on it, yeah.


Danny:Excellent. It can be Three Bald Brothers on a Microphone.


Chris:Yeah, Laurie …


Danny:Although, we’re not brothers, but hey. We’re kind of brothers.


Chris:We’ve been working together for a long time so it’s all good.


Danny:Hey, you can stop holding my hand now. That’s kind of weird.




Danny:So, I wanted just to catch up with you. Yeah, it’s wonderful that you’re busy. Busy is good. That keeps us out of trouble and it’s wonderful to have lots of opportunities to go learn new things, help people out. You’ve been primarily doing Jive migrations recently?


Chris:Yeah. That seems to be my world. It’s been my world for a little while now and continues to be, so it’s a hot item and it’s actually kind of fun. You know, there’s a lot of challenges that go with it but a lot of fun things and it’s nice to see, you know, we can really help a customer solve their problems and make them happy and get a really successful migration.


Danny:Yeah, so you’ve been doing this now for a couple of year … you’re probably the, the first line of code was written by you for this.


Chris:It was.


Danny:A skunk-works project like most things.


Chris:Yeah, I mean, we … you know, the original impetus for this particular thing was we had our own Jive migrations to do and wrote the code to do that and it just kind of organically grew from there. So, kind of cool.


Danny:Yep. Nice and, nowadays we’re getting into the whole idea of creating factories, I don’t know what that, I know what a factory is but I guess just trying to scale up what we’re doing, as well.


Chris:Yeah, so I mean, I’ve been involved pretty much in every Jive migration. Kind of heavily involved, in every one we’ve done. And I try to get it to the point now where we could hand off to a team. They completely do a Jive migration from soup to nuts, really without any of my interaction. But obviously I would definitely like to be involved.


Danny:You’re not planning on getting hit by a bus, right?


Chris:No, not good. Not planning on, never that plan, so.


Danny:This just turned into a therapy session. Are you okay? Do you want- Do you want to- Do you need to-


Chris:I need to lay down. Yeah. You don’t have a couch in here. Put the microphone above me and there you go, it would be okay.


Danny:How do you really feel? It’s alright. Go ahead. I digress, go ahead.


Chris:Yeah, so yeah, so really just trying to get it to the point where we can hand off to a core group and let them facilitate these migrations and allow us to focus in on even improving the user experience, improving the really, what we’re actually, when we migrate to the SharePoint platform, or the Microsoft platform, or whatever platform we’re targeting, I’d like to be able to focus in on more things like improving the user experience and making it even a better experience than Jive.


So, being able to focus on that and then turning it loose at factory to let other folks just go ahead and try to do the migrations. That’s kind of the new objective.


Danny:So, have … I know there’s been some projects where we’ve worked some more on some of the utilities. Are we adding just more content types that we’re migrating, or more destinations as far as where the content’s going, or what?


Chris:I’d say, more content types are always a nice thing. We always try to do that, but really just kind of improving how the existing content types, how we’re doing it and how they actually go over in the target platform.




Chris:Not really looking at too many different target platforms at the moment. I mean … there are some teams, maybe one, in consideration.




Chris:So, but still part of the Microsoft world, kind of right now.


Danny:Gotcha. Gotcha. I think one of the things coming off of the discussion this morning with is looking at, what are the products that are out there, and I think everybody here is … I get this question, which I rare- typically refer off to Sam about, which is people moving from Jive and over into Office 365. Is there a product or set of products that they really should take a look at? And I think we’re … You can talk with me about that. I’m not going to say it on this podcast because that would be giving too much away, but that’s a common question that comes up for us, and I think that it’s interesting, where there are so many different products that are out there, and seeing what people are moving to, and it also sounds like we’re getting some experience with not just moving some of the content to Office 365, but then there’s some other products that have their own stuff that are out there too, so …


Chris:Yeah, we’ve had some pretty good experience working with some other customers and then, kind of spreading across the platform a little bit, so some have been Office 365, some of it, other CMS type platforms, where it actually kind of bridges the gap between the two. We’ve done some work with some third parties to kind of make that happen, so I mean, that’s the nice thing. We’ve kept the architecture of this simple so we can make that happen very easily.


Danny:That’s nice. Nice.


Chris:Gonna continue down that pathway I think.


Danny:Good, good. What … tell me what, anything else going on right now as far as are there, I know there’s a side project that we have sort of going on with making some, having some improvements being done, creating some demo environments and things like that?


Chris:Yeah, so one of the things we’re trying to improve our sizing and estimation capabilities, so we want to be able to very simply hand off a utility to a customer. Have them run it with minimal input, minimal kind of dependencies, and let them come back with some good detail that tells us, okay, how big is your Jive incidence? How many places? How much content do you have? Really, kind of do some upfront work. You know, if we ever enter into a workshop it helps us kind of gauge how big, and how to best kind of table that workshop for the customer.




Chris:I mean, that’s the whole thing. That’s one of the things we want to do is make these workshops as solid as possible when we go in. You know, the more information and relevance we have going in, the better. That’s with the size of utilities. Getting boosted, boosted up on.


Another thing is we’re looking … we have another thing called the J2SP or Jive SharePoint Runner, and what that allows us to do is that all these configurations, that you can imagine, every migration’s different and that basically involves lots of switches and dials and things, combinations of things that could or could not be done, so we’re trying to put that in a way that can be used as runner utility that’s going to kind of collaborate and kind of make that much more concise. Less error prone, I should say, to make migrations very predictable, yet still not lose any of the configuration options.


We want to maintain … if the customer wants to do something very custom, we still have the ability to do that. We document it. We capture it. We don’t have to think about it anymore. Whereas, right now, it’s a lot of, you know, we got to pay attention to a lot of that stuff, a lot of this documenting and run books, things like that.


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Chris:So I’m trying to get better about managing that information.


Danny:What else are you excited about right now?


Chris:Just really, I want to see the volume of these things increase and to see us being able to say, oh I’ll bring it, yeah, Is that what you’re telling me, huh? I want you to bring it. Let’s bring it. Let’s do it, so. Really want it. That’s the whole thing is like, we know how to do it and we’ve been very successful at doing these migrations. We know how to do them, and I think we’ve proven that. But now we want to do, more than once.


Danny:You have no idea.


Chris:Yeah, let’s do it.


Danny:Well, I know you need to run off somewhere and I appreciate you taking the time to do this …




Danny:… and catching up, and thank you for all the hard work you’re putting in. I hope … I’m glad to hear you’ve got something a month or so off, and enjoy your time off for that, and there’ll be plenty of work here when you get back.


Chris:Oh yeah.


Danny:But just enjoy it. It’s important to, just to stay balanced with things and just appreciate all your hard work that you’re putting toward this, and it’s fun to see something sort of, give it some watering and seeing it grow into something different, and new, and keeping it challenging.


I think there’s lots of good challenges that are coming along with this, and then, well, this will grow into something different maybe. We try some other migration, trying to get some other platform into Office 365. That’s … I’m thinking about that. That’s my job, to figure out what’s coming after this, and there I, why, I’ve got more ideas than I have time. But don’t we all?


Chris:But they’re fun.


Danny:Yeah. So, I appreciate all your hard work that you’re putting in.


Chris:Thank you.


Danny:And thanks. Keep it up, and you brace yourself.


Chris:Here we go. Here we go.


Danny:Yeah, see, I interact with [Bruce 00:08:38], and Bruce has already told me to slow down, so …




Danny:… he’s the throttler, so, but I’ll keep it coming, I’ll say, “Chris said. I was talking to Chris on the podcast.”


Chris:Yeah, he said go for it, yeah, so yeah.


Danny:Well, thank you all. Thank you for all this listening into this little conversation that we’re having here, and I appreciate the chance to catch up with you, Chris, and keep up the good work.




Danny:Thanks everybody for listening. Have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye-bye.




Additional Credits

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

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empty.authorScaling Up for Upcoming Jive to Office 365 Migrations

New SharePoint “Intranet-in-a-Box” Report for 2018

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Sam Marshall

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. This is one of the Bald Brothers, Danny. Tommy is fortunately taking the day off today so he won’t be on this podcast, but I am catching up with Sam Marshall from ClearBox. Sam, how are you doing?


Sam:Hi there, Danny. I’m very well, thank you, and it’s great to be back on the podcast. Thanks.


Danny:Excellent, excellent. You’re the first person for us to do two podcast episodes with.


Sam:Oh, I’m honored.


Danny:Your career is full right now. You can retire now.


Sam:Yeah, that’s it. It don’t get any better than this.


Danny:I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I just wanted to start off with a follow-up. The first time we talked, you guys put out a great report that I know a lot of our customers are interested in, and it’s about the whole intranet-in-a-box market. You recently did an update to that report and added some new folks to it and catching up with some trends, and just give me an overview of what’s new in this report that you’ve just put out. You put it out in December, is that correct?


Sam:That’s right, yeah, so just at the end of last year. It’s a complete rewrite, so every single word is new in this report. It’s 430 pages, so it’s almost doubled in size. I think you’ve seen a photograph of a spiral-bound paper copy, and yeah, you really could use it in self-defense classes as well as as a reference.


Danny:It does wonderful for keeping doors open as well.


Sam:That’ll be its purpose next year when we release the 2019 edition, yeah. Maybe I should explain, so intranet-in-a-box, what we’re looking at is products that take the base SharePoint On-Prem or SharePoint Online that you get with Office 365 and add on a whole bunch of functionality that most folks look for when they turn it into an intranet, so things like news publishing, and a lot more control over the [inaudible 00:02:10] market area that we noticed back in 2015, and it’s interesting.


I was growing, because at first I had six products. Last year I had 26 products. This year, over 50 companies asked us to include them, and we ended up doing detailed hands-on reviews of 34 of those. Then there’s another eight that were kind of new and upcoming and we thought, “Well, they’re interesting and we want to acknowledge them, but we don’t really want to spend a huge amount of time,” so we list them as a two- to three-page summary with some screenshots and so on, but we don’t actually score and rate them like we do with the other 34.


Danny:You have 10 people who work on this, and it’s over 700 hours? This is a pretty fair-sized project.


Sam:It really is, yeah. I guess this is how schoolteachers feel when they do the annual prom. You know, it just kind of consumes all your time as you get towards the deadline. We have six reviewers, so everybody who does a review has been an intranet manager, they know SharePoint really well, but I think what’s really important that they also get the mindset of an intranet manager and what businesses are looking for out of these products, rather than just having a checklist of features and functionality, which tends to be the bread and butter of SharePoint conversations. This is much more about, “Okay, so as an organization, we want a community where people are sharing knowledge. How would your tool support that?” Then we have the designers and project managers and all the coordinators going on as well to pull it all together.




Sam:Yeah. It’s quite a big undertaking.


Danny:With this brand-new version that you worked on this past year, what were some of the market trends that you saw happening this year or things for us to expect to see in this upcoming year?


Sam:One of the things that really struck me is we asked, “Who’s your biggest client,” in terms of employee numbers, and that shot up. A couple years ago when we were talking to big organizations of maybe 30,000, 40,000 employees, they were saying, “Well, we wish we could use one of these products, but it’s not for us, it’s just for the little companies. We’re too big and our needs are too unique.” Now, more than half of the vendors have got client reference case studies of companies with 30,000 employees or more, and some of them are over 100,000 employees, so I think that’s a really encouraging sign of maturity of these products, that they can cope with the demands of a big company.


It’s great for the big company because now I think they can move forward with confidence and explore this with a good choice of options as well. The challenges for big companies, it’s things like the ability to cope with multiple site collections. You often need to deal with multiple brands, so one of the evaluation criteria is to say, “Well, how would you cope with this scenario,” say the Sony brand, but within that you’ve got PlayStation which is also quite a distinctive brand, so you might have an area of the intranet that looked more PlayStation than Sony. They’re all products, but some of them have encountered that before and said, “Yeah, yeah, we can do that.”


Dealing with multiple languages, of course, because most multinationals will work in eight and sometimes 30 or more different languages. What you need is something that, for example, says, “Here’s a news story,” in 12 different languages, and recognizes that it’s the same story rather than 12 unique articles. That’s been one thing I think is really interesting and really good.


At the more fun end, we have one of the scenarios is called wild card, so what we do is we test every product against eight different scenarios so that we compare them equally, but the last one is wild card where we say, “Show us something that we didn’t ask to see so far that we think is a real strength for your product,” and I guess about a dozen vendors said, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got a bot. Let us show you our chatbot.” Some of them are cute rather than useful, I would say, but there are a number of companies who have I think had the real insight to say, “Well, what we’ve been doing with SharePoint in a box, in terms of making it a lot easier to build an intranet on top of SharePoint, we can also do with this chatbot concept to make it a lot easier to build chatbots on top of the Microsoft stack as well.”


They tend to use the Microsoft bot framework and then make it really easy for you to put your own personality and your own content mapping into that. Habanero Go, for example, a Canadian-based firm, they’ve got a nice chatbot called Pepper. I think you’re meant to think of Pepper as in “Iron Man” and that’s really cool, rather than Peppa Pig, but the pig is what first came to my mind.


Danny:I have small kids, so I absolutely know who Peppa Pig is.


Sam:Mesh, so Mesh have MeshBOT. I think what’s great about them was they said, “Well, the problem with a lot of bots is that they don’t do much,” and so you link them up to another system like a workday or your room booking system. There’s always that bit of custom integration which kind of takes away from the in-a-box scene. What they’ve actually done is said, “Well, why don’t we have a bot that helps with Office 365 adoption,” so you can say to the bot, “What is Stream,” or “How do I get a Teams site,” and it will give you an answer within the chat interface as a kind of more friendly and approachable way of doing on-demand training for people.


Danny:One of the things I like about the report is you talk through the whole build versus buy, there’s pros and cons of each. I feel like I’ve had this discussion for most of my career, and most of the time I’m trying to convince people to buy if it’s available out there. That’s typically the better solution, but there are times in which building … and we like to build, because typically when it means build, we’re involved in the building of that process, but I thought it was really … you’re driving it off of what we do, which is what are your requirements. Let’s not just go look at what’s bright and shiny and what are the features that are listed, but really build it off the requirements of the organization.


Sam:Yeah. Yeah, definitely. The trend we see is that companies are trying to buy now whenever they can, because particularly if they’ve been with SharePoint a while, and SharePoint 2010 was all about, “Oh, yeah, customize it as much as you like and make it your own, it’s a platform,” and then they really got burned when they had to migrate to SharePoint 2013. That’s I think why companies like the idea of offloading that risk of maintaining the code and all the customizations that come with the in-a-box tool kit onto a vendor, where the vendor in turn is spreading that risk and that workload across all the client base.


Everybody benefits, we can all win, but the downside is that, yeah, it really is a product, so you’re locked in a lot more, and that’s why clarity on requirements becomes super-important because once you’ve made that choice, it’s got to be a good match for what you’re looking for. You can’t say, “We’ll buy it and then we’ll go in and change everything anyway.” That’s the worst of both worlds.


Danny:Yep. What’s interesting as well is … and you covered this in the intro as well … which is what Microsoft is coming down the pike with, and communication sites and the stuff with … Teams really came on strong this past year. One of the things you probably saw in the blog post that I wrote up on this is there’s … a lot of the features, we’re working with a lot of customers who are coming from Jive, and for folks who don’t know what Jive is, it’s a software company that right now is focusing in on their intranet product, and there’s a lot of companies who have both Jive and Office 365, and those folks are looking to consolidate where they’re moving stuff out of Jive and into Office 365.


We’re seeing some of the features that are coming down the pike are ones that companies want to take advantage of, and now you’ve got the confusion of I’ve got things coming from Microsoft and then I’ve got things coming from this product company, and is one going to outpace the other or how are the two going to work together? I’m sure this comes up a lot when you’re just talking through do you want to go with the buy.


Sam:Oh, it really does, and it comes in two ways. One is the, “Oh, is Microsoft going to fix everything in the next six months so we don’t need to buy this product at all?”


Danny:I can tell you unequivocally no, they won’t.


Sam:Maybe we should be so bold and say, “You can tell me that.”


Danny:I can tell you no. I love Microsoft, but the answer is no.


Sam:Microsoft’s track record is that they are very good at ticking the boxes, and they tend to go broad with their functionality rather than deep. We saw this when the whole social, Web 2.0 stuff came in and SharePoint 2013 got communities and a little bit of commenting, but it wasn’t really as robust or well thought through as indeed Jive and a lot of other products were, and that’s ended up in a bit of a side thing. I think communication sites are a much better sort through. The user experience with them is fantastic, but they really are like microsites. You know, they’re great for producing a one-topic set of pages where you pull together photos and do things in quite a visual way, but they’re a long way from what people are actually looking for in terms of a typical corporate intranet, where you’re trying to build a much more coherent and cross-organizational experience.


That’s one way in which people worry about the change that Microsoft are making. The other one is indeed, what’s going to happen if I install this product and then Microsoft releases a new piece of functionality that I really like? Am I locking the house, and nine times out of ten the answer’s no. You find most of these in-a-box products are basically customized styling, then a set of web parts that will sit alongside Microsoft’s own web parts so you can mix and match, you might say. For example, one of the vendors have their own [inaudible 00:13:27] board, and you might say, “Actually, I think Microsoft’s Planner through an Office 365 does the same kind of thing, and we’d like to switch to that now,” and it’s no problem swapping those things out.


Danny:Tommy hates when I do this, but I have to ask a question that I gave you no heads-up on, but I have to do it. You’re bracing yourself, right, right now? It seems like sometimes in this situation, like with Yammer, that Microsoft ends up buying one of these companies and incorporating it into their product suite, I would love to … you know, it’s just you and I talking here and the rest of the people who are listening to this, but I wonder … and I’ll say more of my thoughts in this, and you can just say, “That’s very nice, Danny,” but I wonder if, looking ahead to things, whether one of these products is something that Microsoft would buy.


Then I want to know in the end … you know, we’re going out and meeting with customers where they are, and you mentioned earlier 50 different options. You want to know what’s going to be around, and these are long-term decisions. I mean, this is four to five-plus years that you’re betting on something. I just wonder at some certain point in time is Microsoft going to just say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to go with,” like they did with Yammer or like they did with something else. You can say nothing at all if you want to. You can say, “That’s nice, Danny.”


Sam:Great question, Danny, thank you. Tommy, I think, sent me some other questions that were a lot … no.




Sam:I have no information at all, and even if I did, I’d say I’ve got no information. I’d be very surprised if Microsoft did, simply because none of these vendors are really working at the kind of scale of companies that Microsoft normally buys. You know, Yammer had millions of customers. The origins of most of the in-a-box vendors is that they’ve been agencies serving normally quite a limited geographic base, and they’ve taken that code, packaged it up in something which is more productized, and rolled out to the local geography. This year, one of the new things we add is what we call the intranet choice selections.


Danny:I really like that.


Sam:Ones that scored really well across the board, we said, “Why don’t we just flag these as ones that we think you should consider for your short list,” because there’s no real avoiding the fact that we’re doing a comparative assessment and we’re giving scores for these things, so it’s easy enough to look at a tale and say, “Hey, these guys look pretty good.”


One of the intranet choice awards was for multinational companies, and there weren’t actually that many vendors where you could say, “These guys could take a support call from anywhere around the world and actually have a local partner that might come and help you if you’ve got issues with it.” Most of them, they’re either strong in the U.S. or they’re strong in Europe, but not many are at the kind of size that say Yammer was when Microsoft bought them. If we do the same podcast this time next year after Microsoft’s bought one of the young companies, I’ll backpedal rapidly and explain why, why what I just said still makes sense.


Danny:Nice. We’re talking with Owen Allen from [Inaudible 00:16:57] in one of the upcoming podcasts. He’s a great guy. We’ve known him since he was at Microsoft in the group, in the SharePoint product group, but man, this is a very fast-moving market, so it’s just interesting to see how this is going to play out.


Now, just describing this process of trying to decide who to go with, I think what you did with the awards, it definitely helps people with making sure that their short list at least has some of the ones that are obvious ones, and then I guess people also look and say, “Is there someone in my region, or some someone maybe focused?” Have any of these verticalized, or are they pretty much all for … you look and see who’s in the region or what sort of features you’re looking for?


Sam:I think it is primarily about understanding your requirements and then matching to features. That’s half of the equation. We did wrestle a bit about whether we should do the intranet choice, because I’ve always been emphatic that the best product for you is the one that matched what you want, without buying loads of redundant features that you’re paying extra bucks for and are never going to use. That’s why we don’t have an overall winner, because there’s no overall best product, but there are some that are worth shortlisting. Once you’ve got your short list, then the other side of the equation is about your relationship with the vendor, because that still also really matters.


We’ve worked with a few big clients in Europe now where some of the North American offerings would be really good, except that when you factor in that you’re talking about a seven-hour time difference, there’s a practicality there about getting support and getting things up and running, plus the cost sometimes of flying bodies over the Atlantic that saying, “Yeah, maybe we do go with someone who’s more local, whose product isn’t quite as good,” but then there’s always that scope for a bit of customization on top.


The other big trend that we’ve seen over the course of the last 12 months is many more of the vendors setting up partnerships, and that’s great because that allows them to operate in multiple markets and cover more of those time zones.


Danny:That’s great to hear. This whole selection process, this is something that you can help clients out with? Is this a project type for you? Is that what I understand?


Sam:Thank you for asking. Yes, it is indeed.


Danny:Yeah, some of your services then. Come on, come on. I’m feeding you here. It’s a softball.


Sam:I revel at sales, but we are finally really a consultancy, and most of the time when people come to us, it’s because they’ve got an intranet and they’re saying, “Yeah, no, it’s just not doing what we hoped it would do, it’s been neglected, people hate it, they can’t find stuff,” and there’s been some trigger to refresh it all. It might be that they’re moving to a new technology or it might be they’ve acquired another company or they’re going through a restructuring, any of these kind of technical, strategic, business strategic drivers for it.


We help them think through what their intranet and digital upgrade strategy should be, and then within that of course at a certain point you say, “What’s the technology stack that’s going to help us deliver this?” As can you see, I’m still kind of angling for the requirements first, clarity on strategy first, and then you come onto the product piece.


Increasingly, what’s been helping people choose ClearBox as the consultants of choice is that we understand the in-a-box market really well. If they’ve already decided that, say, Office 365 is the technology for them … and that’s pretty common these days … then what we want to help with is saying, “Yeah, what should be on our short list, and what do we need to make clear to the vendors so that they can respond to an RFP?”


One of the things we really beefed up in the report this year is the non-functional requirements side. We asked a lot more questions about the deployment process for the tool and where the data lives, so even if our own organization might be happy about data in the cloud, it might have to be that it’s local to them. EU legislation says your data needs to be stored in the European Union, so that would rule out some of the Azure-based solutions that we see.


That said, you know, we also have clients who come to us saying … what normally happens is IT have decided that SharePoint’s the answer, and internal comms have said, “Over my dead body,” and they come to us as like the marriage guidance counselor saying, “Can you talk sense into those other people in my organization?”


We act as the neutral party. Whatever decision is made, it’s all good for us in terms of saying, “Yeah, what are the pros and cons of SharePoint,” versus maybe one of the more dedicated intranet platforms like Salt Farmer or Interact or Oak or Justly. You know, there’s loads of other good non-Microsoft technology solutions out there which I still think can be a very good fit for some organizations, depending on the resource level they have and how much they’re in the collaboration piece versus the communication piece.


You guys, I’m really interested in the amount of activity around Jive. You had an interesting podcast link just before Christmas talking about one of your big projects, migrating from Jive onto Office 365. What is it that people look for, that you see in Office 365 that’s great in Jive but maybe not so strong from Microsoft?


Danny:Hey, I ask the questions around here, buddy.


Sam:I’m not clear on the interview format, am I? Sorry.


Danny:No, it is a two-way conversation. I’m sorry, Sam, I just had to.


Sam:Tommy, where are you?


Danny:He’s somewhere. He’s somewhere in the middle of some field. Part of just back to what you were saying a little bit earlier with the whole IT versus corporate comms, we’re brought in on this, and it is often … my first conversations with these folks are around, “What’s your vision for doing this? Let’s get into talking through why you’re do this in the first place,” and that helps to uncover some things. There’s the obvious. The business case that usually people are putting around this is the obvious consolidation one, where people have the perception of what we’re doing in Jive, we can do all of this over in Office 365.


The issue that I run into … and you saw this in the blog post as well, which is … and this sometimes comes with working with some of the Microsoft account teams … is the expectation that you can just take Jive and move the content over into Office 365 and that’s an equivalent. The answer is no, and I usually have to start setting expectations about that. Then that’s where I get into typically talking about two different work streams. One is retaining that corporate IP that’s in Jive and getting it over into the appropriate place inside of Office 365, and then the second part is around really the requirements, the user experience, are you going to build versus buy, and having those conversations and making sure that if they haven’t started thinking about it, that they are thinking about it.


This is usually typically … you know, you see me pull you into these conversations, which is, “Have you looked at what’s available in the marketplace? If you haven’t gotten the report, you need to get the report,” and that’s usually where I’m making a connection to you, and then I try to … because some people come in and they want to say, “Okay, we’re using Jive right now. Which product is the best one?” I have to come back to them and say, “What are your requirements? What do you want to do?” Because not everybody uses Jive the same way either, and some people rely on certain things more than others. They may or may not use blog posts. Different aspects of Jive can be used as well. It’s more of a product than a platform, but it’s still … it’s multifaceted and has its own add-in modules and those types of things.


For us, what we’re seeing is one is to make sure that everybody is on the same page initially, that you just can’t pour it from one to another, that there is going to be work involved whether you build versus buy. We often will recommend the evaluation of what’s out there in the marketplace. Some of our angst about buying something is the fact that a lot of these products have come from agencies, and so how long are they going to be around? For me, I don’t want to recommend that they go with something. I know what happens. We’ve brought products to market. I mentioned one of them, and there’s a couple of them I’ve had to bring out back and put down. It’s not fun, but it happens. I don’t want to recommend to a client something that, three years from now, the company decided to go into a different direction.


As you know, there’s a big difference between services and product companies, and so that’s where I want to make sure that they’re making a good decision and are doing the due diligence, and are downloading the reports and making sure they’re aware of what’s available out there. For the Jive, it really is … there’s a couple … it’s looking also as far as are they looking for more of a turnkey solution, so something that just sort of does what it does, and we’re getting the stuff over and it is more Jivelike, where you can only do it this one way and it does it that way well, and it’s got a nice … it has some other features that are very Jivelike, versus are they looking for more of a platform that they want to build on and extend, more of a product that provides more of a layer and something that can be built upon? We’re often having those types of conversations as well.


You know, there’s been certain companies that I think have capitalized on the whole I’ll call it exodus from Jive, so we’ve done more work with other product companies, versus certain product companies seem to be able to capitalize on the whole opportunity that’s at hand there. It’s just interesting to see, because we don’t … what’s nice is you’re saying you’re staying vendor-neutral. We’re staying … we didn’t create a product that we brought to the market, so we’re not trying to sell our own stuff, and I’m not trying to sell … I try to … you’d be amazed how many projects I go back to them and I say, “Listen, we can’t … we’re not going to build out Jive on Office 365 for you, because it’s not the right thing to do. It’s too expensive to do it,” and we’re talking ourselves out of projects, but it’s just going to be the right thing for people to do. It’s evolving.


I think with what we’re seeing with what Microsoft is putting out, I think there might be a point at which people say, “Well, I just need this, this and this,” and Office 365 will become more of a compelling … well, you just need Office 365, but right now I just … most of the … and we’re focusing more on companies that are 10,000 users or greater, so we’re typically trying to find the larger implementations. For those companies, I really think they need to look at what’s out in the market. That was a long answer, and I don’t even think I answered your original question. How about that? Did I answer your … I don’t even know if I did.


Sam:You gave it consultant answer, which is, “Well, it depends.”


Danny:It depends, and if you want the answer, it’s really expensive.


Sam:The thought you were going to say is that Jive is really strong on communities and there’s no direct equivalent within Office 365. My impression is that Yammer groups are not really as fully-featured as Jive communication. Jive Spaces, is that right?


Danny:Yeah, Jive Spaces are where the … they have Jive Space and Groups, and Spaces is more for like communication at the department level, versus Groups is more team-based.


Sam:Okay, so the groups.


Danny:When I look at … we do want to educate people on what they’re moving over into. Part of what we need to do is show them what is in Office 365, because we are typically coming in like with you, where the business is upset because somebody’s about to move things. The thing that I’m fascinated by is some of the companies not deciding to move their content, which that just … I’m like, “How are you expecting to be … ” I can understand there’s … I mean, over time we’ve been able to identify that yes, there’s some very transient content like the stuff that typically happens, the Yammer-based, I just need to know it for a short period of time, but in Jive you have a lot of document-based content.


You have a lot of … you know, people are describing their internal processes. There’s some very important line-of-business applications, and for those I’m like, “You need to have this content move forward.” Sometimes I’m trying to convince people, saying, “You don’t want to leave that,” because why would someone ever take the time to produce the content in the new system if you just threw it away in the old system? That doesn’t make sense.


All right, we have talked for a little over 30 minutes. I think we could talk for another 30 minutes, especially if Tommy was here. We could probably have some very good questions, but yeah. I think wrapping it up with the Jive thing, there’s typically lots of conversations around what goes into Yammer. The whole content type discussion typically comes up for us.


Sam:Maybe briefly I can comment on that concern about if the vendor’s going to stick around.


Danny:Sure, please.


Sam:One of the things we do in the report is ask about the scale of the client base and how long the company’s been established. We decline now to review products that have been out for less than a year, because we have done that in the past. We’ve reviewed a product and then they pulled it from the market. I think the flip side is in the past, if you did build your own with an agency, in effect the agency’s built your product and then they’ve walked away with no obligation to sustain it either. The fallback is always that your content is still there on SharePoint or on Office 365, and if you use the same product for years, that’s pretty much the life cycle of how your intranet use will be anyway. You might not get all the benefits, but it’s not quite as risky as, say, buying into Jive and the whole company folding.


Danny:Yep. Yeah, it’s interesting you mention that too, because one of our services that we have is a service called sustainment, which is what we leave. You know, when we’re building out what we build out, we want to make sure … and this is driven primarily by clients, but we typically put a year to three-year contracts in place so that … you know, typically we’re creating a product, so we want to maintain that over time, and that needs to happen. Some people don’t … they’re so focused in on the building part of things, they forget about the sustainment part of things.


Okay, I will put … for folks who are looking at this or reading this through blog post, I will put a link at the bottom to the report, definitely. I can’t say enough good things about the report. Go download it. Yeah, I don’t get paid to refer it. You’re nice enough to let me read it, but I think it’s just … I want all of our clients to be well educated, and I appreciate the time and the effort that you put towards putting this together. Definitely go and download the report. I’ll put a discount code in as well, so that Sam can say, “Oh, these Ryan boys, they’re just great. They’re good folks.”


Sam:Yeah. We already say that.


Danny:Sam, thank you so much for what you do and for taking the time to do this, and maybe we’ll check in midway through this year or later on this year when you’ve got a new totally rewritten report.


Sam:That will be toward the end of this year.


Danny:You’re going to the same thing every year? That’s kind of cruel to yourself. You don’t just reuse what you have?


Sam:I think, you know, this last report is probably as big as it’s going to get. Now that we know the products that are really interesting, we’ll try and go deeper onto your products, is the way forward. It’s really hard to turn vendors away because they come along, and actually there are so many vendors doing great things. We don’t want to like exclude all the Australians just because they’re a different market, so we do want to be the definitive report in this space. I’m very happy that we are able to cover as much ground as we do. Yeah, Danny, really good to talk to you. Thank you ever so much for having me back on the podcast.


Danny:Absolutely, absolutely. What’s your Twitter handle, in case folks want to follow you?




Danny:Excellent, excellent. Well, thank you for taking the time do this, and have a wonderful weekend, and thank you everyone for listening. Thank you. Bye-bye.




Additional Credits

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

read more
empty.authorNew SharePoint “Intranet-in-a-Box” Report for 2018

Interview of Kim Miller, VP of Marketing for Booster

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Kim Miller


Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. I am here with the other bald brother Tommy Ryan. How are you doing, Tommy Ryan?


Tommy:Doing well.


Danny:Looks like you’re still bald. That’s good.


Tommy:I am still bald.


Danny:Well done.


Tommy:Thank you. I try.


Danny:And we are here with a friend of ours, and that is Kim Miller. Kim, how are you doing?


Kim:I’m great, and I’m not bald.


Tommy:Good. It’s not a requirement.


Danny:You’ve got enough hair for all of us, right?


Kim:I do. I do. Thanks for having me.




Danny:Absolutely. Thanks for joining us, and we’ve got an interesting background. We are, I guess, my mother was in your mother’s wedding. Is that right? Am I getting that right?


Kim:They were in each other’s wedding. Yeah.


Danny:They were in each other’s wedding.


Tommy:Yes. Maids of honor.


Danny:Were they maids, both were maids of honor?


Kim:I think they actually may have been, but I don’t recall exactly.




Danny:Okay. But, and then you somehow ended up here in Atlanta, and we ended up running into each other and made the connection somehow which was very cool.


Kim:Yes, I think I was living in the basement of your best friend’s house at the time. I didn’t know that he was your best friend.




Danny:This is at Daniel Bassett.


Tommy:Dan Bassett? Wow. Really?




Tommy:I didn’t know that.


Danny:You look back on your life, and you’re like there are some crazy connections here, but yes, that is true.


Kim:And then my husband went to high school with your wife.


Danny:They had lockers close to each other.


Kim:Next to one another, yeah. Yeah.


Danny:Right next to one. It’s amazing. It’s just amazing. So, well, this is a great opportunity. You’ve been very busy recently and just wanted to catch up with what you’re up to. We worked together while you were at Primrose, and now you’re at Boosterthon. Tell us more about Boosterthon.


Kim:Sure. Love to tell you more about Booster. I am going to Booster in January this year and coming up on almost one year in next January. Booster is a school fundraising company primarily focused on a pledge based fun run, fundraising concept to help strengthen schools. That’s really our mission.




Kim:Our fund run concept has a pledge based platform that people can pledge a dollar per lap for the students, and then they run at the end of the week, and if they run 35 laps, that’s 35 dollars raised. In addition to the fun run concept throughout the week while at the school, our teams are delivering character development content to the students every day, getting them fired up and excited about all the things pertaining to the fun run. We serve more than 2,300 schools across the country. We’re really excited.




Kim:We’ve been around 15 years. We just celebrated our 15th anniversary.


Danny:Congratulations. So the company name is Booster and then what the program or your product’s called Boosterthon?


Kim:Boosterthon Fun Run.


Danny:Boosterthon Fun Run.






Kim:Boosterthon.com if you want to learn more.


Danny:Very nice. Very nice. And what, you’re still focusing in on marketing for them, correct?


Kim:I am. I joined the company as the company’s new Vice President of Marketing.




Kim:Real excited working closely with our, all the teams across the company. We are highly collaborative. I love that about this organization. I really was so impressed by the culture and the process of interviewing with the collaboration, with the strong group mindset that exists. Culture is super important to this team. We spend a lot of time on culture focused initiatives because we believe that’s core to who we are.


Danny:That’s awesome, and you’ve been there for how long now?


Kim:I joined in January.


Danny:Is that about a year?


Kim:Almost a year. Just two months shy of a year.


Danny:Wow. That’s flown by.


Kim:It has flown by. It’s been really great just to learn more about a new business coming on out of the educational childcare arena which I had been in for nine years. It was a natural transition. Primrose was so focused on character as well as part of the educational foundation of that program, so coming here and having character development be so important to the DNA of our program and what we’re delivering in the schools was really important to me and very attractive.


Danny:Is there something where before you were working with franchise owners, is there certain key contacts inside of schools that you’re working with? Is it the principals or who are you typically working with?


Kim:Yes, so we actually have general managers across the country and we have teams on the ground across the country in each of the different markets that we serve, and they’re the primary contacts with the teams at the schools, so primarily our contacts could be a principal but in general it’s more of the parent volunteer who’s leading the PTA or the PTO or the other parent organization for the most part.


Danny:Nice. And so we can, feel free to talk about things from Booster, but I know I’ve got probably the most experience with things that we did at Primrose, but let’s just talk a little bit about maybe working with and collaborating with external users. Tell me more about that.


Kim:Yeah, so I think, was it about four years ago? Maybe, when we launched the new gateway which was the instrument.


Danny:Sounds about right.


Kim:About then? With Primrose, and in working with external users, those users at Primrose at that point were franchise owners primarily and school directors, and that was very interesting because we really had to understand first how they used the current instrument to figure out how to evolve it because what we thought at the home office were great ideas when we actually dug in and built out these peer groups, these kinds of online focus groups to test concepts before we actually built it out, we learned that what we thought wasn’t really accurate to how they were using the system currently and how they wanted to use it in the future. We also learned that franchise owners were a little bit different than school directors. The school directors were more likely to be sitting in front of an actual computer screen whereas the franchise owners in many cases were mostly looking at the information on a mobile device because they were in and out of the school a little more often than the director who was primarily on site most of the day.


Danny:Nice. Very nice. I know one of the things that when talking about goals and things for the, one of the things you mentioned is understanding why you’re going after certain initiatives. Tell me how that played into this.


Kim:Yeah, I think with any project whether it be a SharePoint project or any large initiative, especially in technology, you have to really understand why you’re doing it, right? And what business problem is SharePoint, in this case, going to solve for you, like what is the root of why you even want to have it revised or enhanced or new, brand new SharePoint. So, not being out that clearly, that business problem is really important because it really helps you to develop your ultimate project goals and that will help ensure that your project doesn’t become scope creep because frankly, you’re going to have so many opinions. Everybody has an opinion, right? Of like how something should look or how something should function, and so if you don’t have those business problems identified and clear goals, then you’re going to be over budget and way beyond the timeline on that.




Kim:You need to have a filter so when the ideas come in, you can say okay, do they align with what we’re trying to accomplish? Do they help meet a business need? Or solve this business problem?


Danny:Yeah, that’s interesting because I think everybody has good ideas and the idea might map well to a different goal but if you have a clear goal, what the initiative is about, then you can filter out the ones that are not aligned versus saying well that’s not a good idea.


Kim:Absolutely, and it may be that it’s not a good idea today based on the business problems we’re trying to solve with this particular project initiative or this particular phase, but it’s good to put it up in the, I like to call it sandbox somewhere or parking lot, whatever you want to call it because you could come up later, so I’ll tell you when I came to Booster in January, I had lots of people coming, getting to know me. It’s been amazing. Love everybody here, and lots of people had lots of ideas. They were waiting for me to get here to share their ideas, and I was like my goodness, there’s so much good information, but I don’t even know what to do with all of it. So I started an ideas grid where I mapped out every time someone gave me an idea. I wrote it down. I wrote who it came from and then I mapped out what areas of marketing I thought it touched, and I’ve got that so when we get ready to build our next plan for next year, I’m going to go to that ideas grid once we have our strategy and say okay, of all these ideas how many of them may or may not fit within this strategy. Where are those gems? So, it may not be a good idea today, but it could be tomorrow.


Danny:Tommy and I are in the middle of going through a book called the Four Disciplines of Execution, and one of them is just basically recognizing that you can only really focus in on one or two goals, and they call them wigs, which is wildly important goals. When I hear you talk about this, it’s the having so many things. In marketing, there are so many things you can go after, but really trying to narrow it down to the one or two goals and focusing in on those and saying those are the ones are going to provide the most leverage.


Kim:That is so true. Marketing today is as much of a science as it is an art, and really, I see marketing as where those two things really come together especially with all of the new ability to capture data is out there and the ability to really analyze data and understand more in depth how your marketing efforts are working. You really have to almost mesh data science with a lot of creativity to find that gem of that marketing opportunity.


Danny:Now, for the franchise, for the extranet, back to the extranet, did you, what changes did you see, were people working together better or was there more collaboration or what are some of the things that you found that happened to put this in place or just some of the things that you learned?


Kim:With that initiative, we didn’t necessarily roll SharePoint out as a solution for collaboration in the sense of let’s collaborate on a project initially. It eventually led there but initially, it wasn’t built to be a place you went, and all worked on a project together like in a collaboration space. It was really built to be able to serve up important resources and news and information to the franchise owners, school directors, internal team members at the company. So in that process we built a, what we called a publisher group, so we had a cross-functional team from across the company and each department had a representative and they were responsible for their department’s page on the site, management of the page, updating the page, all of their files, any updates pertaining to their files, they kind of had their little microcosm within the SharePoint system and all of those folks from each of the departments got together and talked best practices. They did troubleshooting. IT was very involved in that, and communications at the company led that group and then helped to facilitate IT improvements that could be made over time.


That was huge. You really have to have a group of people who want to support the continued innovation of it. It’s not a launch it, set it and forget it strategy with SharePoint at all, and as I was about to leave the organization, we were even having discussions about kind of the next generation of what SharePoint would look like because there are continual updates made and new features available. So, they’re probably moving ahead with some updates as we speak.


Danny:Nice. Nice. How did you, I’m going to jump down to some questions about addressing different generations of users and younger generations and how people work with content. How did that impact what you were doing?


Kim:Since it was about four years ago, we were at a little bit of a different place I think, from just an overall technology standpoint, even just in the world, right? Things happened so fast, like so much has happened in that time since we launched and now I think if I had to look back, I think we did what we could at the time to meet the needs of the audience base that we had. Fast forward it to today, if I were to embark upon that same project, I would be a whole lot more progressive in approach and would probably build it with a millennial and Gen Z mindset in mind and probably go more down that path and then help those folks that aren’t there yet from a technology standpoint get trained up to be there because I think you’ve got to kind of push a little bit further to the future and encourage those to really come along.


Danny:So everything’s mobile and …


Kim:Mobile friendly, highly visual. I would take a market, an internal marketing approach to how the look of the site was. I would basically take marketing principles and apply them to, at the time we said internal communications, but how we communicated and we had had discussions years later after we launched the project about innovative ways to take it to the next level, but sometimes infrastructure wasn’t possible at the time or funds, but if I had to do it again, I would absolutely take a definitely more progressive approach.


Danny:A little augmented reality in it?


Kim:Yeah, why not? And also …


Tommy:More emojis.


Danny:I’m kidding, but at the same time I think people are looking at that.




Tommy:I’ve heard people doing it in ways that you really don’t think would be a business function. You just think of more of the gaming world when you think of augmented reality but I think to create experiences that you feel face to face and you got that with Go To Meeting and Skype and some of those web sharing technologies that there’s more of a two dimensional video experience and now you see collaboration, augmented reality where you can be pointing to the same thing, and it feels like you’re there together, more of a three dimensional video experience.


Danny:It’s almost like you’re sitting right here beside me, Tom.




Danny:It’s amazing.




Danny:Wait, you are.


Tommy:Oh, hey, hey. He’s alive.


Danny:Quit poking me. Quit poking me. I’ve always promised people that Tommy and I might break out in a fight during the podcast. That’s always; it’s nice edge to have on things, right?


Kim:It is so true though. I think it’s really important to really understand the generation, right, so Booster is a very millennial-focused workforce primarily and so when I came to Booster all of a sudden like text messaging common, happens all the time for business. I barely ever used it at Primrose, hardly ever, only if like I couldn’t find somebody in the building and I needed them immediately, whereas it’s really common from a collaboration and culture and hey, what are you doing for lunch kind of thing in addition to business. That and Zoom Meeting. We use Zoom Meeting all the time. Everything’s video conference, FaceTime. I FaceTime all the time. I don’t think I ever FaceTimed in my previous role. We’re just very flex, like you could FaceTime from anywhere and be in the meeting or Zoom in, and I think that’s the way of the workforce, and the flexibility and I got to say being a mom, a working mom, I love that flexibility to be able to Zoom in when I can’t be there in person and still be 100 percent present for that meeting.


Danny:Now at Booster, I’m assuming you guys don’t use SharePoint. Do you have an intranet or what do you, is there something that you rely on for internal collaboration if you have documents and things like that?


Kim:We use a lot of different tools right now. Asana is a big one that we use more for project management, but it also becomes a highly collaborative tool. A lot of our file systems are box based, but yeah, we don’t have a SharePoint system per se. Not yet at least.


Danny:So, just in the, I wanted to ask you about as a VP of Marketing, any keys that you have to collaboration. What are some of the things that you’ve learned through the years?


Kim:I think in collaborating, it’s really important to have a growth mindset and to be able to approach those, and I’m going to say cross-functional team meetings or collaboration opportunities with the mindset of wanting to learn something new from that, not just coming to the meeting and wanting to get your point across. I think doing a lot of listening is important. Some of the folks here joke that I’ll come into a meeting and I’ll just listen, and I won’t really say anything and then maybe three-quarters of the way in the meeting I ask a question and they look at me, and they’re like “Oh, wow. We didn’t think about that.” But I’ve just been listening and processing and so listening is a very important I think skill that is something that could be fostered by many in organizations. I know it’s something I could really work on, too.


I think the other thing in collaboration is to allow yourself time to think after, so when you finished a collaboration meeting or some collaborative initiative, give yourself time to think and process what you heard, what you think you heard, and then clarify with whomever what it was that you heard was actually what was said because I think sometimes we get so quick to act on things that we don’t take time just to sit and think and thinking is an action, too, right?


Danny:That’s a good point. I think we tend to fill our schedules where we go from meeting to meeting and task to task and to be retrospective to what just happened to make some conscious decisions that are not just knee-jerk reactions to what you think is the next step.


Kim:So true.


Danny:And this has been I think one of the themes starting to talk to different folks about collaboration which was one of the seven habits which is seek first to understand and how important that is. The habit is to seek first to understand then to be understood, and how important it is within collaboration to understand the other person’s point of view and I think you’re also pointing out that providing, really doing empathic listening, putting yourself in their shoes and how important that is as well.


Kim:Yeah, and I think the other thing with collaboration, I feel like I’m part of two cross-functional teams here at Booster and each of those teams is led by different executives in the company. Though the meetings are very different in what we cover, they’re both exceptionally well run. There is a planned agenda. It’s super clear ahead of time. You know going in what’s going to be covered. There’s an attention to the time in making sure there’s enough time for each of the topics and making sure we end on time, and there’s really great follow up, and I think that’s a testament to the leadership of who’s shepherding those meetings. So coming to a collaborative meeting as the leader of the meeting is very different I think than coming as an individual who’s participating. I give a lot of credit to the leadership here on how efficient and organized and thoughtful we are in being able to make those meetings successful and beneficial to business.


Danny:Awesome. Awesome. So you’re favorite Ryan brother?


Kim:Connor. Your son. How can he not be?


Danny:I love it. Isn’t he a cute little dude?


Kim:Yes. He is. He’s so cool.


Danny:He is.


Kim:Not that you all aren’t, but you know.


Danny:He’s got a new little brother which we’ll catch up sometime on that as well.


Kim:Yeah. I can’t wait.


Danny:So, tell me just to wrap things up here, it sounds like you got some fun stuff coming up in December. Tell me about that.


Kim:Yeah. I’m really; I’m looking forward to the holiday. I can’t believe that Halloween is here and gone. Thanksgiving is around the corner and Christmas is not too far after that. In the December timeframe, we do and we’re doing six events across the country with our teams where we’re bringing regional teams together and I am going to our event in the Poconos which I’m super excited about, though I have no warm clothing, so it looks like I’m going shopping. But this …


Danny:Head up, Brad. It’s coming.


Kim:Yeah, heads up. Yeah, right. But this is one of our kind of annual conferences where we bring our team members together and we really celebrate them and celebrate the successes that we’ve seen from the fall semester and prepare for the upcoming spring. We’re a highly innovative organization. We like to come together and share best practices, but we really love to celebrate and we love to celebrate our teams. We love to celebrate our clients. It’s just; it’s part of our culture. It’s our DNA. And so this is a celebration and a learning experience at the same time. When I get with out teams across the country who are the people who are closest to our clients, I learn so much from them, and I’ve only been here a short time, so I’m continuing to be a sponge and they just, they get you really excited about the future and I just love to celebrate with them, so I guess I got to buy some clothes which that’ll be fine. But I look forward to coming back with lots of new ideas to put on my ideas list.


Danny:Nice. I think that’s a wonderful way of capturing, I mean, I think some, a large part of people sharing ideas is they just, they enjoy being heard and it sounds like you’re really doing that and at least capturing that from them, and that’s a wonderful idea. It’s definitely something I’ll take away from this, is this conversation.


Tommy:Yeah, definitely.


Danny:Awesome. Awesome, and I think overall these organizations that you’re involved with, Kim, they’re very mission based. They’re making societal, cultural changes and it’s just wonderful to see where you’re going with your career and the impact that you’re having. I really appreciate you taking the chance or taking this time out of your busy week, I know you’re very busy, and just catching up with things. Thank you for doing this, Kim.


Kim:Oh, my gosh. This was so fun. Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you and I can’t say enough about the time we spent together working on projects in my previous days at Primrose and was a valued partner and he just really loved not only just working on the project, but the fact that your team took the time to coach and teach along the way, so as much as it was a project, it also was almost a professional development opportunity, and we just really appreciate you guys. Thank you for what you do in creating this cool podcast.


Danny:Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you, and thanks, Tommy, for joining me.




Danny:And thank you, everyone, 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.authorInterview of Kim Miller, VP of Marketing for Booster

Business Transformation with Kimberly Eubank

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Kimberly Eubank

LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Conversation Highlights

  • What is WaterScrumFall? – 10:16
  • Approach to Get Funding for Projects – 15:49
  • Leaning on Small Companies like ThreeWill – 26:29

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tommy Ryan, my cohost. How you doing, Tommy?


Tommy:Doing well, Danny.


Danny:You look great this morning in your new orange, or Auburn orange. I guess you guys won this weekend so that was a good thing.


Tommy:Yeah, it’s nice. I like that.


Danny:That was a very good thing. We’re here this morning with Kimberly Eubank. How are you doing, Kimberly?


Kimberly:I’m doing well, thank you.


Danny:Wonderful. We’re so excited to have you here and catch up with you.


Kimberly:Also I’m Tennessee Orange, by the way, so your orange is a little off for me, but close enough. It’s in the family.


Tommy:A little bit lighter, I guess.


Kimberly:Yeah, ours is a little golder.


Danny:You make things happen inside of organizations. One of the things Tommy and I, we love when we’re working with people who are movers and shakers inside of organizations. I’m interested to find out more of how do you approach this, when you’re typically going into a new organization and you’re trying to figure out how do you lay out a roadmap. Can you talk us through that whole process?


Kimberly:Yeah. To give folks a little bit of my background, I spent almost 20 years with a Fortune 10 Company. In that role and then in subsequent roles, I really was fortunate to have been given some pretty large cross-functional initiatives to tackle. No one every trained me on it, no one ever taught me how to do it, they just kind of throw you in and if you survive that size, then the size just keeps exponentially expanding until you’ve got to the big ones. Some of the things that I’ve learned is you always have to get in and learn and listen what’s going on in the situation. Often, in my role, I was dropped into something that wasn’t my day job. There is a big issue that needs to be resolved, some Gordian knot that needs to be entangled. “Kimberly, go figure it out.”


First, I think you have to really show the folks whose day job it is that you’re not there to pass judgment on what they’re doing. You’re there to learn and to see if you can help in some way, shape, or form. They’re in the heat of the battle everyday, so sometimes you do need an external person to come in, to kind of work simultaneously, because the day job stuff doesn’t go away. I think the first thing is really just listening and hearing what they’re saying their challenges are.


The place where I have found your conversations become a project is when you actually can formulate a list of what’s broken or what needs fixed or what needs enhanced because when people can actually see it written down, it becomes real. I think finding that list is when people are like, “Okay, she actually got it. She heard what I said, she wrote it down. It’s real. She’s telling people it’s real.” I think the list is the second place for me. Once you have the list, then you really have to go through as the leader of the effort and try to put like holes together, or like pieces together into holes. These five things are similar, they may have to do with order processing. These five things are similar, they may have to do with billing. Whatever they are, you can kind of start to squish them together into projects.


The companies that I’ve worked at were very project-centric, so things got funded at the project level, things got done at the project level. Once you can show … You’ve taken your list of items and you’ve turned them into project, then you kind of have to lay out the projects into steps that build on each other. This project is the base framework. The next project gives you the first floor. The next project gives you the second floor. The next project puts in the plumbing and the electrical. Once you do that and you can kind of lay it out in that sequence, you can begin to tell the story because the story is what gets you your financing. There’s always way more projects and way more things that you need to fix than there is capital to undertake in any given year. You have to make sure that your story and the vision that you’re painting for your roadmap, is the most compelling one out there.


Tommy:To get funded, a lot of times, it’s that first project you need to get funded, not the fifth project, but you need to tell the story of where this is leading to so they can understand that in order for me to reach that goal, I’ve got this incremental step. You could sell it short, not telling that story, that vision of, “I need to get this project done,” and you’re just looking at the inputs and outputs of that particular project, and some people that might get more technical about this is a project we need to do, focus in just on that project. You’re saying it’s more of laying out the story and the vision of where we’re going and this is the first step in that story.


Danny:It’s so interesting how human beings, the story, that’s something they can take with them and get behind and how often that’s a key skill to have and to be able to tell that story.


Kimberly:It’s huge, especially in a large corporation. All the traditional project managers out there will hate me, but I hate doing a business case for a project because it’s never just the project, it’s the program. The best example I have of that is I was working on identity and access management at the Fortune 10 company that I was at for a long time. If you look at any one of those individual projects, you would have said there are higher priority projects on the list, but if you want a cohesive, omnichannel customer experience, then you have to get to where your Fortune 10 company has one log-in across all of its divisions, across all of its products. If you don’t, to Tommy’s point, start here at step one, you are delaying the end game. You really do have to paint that picture. I never just went to get funding for one project. I always went to get funding for a program. We would have multiple IT releases throughout the year and I wanted to make sure that I had code in every single release. Even if it wasn’t what I thought it was when I put the roadmap together, it was at least progression.


I always went for the whole year and I always had multiple projects in that bucket. Inevitably, the money that they give you in January isn’t the money you’re going to have in July. Cuts are going to come throughout the year on the expense side. You’re going to have to make trade-offs. I always asked for perfection and then as they cut back, I could make the decisions inside the program to swap things out, either to delay requirements or re-prioritize the projects. By getting funding at a program level, which I was very fortunate that I was almost always successful at doing, it allowed me the flexibility inside the program to shift things around if circumstances changed throughout the year.


Tommy:That’s interesting because I think logically people might thing that I need to go get funding just for the project and not give the full cost of the program because of the concern of the sticker shock. You’re saying you need to to that, so one, you have some options if the budget gets cut back-


Danny:Or when the budget gets cut back.


Kimberly:When. It will get cut back, absolutely.


Tommy:Then also you’re not coming short of the vision. If you just sell the project, you get that project accomplished, the stakeholders might not be celebrating with you when you get that project accomplished, it’s the whole program’s whole vision. If they don’t know that, they don’t know the end game and the all-in, then you’re not going to be able to get to the finish line because you haven’t given them that insight.


Danny:You’ve hit two big of the seven habits, which is seek first to understand, which is habit one. When you say you come and you listen, that’s absolutely the first step in building trust. Then begin with an end in mind, it sounds like that’s what you’re thinking of. Where are we going? What are we trying to do here? You really have to do that.


Kimberly:Right. Tommy knows with Agile, I understand, Tommy has educated me that there’s a word for it now. What is it? Water Scrum-fall?


Tommy:Yes, Water-Scrum-fall.


Kimberly:It’s why I don’t necessarily like pure Agile starts with the end in mind. I am a firm believer that the business has to write full waterfall requirements, so you know what your end is. Then you can break it apart into chunks for sprint delivery. I’m all about iterative development, being able to see the code sprint by sprint by sprint.


Tommy:Sure, working software, sprint by sprint.


Kimberly:I really strongly believe the vision, end to end, has to be 85% there. Otherwise you don’t know where you’re going and you might code yourself in a corner because you didn’t know what was coming around the next corner.


Tommy:That’s right.


Kimberly:“Well, if I’d known that, I wouldn’t have set the database up that way.” I’ve been in those shoes a couple of times.


Tommy:Yeah, we see that. In a lightweight way, be careful, you’ve entered into the world of process. That’s dangerous around here. In the world of Scrum, the sprint zero and the planning that’s done before you start is cutting all the backlog so you can have that vision, but I think when you’re in these large programs, there’s things that you just have to vet out and almost treat as mini projects that get you prepared for the overall project. Otherwise, you might architect yourself into a corner that, “Well, we didn’t realize this, but …” That comes with your whole view of having a full vision. If you have that full vision, then you prepare that this is where we’re going, not from just a business standpoint, but also from a technology standpoint. When you look at the options that are in front of you, you’re not looking at it just from project one, you’re looking at it from the program level.


Kimberly:Right. That’s why I believe there’s a difference between a project manager and a program manager. A project manager is really just focused on that one project and they may know everything about that project, but they’re not necessarily looking at all the pieces that project might impact, whereas more of a program manager really owns the whole end-to-end roadmap. To me, they’re the throat to choke as far as tying things together and making sure that the individual pieces go into a cohesive whole. It’s their responsibility to say on project number three, as you’re trying to work out and collaborate with architects on what the right design is, “Wait, if we do that, remember, project number six, next February, is coming. It does this and this and this. If we do this, are we precluding that later because we can’t preclude that later,” then have that conversation. You really do need to understand where you’re going in order to make sure that you don’t waste time, resources, energy early on.


Tommy:Yeah, that’s interesting. The insight that we get is we get that Scrum methodology that has the sprint cycles. We have the sprint reviews and the daily stand-ups. We have those touchpoints with the stakeholder, like yourself, but that’s not the whole thing. What you’re trying to do is there’s communication and there’s collaboration that needs to take place to one, set that vision and continue to communicate the progress against that vision and to somehow get pieces of what you’re doing in front of people to say, “Are we going in the right direction?” What do you think is key outside of a … You’ve got the Scrum process for the development side of things. How do you manage and piece together the right collaboration that happens outside of the development effort?


Kimberly:I think the easiest part of a program is the building of it. The getting it socialized internally within your organization and getting it funded is actually the hardest part. That’s going to vary company by company on what their culture is and how to do it. It all, for me, starts with the story. Can you tell a compelling story about your program that makes people walk out of the room going, “We can’t not do that. We’ll find the money somewhere. We can’t not do that.” I was used to large sums of money. It might not be the 50 million you asked for, but maybe you get 25 million the first year. You at least get started. You also start the prep work of making sure that you’re greasing the skids for the next budget year. It’s that constant we’re making progress, this is what it’s doing, and making sure your story thread is very consistent. I don’t know that everyone does that. I think there were only a few of us. I will tell you, I never didn’t get the money I needed with that approach, and there were others who didn’t. I think the communicating and the storytelling is huge when you’re going for the money.


Tommy:What was that framework? What distinguished you versus the other person that wasn’t getting the funding? Were you taking time to go meet with people face to face? Were there formal meetings set up and you just had the opportunity to vocalize and have your slice of time to advocate your project, your program?


Kimberly:I think I went bigger with the end game than most people. I think a lot of folks really did concentrate on the project at hand, or a couple of projects at hand. Again, it’s hard when you are doing the day job and doing projects at the same time. It’s really hard to take a step back and say, “There’s something bigger here that we need to do. There’s a bigger story that we need to tell.” It can become just a list of projects that you need to complete and check off. I really think what it is, is a lot of folks who have multiple projects on their list don’t take the time to draw the connecting line between the projects to tell a story. I think that’s why I got more funding more consistently than others.


I’ve also seen it the other way around, where leadership knew that they needed to make a huge investment in the area and they give hundreds of millions of dollars to the area, and the area didn’t have a good story. Yes, we all absolutely agreed that the area in question needed to be improved, modernized, need more omnichannel, better customer experience, but the how they were going to get there, in that instance, the money came before the story. I think that didn’t work out for well. It became disjointed. They were like, “Oh, we just got this windfall of money, let’s go spend, spend, spend, spend spend.” You’re not necessarily, if you’ve taken this step back and really thought about this, really laid out your roadmap and your story, you may not have spent in the exact same way. I’m actually not really a proponent of the money coming before the story.


Tommy:It makes sense to me because you want to have someone that has thought through it hard and has a way to defend why do we need this money and what are we going to get out of this, versus if the money’s just there, then it can be more piecemeal, a land grab, I’ve got my individual project, I’m going to go grab those funds. Then you have five or six people trying to grab those funds, but there’s no coherent vision that’s adjoining.


Kimberly:Right, there’s no consistent end game. I think in the collaboration standpoint that you asked about, I think one of the reasons is I do spend a lot of time with the people who know what the issues are, that are in the day-to-day muck and mire, because they’re the ones giving me the list. They’re seeing me, once they figure out what I’m doing and I’m not there to take land from them, “I don’t want your day job. Your day job is not my day job. I don’t want your day job. I’m here to fix a bigger problem that’s overarching.” Once they figure out that I might help them get money that they haven’t been able to get on their own, then you’re walking into that meeting not with just one person asking for this program, but you have the power of that whole group of people saying, “We all agree this is really, really broken, and we all agree that the things in this roadmap are things that we need to fix.” You’re really coming as a force to be reckoned with, not just one individual trying to get money for one individual project or program. I think that also helps grease a little bit on the capital side.


Danny:Would love to understand … This has been a great conversation, and it sounds like you’re sort of wrapping this up. It sounds like having your story, but also having how your story relates to other people’s stories is a part of this as well.


Kimberly:Yeah, you have to make sure you’re not telling a different story than any individual function is telling. You need to make sure that you’re aligned on if we do this, this is going to help sales operations do that, that, and that. If we do this, it’s going to help customer operations do that, that, and that. If we do this, it’s going to help sales do that, that, and that. Like I said, if they’re going to get their problem, solved, at the end of the day, what I’ve found time and time again is if you’re going to actually help them get the problem solved that they have been trying to get solved for months, years sometimes, then you get the allegiance very quickly because they want to jump on the train.


Tommy:Share your perspective, as a woman in technology. A lot of these projects have been primarily technology projects? Or some of them …


Kimberly:No, pretty much everything I do is technology.


Danny:Share your perspective, share with Tommy and I what is … It seems like we’re often working, our business sponsors are often female. I take that to be that they’re much more open to collaborating outside their organization, they’re used to working with different groups of people. What has been your perspective as a female within a lot of primarily male-dominated department? How has that been?


Kimberly:I’ve always been on the business side, sitting outside the IT realm, but I do … We used to joke that I’m not an IT person, but I play one on TV. I think one of the reasons that you’re finding that most of your sponsors are women is because we multitask, I think, statistically better than men. I think we gravitate toward project management, cross-functional type of roles more so than men, at least in my work experience. The people that were given the really big, cross-functional things to do were almost always women. I think it goes to we just like having our hands in a little bit of everything. Because of that, women that are drawn to that type of role … The really successful ones, they speak business and they speak technical. I’ve never had an issue as a woman working with the men, but I also have a very forceful personality.


Tommy:No, really?


Kimberly:Yeah, I’m so shy and reserved.


Tommy:Shut the front door.


Kimberly:Exactly. I think that what technical people, whether they be engineers or whether they be IT, they’re very ones and zeroes. It’s black and white, let’s talk about the facts, let’s figure out the best design approach, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s not emotional, it’s just we’re going to argue it. Matthew at ThreeWill and I are a perfect example of that. We love each other, but we would get into the biggest bickering back and forth things because I’m like, “No, I wanted you to build X,” “But I built Y and here’s why I built Y,” “Here’s why I wanted to build X.” After we get through … Everyone else would just be silent and let us have the Kimberly-Matthew Show. AT the end, what we would often figure out through that back and forth, and neither of us ever took it personally, was that really the answer wasn’t X or Y, it was really a hybrid, it was really Z. Until we fought it out, neither one of us on our own would have ever gotten to Z. I like working with teams of men and I think it’s because I really like to dissect the issue. I really like to go, “Let’s talk about whether A’s going to work or it’s not going to work and what the side effects of it is versus B.” I think if you do that, then you also get their respect.


I can’t say … Man-splaining is a big word. I actually try to think back in my career, whether I’ve been man-splained to. I’m sure I have, but I didn’t even realize I was. I don’t think that’s been a big issue in my career. I feel like if you come in and you’re listening to what they have to say and they’re listening to what you have to say, then you build a rapport and you build a respect. At the end of the day, it’s really about is this person going to be able to help me move the project forward? Is this person adding value to the team? I have to say that as I was coming up, at the working team level, I didn’t see how the men and the women on the working teams were really treated. If you want to talk promotions and upward mobility, yes, I saw some differences, but at the working team level, we treated each other like peers more often than not.


Tommy:That’s great.


Danny:You were talking earlier about working across departments and then working outside your organization with vendors or partners. Where have you been successful in doing that?


Kimberly:I’ve worked with a zillion vendors over the years, some large and some small. When I think about the big projects that I worked on really closely with vendors that I really feel good about, I can name three examples with vendors who were small. They weren’t the Accentures or Deloittes of the world. They were small niche shops-


Danny:Please, tell me one of them was ThreeWill.


Kimberly:One of them is ThreeWill.


Danny:Please, they don’t all have to be ThreeWill, but at least one of them.


Kimberly:At least one of them was ThreeWill. One of them, who that actual company has now, the owner retired, so he sold the company to someone else, I won’t mention the name because it changed names, so the name wouldn’t matter. That was, we were doing a network conversion in that project. We were moving from actually TDMA to GSM in the mobile space. They were brought in to do all of our pre-production and post-production testing. They tested our provisioning to make sure we had all of our provisioning accurate. We dropped them into the field to do field tests, to make sure that the network was performing. They were doing IT testing for us and they were doing network testing for us. We continued to use them not just after that for merger integrations, whenever we would bring in another carrier and we needed to merge their network with our network or we needed to convert their billing system to our billing system. They were excellent, but it was a small … It was 20, 30 people, probably 50 and its apex. Because they were small and because they were really in the heat of battle with us every minute of every day, we got very close. We really, there was a respect there. We accomplished great things with that vendor.


Another vendor that I had is actually, I’m going to name them because they are still the same name, Openet out of Ireland. I worked with them building a new rating methodology for the company. Again, that was where I didn’t know what I didn’t know. No one did because it was brand new. We kind of had to figure it out together. There was a lot of technical complexity in it and that same back and forth that I described with Matthew, we really had to be that precise and that detailed. Then with ThreeWill, again, I’ve worked with you guys in two different companies and it’s that openness, it’s that ability … In all three of those instances, it was the ability to just treat those vendors like they were one of the team. They weren’t special, they weren’t different, they were in the heat of the battle with us. You’d talk to them just like you would talk to anybody else, sometimes maybe even a little more, a little more energetically. I really feel like those types of relationships brought about better work product.


What I’ve found with some of the larger vendors that can come in is there is more of a hierarchy of who do you need to complain to if something is not going right, or who do you need to talk to-


Danny:Right, there needs to be more process to keep the quality there.


Kimberly:Yeah. It’s not as interactive and it’s not as … I haven’t formed bonds with those folks like I have with some of these smaller, more niche shops. If you do good work like that, you’re going to get good referrals. For me, size has mattered, with vendors.


Tommy:What’s next for you?


Kimberly:Right now, I actually just finished my last gig a couple months ago. I’ve learned a new word, it’s called fun-employment. I’m currently in fun-employment right now.


Tommy:You’ve learned this from millennials, right?


Kimberly:I did. My last team, a large portion of it was in New York City and a large portion of it was millennials. When we ended that assignment, we all went off to find our next gig and they informed me that in NYC with the millennial crowd, it’s not unemployment, it’s fun-employment. I’ve kind of taken that as my mantra this summer. I am in the process of looking for my next challenge. I really like transformational work. I really like work that has a lot of different components. I am that typical multitasking, cross-functional kind of woman. I do like being able to take the pieces and rearranging them into a more seamless, integrated whole, and I like technology. I want to stay in technology and I want a job that has some challenge to it, but beyond that, I’m not so specific about where the next few months is going to take me.


Danny:Wherever you go, you’re going to be successful.


Kimberly:Thank you.


Danny:You will. We’ve loved … I know I’m a bit of an outsider looking in, but everybody has loved working … Matthew, some days, I’m not sure.


Kimberly:Well, Matthew.


Danny:I think Tommy and I really, we look for people like you who are really making things happen and where we can build a long-term bond and we can build up trust and be able to form a relationship over a longer period of time. It’s just been wonderful to see the things you’ve been able to do and just to be a part of it. I think Tommy and I are really happy to be a part of what you’re doing.


Tommy:For us, ThreeWill, it’s more than just work, it’s creating an impact on people and being behind people that you feel excited about being behind, that you know something is going to get accomplished in something big. That’s been exciting for us over the years. It’s great to see someone that is passionate. There is a lot of people that kind of just punch the clock, even at the higher-level roles, and to see someone that really wants to care about the problem, and we care about the problem. There’s nothing worse than working for someone that doesn’t care and doesn’t motivate the team. We’re looking forward to seeing the impact you make in your next gig.


Kimberly:Thank you. From my standpoint, having a vendor that you know is going to get the job done and that you can trust and that you can … Over time. It’s happened over time. I’ve been a little bit more and more hands off with you guys because I know that you … Matthew and I joke that we speak each other’s language. He speaks Kimberly and I speak Matthew, we got it. It’s good to have that rapport because then you don’t have to micromanage as much. Absolutely, if there’s ever an opportunity to work together again, we’ve done it at two companies, so-


Tommy:We like things in threes here.


Kimberly:Everything comes in threes, right?


Danny:Thank you for doing this, Kimberly. I appreciate your time. Thank you, everybody, for listening. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.






Additional Credits

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

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empty.authorBusiness Transformation with Kimberly Eubank

Digital Transformation – Interview with Scott Schemmel

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Scott Schemmel

LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Key Points

  1. Digital Transformation is really about understanding and helping shape the business strategy and aligning the technology to support that via enterprise applications, collaboration solutions, and analytics.
  2. Scott describes transformation of one company from a traditional product model to a SAAS model and another company where they leveraged IOT analytics to make better decisions about a manufacturing process.
  3. Collaboration is very important to growing business relationships and ensuring customer success.

Conversation Highlights

  • What is Digital Transformation and some examples? – 2:20
  • How does collaboration fit into Digital Transformation? – 7:21
  • Internet of Things example – 20:58

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers On A Microphone Podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I’m here with Tommy Ryan. How’s it going, Tommy?


Tommy:It’s going well. It’s going well.




Tommy:How are you doing old man? Gonna be a day-


Scott:Oh, were you a year older tomorrow?


Danny:45. Can you believe that?






Tommy:Wow, you can’t be 45. I’m 40.


Danny:Wait, Tommy, you’re the older brother. You can’t be 40.


Tommy:Oh, that’s right.


Danny:Unless I’m 35. I’ll take 35, that’s much better. Oh, boy. Yes, how time flies and we have today with us, Scott Schemmel. Boy, Scott, I’ve known you for quite a while. It’s been many years, hasn’t it?


Scott:It has been, yes. Good to talk to you, Danny and Tommy.


Tommy:Good to talk to you, Scott. Appreciate you taking your time out of your schedule to do this. We’ve … Scott is someone we’ve worked at a couple of different companies and have enjoyed working him. You’ve played a lot of different types of roles. We just wanted to connect up with him, see what’s going on, catch up on things. I know he’s helped out with some of our events in the past. When we did the … It was probably years ago that we did the Office365 and the new business operating system thing with the white paper and you helped our with that, which was great.


Tommy and I just wanted to spend a little bit of time with you. From our last couple of conversations, I have heard a lot from Microsoft, and I’ll just get it kicked off with this. I’ve heard a lot from Microsoft in the Partner Conference about digital transformation. I wanted to get your take on what does that mean, what is that … How does that … With your role, what does that mean, where do you … Give me more of a background on what you mean by “digital transformation”?


Scott:Sure. To me, and I’ve had a couple IT leaders, CIO type roles, the last two companies I’ve been with. It’s really about understanding and helping shape the business strategy and aligning the technology to support that via enterprise application, via collaboration solutions, via analytics, NBI. Data, of course, is becoming more and more prevalent, but just data, but how do you turn that data into actionable insights. Even on to some of the IOT, the Internet Of Things, and the analytics around that. Our is, “How do you align the technology strategy to meet the business needs to grow revenues, to grow profitability, or reduce risk?”


Tommy:Awesome. It sounds like the first piece of this is understanding what your business strategy is and understanding … Spending time with folks within your organization and understanding from a business side of things what are you trying to accomplish?


Scott:That’s right. That’s right. To give you two examples from my experience, two roles ago was with PGI, a global conferencing service provider. Our digital transformation was around a number of things. We’d gone through a lot of acquisitions, we had focused down to the collaboration space, and we were pivoting from more of a Telco based conferencing service provider to software as a service provider, selling our web collaboration services with the audio conferencing backbone.




Scott:As digital transformation, there was everything around the end-to-end sales and customer experience, all the way through the order-to-cash process. We were looking at our systems that were designed for a company of two people or a company of 20,000. Us provisioning and then tracking the usage and billing after they’ve used the conferencing solution to, all of a sudden, we were selling named user licensed and needed to be able to offer self-service ways to provision those. We needed better ways for our Sales team to track opportunities and look at leads. We needed better ways to bill and bill up front for those subscription licenses. It was looking at that strategy and how did the behind the scenes technology from the front office, inside, and the back office, going in provisioning system, how did we need to consolidate and integrate those to make a better customer experience?


My last role was with a mining and manufacturing company. Different digital transformations. Still along the lines of leveraging technology to meet the business needs, but there, we were manufacturing a global commodity. We mine, we send it to the refining process, and we load it onto rail cars. A very industrial business, a very physical product. We were never gonna not have that physical, tangible product. Certainly not a subscription service, it was a sale by the ton, but where we saw opportunities in the marketplace was, “How could we get better internally and have better information and data and reduce our cost with our supply chain, so we could increase profitability?” There was still a lot there in terms of improving collaboration in terms of providing a business ready ERP system that helped us support and view our business. In terms of the analytics and the data and information that we could provide around our product to be better in smarter and faster in the marketplace.


Tommy:Sound like … I guess, with the part of these transformations, the reason why … Just wondering why … Comes from focusing a lot on collaborations. Is the collaboration piece the … Trying to … you saying come up with this, “What is the strategy and what is making the …” At PGI, it sounds like a different way of … Everything from selling your products to delivering and moving through more of a service type of engagement. I guess, having the collaboration there, that supports that change, I get. Would you say that or how does collaboration fit into all of this?


Scott:It did, right. We used social business software there. We used collaboration within our CRN tools. A couple of examples, one was, as we were growing and building relationships with large multinational customers, we moved from when I started being a very regional company. Instead of Premiere Global Services, the nickname was Premiere Regional Services. We served our top customers very differently in the Americas versus Europe versus Asia. Our customers were asking for a seamless experience. Moving to a new CRN platform allowed us to have Sales leadership that was looking at a global customer holistically, not regionally. That collaboration definitely played an impact there.


Another example where collaboration played a big factor was in our customer success program. As most fast paced customers … Once we sold our software, that wasn’t enough. There were nuances with making sure they had our software downloaded on their mobile devices, making sure they all got set up and provisioned and knew how to use our web conferencing solutions. We developed a customer success team that, after the sale would happen, they would get involved and make sure the networks were set up and things were secure and people were trained and we leverage our CRN tool to be able to track that.




Scott:They moved from working out of email and not having good visibility to … What was coming down the pipeline to … They were looking at our sales pipeline every day and tracking it and getting a customer manager signed early. That greatly improved how effective we were at getting adoption of our software with our customers and making them more successful in returning the RLI. We’d call our return on collaboration by enabling them to see the uptake and see how effective they were better, more effective meetings than they were before they used our tool.


Tommy:Scott, were there ways to measure that adoption or is more of a general sense from the team that, “We feel like we’re more collaborative. We see this as a successful way to approach collaboration.” Did you ever have any measures for that or was it more subjective in nature?


Scott:There was some on both sides. We were moving towards quantifying what we could. Some of the things we were capable of doing was tracking usage by host of meetings. If it was a customer with 5,000 accounts, we could track and give the account manager, the customer success manager, and our contact and the client access to data that showed how many meetings they had the day before, what their trends were, average length of meetings. Sent some key information just to validate that the service was being used. Some of that was very useful and showed trends. We could help use our software for the individuals to use the best way to connect based on where they are calling from, if it was mobile or via the IP phone or via 800 number or a local number. We could demonstrate some return by enabling their participants into their meetings to use the best method. That was one way we were able to start quantifying a return on the value they were buying from us.


Then, there was some work we were doing also to look at our larger companies and be able to go back to them and say, “The financial services industry. Here’s your meeting record compared to our whole basket of financial services companies and, by the way, you typically have nine people for an average meeting when your peers have six.”




Scott:Be able to provide them information that, against their peers, in a non … Right. An industrial way to help them understand where they might be more effective or less effective or have extra people attending a meeting that … “By the way, these other two people don’t pay anything in the meeting, so are they really adding value, are they adding extra cost to that meeting?” For example.


Danny:Yeah. You mentioned in this last position that you had that it was a more of a … With the mining, that it’s more physical and mentioned that, I know we were talking earlier about IOT. Tommy and I are … We’re interested to hear more about what did that involve and want to hear more about that.


Scott:Sure. We were leveraging a software called Plant Intelligence, which is a way to organize all the timesharing data. The Plant was 54, 55 years old. A lot of new systems and devices and measurement devices centers, but also a lot of legacy stuff that might have been there 30, 40, 50 years. All that could plug into our distributed control system, our DCS, and then we could pour that or bring that easily into PI as it was called, Plant Intelligence. What PI was doing at that point, and this is back a year and a half ago, was basically collector, keeper of all this time sensitive data. Engineers and operators would use occasionally to say, “Hey, this equipment just went down. Let me go look at the data before or after that.”


What we able to do though, is say, “There’s much more value to that time sensitive data.” We demonstrated through a number of proof of values that we could use it to map data logically on a map around our plant. That was very important because, safety was a huge part of our culture around a mine. For an engineer or a maintenance person who was going to repair a piece of equipment, if they could pull up that map and say, “Oh, at this piece of equipment these three near misses or incidents have happened.” That gave a lot of information.


We were able to start doing some dashboards for our executive team and our plant leaders. We were able to prove out value with predict of maintenance to say, “Hey, this pumps’s not working right. Go out and look at that.” In one case, we went there, the pump was off kilter, they switched to an alternate pump. It was a $30,000 repair, but that would have been another day, two week before they found it and it could have easily been $100,000 or more repair. Right there we proved out that there’s real value here.


The other thing we did, moved more into the machine learning and IOT analytics. We took two proofs of value, one path was Microsoft introduced us to a VI and analytics company that had data scientist on staff. We gave them a problem to solve and said, “Here’s our continuous process manufacturing. We’re doing a design from experiments on the plant. Every week we’re tweaking one of three or four variables. We’re gonna run that for a week and then change the variables again and after a eight week period of time, expect to see how we can on it.”


We wanted to augment those experiments with some data science and machine learning. They leveraged the machine learning and IOT analytics with their measure. They leveraged our PI data. It was successful, but not home run successful. It was kind of like a sacrifice point. We moved the runner across, we learned a number of things, we got some value out of it, we got some lessons learned. One of the things was in a two to three-month window, it was very difficult for somebody outside to come in and learn our manufacturing process. There was the heavy amount of back and forth. Trying to engage them and bring them up to speed.


The other proof of value we did was with a startup company that has machine learning in our language and other things built into their software. We could stream serious data and it would go through and find patterns, do pattern recognition. With that, in a matter of a couple of weeks, we were starting to see some … The different problems that … This particular problem at our plant was if ore grade or variables changed in the inputs coming into the process, it could gum up the mill and we could lose 6-24 hours of production. By the way, this is 60% of our production line. At a manufacturing plant where we run at capacity and sell everything we can make, that had a huge economic burden when that went down.


The problem was our operators, although they were super smart and experienced and many had 30 or 40 years at the plant, they didn’t have visibility to changes in ore grade, for example. A 1% change in ore grade can seriously affect how this mill operated. They were either waiting too long and that section of the plant went down or they got nervous and they slowed the line feed down and maybe left it down too long. We were under optimized. What were doing was the machine learning tools and was recognizing these patterns, allowing it to analyze the data. Instead of that ore grade going up to the lab and getting results back the next day when it’s not useful, we could use sensors and provide approximation showing ore grade’s improving or not. The next step was, “Let’s recommend based on historical evidence how to best run that plant, so we can optimize the throughput at all times and prevent the downtime or the reduce utilization?”


Danny:Awesome. Very nice. Tommy, this reminds me of your seamen days.


Tommy:It does. Yeah. Yeah, it reminds me of how manufacturing days and process engineering days and Internet of Things. Like everything, it’s the new buzzword that re energizes folks around technology and making sure that we embrace and not lose sight of some of things that bring business value and, especially at manufacturing. Having inputs that drive systems downstream. It’s important to make that as real time as possible and make it easy for people to consume that information either from a visual standpoint or from even putting it into an Excel pivot table to allow people to look at it in a way that they can understand and act on it. I think it’s becoming more accessible …


As consumers, seeing Internet of Things, you think of locking your front door with an app, being to able to check and monitor things in your home. It’s just similar technologies that are becoming more accessible. Entering into the business conversation versus being purely at the level of the plant floor, when you look at that, do you see anything with Internet of Things that plays into executive or management roles that are at a level that wasn’t having that exposure to that data or is it just re energizing the thought of, “Let’s enable the people on the plant floor”?


Scott:That’s a great question and I think you hit on two key concepts right before that. One is, what is the business outcome, the business value going to derive from … Out tier any technology investment, right?




Scott:That varies by company. At my last company, General Resources, the value of being able to optimize production and reduce unplanned downtime is huge. Both in revenue and profitability. Then, making it accessible and easy to use. That was a key point. As we proved out value, we showed, “Here it can be done. We need to automate this, make it part of the routine,” and actually had put a greenbelt project around it to really operationalize it. One of the things we need to do is, it’s great that you have an alarm over here in Plant Intelligence, but the system these operators are looking at in the network control room is the BCS. We worked with the BCS folks and were able to say, “I’ve got this trigger now. I’m watching for these patterns. Send an alarm back into the BCS.” The path we were on was, they would get between 5 and 7,000 alarms in a day and it was just to the point of absurdity where it’s a needle in a haystack. They would clear a lot of alarms and miss things.


We were actually using the pattern recognition to start figuring out which alarms correlated, so we can eliminate a significant portion of those to make those alarms more meaningful and more useful. To answer your question, I’d say principally, it was for the operators to augment their expertise with better data, so they could make better decisions on the floor. How that would apply to the plant manager and the executive team is, looking at on stream time, looking at utilization, looking at the business benefits we’re deriving from it. With some of the proven value, how do you invest … We’re at the right place to invest to accelerate leveraging it more where it makes sense.


Danny:Scott, this has been really helpful. I know you’re looking for your next role, are you looking for a CIO role or … Tell me more about what type of … Is it in a certain industry, what are you looking for as your next move in your career?


Scott:Yeah. Thanks for the question, Danny.




Scott:Certainly looking for … If I back up, my career has been at the intersection of Business and Technology and love to make an impact and drive change. The digital transformation we’ve talked about, the IOT analytics are strengths. Also have strengths in new product development and BI analytics and helping grow revenues and profitability. More that new breed of IT, CIO leader who brings the business background, but understands technology. Part of these last two roles I helped co-found and run two businesses. I’ve had that entrepreneurial background as well. Really looking for an opportunity where I can have a seat at the leadership table and help shape the business strategy, but then leverage the technology to improve the business results. Improve the growth and profitability.


Industry wise, I’ve proven I’ve been able to jump from one industry to another and have telecom experience. Now, mining and manufacturing. Had financial services and energy management in the past. I’m a quick learner. Enjoy learning different industries and have proven being able to do that. I also would like to leverage the experiences I have to make an impact and whether that’s continuing a path of IOT, analytics, or BI and analytics or another digital transformation. It’s more, to me, about finding a meaningful role where I can make an impact than the title.  Looking for a growth company that’s looking to bring a leader on and challenge them to go succeed and drive business results.


Danny:You … We’re focusing in on the Atlanta area, obviously, and sounds like a growing company, it could be a mid sized company to a larger company, really it’s … I guess it not much or if it matters much the size of the company?


Scott:Right. It doesn’t … The last two companies have been half a billion, $600 million revenue. Very comfortable kind of … $100 million up to the Billion dollar plus companies.


Danny:Awesome. Awesome. Thank you, Scott. We’ve enjoyed with you through the years. I love seeing  where … I’m interested to hear where you end up next. You’ve got a very accomplished career so far and look forward to finding out where your next adventure is. Tommy and I have appreciated staying in touch through the years and continuing to work together. The market looks great right now. You won’t have a problem getting multiple offers, I’m certain of it.




Danny:The Atlanta technology market right now is wonderful. It’s a … If there’s any indicator from the amount of business we’ve been getting lately, it’s a good time right now. If there’s anything Tommy and I can do to help out, we definitely would love to references or anything we can do to support you, just let Tommy and I know.


Scott:Great. Thanks Danny, thanks Tommy. I’ve enjoyed working with both of you in the past and I know you’ve continued relationships with my former companies and have done a great job there. I enjoyed working with you guys too.


Danny:Thank you so much. Appreciate that.


Tommy:Yeah, thanks Scott.


Danny:Tommy, you were going to say some- … okay.


Tommy:Yeah. I was just saying in the years that we worked with Scott, what I see is the common theme is, I think, Scott really cares about adding business value and being tied to the business drivers. You can find CIO’s out there that are a lot of times just chasing after the next new technology. I think Scott takes up a pretty practical approach of embracing what is gonna move the needle from the business side of things. At the end of the day, we know that’s the key thing. Technology should enable, not drive, the decisions that are being made in organizations. I’ve seen that maturity since the beginning of working with Scott. He’ll do a great job wherever he lands.


Danny:Yes. It’s refreshing-


Scott:Thank you.


Danny:Scott, to hear you talk about the … ‘Cause, CIO’s could really drive the topline as well. We’re just so used to hearing about cutting cost that, we think you’re gonna be successful in your career, because you’re gonna be part of making … Letting the business be able to go after more and more opportunities. That’s definitely the right approach from our standpoint. Scott, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Really appreciate it. Tommy, thanks for jumping on the line as well.




Danny:You guys have a wonderful day and thank you, everybody, for listening. Take care. Bye-bye.




Additional Credits

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

read more
empty.authorDigital Transformation – Interview with Scott Schemmel

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?




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.




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.




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.




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.




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

read more
empty.authorSummer Recap with the Star Intern – Oliver Penegar

The SharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Market – Interview with Sam Marshall

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Sam Marshall

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

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


Tommy:I’m doing great Danny. Looking forward to today. Talking about SharePoint intranet-in-a-box.


Danny:Awesome. Yes, yes and interview number two. Today we have Sam Marshall from ClearBox from over in the UK. How are you doing Sam?


Sam:Hi there. I’m very well thank you. I’m looking forward to it, too.


Danny:Awesome, awesome. Today we’ve got a great conversation that a lot of people are talking about. I know it’s come up for us quite a bit. I wanted to talk about … with Sam, he’s got a company that really focuses in on the decision process around what you should be using for your digital workplace. Sam, you’re gonna correct me if I say anything wrong here, right?


Sam:Oh for sure. Yeah.


Danny:Good. So Sam has a lot of options as far as workshops that he runs. Also, at the end of the podcast, we’ll go through a report that he has available for people who are interested in the products that are out there. I’ve given sort of a high level for you there Sam, but just tell me a little bit more about what your company does.


Sam:Yeah, thank you Danny. We’re based in the UK. This year’s our 10 year anniversary. We focus on digital workplace, strategy, things like intranet adoption, intranet governance, getting the right team in place. Basically, we do everything about intranet apart from the actual technology. So, we don’t sell any products, we don’t build things on top of share points, we’re really focused on the needs of the business user and the analogy I make is … it’s a bit like once a company’s installed a load of gym equipment, you then need to say, “Well okay, what’s the training program for our team? What is it we’re going to do with this equipment to achieve our goals?” and that’s quite a nuanced thing to help people think through because you carry on with the analogy, if you’ve got a bunch of marathon runners, they’re going to use the gym equipment in a certain way and do certain routines, but if you got a bunch of Olympic power lifters, then they’re probably completely different equipment and follow an entire different program.


We come across this a lot with Office 365, but you get so much stuff just with that license. The trick that we try and help companies think through is, what do we need out of this goodie bag that would work for us and what can we safely ignore?


Myself, I-


Danny:What’s your-


Sam:Yeah, go on.


Danny:Yeah. What’s your background … I was just inter … just going to ask you probably what you were just going to say, but tell me more about your background?


Sam:You’re going to cue me up perfectly, and I interrupted you by segueing in to it myself.


I’ll give you the funny answer. I studied baboon behavior as a psychology graduate, and then I specialized in Artificial Intelligence, building like a robot. If that isn’t the perfect background for intranet, I don’t know what is.


It turns out that the baboons are like robot’s pays as well, as getting involved in things like SharePoints. A man’s got to eat, you know.


In between that, the serious answer is I did a lot around knowledge management and working with internal communicators. That’s what got me into intranet and things like SharePoint cause I think the technology to me isn’t that interesting, but the things that people do with it and how it affects the digital workplace, that’s fascinating.


Tommy:In saying that, if you honed in on SharePoint and Office 365 as that platform, or are there other platforms outside of that? I know you advise people on Intranets and the box that interacts with SharePoint, but are there other platforms that you get involved with?


Sam:Yes. We’ve always made a point of saying “We are technology neutral,” because we don’t see that as the biggest challenge. We have worked with clients who are using open source systems like, Drupal, and also some of the ready-made non-SharePoint platforms like, Interact, which is a big player in the UK and I think also getting more visibility in the US. But, in fact it’s probably 80% of our clients have already made the decision that the answer is Office 365 and they come to us saying, “Now Sam, can you tell us what the question should have been so that we can justify the answer, Office 365.” We run with that. We have no problem with the technology choices that we make.




Danny:Awesome. What … just sort of getting into our conversation here, which is … and it has to do with really the build versus buy decision, what’s been happening over the last couple of years with regards to, in particular with SharePoint online, but also some of the other products that have been coming around. What and … How did you get into this whole idea of doing this, the SharePoint in a box report? Give me a little bit more background, was it just a lot of people were asking you for what the options were out there? Tell me a little bit more about that.


Sam:Yeah, yeah, in part. So maybe we should explain a little bit what this intranet in a box is and what report is that we’ve done. So intranet in a box products are things that you install on top of SharePoint, or alongside SharePoint, or within your Office 365 environment, and they kind of take the bare bones of SharePoint and give you a lot more of what you would normally expect to see in an Intranet. So, for example, that hero image, the news publishing, maybe a much nicer looking feel. So recently, something that worked well on mobile, that wasn’t available from SharePoint 2013. We saw a big growth in companies who have maybe been doing this for years as an agency, taking a whole bunch of requirements, and responding to an RFQ, and then building it again and again for different clients.


And I suppose each one of these companies said, “Do you know what? Why are we building yet another Carousel web-part from scratch when 90% of the requests ask for the same thing. Why don’t we turn that into some kind of product so people can buy it and take an accelerated approach to getting the intranet that they want. And as ClearBox, we noticed this was happening, and thought well, we’re in a pretty good position to be the neutral guide for people on this because we’re never gonna sell any of these products, but we do have a really good understanding of what it is that companies are looking for. We’ve worked with everything from small charities of a couple hundred employees, all the way up to the Unilevers of this world that have 50 or even 100,000 employees, so we see the range of requirements.


A couple of years ago, we’re talking end of 2015, we took a look at the market and said “Let’s do a free download where we look at six of these products, and we’ll do like a buyers guide. We’ll do a star rating of the strengths and weaknesses and have a look, at least let people who are interested in sourcing one of these understand what’s available.” So we did that, and we got a really good response, and we got lots of indignant vendors knocking at our door saying “How come you picked them, and you didn’t pick us. We’re really great as well. When’s the next faction of the report going out?” So we thought, yeah okay, that’s a fair question, let’s do this again. So we put out an appeal for participation, and we had 26 vendors respond. And I’m starting to think “Okay, so this is something we should really take seriously.”


So we produced a paid-for research report, it’s like 250 pages. Every product, we put them through like eight different common scenarios, so things like publishing news, supporting communities, two-way conversations, analytics, and we evaluated them consistently across each one of these and said to the vendors, “Show us how your product would fulfill this scenario.” So it was a little bit like a mock RFP, where you might come up with some use cases and ask for a demo of those use cases.


Since we did that, we find yet more indignant vendors knocking on the door, who yet again felt excluded by this, but also some really good feedback from the vendors who had taken part, saying “Yeah, we’ve got lots of new things to show, we’d like you to do an update of the report.” So we’re just oiling the wheels to start again for this year and, so far, we’ve had, I think, 48 companies that want to be listed.


Danny:My goodness.


Sam:So this is a very, very active market area. And I think really interesting because what’s driving it from a company point of view, a lot of our clients say we’ve got this steer from CIO, we want to buy, not build everything in IT. Wherever we can, we want software as a service, or we want it to be cloud based, because we’ve been so often in the past with SharePoint, where we invested hundreds, if not millions of dollars in this custom solution. Microsoft broke it all and it cost us hundreds, if not millions, of dollars more to fix it. Can we push that headache onto an external company who will not just keep in-step with Microsoft plans for us, but in-step with maybe a whole cohort of customers, and therefore spread the cost.


I think not only is there a boom from the supply side, but there’s also a real boom from the customer interest happening as well.


Danny:Looking at that report Sam, it’s incredible. So detailed and it’s something that I think a lot of people like to see and kind of compare it as rating it as a Consumer Reports-type of view, where you’re comparing some of the same parameters.


Sam:Thank you, a lot of ibuprofen went into that report, I can tell you.


Danny:Yeah. You can tell there’s someone that has attention to detail or obsessive-compulsive maybe behavior there.


Sam:It wasn’t just me, I had a team of eight obsessive-compulsive working for me as well.


Danny:Okay, nice. Yeah. And I can see … it’s interesting to see the amount of folks that are in this space. You probably don’t know this, but you wonder what’s the market opportunity, you know, what does the space look like, and all these companies that are going into creating an intranet in a box, how are they rationalizing that. Are they product companies that go into it saying “We see this space, it’s got a market potential of this, and we’re going to go after that market and go after this niche in that market,” or is it consulting companies that built the same customizations over and over again and that productize that and try to spin off a product side. I assume you see a mix of those and do you have any comments on what makes a good intranet in a box company that can be successful endeavoring in this space?


Sam:It’s a really good question because it has a lot of signs of an immature market, and what I mean by that, is last year on the whole, pretty much everyone doing this is coming at it from the consulting side and moving into being a product company.




Sam:I don’t see many product companies who are saying “We want our product in this space, alongside all the other products that we’ve got.” And what that means is that there’s a really challenge for a consulting mindset company to change the way they work to support a product that might mean multiple releases and help desks and all the other things that you would expect when you buy a license that don’t fit that project mindset of doing consulting where there’s a clear endpoint, and anything you want after that is another contract or a kind of bespoke support engagement.




Sam:So to answer your question about what makes it good, in a box vendor, it’s the ones who’ve really, I think, segregated their business so they have a team that’s dedicated to look after the product and just thinking about the product roadmap, irrespective of there necessarily being a sale behind every feature that they add. So it’s not like they’re saying “Oh we’re going to do this because a big client has asked for it,” they’re doing it cause it’s the right thing to do and they’ve got that vision of where they want to set the product, as a way to generate the sales.


Tommy:What you see is a sampling of companies that haven’t made that segregation, is that maybe the guy that developed a feature that you’ve raised a ticket on cause it’s not working right, is pulled off from a client project for the next three months, and that poor guy’s going to have a real tension in terms of how does he allocate his time to looking after the conflicting needs.




Sam:If I can share a little secret on the podcast, and everybody listening has got to promise not to repeat it. I’m joking. There are a few companies that got in touch saying “Please can we be in your report,” and they couldn’t even provide a website link cause they hadn’t got the website live, you know, the product was that fresh. We’ve had a little chat with them, said “Come back next year when there’s more to show,” because I think part of what people investigating this area need to be aware of, is some of these products, I don’t think, will last, and that’s part of what we’re trying to help do, is understand how robust is this offering. Cause if you back a product where the vendor walks away from the market in 18 months, then you’re no better off than if you built it in house, you got that same headache, in terms of upgrade groups.


Danny:Yeah, that’s an interesting thing, and as I was looking through the report, I see when the company was founded, it’s so and so IT consultancy. Is there any measures around, say, maturity and, let’s say, process product capabilities that can give a client a certain sense of assurance that they’re going to be around two years from now versus they’re just kind of dipping their toe in the water. How do companies sort that out and do you help them with that?


Sam:We do and there’s a couple of checkpoints within that. So one is how committed is this company to the product roots, and the other one is how stable is the company itself. So, you know, the company might live on, but they might say “Yeah, we’re walking away from looking at this product anymore,” and you’re still high and dry.




Sam:In terms of the company stability, I always say to clients, just make sure your procurement is doing it’s due diligence in terms of looking at the vendor financials, the Number of employees they’ve got, and the track record of companies of a similar scale to yourself. The usual revenue credit check-type stuff you do.


Danny:Right, right.


Sam:In terms of the product maturity, in the report we list when the first release of the product was, we list how often they release it. In the new version, we’ve asked what’s the typical customer size, and also what’s your largest customer size, and most of them have also given us the names of reference companies. And all of those are good reflections of a healthy product, I think.


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s good. It’s interesting your answer to the profile of a company that it’s, you know, primarily consultancies, you wonder is there the market there for it where product companies maybe do a market-level research versus saying “Oh we’ve got code for this,” it’s more of is there a market established that we know we can invest so many dollars in product to convert so much business. Do you think … do you have a sense of why traditional product companies are not entering this market?


Sam:Well, it’s a busy market, isn’t it.


Danny:Yeah, yeah, maybe they see it’s too packed.


Sam:Not necessarily, the SharePoint space has traditionally been dominated by the partner model, and there aren’t so many companies that have got established SharePoint products who, perhaps, understand the intranet world, you know, that whole publishing model. They’re much more on things like the transactional BI or the back [inaudible 00:17:31] tools.




Sam:You know, you think about metalogix or K2 on Intact, I don’t think any of those have anything else that’s similar to what an intranet would do. I mean what are your guys’ thoughts on this cause you’ve, I know, have been exploring this space as well.


Danny:I can maybe say a little bit about that Tommy and I are very interested to learn sort of about … and this is probably because we’ve been in business for quite a while and have tried launching a couple products of our own, we’re not planning on launching nay intranets in a box or anything along that/ those lines. I think one of the things that Tommy and I have recognized that it is truly a different type of business, and in order to be successful, we’re at the point where we say it’s got to be a separate company doing a product, it can’t be us. So we’ve recognized that and so we’ve been very cautious about entering into any sort of product type of business. In fact, I’ve got up on our website, we’ve recently … we did some integration products with Salesforce, and we’ve recently retired those because it’s just … we just don’t … we can’t … it’s not the right business for us.


What I’m interested … if I can … I’m interested right now because of traditionally the … number one the SIs, how would they handle … cause typically with these different intranet and box products, they’re selling both the product and the services along with it, what are … cause we’re an SI that doesn’t have this, are they typically just building? Are you seeing them build on top of SharePoint or are they … and we’ve partnered with … there’s been some companies that we’ve worked with that, in particular, where they’re moving from Jive, which is a social platform, to Office 365, we have some expertise where we’ve been pulled in to do the migration where we’ve got some expertise in several of these products.


But how are SIs … what are they … are they deciding I’m just gonna build on or how are they handling this whole situation?


Sam:I see a big growth in the more established in a box products, setting up partner and resell and networks. So I’m guessing these guys are aligning themselves to specialize in one or two in a box products and saying “Yeah, we can meet 80% of a client’s requirements by adopting this product,” and then we’ll fulfill the other 20% as bespoke. But it allows them to deliver a solution way quicker than they could have done before. So some of the in a box vendors, in particular Powell 365 and Kamina, are really geared up to deliver through SIs, rather than you would go directly to them for the solution.


Danny:Gotcha, gotcha.


Sam:And again, I see that as an encouraging sign of maturity, that the product is something they can build out a partner network through. The less mature ones, you could argue it’s not really a product because it’s actually a set of code libraries and you always need the in-house consults and the expertise to turn it into a delivered intranet solution.


Danny:Yup. Tommy, were you gonna say something? I think I cut you off a little earlier, I’m sorry.


Tommy:I want to say Sam was asking what do we see as that marketplace and why are there intranet in the box solutions out there. We started in the SharePoint space back in 2006/2007, and it’s when Microsoft really touted SharePoint as a platform, a customizable platform, and gave a lot of knobs to turn as developers, and as SharePoint is maturing, and as Microsoft is going to the cloud, you can see SharePoint becoming more commoditized and going into the cloud, being in a multi-tenant environment, it’s really not suited well for some of the customizations you would do in the past. So you have organizations that want those better look than feels and they can’t work within the constraints of what Office 365 puts in place, so they want to extend that capability and have more control, and that’s working with these companies that are providing more the functionality that might not ever get there in Office 365 or maybe doesn’t get there soon enough, where they’d rather get there sooner by buying it than building it, knowing that things might change underneath them with Office 365.


And I think also, it’s been the space around Microsoft where Microsoft kinda put out share point and said “It’s here, it’s got some core capabilities, do with it what you want and think about the possibilities of what you can do with the intranet.” That can be paralyzing to a lot of organizations, and buying something out of the box, like what we experienced with people buying Jive, is it’s a polished product versus a platform play, and a lot of organizations kind of like that and went in that direction. I think these intranet in a box companies are seeing that people want the reliability of having SharePoint storing the data, being that backend, and then have the nice shiny upfront with something that Microsoft is not necessarily known for, but getting better at. You’re seeing things that are coming out that make you about Microsoft. It’s becoming “more modern” in their UIs, but with a company that size, they’re always going to be probably a step or step and a half behind what these smaller companies are able to do with web technologies.




Tommy:And that’s just my kind of high-level view of, you know, why is this space being created, and it’s not totally surprising that it’s coming primarily from SIs doing this. But it is, I think, a sign of, like you said Sam, maturity, the market, where it is coming from, shared code libraries, that are coming from projects, from SIs versus you have a product company saying “There’s an addressable market, there’s a gap here, we want to address it and we feel confident that people are going to spend the money here.” We’re surprised … it might because we’re doing a lot of Jive to Sharepoint point migrations, but we’re surprised in the number of companies that are choosing the intranet in a box option, because it will put your data inside other CMS systems. We’ve seen with some of these systems, they’re not just storing everything in SharePoint, they have to have their own CMS to give the kind of capabilities that they add on top of SharePoint, then maybe they just store the file in SharePoint but the blogs are sitting in their own CMS system inside of SharePoint.


Sam:I mean I absolutely agree with your analysis, Tommy, but that point about where your data sits … there’s only three or four where it resides in a separate CMS. So we’re working with a client at the moment where it’s an absolute prerequisite that the data stays entirely within the Office 365 tenant.




Sam:There’s about 20 options where that’s definitely the case, they … some of them it’s really just web parts and styling that they’re adding, they’re not taking the data outside of your own client at all.


Tommy:Yeah. That’s what I would want as a customer, but also some of the sexier ones are not necessarily using SharePoint as a store cause it complicates things. A blog in SharePoint, that data structure’s totally different than what you would want to do from scratch to create a blog interface.


Sam:Yeah. It’s understandable cause often the brief from the client is can you make SharePoint look not like SharePoint?




Sam:So what you’ve do is get another CMS and patch it in the [inaudible 00:26:20]. When you do that-




Sam:The big trade off is that it becomes an uncomfortable hop back into anything Office 365. So if you look at something like flow and say “Ah it’s great, can’t we use flow as part of what we’re doing with this separate CMS?” The answer’s always gonna be no because the CMS won’t have that level of integration.


Tommy:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Danny:So I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about … sort of the hot topic and the elephant in the room, which is communication sites. Sam, I was fortunate enough to listen in on a webinar, and I think this is an interesting thing cause as a feature … sort of as maybe a feature set, this is one of the things that SharePoint and box companies were addressing, which was the modern experience working well on mobile devices, and we’ve seen this year, Microsoft release this. What … give me … what does that mean to folks, how does that … what’s your general take on what’s happening right now, in particular with communication sites?


Sam:Yeah, so communication site’s really interesting, really good to see because, I think, it reflects that Microsoft is definitely getting the UX message that it’s so important, and they frankly just haven’t got it right for many years. Communication sites are fantastic when you need to create something that’s attractive, around a single topic. But it is still a micro-site, in effect. So, right now, we shouldn’t pre-judge cause we know this is just like the first release, and there’s probably lot more to come from Microsoft.


Right now, it looks like an intranet homepage, but it really isn’t. And what I mean by that is that it has the hero images, but they’re just images with links behind them, it’s not actually you click on it and you’re taken into a news article unless you manually tie that hero image into a news article. There’s no cross-site publishing, so we find once you get up to 500 employees, or two or three countries, or two or three business sectors that your company operates in, it’s not enough to have separate sites for everything. You want to be able to create a news story and say “Here’s a news story, now zing it out so we can target it to everybody in Canada, but not in the U.S., or everybody who worked in sales, but not in marketing.” And for that, you still need the idea of a news center, a repository of news, and some kind of metadata and personalization, which then does a search, call and pulls them back to show people.


That’s not something that I can see coming in comp sites anytime soon. In terms of the in a box marketplace though, Microsoft is definitely gonna make the sales guys work harder cause comp sites look great. Getting from ResX saying “We really need an intranet in a box,” when they can see a comp site becomes harder, it probably means that some of the in a box vendors who were targeting companies of 50 to 200 employees, somewhere like the small to medium enterprise business, they might pull out of this market in time, unless they are really focusing on doing non-communication stuff like transactions, which some of them do very well, indeed.




Sam:Yeah. I mean what your take? Do you see your clients excited by communication sites?


Danny:From my experience, Sam, I think it’s early on and they’re so buried in everything else that they haven’t fully explored that at this point.


Sam:So now it’s class, we’ve got actual lives and actual businesses rather-


Danny:Yeah. Definitely. It’s something that makes you pause to say “Okay how does that play into the equation?” The thing that I think Microsoft’s doing well with, but developers in the Microsoft ecosystem might get frustrated, is they’re trying to narrow down the lane a bit, and get more focused around areas in SharePoint to be very good at. I like the concept of segregating into teams and communication sites, and that I think is the 80/20 versus the traditional Microsoft is we’ll try to cover 100% of the space versus honing in and doing very well on the majority. They can go across platforms and devices to expose that in a polished way. I just love seeing teams and that visual overlay on top of a SharePoint team site or Office 365 group.


That’s exciting for us to really have a customer go a long way because they’ve gone deep on that topic of a team site versus before, in 2007 and 13, you had 20/ 30 different things to choose from as a starting template. I think that’s different for Microsoft, I think it is speaking to we’re all busy people and we need less choices. It’s interesting that you say there’s 50 intranet in a box selections. I think that’s good news for your company because that just makes that equation even more complicated of okay, am I picking the right one? I don’t have time to evaluate 50 different options. Then you feel at the mercy of which one has the best marketing program to touch me, is the one I’m gonna choose, and maybe that’s not the right selection criteria. I need to make sure I’m thorough and picking the company that best aligns with our needs and our direction.


Sam:Yeah. That is so important because once you’ve made that choice, once you’ve committed to it, you really have narrowed down the scope of what you can do. So these in a box products, they make things easier to use by, in effect, reducing some of the choices that you would have if you were On a bare bones SharePoint and could develop anything. I always say to people, “Don’t pick a product and think that you can just tweak this and tweak that,” because you won’t be able to if you want to stay faithful to the vendor’s own roadmap.


Danny:Yeah, definitely.


Sam:If they become tomorrow a formal requirements gathering exercise, and we’re helping quite a few clients through this at the moment, just to go through an RSP that gets you in the right place to come up with a short list and then choose between them.


Danny:Very good.


Tommy:Sam, I think we could talk to you for hours here, so I know you’ve got a hard stop. So before we wrap-up, if you don’t mind, I know you mentioned that you might have a discount code for listeners, can you give us a little bit more … some more details on that?


Sam:Yeah, sure. So if you head over to our website, which is clearbox.co.uk, I know I’ve got a funny accent, so let me spell that out, that’s c-l-e-a-r-b-o-x, opposite of black box, .co.uk. You will see, right there on our own hero image, a link to the SharePoint intranet in a box reports, and when you go to check out, use the code t-w-o-b-b 20, so that’s t-w-o-b-b, for bald brothers, and 20, cause. T-w-o-b-b 20, and you get 20% off, so the full price is $495 dollars, you’ll get $99 off, making it $398.

(Editor Note – new discount code is “twobb10”)

Danny:That’s awesome.




Danny:That’s awesome.


Tommy:That’s great.


Sam:[crosstalk] Right until the end of August so if you’d like, on your summer holiday reading by the pool, the report will certainly help with your siestas. I mean it will certainly give you plenty to read.


Danny:That’s wonderful. And maybe, Sam, we can have you back after the next version is out. Tommy and I’d be interested to hear some of the details on that, so that’d be wonderful to have you back.


Sam:I’d love to. Once I’ve had a big lie down, I’d love to come back and talk to you more about this topic since you’re really into it.


Danny:Super. Well thank you, Sam, thank you Tommy, and thank you, everybody, for listening. Yeah, thanks so much.


Sam:Pleasure, thanks very much, guys, for inviting me on. It’s been great.


Danny:Alright, cheers.


Tommy:Absolutely, take care now.




Tommy:Thank you, buh-bye.


Additional Credits

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

Remember to use discount code “twobb10” for 10% off!

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empty.authorThe SharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Market – Interview with Sam Marshall

You’re Number One – Interview with Tricia Mercaldo

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is your co-host Danny Ryan here with Tommy. Tommy, how are you doing?


Tommy:I’m doing well. Excited about our first interview.


Danny:Our first … This is Tricia Mercaldo. Tricia, you are our first interview, not our second.


Tricia:That is very exciting. Okay.


Danny:This is a little bit of an inside joke because I think at ten years we had what we called our ThreeWill heroes and they were people who really influenced ThreeWill over the first ten years, and Tricia was one of them, and she happened to be the second person we recognized and I think her husband, Allen, noticed that she was the second, so he pointed out that you’re our second, so you’re our first interview. Do you feel privileged to be on?


Tricia:Absolutely. Hopefully I am not your last.


Danny:You’re our first and last interview. Thank you, Tricia, for doing this just to get us kicked off here and started. We’ve known each other for I guess it’s close to ten years because we’re up on at least seven years since the 10-year anniversary and we knew each other before that and coming up on ten years; wow the time has flown, hasn’t it?


Tricia:Yes, agreed.


Danny:It has flown, and so we first got to know each other when you were Director of Collaboration? What was your title back then? Or was it Director of Apps?


Tricia:Director of Communication and Collaboration for Turner.


Danny:Awesome, awesome. So, that was I guess when we first had our couple of conversations together, I was talking a lot about SharePoint and you probably thought I was crazy about talking about SharePoint so much and then eventually we started looking at it and we were able to work together and do some great stuff together there, and I appreciate the opportunity to work with you during that period of time.


Tricia:Thank you.


Danny:Absolutely, absolutely. So today, what I wanted to do was to get into some of the things that I know you’ve talked about at conferences more around the soft side of collaboration and talking about making changes inside of large organizations and sort of how some of these technologies can help support you to do that, and I know Tommy and I, we talk a lot about ThreeWill’s culture, I mean it’s very important to us. So as we get this kicked off I just wanted to talk a little bit about: How do you use these platforms to influence positive culture change inside these larger organizations?


Tricia:So, collaboration is an overused term these days, and people think that if they talk to each other, that’s collaboration. So it’s an interesting concept but inside a large organization, the larger the organization the less collaborative it becomes because it spans across too many areas, so many people and all the organizations struggle with their internal culture and I’ve seen this in a couple of places and even my last role with Cree, which wasn’t a huge organization like Coca-Cola but it was still 7,000 people across the globe and culture certainly drives productivity and employee engagement, and the more engaged your employees are, you guys already know this, the more productive everybody is.


So, leveraging SharePoint and now with the rest of the Office 365 tools, Microsoft is really starting to get it: How do we bring people together, not just on the SharePoint platform but with Teams and Planner and all the other products that they’re wrapping together. It gives people a way to communicate with someone they’re not sitting next to. So the culture will change when you implement these tools, whether you want them to or not as long as you allow people to use the tools, because they will discover how to find a person across the globe who does exactly what they do and begin to share information, chat with them, in ways that they never have before. So that’s a positive thing and if leadership or someone in a higher leadership level across the organization can understand how those products can work together, and leverage that for a culture change it’s really fun to watch that happen.


At Turner Broadcasting, when we started out with you guys and we did MOSS, remember MOSS?




Tricia:One of the things that we did on the back end is we built it so that we could connect various business entities in the future even though they would all say they didn’t need to be connected at that time, and that’s been a fantastic thing. As you know, that team is still going strong, as a SharePoint Center of Excellence they’re in Office 365 in SharePoint online now and so we were able to leverage the power of the platform and we were kind of sneaky about how we set it up because we wanted people to be able to share content and search across site collections even back then when they didn’t even understand the power of the product. In the same thing both at Coca-Cola and at Cree establishing an environment where people can ultimately get there is really important I think.


Danny:When Tommy and I often talk about culture, we talk about what our shared values are and the culture; Turner Broadcasting and Coca-cola and even Cree, I imagine the culture’s very strong in the shared values; you want to continually emphasize those as well. Was there often a shared value inside these organizations that was open communication, overused word collaboration, but did that have to be part of the culture in order for this to succeed? Or how does that fit into …? Was there often …? One of the values of the company is this idea of sharing openly.


Tricia:Yes. I think in all of those places and many others, I’ve had the opportunity to see others present their culture and their intranets and employee engagement across many different companies and communication across the enterprise and building trust across the enterprise is always something that ends up on a company’s mission and values. Whether it is really fostered and whether they have to tools in place to do that becomes the question. So I don’t know that you’ll find too many companies, perhaps there are some, where they wouldn’t want to foster great communication and having an open, trusting environment. But it is not always the case; either people can’t find a way to make that happen or the more engineering type organization you’re in, the more people keep things to themselves and so you’ve got to have something really cool and shiny and interesting for those engineers to use in order to get them there and I think Office 365 is now starting to offer those cool shiny things, not just SharePoint, right?


Danny:Yeah, and do you think …? I think a lot of this as well is people will look and see if the leadership is open with their communication so how has it been going out and making sure that everyone is seeing that the leadership is being open and communicating and has that been a part of what you’ve tried to do as well?


Tricia:Yeah, absolutely. Again at Turner we actually … Oftentimes we would have to write a script for the executive but we would convince the executive that it was great for them to do a quick little video showing their favorite feature of Office 365 or talking about some way that their organization is leveraging their new … And we didn’t really call it SharePoint we would call it whatever their site name happened to be and just not a professional video just a quick snippet of them talking about a feature.


Coca-Cola executives did a great job talking about … They were really supportive of social media inside the organization, and while they may not always be the one posting in the social media for employees, there was certainly some activity that happened there to support the company being social and communicating across boundaries, so I think that’s really valuable. We didn’t quite get there with Cree, but they’re on the right path to get there as well. There are some executives, and I think it’s critical to seek out the people who have either done it in a company prior, or they understand it; seek those out, pull them together and I was doing that at Cree to have them start a dialogue about: How do we extend this beyond just the people who are interested and get the executives on board?


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now I think one of the things that I was impressed with at Turner Broadcasting was how you guys educated a lot of folks, you had the monthly groups that would get together as well, and it was really a part of everybody was … you ended up training a lot of folks and teaching a lot of folks how to use the platform as well, which I think was really smart of you guys to do that to pick up adoption.


Tricia:Yeah, I think that’s crucial because some of these tools you can easily get help, and understanding the power of the platform and how it’s designed so that you can leverage it, and so there we did start with … We did try to identify people who would be interested across the company, and then we drew them in, and we would actually have a user group, and they would lead the user group meetings by showing something that they just learned how to do that we might never even think of doing, right? So that really fun and then we did the introductory and more advanced level education, and that’s still happening there, we did that at Coca-Cola as well, mostly by webinar rather than classroom training but it was still effective, and I think that part of it is really, really important.


So, discovering your champions, and maybe in obscure places. We had executive’s admins who just got it and loved it, and engineers and whose personalities were totally different and then a whole bunch of people in between so it was really fun to bring those people together and make them feel good too about what they’re learning and discovering.


Tommy:Tricia, how did you find those champions? Because we found that that’s a great way to drive an option is to have people showing real examples of how they’re using the platforms. So how did you discover those people, did they come to you? Did you seek them out? Was there some way to find where they were in the organization?


Tricia:Yeah, yes. So I think the best way to do that is not stay in your chair, so you have to understand the structure of the organization and then find out who the people are across that organization, maybe at your level, maybe a level lower than you, ask them to lunch; you guys know I love to go to lunch or have a coffee or just go out to where they are and talk to them. You will be surprised how much people know and how many people would love to be engaged in a different way that typical IT teams never ask them to be. So even at Cree, where … Cree is a manufacturing organization; there are a lot of brilliant engineers there designing the next elite dividing sources, it’s fascinating. But they all stay in their space and so I was able to pull different people just in a pretty short time.


When you start talking about what might be coming and asking who might be interested, people will come out from all over the place as long as you don’t ask them to do a lot of work for you but they can share ideas with you and be part of something different, people are pretty up for that. We had some brilliant guys working on our SmartCast Technology team and, you know a little bit difficult to work with because they’re so brilliant and they’re working so fast to get new products out. But they were so easy to hook in, and they become your evangelists, and then they’re talking to the engineer over in a whole different organization about what they just did, and they don’t have to like each other, by the way. But they do listen to each other, and all of a sudden, stuff is happening. So it’s really a fun thing to do, but you kind of have to make that happen, they don’t really come to you.


Tommy:Okay, yeah. So you seek them out, spend time with them, understand what the value is for them and somehow enable them. So, how do you make it easy for them to evangelize; what things have you found are great support mechanisms to take those champions and make it easy for them to have a voice for the company?


Tricia:So, you should always feed them, whether it’s donuts or lunch, and then you give them the cool stuff first. You make them part of your … Maybe not your initial implementation, but pretty close to the beginning so that they become part of the implementation of the products and they can help you figure out how to leverage that product in their particular environment, and they become the champions of their domain, and suddenly they want to talk about it. So it’s a fascinating thing to happen, but you can’t just do it once, you have to continue to foster that relationship, or they’ll just do it and go away and do their own thing again.


Danny:Tricia, I imagine with talking about doing your own thing, there may have been some differences between Turner and Coca-Cola but you were an internal group providing these options for services and working with a lot of different departments and I know over the last 10 years or so there’s been a lot of options outside of going with something that maybe Microsoft has and going with more of like an SAS offering where they can just sort of go buy it, set it up and they’re off and doing their own stuff. How did you get consensus with groups or were you able to get consensus with groups using what you’ve got already instead of going after what the bright and shiny thing is that’s the latest thing out there. How did you deal with that?


Tricia:I think that is 100% dependent on your executive support for your goals and missions so making sure that, as high as you can go in your organization … So at Turner, I knew the CIO and CTO very well because I was there for so long, and it was a little simpler to meet with them and help them understand the value of using products that are designed to work together in a suite and that you’re already paying for, right? At Coca-Cola that was a little more difficult; as you guys know they chose to go with Chatter instead of Yammer, but they had a pretty large sales force team as well for obvious reasons it’s a very large organization and selling a lot of different products and marketing. So our CIO, who I also met with regularly, and CTO, could not be convinced that Yammer was a better way to go, but they did support the other Office 365 products within the organization, partially because that was a very large investment for the company from a licensing perspective.


So, finding the way to speak to that organization to the senior level: Do they want to talk about dollars, do they want to speak about value, do they want to talk about the soft cultural pieces? You know, what is the language of that senior executive, and speak that language to that executive so that when someone tries to do something different, they’re gonna listen to that a little bit, and at Cree, we just finished the Office 365 project a month or two ago and that was very new, this was all subscription licensing and all of that was very new for that company so we talked more about the stability of the product and the environment and they were beginning to really say “Okay, good. We don’t want to go pay for anything else” and so we talked a lot about the dollars and the cost of the product suite and how Microsoft continues to add new capabilities to the product suite and it doesn’t cost you anymore and so that was kind of the sales pitch there and they were very good about not letting some of these engineering teams go pay for something different if we could show we had the same capabilities.


So Microsoft has tons of … And you can search for it online using that other product called Google. The analysis, what are the features of this product versus another product, Teams for example, people were skeptical because it was a Microsoft product but when they really looked at it they were like, “Yeah, okay we can use Teams and we’re already pay for it.” So building those business cases over and over again it’s not something that you do once and it stops, right? You have to do it all the time. Again, stay connected with your business people so you know what they’re up to, so you can hear about it first before they go do something else.


Danny:The question about sort of … And I’ll share sort of one of the things I’ve noticed from my perspective but how things have changed since we made the move to Office 365, I think one of the big things that I’ve seen is … you were sort of getting into this, but the number of features or what Microsoft is able to do more quickly nowadays than what … Traditionally, SharePoint was a three-year product life cycle you sort of got whatever the version was and three years later you got an updated version of that and had a really tough migration in the meantime, the pains of the way it used to be. Well in my day, we upgraded software.


Tricia:Or redid.


Danny:Redid software, and what benefit am I getting out of this? It just seems like nowadays I can … We’re a small, agile organization and we can barely keep up with what’s coming out and I imagine there’s other things like … What else has changed from your perspective since moving from the, I’ll call it the good old days of SharePoint, installed on Chrome to nowadays where it’s Office 365 and you’ve got whatever the latest version is all the time.


Tricia:Well, so I’ll say, the fantastic part about it that is from a mobility perspective or multiple device perspective, they’re really getting that right and they didn’t for a long time but now they’re really getting that right so it’s tough to justify not going in that direction, especially if you have a large workforce that is remote, a sales force out in the field that kind of things, so the value is certainly there. Keeping up with the latest releases and understanding how quickly those are coming, preparing your employees for that is a tough job and you have to sell it as though it’s the iPhone or their Android, where things are updated all the time and compare it more to that which is why it’s good that they’re figuring out the mobility piece because it would be tough to say, “Just like on your phone, everything’s changing.”


But it’s tough for an internal organization, I’ve found, especially in finance organizations, they don’t really like stuff to change and so getting new features even in Exchange or Outlook, you know like the junk folder, we had to turn that off at one point because mail was … You have to train it, and important mail was going in that folder and it just showed up one day, and we didn’t know it was coming and we couldn’t communicate it and we had to find a way to turn that off. So it’s a lot about communication and I think your technical people can watch the roadmap and the new list of features that are happening but it’s almost like that’s a full-time job so I don’t know what the answer is there. But you have to prepare your employees who are using the products for not having it the way it used to be where you were on the same version for 10 years, it’s more like on your phone.


Danny:Yep, yep. That makes sense. You were also talking about different types of users where the folks in finance are different than the engineering group; any insights on addressing the different generations of users and how that fits into what you’ve done inside these different organizations?


Tricia:Sure. So, my generation doesn’t like change apparently. Although, I claim not to be part of that group, unless I’m directly in that group and that might be a problem but-


Danny:Tricia, you’re so young at heart.


Tricia:That’s right.


Danny:You’re young at heart.


Tricia:So, understanding and trying to help the different generations get through that is a very important part of the process. The younger generation who has grown up with technology, really fun people to work with I think, but they’ve grown up with it so they would be upset if something wasn’t changing every couple of weeks or every month because that’s what they have grown up with. So that’s a little bit easier so again when you’re looking for champions, don’t forget the kids. Sorry, I don’t mean that to be insulting, but don’t forget them.


Danny:I think she’s talking about Oliver, I’m looking over at him right now.


Tricia:Yeah. Right, Oliver? So don’t forget them, because they’ve got great insight and they can help you champion the products and be part of the new stuff and they can go, you know the whole reverse-mentoring concept in a less formal way, they can go help the guy in finance who’s mad every day because there’s a new feature in Excel that he didn’t know about; hook those people together and let them leverage each other to get excited about what’s coming and how it’s changing. But don’t forget to have the conversation with the Microsoft team and provide the feedback about the pace of the change because people can’t take too much, that’s too big and to help Microsoft find a better way to let people know what’s coming before it gets there so that they can prepare people if it’s a big enough change, and they haven’t quite figured that out and I don’t know that any of these companies have figured it out but I think that’ll be key to the long-term successes of all of these companies.


Danny:I think I remember you talking about you were part of some group or committee from Microsoft that was providing feedback to the product team at one point in time?


Tricia:Yeah, Coca-Cola was large enough we were part of a CAB and we met twice a year and we were able to provide feedback on new features and communication and that sort of thing. But even while I was at Cree, I met with my account team every single week mostly because we were moving a lot of products into the Microsoft suite but we had a lot of conversations about the pace of change and we asked them to take that feedback back to the teams and I think Microsoft is listening to that a little bit; as much as they can.


Danny:You said they’re called CABs? Like red wine?


Tommy:Customer Advisory Board?


Tricia:Customer Advisory Board.


Danny:Is this just some excuse to drink red wine? Is that all?


Tricia:Pretty much, yes.


Danny:Sorry, Tommy. You were going to say something.


Tricia:It was Seattle.


Danny:In Seattle. Tommy, you were going to say something.


Tommy:Yeah, what I was going to say is it’s great that Microsoft has those formal feedback loops with large organizations that have many people that are impacted by their products so it’s a great way to kind of aggregate the needs into representatives that go out there but also, what I’ve found and I’m very excited about and I’ve seen it kind of in action is the UserVoice feedback loops that are out there so all the products that are out there in the suite of Office 365 that have their own UserVoice forum that you can suggest an upgrade or change or concern about the platform and you can see the folks at Microsoft are saying, “We hear your voice, it’s being considered. Oh, it’s actually on the roadmap and, hey, it’s actually been implemented.”


I think that’s an awesome thing that they’re doing that … I know it’s out there with some other small software companies and I think they’ve adopted some of those more agile, open philosophies that you see with the smaller companies that some of it maybe came from the Yammer acquisition or just came from the leadership of [inaudible 00:32:29] to say, “We need to get closer to our customers,” and that’s just another avenue that you don’t have to be a Coca-Cola to get your voice heard.


Tricia:Right. You’re right and people need to be encouraged to use those forums because you have the attitude, “Well we’re so small, how are they going to listen to us?” But you’re right, those are there; you need to give them the feedback I think it’s really important. Otherwise, how do they know?


Tommy:That’s right, yeah it’s not fair. Yeah, we see things that are either what we’re experiencing as a team or what our customers see, we’ll go out there and put it in UserVoice and announce it in Teams and say “Hey folks, I just put this out there, can you give me a vote, a thumbs-up on that so it has a stronger voice out there on the forum?”




Danny:Cool, so I’d like to keep these … I don’t want this to be too long because I think Tommy and I could talk with you for another hour. But I just wanted to say Tricia that Tommy and I really appreciate the relationship we’ve had with you over the last 10 or so years, however long that is and we appreciate staying in touch with you and next time you’re in town or next time we’re up there we’ll definitely go out for lunch and have some lunch together.


Tricia:Awesome. Awesome.


Danny:So, tell me what’s the next couple of months look like for you? What’s going on? Anything we can do to help out? Or what’s next for you? What’s your next big thing?


Tricia:I am looking in the area of program management, so I’ve taken some time off and it’s been wonderful I’ve had some other things to do during this timeframe and so I’m starting to get back into looking for something more in program management; a little less in technology. Throughout my career at Turner I had the good fortune to sometimes be part of the business and liaison with the technology and how to automate processes and improve processes within a business group, and I haven’t done that in quite some time and so I’m seeking opportunities where I can be part of the business and use my technology background to help them grow.


Danny:Are you looking primarily in the area you’re living right now?




Danny:Okay, awesome. This has been awesome. I appreciate … Tricia thank you for taking the time to do this and maybe six months, eight months from now when you’re in that new position you’d like to check back in again and see how things are going. But I appreciate you sharing the insights from working at three really great companies and it just was really neat to sort of look back on all of this and thank you for taking the time to do this.


Tricia:Thank you so much and thanks for letting me go first.


Tommy:You’re welcome.


Danny:Tricia’s number one. Tricia’s number one. You have to bring that back to Allen, okay? Make sure he knows that.


Tommy:Ah, don’t you worry, don’t you worry.


Danny:Excellent, excellent. Well thank you everyone for listening, taking the time to listen to the podcast and Tommy and I look forward to having these types of conversations with folks in the near future whether it be folks we’ve worked with in the past or folks we would potentially work with and just love having these types of conversations and love just sharing more about making these organizational changes and talking about communication and collaboration and it’s great to hear from folks like Tricia and thank you for listening and have a wonderful day. Thank you, bye-bye.




Additional Credits

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

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Danny RyanYou’re Number One – Interview with Tricia Mercaldo

Moving Sandboxed Solutions to the Cloud

Matthew Chestnut is a Senior Consultant at ThreeWill. He has over 20 years of software development experience around enterprise and departmental business productivity applications. He has a proven track record of quality software development, on-budget project management and management of successful software development teams.

Danny:Hello, and welcome to ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I’m here with Matthew Chestnut. Hey Matthew, how you doing?


Matthew :Hello again Danny.


Danny:Hello again, it’s another quarter.


Matthew :It is.


Danny:Good to see you.


Matthew :Same here.


Danny:Good to catch up on things. So I would classify today’s topic maybe would be “the devils in the details” or something.


Matthew :That’s a good way to categorize it-


Danny:Along those lines, which is we’re just going to catch up on a project that you have been working on, or planning out. I would put it that way.


And it’s a project where we’re working with a larger client, and we’re looking at upgrading from SharePoint 2010 to 2013-


Matthew :Yeah.


Danny:2013, wait it’s 2017-


Matthew :Understood.


Danny:What’s up with you guys?


Matthew :You know these big enterprise companies work. They move rather slowly.


Danny:Uh huh, so we’re finally upgrading to 2013, and I just wanted to talk through … I think some of this, in reality, this is what you’re going through. A lot of people are going through when they’re looking at going to SharePoint online.


Matthew :Absolutely.


Danny:So this is a pertinent topic for a lot of people, and preparing themselves for the future.


So, give me a little bit of the backstory on this whole thing, and let’s talk this thing through.


Matthew :Well this is a project that we’ve worked on over the last five years plus. This particular application.


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :And it’s going through another iteration, because of the enterprise desire to move to SharePoint 2013 on premise.




Matthew :And, you know back in the old days quote on quote of SharePoint 2010, there was a certain set of best practices. Things like sand boxed event receivers, or sand boxed processes.


This is where code that used to run on the farm, in SharePoint 2007 … Now the IT group had the ability to sandbox, or put a wrapper around it. Which prevented applications from running wild, and bringing down the farm.


So in the SharePoint 2010 days sand boxed processes were the way to go, and that’s how we implemented this particular solution.


And the whole idea about a sand boxed process is, you’re adding a list item-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :To a SharePoint list, and SharePoint lists are ubiquitous. I mean that is the thing, along with documents, list data is very important.


And the idea is, is that when this item is created on an application that’s non-trivial, you may want to do other actions-




Matthew :The actions may be create a notification record, write some data to another list, do some processing on this data to make it more enterprise ready.


And the event receivers were awesome. In the sense that, when a list item was added, updated, or in the process of being added, or updated these events were fired, and code could run.


In the olden days, back in the days of asp.net, you know when we had just asp.net, or even asp. And we depended on SQL Server-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :We had triggers, store procedures that would execute when a data base was added, updated, etcetera. So this is a similar concept. So it was great. We had the ability to run code.


Well now here comes SharePoint 2013, and more importantly here comes Microsoft changing their best practices. And they’re really making these best practiced decisions based on SharePoint Online Office 365. Just like you mentioned.


They don’t want code running on their farms, in the online cloud, because that would be a maintenance nightmare. How do you segregate it? How do you keep it secure? With the variety of tenants.


So they’ve come out, and said that, “Sandbox Online, in the cloud, is not allowed at all.” They’re on premise in 2013 SharePoint, and even SharePoint 2016 is allowed. So they are still allowing this user code host process, AKA the Sandbox to be configured, and run on premise.


But this particular company, our customer decided that they wanted to deprecate it now. So in other words they don’t want to wait until the application, or the capability goes away. They said let’s get rid of it now.


Well that’s a great opportunity for us to figure out how we’re going to solve this problem now-




Matthew :We have all this code, we have all this business logic, what are we going to do with it? Oh, and by the way this particular application was written using info path. Which is yet another technology that Microsoft has deprecated. Still works, it will probably still work through, you know the year 2025. But the customer wants to get rid of that technology.


So now we start moving into some of this newer technology that you may have talked, with other Three Wheel consultants about. Things such as Angular-




Matthew :JavaScript frameworks-




Matthew :And how SharePoint really participates very well in that world, and Microsoft SharePoint has got frameworks now, API’s. The patterns and practices one, is one I’m thinking of currently, that provides a great API for giving you JavaScript access to your SharePoint data. And of course with JavaScript it’s a programming language. You can do whatever you want with it.


So here we go, so we started in evaluating our choices. And we’re trying to keep the customers’ pocketbook in mind. Certainly, in our grandiose world, we could change this thing, and make it do all kinds of stuff. But we want to keep it affordable for them.


So we looked at remote event receivers. So this is a new technology that we haven’t used in this particular situation, but the remote event receiver’s gives the IT group the ability to stand up a server-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :That gives us some WCFN points that we can then call from a SharePoint list item event. So instead of the event calling code that runs on the SharePoint farm itself, even if it’s sand boxed, it runs somewhere else.


And it does some of the same things that it would do if it were running on the farm. It has the same client connectivity, it could read list items, update list items, et cetera.


Here’s where that got to be a little not desirable for us-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :The remote event receivers worked great, except when they don’t. And here’s how they can not work.


For whatever reason let’s say the connection between our SharePoint farm, and the remote event receiver server is disabled. It’s down, or whatever. The challenge is the call to the remote event receiver fails. But it silently fails. And that of course is the worst thing that can happen to a developer, “Why does my application data not look right? “We don’t know, because it silently fails.”


Danny:So what you’re saying is if a remote event receiver fires in a forest, and nobody hears it-


Matthew :Right, does anybody care?


Danny:Does anybody care!


Matthew :Yes, the customer cares.


Danny:Yes, the customer cares.


Matthew :Yeah, so-


Danny:Did it really happen?


Matthew :Did it really happen?


Danny:Did it really fire? If it’s a fire’s in a forest, and nobody hears it, did it really happen?


Matthew :So that’s the challenge. When data does not get updated, and it’s supposed to be updated by this thing, and this thing didn’t fire. What was the problem? So-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :Now of course we could add logging on our remote event receiver. So we would know if it got called, here’s why it failed. But if it never gets called we have no control over that.




Matthew :Yes, we could look at the ULS logs, and there might be some information there, but once again this is an enterprise solution. We don’t have access to those logs. Those logs are generating tons of data, too hard to wade through.


And the other challenge with the remote event receivers is that there’s like a 30 second time out. In other words, it’ll give you 30 seconds to do your work, and you better be done. Or else, it’ll just say, “Thank you very much. We’re moving onto the next thing.”


Now that wouldn’t have been a problem. We could of spawned another task that would run asynchronously. You know in the background without any user interaction. But that turned us away from remote event receivers. Just because they’re not guaranteed, or at least the guarantee was very, very loosely coupled-




Matthew :So then we started working backwards, and said, “Okay, well what about work flows? What can work flows do for us?” In fact, we were using work flows pretty heavily with this existing solution. That the challenge was work flows work great, but the work flow language is a little bit restricted.


But in the old days of SharePoint 2010, when we could write, and we were allowed to write sand boxed code. We were writing custom actions on events that a work flow would fire, as well.


So the work flow action could simply be, “Send notification.” And the work flow action was custom code, written in the sand box-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :Written in C sharp, deployed on the server. That would take that one line work flow command, send notification, and it would figure out whatever it needed to do. It’d find out oh, what type of notification do you have here? Who’s it need to go to, based on all these criteria?


So once again, workflows are great, but they’re limited in the language. They’re limited in their ability. They can certainly update list item, the current list item. They can create other list items, but if you start talking about program logic it kind of falls down.




Matthew :So we moved away from that. So basically now we’re going back to, “Okay, we’ve got JavaScript, we have the ability to communicate with JavaScript. We have to change this form anyway from info path, to Angular two. Let’s just write this logic in JavaScript itself.” And that’s what we’re doing.


And that’s going to actually work out very well. The Angular development using SharePoint as the back-end database, is working just as we expect it would.


Our code really doesn’t matter where it’s writing to, although we are using the SharePoint library. That could easily be a SQL Server library. We could write the data elsewhere, we’re sticking with obviously the SharePoint solution. Because the data structures are in place, and all the supporting lists are in place, to support this main form.


And that brings me to, well some of these supporting list items, these little look-up tables-




Matthew :Also have business logic, and we’re not wanting to rewrite those. We were heavily leveraging SharePoints’ ability list items. Add, edit, delete, view-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :Filter, all that stuff we get right out of the box. We still want to use that. We don’t want to rewrite those. So what we’re doing with those scenarios, is we have to participate in the event model, of a standard SharePoint list form.


And a standard SharePoint list form give you the ability, with JavaScript. You inject the JavaScript into the page using a couple of different techniques, but it’s pretty standard. And I think we even have some blog posts on our freewheel.com, that talks about using jQuery with SharePoint forms.




Matthew :But the idea there is there’s a pre save action, and on pre save we can do certain things like populate data values on a list. Or quite frankly we can do whatever we want, but that is a pre save action.


We also have when the document form is loaded, we have that action. So if we have some fields we want to hide, or show, or repopulate, great we have all those abilities.


Here’s where it came to be a tricky scenario. Is after the item has been save, and we want to do some other actions on that item, how do we do that?


Well our traditional way has been event receivers, but we can’t do that. Our other way has been work flows, but we don’t have the ability to do them as robustly.


So what we’re doing is we’re also using the ability on a SharePoint list form with new, and add it. Where on the save, and or cancel for that matter, you can redirect to another form.


By default it’s simply going to close the existing form, and take you back to the list page where it was launched from. What we’re going to do is transfer control from the page, the new, or edit form, and go to another page, and that page is going to have the logic. That’ll do whatever it is we need to get done. Whether it’s add additional list data to other lists, or create notification records, what have you.


So in essence we’re daisy chaining the application-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :So once we press save here, we use a standard out of the box SharePoint technique of redirecting to another page-


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :And that page is going to pick up the work, and do whatever remains to be done-


Danny:Now I’ve talked with other people about this, did you think ten years ago that your career, you would be writing so much JavaScript.


Matthew :Well its funny, yeah.


Danny:And Angular’s based off of JavaScript-


Matthew :Yeah in fact, you know JavaScript was kind of invented to help out the browser experience-




Matthew :Do some things tweaking the DOM, the object model so you could hide show fields in a programmatic fashion-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :It’s become the language du jour, if you will.


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :And we’re actually using in the Angular world, we’re using the TypeScript flavor on top of it. TypeScript’s just a layer, it’s another language that is an industry standard. But it trans piles itself at compile time, or transpile time.


It converts TypeScript code into JavaScript code, but TypeScript code gives us a little bit of language niceties. Like validation of data types, and certain constructs that what end up happening is when it’s transpiled, it converts itself into JavaScript. Which runs of course on every browser. But it makes the developer life a little bit easier.


Danny:I don’t think I’ve heard of transpiled-


Matthew :Transpile, yeah that’s a-


Danny:A new one for me-


Matthew :There’s always some-




Matthew :Buzz words, right? You know you’ll probably use that quite frequently, yeah, probably incorrectly, but you’ll use it frequently.


Danny:I use it as a marketing term-


Matthew :Right.


Danny:See what that transpiles-


Matthew :Transpile your business.


Danny:Transpile your business. So probably somebody listening to this is probably thinking, what I was thinking as well, which is why aren’t you using Azure for this?


Matthew :Oh yeah, that’s a great point. Azure would be an excellent solution, and even SharePoint 2016 on premise would be a little bit better, because it’s got some extra capabilities in regards to events. Like web hooks, that are more guaranteed delivery, etcetera. Out in the cloud-




Matthew :It would be great. We could have used remote event receivers even in the cloud. We were talking about using remote event receivers hosted locally, and there’s two different ways, a low trust, and a high trust. How you can figure all this stuff. But it would’ve worked.


In this particular scenario we’re not using the cloud because the customer’s not using the cloud right now-




Matthew :They maybe moving to that in the future, but we’ve got other customers who are cloud based, and we’re doing some of the same techniques that we’re talking about.


The challenge here is we have a working application. Works great. Has been in use for five plus years, and the IT group is changing the infrastructure slightly, and they’re putting new rules in place.


And so our business customers look at us and, “Well why do we have to do this?” And we’re kind of saying, “Well-” We had meetings with all the parties involved, us, them, the business, and the IT group so they could hear it straight from the horses’ mouth.


And so they understand, it’s a business need. It’s positioning themselves for the future, it’s a little bit of pain right now-




Matthew :But we have a solution, there’s always a way to fix a problem-


Danny:I had this visual of the business coming to you, and saying, “We need to do this.” And you’re like, “Aw, that’s not a problem. It’ll take a couple days to do that.” And then it’s almost like what I always joke around that part of my job is slowing everybody down around here.


I can just almost have this visual of somebody taking your argument and saying, “Yeah, but you can’t use this, and you can’t use this.”


Matthew :You’re absolutely right. It really is a standard, and straightforward SharePoint 2010 to 2013. If we had all the same technologies-




Matthew :In place … Which are still available. Yes they might be deprecated, but they’re still supported-




Matthew :If we’d of done that, if we had that ability, we would be done. It would be a easy upgrade. But what ends up happening is the changes we’re making now, the next step is going to be so much easier-


Danny:So they’re ready, they’re getting ready for-


Matthew :More cloud ready, yeah.


Danny:So even though they’re not even going to SharePoint 2016, or SharePoint Online, the next jump that they make it’ll be-


Matthew :Yeah.


Danny:Much easier. That will take a couple days-


Matthew :Yeah, and if we were doing this again, if they were coming to us brand new-




Matthew :And said, “We want this application” we would not do it the way we’ve done it.


So we’re trying to balance the technology that they have in place, the training that they’ve already done. The way the application works, what is the least amount of effort we can do, to get this thing done in the new environment.


Danny:Just a side note, since we’re doing a lot of these … I mean basically our applications are turning into little JavaScript applications. That probably makes them even … You know where they’re hosted in SharePoint.


As people maybe look at different platforms, or moving to different platforms … I know there’s the back end is different-


Matthew :Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Danny:But it seems like even get them into a situation where … If it was all server site code, then making that move is a big deal. But if it’s all JavaScript, then it might be easier to look at different ways of hosting these applications.


Matthew :We’ve done some amazing things with SharePoint-




Matthew :You know our applications are really enterprise applications that we do, and we really leverage SharePoint to it’s full extent. We utilize its capabilities of data management, as well as search, and document management, and all the policies they have in place.


But if a customer did have SQL Server, and they wanted to use SQL Server, because they had other enterprise applications that were using that. When we rewrite this application using JavaScript, and it’s Angular based forms, then we become more platform agnostic-




Matthew :And in many ways that’s what Microsoft is trying to do with SharePoint. Is trying to make SharePoint fit better with that model. It’s nice to able to store data in SharePoint, cause you automatically get search, and you get some of this other stuff.


But quite frankly you get that with Microsoft SQL Server as well. The search language is slightly different, the configuration is slightly different. With SharePoint you get all these management tools that kind of come with it, but with these other platforms you get similar things as well.


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :So we’ve written some very complex applications, some very feature rich applications in SharePoint. This new technology, this new model is going to future proof us. To be able to deliver applications in the future, regardless of the underlying infrastructure.


Danny:What is the … I know I’ve heard people talk about the SharePoint frame work, and that sort of thing. How does that fit into this stuff? You’re probably not utilizing it yet, because it’s not a … How does that fit into this?


Matthew :My opinion as a developer-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :SharePoint, or excuse me Microsoft used to dictate to us, “Here’s how things should be done.”




Matthew :But we always questioned, “Have they ever done this thing themselves?” Because if they did they would say there’s no way this would even work.


Danny:Oh that hurts.


Matthew :Yeah.


Danny:But it works in a demo-


Matthew :Yeah right.


Danny:I can really kick ass-


Matthew :So I think what they’re realizing is, wait a minute they’re trying to eat their own dog food, if you will. They’ve tried it themselves, their consultants have come in, and they’re listening to them saying, “Wait a minute. You know, we’re saying do it this way, but have you ever tried to do it that way? It’s hard to do.”


So they’re coming up with these frame works to help with that. The patterns, and practices. The SharePoint library, all these frameworks that the goal is to make it easy to incorporate user processes, user data inside the SharePoint platform.


Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Matthew :And so all this is great news for us.




Matthew :As developers.


Danny:Anything else you wanna … This has been really interesting, it’s kind of-


Matthew :Oh this project I’ve worked on in the past-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :I’m a domain expert on this particular application-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :I’m applying new technology that’s new to me-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :In certain areas, which is great, it’s a great learning experience. I came off a more traditional enterprise application, that was asp.net-


Danny:Uh huh.


Matthew :Microsoft SQL Server, etcetera. So it’s nice getting into the modern world if you will.




Matthew :It’s nice doing this, because I think it is going to be the future.


Danny:Yeah, and this whole … Again all this stuff will apply to other applications, and moving to the cloud, and talk … I just wonder in general what is … It maybe just people will start moving applications to the cloud when they need to rewrite them, or when they sunset old applications.


But it seems to me probably a lot of people are going through this, which is you know they’ve got an older style application. They want to move it over to the cloud, and they’re getting these … Well it’s going to take us three to six months to do this, and you’re just going to get the same thing that’s on the cloud, as what you have right now. How do you justify that?


Matthew :And that is a huge challenge, yeah, because you have a working application that looks a certain way, and you have to move it somewhere else, and it’s going to be this big expense.


One thing that’s at least nice about this transition that this particular customer’s doing, and what we’re doing here as a company at Three Wheel. Is we are getting our tool belt even bigger with more tools, and solutions.


We like to come up with patterns, and practices ourselves to help deliver solutions to the customers quickly. You know we’re not a think tank, we don’t like to spend two or three years working on a solution. The customers want action now.




Matthew :And we realize that, we use agile processes in our project management, and because we know, decisions get made, changes are absolute. Changes are going to happen, and we have to be able to adapt.




Matthew :So this whole thing that we’re going through with this particular customer is kind of like you said, it’s kind of like what’s happening with the industry.


But once you get over that initial hump-




Matthew :Unless they take away JavaScript for whatever reason, then we’re really in trouble. Go back to Cobalt. Once we make this step it will be smaller steps in the future.


Danny:Yeah, interesting. This has been fascinating, thank you for sharing what’s going on, and the project hasn’t … You’re just in the planning phase right now-


Matthew :We’re in the middle of it-




Matthew :We’ve gone through a planning stage-




Matthew :And we’ve gone through the initial development-




Matthew :We’re going gang busters right now, getting things done.


Danny:Awesome, well good luck. I look forward to getting a update in a couple of months here, and thank you for taking the time to do this.


Matthew :Good talking to you Danny.


Danny:Awesome, thank you everybody for listening, and have a wonderful day. Take care, bye.


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Matthew ChestnutMoving Sandboxed Solutions to the Cloud

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?

Catching Up with Matthew Chestnut

Matthew Chestnut is a Senior Consultant at ThreeWill. He has over 20 years of software development experience around enterprise and departmental business productivity applications. He has a proven track record of quality software development, on-budget project management and management of successful software development teams.

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Three Will podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I have Matthew Chestnut here with me. How’s it going, Matthew?


Matthew:Hello again, Danny.


Danny:Chestnuts roasting …


Matthew:It’s the season right?


Danny:… on an open fire. Yes it is the season. Truly is the season-


Matthew:And I’ve heard that one before, by the way.


Danny:I’m sorry. Sorry, I apologize. What you been up to recently? It’s our quarterly get together, it’s our little pow-wow. I feel like we should have a little fireplace in here, serve some hot cocoa. What you been up to recently?


Matthew:Here we are, we’re winding down the end of the year, the end of the quarter. Of course, the holiday season is upon us. Doing work, the same project I’ve been working on for the last 18 months, it seems. We’re trying to wind down, get some features in place, get the product solidified for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s the start of the tax season, so we have to have a lot of features prepared. Obviously, there’s a blackout period where we can only do certain deployments at certain times. We’ve got various people on various schedules, as far as vacations, holidays, et cetera. We’re really winding down, trying to get the product, the feature list that we want to deploy ready to go so we’re heading off the new year in style, if you will.


Danny:Nice. Nice. When do they lock down for tax season?


Matthew:Well it’s unknown to man. No, it’s coming up soon. There’s restrictions on deployments, deployments of big things. Obviously, we can always deploy fixes or minor changes, but if we’re talking about big features, we really don’t want to do it, because their customers are expecting a certain look and feel when they go to the website and they don’t want any surprises.


Danny:Nice. You’re working with, who’s on the team, Tim still on the team?


Matthew:Oh, we still have Tim, and Anthony Heffner is working, Tim Coalson, as well as Brandon Holloway doing our QA work. Brandon is the, I guess it’s a funnel where Brandon is at the bottom of the funnel and Tim, and Anthony, and I just keep pouring stuff into it. Brandon’s been able to keep up. He’s done a really great job in testing stuff that he may not know everything about. In other words, he’s really good at picking up things and understanding what he needs to look at without, necessarily, understanding the big picture.


Danny:All right. So, you guys still running sprints or is it more of a kanban type of style?


Matthew:Yeah, we’re not really sprint related. We have a release plan focus, where there’s a certain set of items in the tracking system that we are working on. We’re meeting daily to talk about that list. The team is diverse, it’s international, multiple locations, so we’re just making certain everyone knows what everyone else is working on.


Danny:Nice, nice. We’re coming up with plans for this upcoming year to help them out as well? I like the multi-year projects. Those make me happy.


Matthew:Oh yeah. There’s plenty of work to be done, for sure. There’s certain blackout periods in certain areas where we can’t do deployments, because it’s very busy. But it also give us the ability, then, to sit back, figure out what we want to do next, what kind of features are needed, et cetera, plan them, get them done, get them tested, and then be ready for deployment the next time we’re able to do so.


Danny:We’ve caught up with work stuff. Personal stuff, I know you’ve done some VTO. VTO around here is Volunteer Time Off. Tell me what you’ve been doing. You’ve been doing some running related stuff recently.


Matthew:Yeah, I’ve been involved with youth running for about 10 years now. I have a youth running club I do as a hobby, another job if you will, Alpha Crush Running Club. This is the cross-country season, or rather, we just wrapped up the cross-country season. High school running finished the first weekend, or so, in November, but that is the startup of youth running with USA Track and Field. We’ve had a series of meets, here in Georgia, for the association level, which is the first round of competition in the Junior Olympics program for cross-country. We then went to Tallahassee, Florida to compete in the regional championships, which a region is comprised of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Just this past weekend, December 10th, was the national championship, held in Hoover, Alabama. Fortunately, all these meets were relatively close to us. The national championship had approximately 3,200 competitors across five different age divisions and two genders. So, each race had anywhere from 3 to 400 athletes, so it’s a well attended race, very competitive.


Danny:Awesome, awesome. How’d your runners do?


Matthew:It’s interesting. I’ve got some really good runners. I had three All-American finishers, which is great. Out of the State of Georgia, there were 24, I believe, All-American runners total and I had three of them. All-American status is bestowed upon those who finish in the top 25, in their specific age division. But what’s interesting, I might have had a 6th place finisher in one race but I also had the last place finisher in the same race. My club doesn’t cater to just the elite runners. There are certain clubs, across the country, who are elite teams. They handpick athletes to participate and they always do very well. I take whoever comes to me and we just work with them. They all enjoy it, regardless of their ability. The girl who finished last place had just as much fun as the girl who finished first.


Danny:Any of them aspiring to be Olympians?


Matthew:I have ages anywhere from 7 to 14, usually through 8th grade, then they move on to high school. It’s interesting to hear them talk about their running future and their talk about grandiose visions of gold medals, and championships, and things of that nature. Our goal is simply to instill the love of running. Give them the ability to compete with kids their same age, in various venues whether it’s cross-country or track. Yeah, I have some that are quite good. They’re at the national level, obviously finishing in the top ten in these events really means something. They are gathering friendships with their fellow competitors, so that they see them at the various national meets, et cetera. So, it works out, they get new friends, strong competition, and they really enjoy it.


Danny:What’s the typical advice, or maybe the best advice, or the most often given advice to the runners that you have.


Matthew:The big thing is always, simply to try their best. I mean, whether you’re super fast or just kind of fast, the key is, is always showing up the day of the meet and trying your best. What I like about cross-country over track is it is team oriented, in the sense that up to 5 to 8 athletes form a team. Team scoring depends on their finishing order in the race. The lower number is the better number. It incentivizes the kids to go out and run fast, they cheer each other on, there’s a little bit of a bond that forms amongst them. The key is just for them to enjoy it. Some parents are hyper-competitive and they want their kid to be the fastest in the world. I just want them to be able to run continuously, to run for life, if you will. We’re trying to prepare these kids for high school running. It’s kind of the first stage, that we get them as youth, we move them on to high school. If they have some aptitude, then they can go to college, but we’re the first step, if you will, getting them introduced to running.


Danny:Does Alpha Crush, does it … Are you working with them year round and then certain times you’re all together, or do you have them sort of like a plan for the year?


Matthew:Sometimes it feels like it’s year round. Right now, we’re on our longest break. The national championship is the second weekend in December. We start up with our spring track season in March, when daylight savings time kicks in again. Our seasons, really we have two. We have a track season that runs March through July and then we have a cross-country season that runs August through December. We get a little bit of break in between. What the kids do during the break is, they drive their parents crazy. The parents have asked, could we host some kind of weekly events, weekly runs, to keep the kids active and exercise. During the winter months, we’ll meet once a week at various locations throughout the area and we’ll do a run. The kids like it because after the run, we’ll go to some place to get a bagel, a muffin, a hot chocolate, or whatever. So, I jokingly say we might be running anywhere from 3 to 10 miles depending on the athlete and they’re talking 99% of the time about what they’re going to get at the restaurant when we get done. They’re not even worried about the run itself. Which tells me that they’re enjoying it, they’re not worried about the run, and they’re also quite in good shape.


Danny:Nice, nice. We’re always talking about technology around here. Is there any technology these kids use to improve their running?


Matthew:Oh my gosh, yeah. The technology, not only for their running, but for my management of the club. That’s a big thing for me, to be able to scale this. We have 110 kids on the roster and I need to be able to send out communications, emails, website. We use all this stuff at our disposal. We have a website, we use an email communication system. We use text reminders. The kids who have watches, sometimes just use a simple chronometer, a simple stopwatch that counts the number of minutes they’ve been running. Others have GPS watches. In fact, it becomes a running joke, where before we start a particular training run we have to wait a few seconds or a few minutes for everyone’s GPS watch to sync before we can get started. They definitely use technology to their benefit. What’s nice about running, it’s a relatively inexpensive sport. Shoes are probably the most expensive item, and with kids, they grow out of their shoes very quickly. We recycle shoes, where possible. Certain athletes use spikes or special shoes for cross-country and/or track. When they grow out of them, we take them and distribute them to some other kid who might need them the next season. We get a lot of shoes that are gently used but we can reuse them over and over.


Danny:Awesome. Awesome. I think it’s wonderful that you do this. It’s great you can use some, I guess VTO you’re using that to go and work some of these events, is that correct?


Matthew:Yeah. That’s a good point. The VTO, the Volunteer Time Off, has been very beneficial for me. I get five days a year. I have my running club, and so we’ll travel to meets. I’m also a USA Track and Field Official, so I’ll officiate at some of these meets as well. I get the opportunity to do high school championships, college championships, professional meets, part of the volunteer part of USA Track and Field as well as my own running club. It’s nice to have that option to be able to contribute and not worry about work and things of that nature.


Danny:As an official, you have any stories about disqualification or anything.


Matthew:There’s always disqualifications. Here’s a story that I tell my kids. I was working this professional meet and I have these athletes who are pro’s, they’ve been doing this for years. I’m a starter, so I’m at the starting line preparing for the next race, which happens to be an 800 meter race on the track, two loops around. There’s certain starting areas depending on the distance, because there’s a staggered start, depending what lane you’re in. Lane one has a slightly less stagger, or no stagger at all. Lane seven or eight has the big stagger. The professional athletes, theoretically, should know where they’re supposed to stand for a given race. Here is this professional athlete, very well known, she’s standing where the 400 meter start is, which is farther up than the 800 meter start. All the other lady athletes are saying, “Maggie come back. Maggie.” She finally realized her faux pas and they all laughed about it and we got the race underway. I tell my kids, these professional athletes are just like you. They want to know where their bib numbers are, what time their race is, where do I stand, where do I go. They ask the same questions whether they’re 25 or 8 years old.


Danny:Nice, nice. That’s a great story. Well thank you for all that you’re doing. It’s great, especially on these larger, longer projects keeping up the pace and keeping things going. Thank you for all you’re doing at work and thank you for the great things you’re doing with these kids. It’s wonderful to hear that. It’s really good stuff that you’re doing.


Matthew:Thanks, Danny. I’m looking forward to this short break. I’ve got a couple of weeks, I guess, of vacation coming up to recharge, get ready for the next year. I’m looking forward to it.


Danny:You sticking around here for the holidays?


Matthew:I’m headed to Texas for a couple of days, but primarily here in Georgia, yeah.


Danny:Nice, nice. Well thank you everybody for taking the time to listen and to catch up here with Matthew Chestnut. Thanks, Matthew.


Matthew:Thank you, Danny.


Danny:Have a wonderful day everyone. Bye bye.


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Matthew ChestnutCatching Up with Matthew Chestnut

Catching Up with Brandon Holloway

Brandon Holloway is a Quality Assurance Engineer at ThreeWill. He has over 10 years of QA experience in requirements gathering, risk analysis, project planning, project sizing, scheduling, testing, defect/bug tracking, management, and reporting.

Danny:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast. Today I have Brandon Holloway here with me. Hey Brandon, how’s it going?


Brandon:Good, how are you Danny?


Danny:I’m doing great, thank you. We’re going to just do a catching up with Brandon Holloway podcast today, how’s that sound?




Danny:This way, probably the folks who will be listening to this will be other ThreeWill folks who say, “What’s Brandon been up to lately?” Or you’ve been on all the projects so they know what you’re up to then, huh?


Brandon:Yeah, I’ve been on a couple.


Danny:Okay, good, so let’s just get this whole thing kicked off with … Have you been on one main project or across multiple projects or what’s it been like recently?


Brandon:Lately I’ve been on a few different projects but one has been my main focus and lately it’s just been kind of like a stabilization type phase, getting ready for a production release coming up and just retesting a whole bunch of issues, so that’s the main thing. There’s a couple other smaller ones. One, I’m actually working with our product Trove which allows file uploads through Salesforce into SharePoint.


Danny:Nice. I got to get me some of that.


Brandon:Oh, yeah. It’s some good stuff, man. I’ve been doing some testing there. The client wanted us to go back and fix a couple of low priority issues since there was some time left so I’ve been doing some of that. There’s another one I’ve been working on a little bit here and there. It’s like a trucking company where they have these observation forms. I’m dealing with the drivers and whatnot and we’ve done some pretty cool stuff with that so I’m doing some testing on that as well.




Brandon:And then there’s another one a little bit down the road coming up with another big company. I’m dealing with some calendar and document management stuff.


Danny:Cool. This past year it surprised us how much migration work we were getting. Are you typically involved in any of those migration projects or have those come up or is it something that typically the client would end up doing? The testing part of it.


Brandon:The testing part of it, so far I’ve only been involved with maybe two that are dealing with migrations. I do test in our environment but as far as the actual migration itself, a lot of times that’s with either the developers here at ThreeWill and working with the clients, so haven’t been really heavily involved when stuff gets moved over to production. Not mostly.


Danny:Nice. What’s been your favorite project recently that you’ve been, assuming you have a favorite project, right? If you had to pick one-


Brandon:Maybe the one with Trove.


Danny:Sorry for the question out of the blue here. I just got to keep you on your toes here.


Brandon:No, it’s probably the one I mentioned with Trove. I’ve been working with Eric on that one and that one’s pretty neat. I guess I kind of like when it’s something that’s a little different. It goes across various platforms, Salesforce, SharePoint, and also something that developed by ThreeWill, so pretty cool to get in there. I’m the first one obviously going through there testing that stuff since it’s new and Eric adds features to it every now and then so it’s just kind of refreshing to test something like that other than I guess you could say same old, same old all the time.


Danny:Yeah, so it’s not something … I guess in this case it is. It’s SharePoint related but it’s SharePoint and Salesforce related.




Danny:Nice. Very nice. Just to dive a little deeper into that, do you set up your own Salesforce environments and your own SharePoint environments for doing the testing or is that something Eric does for you?


Brandon:Yes, I do have my own SharePoint and Salesforce environment for the testing that we do but sometimes the client will have their sandbox environment that they may want us to test in there too, but it always starts with my own environment.


Danny:Did you do anything with Channel at all? Did you help out with any of the testing for Channel or was that someone else?


Brandon:I did some testing for Channel. It’s been maybe a couple months since I’ve done any testing with Channel but that was a major client that we had that really utilized that for their company-wide site, and there was a lot of testing going on then with it, so it’s been a while since I’ve touched it but I definitely did a good bit of testing with Channel as well.


Danny:Very nice. Testing anything in general … What you’ve been doing on projects, has it changed through this past year at all or is it pretty much it’s been pretty standard stuff for you?


Brandon:I would say pretty standard stuff. Each project may be a little different, but all in all it’s still pretty straight forward manual testing. It’s just dependent on what the application is.


Danny:Are you enjoying what you’re doing?


Brandon:I am.


Danny:That’s always good. That’s always good.


Brandon:I’ve been testing for probably nine or ten years now. Not with ThreeWill that long, and I love it. I’ve always loved it.


Danny:That’s great. That is wonderful to hear. So you’re here in the room with me so you’re not in Phoenix City. Is your family up here with you as well?


Brandon:Actually yes, this time they are. We have the company Christmas party tomorrow so we all came up.


Danny:Excellent. How are the kids doing?


Brandon:They’re great. They’re great. My oldest is three now and we had another one a few months ago, so he’s five months old. We got Maddox and Jackson, two boys, so it’s getting a little more hectic.


Danny:Nice. You’re putting together a football team, huh?


Brandon:Yeah. The size of the kids, it may be. They’re both in the 99th percentile for height for their age so who knows? Maybe tight end, maybe a wide receiver. Whatever.


Danny:I look forward to seeing your family tomorrow. It’ll be nice. We’re going to Papa Dough’s. Papa Dough’s.


Brandon:Papa Dough’s. I’ve never actually been to Papa Dough’s.


Danny:You haven’t? Okay.


Brandon:We don’t have those back in Phoenix City and Columbus.


Danny:Do you have restaurants in Phoenix City?


Brandon:You know, not really. We pretty much have to travel to Columbus to go to the grocery store and come back and fix sandwiches. Alabama doesn’t have a whole lot-


Danny:You hunt for all your meat, right?


Brandon:Yep, yeah you got it. In my backyard.


Danny:All right, I’m going to back off here. How do you like living in Phoenix City?


Brandon:I like it. We lived up here for a couple years, maybe a couple years ago. We were up here for about two years. We like it up here. There’s things we miss about up here, but one thing we don’t miss is the traffic which is awful, but it’s like that I guess any major city, but everything’s a little more slowed down in Phoenix City. You can get one side of the town to the other pretty quickly and I just kind of like it.


Danny:How often do you go across the river to Columbus? Is it pretty often?


Brandon:Every day, pretty much.


Danny:Every day, okay.


Brandon:Yeah. We live maybe two minutes drive from Columbus. Maybe not every single day but several times a week. My wife’s always over there. The shopping, stuff like that. A lot of restaurants are in Columbus. Phoenix City has some of that stuff but not nearly as much. Columbus is probably five to ten times the size of Phoenix City.


Danny:Nice. How long does it take you to get up here from Columbus area? Was it a couple hours?


Brandon:Up to the office it’s probably a little over two hours.


Danny:Little over two hours.


Brandon:Two hours and 15 minutes, something like that. To the condo that we’re staying at in Buckhead it’s about an hour and 45 minutes just depending on traffic.


Danny:Nice, is it somebody you know for the condo?


Brandon:Yeah, my uncle. It’s the company he works for. He keeps charge of the condo. It never has anybody in there so every now and then he’ll let us get in there.


Danny:Nice, that works out well.


Brandon:It does. It’s a lot better than doing what Beau does all the time and getting up at 4:30 and driving up here.


Danny:It’s nice having everybody here in the office today. You picked a good day to drop by. There’s a lot of folks here.


Brandon:Yeah, I noticed that. I haven’t seen this many people in the office in a while. Of course I’m not up here a whole lot, but it’s pretty full, yeah.


Danny:So anything new? Anything else, because it’s probably to be other ThreeWill folks who are listening to this. For the Brandon update, anything else that’s new in your life besides a second child daddyhood-wise?


Brandon:That’s probably the main thing right there.


Danny:That’ll keep you busy, man.


Brandon:Yeah, it’s keeping my wife busy, definitely. She’s doing a couple things here and there on the side but mostly she stays home with the boys and it’s definitely more work than it would look like from somebody that’s never had to deal with it, so definitely commend her for that but that’s pretty much it, man. Living life.


Danny:Living life. Living the life in Phoenix City.


Brandon:That’s right.




Brandon:Don’t make it sound so bad.


Danny:Did I make it sound bad?


Brandon:You just kind of trailed off a little bit there, “In Phoenix City … ” Got a little slower I guess.


Danny:Hey, you know what, I don’t know if you know this but recently this past year moved up to Cumming, and as far as I’m further out basically in the country you could say and as much as I can say that, so traffic’s a little bit slower up there. Let me put it this way. In the morning you can hear cows in my backyard, so I moved a little bit to the country.


Brandon:Yeah, well, I don’t have any cows in my backyard so you got me beat there.


Danny:I said you can hear cows. I don’t have cows in my backyard but you can hear them mooing, so I consider that … I’m up by Sawnee Mountain which has been nice just to be a little bit further north, a little bit further out there and the family’s enjoyed being up there, but yeah, it’s nice.


Brandon:Little bit colder?


Danny:Little bit colder, yeah. Definitely the kids are hoping for some snow. We’ll see if that happens.


Brandon:Ya’ll get a lot more of that up here than we do.


Danny:Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for all that you do on projects. It’s awesome having you around to come in and do all the QA and testing that you do. We really appreciate what you do, Brandon.


Brandon:Glad to be here.


Danny:Awesome. Thank you everybody for taking the time to listen to this and catching up with Brandon, and I hope you have a wonderful day. Thanks, bye bye.


Brandon:War eagle.


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Brandon HollowayCatching Up with Brandon Holloway

Interview with Rob Horton, Senior Consultant

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

Danny:Hi, this is Danny Ryan and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast. Today, I have Rob Horton here with me. Hi, Rob.


Rob:Hi. How’s it going?


Danny:Good. How are you doing?




Danny:Excellent, excellent. Rob is a senior consultant for ThreeWill. You’ve been around here for … What is it? 18 years now?


Rob:Just about. Just about.


Danny:Just 18 years, huh? Wow.


Rob:No, I came over in December of last year so working on fifth month.


Danny:Awesome, fifth month. Everything going well?


Rob:Very well. Very well.


Danny:You’re having a good time?


Rob:I am. I’m enjoying the work. I’m enjoying the people who work here. This has been a blast.


Danny:Cool. What’s it like being that close to Pete? That’s got to be wrong. You’re close to Tommy, too. You’re looking across the table at Tommy.


Rob:Right. In between the two of them.


Danny:You didn’t pick that seat, did you? You didn’t know what you were doing when you picked that seat, I guess.


Rob:No, no. Actually, Pete and I worked together many, many years ago at,




Rob:… Hewlett-Packard. We actually worked together for almost 10 years there.


Danny:You worked together. Wow. Then you developed a relationship over there. Then Pete said, “Come on over. The water is warm.”


Rob:Something like that.


Danny:You’re like, “Why is the water warm, Pete?”


Rob:He said something to the effect of, “You’ll probably hate me after this.”


Danny:Jeez. Pete, he’s very good at setting low expectations. He does that with me all the time. As a senior consultant, what’s a typical day like for you, assuming you have a typical day?


Rob:Well, it’s varied. Everyday is made up of a lot of different pieces. When I first came in, I worked on one big project. Now, I’m working on a lot of smaller projects.


Danny:Got you.


Rob:My day to day, it’s a mix of documentation, visiting with the clients, visiting with other consultants, other engineers here at ThreeWill, coming up with plans. It’s a lot of varied work.


Danny:Initially you were doing … You’re just one one project. Now you’ve moved to multiple projects.


Rob:That’s correct, yeah.


Danny:We want to keep you on your toes. That’s why.


Rob:That’s right. That’s right.


Danny:One project is not enough. My goodness.


Rob:It’s enjoyable though because with different work throughout the day and different clients, personally I enjoy that. It keeps things moving. It keeps me on my toes. Things don’t get stale. Things don’t get boring.


Danny:Awesome. Awesome. Well, what I wanted to do during this interview just to get folks to know you a little bit better outside of when you’re doing your consulting work, and solving problems, and getting things done, and making sure Pete stays in order. Do you have any favorite hobbies that you have outside of work?


Rob:I have a few hobbies. I’m a pretty avid tennis player. I also like to do weight training. I’ve been doing that for several years now and then carpentry, woodworking.




Rob:Yes, it’s a big hobby of mine as well.


Danny:Really? What’s something that you’ve made?


Rob:Well, I do a lot of home improvement type work. My father and I a couple of years ago finished out a basement in my home. That was a wonderful project. Just getting the basement finished was nice. Learning a lot of skills from my father was nice and actually just getting to work with him was really nice. I feel like through that experience, it took us about nine months because-




Rob:It wasn’t really a full-time effort.


Danny:You worked on weekends to get things done?


Rob:Yup and a little bit during the week. I felt like we were closer after that. It was nice. I really enjoyed that.


Danny:It’s definitely a bonding experience with your dad.


Rob:Yup, definitely.


Danny:Nice. Very cool. Very cool. We have some other tennis players here. You mentioned tennis. Kirk I think likes to play tennis as well.


Rob:Yup, we’ve talked about that. I think Bruce used to play tennis.


Danny:Until he hurt himself or something like that.


Rob:I’m not sure. That happens. He lives in Charleston now. I think maybe when he was in Atlanta. Atlanta has a huge tennis community both USTA and ALTA organization.


Danny:Nice, nice. Any favorite TV shows, movies, anything come to mind when I mention those two?


Rob:I just finished the second season of Daredevil on Netflix, which I feel like is a pretty amazing show.


Danny:What’s Daredevil about? I don’t know anything about it.


Rob:It’s a comic book character that they’ve brought to the screen. It’s a series as opposed to … They did a movie about it. It really wasn’t that great a few years ago with Ben Affleck. This is a whole new take on the comic book. They bring in other comic books from the Daredevil world. This season they had a comic book character called Elektra as well as The Punisher.


Danny:The Punisher, that’s a good nickname for some folks around here.


Rob:That’s right.


Danny:The Punisher. Cool. Do you like reading comic books then? Is that something you’ve done growing up or this is a more recent phenomenon?


Rob:A more recent. I have a teenage son and he’s into comic books.


Danny:Got you.


Rob:For anyone who has a teenager, anything that you can do to connect with your teenager you will do. I wasn’t much of a comic book … I didn’t read a whole lot of comic books when I was younger, but I get into it with my son and for my son.


Danny:With your dad, it’s carpentry. With your son, it’s comic books.


Rob:That’s right. That’s exactly right.


Danny:Find a way to relate. That’s very nice, very nice. You have just one son or how many kids do you have?


Rob:I have two kids. I have a son who’s 15 and a daughter who’s 13, so I have two teenagers.


Danny:I’m sorry.


Rob:That’s right.


Danny:I’m sorry. We’re working on getting rid of the rest of the hair up there.


Rob:That’s right.


Danny:We’re working on it.


Rob:What’s left is gray.


Danny:Any favorite books or authors?


Rob:I really haven’t honestly had much time to read for pleasure. It’s mostly I’m doing a tremendous amount of work. This type of work, specifically consulting and technology consulting, requires you to stay up-to-date.


Danny:There’s a lot of outside reading, a lot of Googling, a lot of trying to stay on top of the latest technologies.


Rob:Yeah. That’s definitely for sure.


Danny:Very cool, very cool. Where do you fall in line with the phone wars? I’ll call it the phone wars.


Rob:Years ago, I had BlackBerry.


Danny:Was that at HP when you had the BlackBerry?


Rob:Yup. Well, my days at HP, we had SkyTel pagers.


Danny:I’m sorry.


Rob:We thought we were doing pretty well when he had the texting pagers.


Danny:Nice. Is that a pager you have on your side right now there?


Rob:That’s right. That’s right.


Danny:You know you can get rid of that, right? You don’t have to keep that by your side.


Rob:I think pagers probably cost more than phones now. I’m on Android. I’ve been on Android since the BlackBerry days. I never had a lot of experience with Mac and iOS, so it’s very familiar to me.


Danny:Android seems to be … I think someone on one of the podcast said it seems to be the news Windows. It’s so prevalent out there. It seems to have the same market share and dominance that Windows had.


Rob:Yeah. I also enjoy it. I’ve had a previous phone I’ve had. I’ve done some sideloading of applications as well as put on a unsupported operating system. It was a newer version of Android that my search-


Danny:My goodness.


Rob:I enjoy that part of it, too. Just being able to tinker with it which I don’t feel it might not be as easily done with iOS.


Danny:No, it isn’t. When you get old and tired like me, you just want the darn thing to work. You want big buttons and all that sort of stuff.


Rob:That’s right.


Danny:It’s definitely a tinker. If you want to be able to adjust it exactly the way you want to, Android is the way to go. I’ve used both of them and just keep coming back to iOS because I’m comfortable with it. Really, it’s amazing how comparable the two are..


Rob:Well, Apple makes some great devices though. That’s for sure. Whatever your preference is, there’s some really nice Apple devices out there.


Danny:If you’re using Android, what type of phone do you have? Is it an earlier one, a later one or …


Rob:Right now, I’m using the Galaxy S6. I really enjoy that. My first Android phone was an old myTouch. I think that phone is probably about five years old now. My son still uses it.


Danny:My goodness.


Rob:That is his favorite phone. He won’t upgrade it. It’s indestructible. Imagine he’s had it for just almost three years now.




Rob:That phone is going to last forever.


Danny:That’s great. Let him run with it. Any favorite apps that you have that you sort of keep on coming back to?


Rob:Not really too much. I’m just trying to think. For the most part, I’m using a lot of productivity apps.


Danny:Do you load a lot of Microsoft apps at all? I know the ones that keep on coming up pretty consistently are some of the navigation apps like Waze or Maps. They seem to be pretty common things that people rely upon.


Rob:Yeah, the navigation … I have a very strange way of storing things in my memory. I have what I consider a pointer memory in that I could drive the same place for an entire week if I’m using my phone to navigate to it. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my phone. In my mind, I think, “Well, as long as I have my phone, I know how to get there.” I don’t necessarily try and learn the routes.


Danny:You don’t have a longer ride than Pete to get into work, do you?


Rob:It’s a very similar ride, very similar.


Danny:I’m sorry. I’m moving right now. If you want to join me and move somewhere closer by here, it’s definitely got its pros. I’m convenience junkie so it’s tough for me to move further away.


Rob:Commute in Atlanta is one of a kind. I’m fortunate in that the type of work I do here is a little bit flexible. I typically come in early in the morning and then leave midday and finish my day from home, so I avoid a lot of traffic.


Danny:Do you take any work from home any days out of the week?


Rob:Right now, I probably work one day or two days every two or three weeks. It’s not every week but probably more than once every other week.


Danny:You’ve got a home office setup that you can …


Rob:I do. I’ve got a couple of monitors. It’s really nice. It’s easy on the eyes. It’s very enjoyable.


Danny:I love seeing people’s setup with the number of monitors they have. I think somebody posted up something on Yammer the other day. It’s probably longer than the other day, but the matrix where you see all these …


Rob:I think Will has a … Will …


Danny:Will Holland.


Rob:Holland has four monitors.


Danny:My goodness.


Rob:Not quite to that level yet.


Danny:You’re not there yet.


Rob:I can hope.


Danny:You haven’t been here too long but if you had to pick something out about what you’ve enjoyed so far being at ThreeWill, what would you say?


Rob:Well, I’ve worked in the corporate environment like I mentioned at Hewlett-Packard years ago. I’ve owned my own businesses for several years.


Danny:Nice. You know what Tommy and I go through.


Rob:I do.


Danny:You know why we’re bald right now.


Rob:Well, I’m working on it myself. I can tell you that what really stood out to me probably the first week I was here was the capability of everyone who works here and the the attitude that if they tell you they’re going to get it done, it’s going to get done. If they tell you they can’t get it done, there’s a reason for it. That’s refreshing. That’s new for me. In a corporate environment, it doesn’t have to be this way, but my experience was that there were some great performers and then there were some folks that didn’t perform well. Everyone I’ve met here at ThreeWill is at the top of their game. Everyone focuses in different areas. If you have a question or can’t figure something out, there’s someone here who can and they’re ready to help. Like I said, that’s very refreshing.


Danny:That’s a nice environment to be in. I think everybody here wants to not let the team down, be able to contribute in their own way. You really see that in a lot of folks here.


Rob:Yeah, I would agree 100%. Like I said, it showed up for me in probably my first week here just seeing that type of culture and attitude.


Danny:I want to point out you didn’t see me during that first weeks. I didn’t ruin that for you. It’s like, “What is this Danny guy? He’s always running around asking people to be on podcast. What does he do in that room exactly?” I don’t know. I don’t know.


I’ve heard great things from Tommy. I haven’t heard great things from Pete, so you need to work on him. Tommy said he’s enjoyed working with you so far and has seen great things so far. We look forward to a great future here. I appreciate all the hard work on that one big project that you were on. I know it was a challenging project, so we appreciate all the hard work you put in there as well.


Rob:It was a big project.


Danny:Well, thank you for taking the time to do this. It wasn’t that bad, was it?


Rob:No, not terrible at all.


Danny:Next time, I’m going to have you on, we’re going to have a little bit more … It’s not going to be too technical, but we’ll hit a technical subject where you can make me fall asleep, where we could head into something where every once in a while maybe I’ll scream out a buzzword or something like that and wake up, and we’ll talk about something along those lines. Think about what something you maybe … Usually, I’ll cover like an intro topic or something like that. If you want to talk about something technical but not too technical.


Rob:Yeah, that sounds great.


Danny:We’ll do that. Well, thank you so much, everybody, for listening. Have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye bye.


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Danny RyanInterview with Rob Horton, Senior Consultant