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Find this Podcast “Why the First Step is a Workshop” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Danny Ryan:Hello, and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan, and I have Tommy Ryan here with me, as well. Hello, Tommy.


Tommy Ryan:Howdy, Danny.


Danny Ryan:How you doing?


Tommy Ryan:I’m doing good.


Danny Ryan:Good.


Tommy Ryan:I’m doing good.


Danny Ryan:We’re on a Thursday afternoon. We’re usually getting together in the morning.


Tommy Ryan:Yes.


Danny Ryan:You’re like, “Yes, that is a true statement.”


Tommy Ryan:I love the obvious statements, yes.


Danny Ryan:Ah, well, you know, anything to get you to agree with me, Tommy.


Tommy Ryan:All right.


Danny Ryan:You can’t disagree with that statement that I just made.


Tommy Ryan:That is a correct statement.


Danny Ryan:You got fancy colored socks on today?


Tommy Ryan:Hmm, sort of.


Danny Ryan:Let me see them. Oh, that’s nice. That’s nice, it’s still conservative.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah. Okay. I have to go shopping, I guess. I’m running out.


Danny Ryan:You’re running out of socks. That’s okay. Today, let us cover, I actually want to write a blog post about this, but, you know me, my preference would be just to, why don’t we just talk about it?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah.


Danny Ryan:Which is, why begin with a workshop? Then we’re, on the website I, over the last couple years, this has been working out fairly well with us. I think it originally sort of started with the SharePoint Deployment Planning Services, and then, as we sort of built out package services for different service offerings that we have, but, you know, what we’re doing is really trying to take the typical project and break it off into two pieces.


One, starting with a workshop, a fixed-price, well-defined workshop, and then the second piece is something, you know, that the implementation itself, and something that is, sort of scoped and defined during the workshop. You know, just to get us kicked off with this, this sounds a lot like, I guess, with Agile, you have Sprint Zero. Are we, I guess, does that workshop itself, do you sort of see that as sort of getting through Sprint Zero?


Tommy Ryan:I think it has a lot of the same activities. I think structuring it as a workshop, what we’re trying to do in many of our workshops is take a subject matter or a type of solution, and really have a structured conversation that walks them through the things they need to think about. Things like the Jive Migration workshop, you know, that’s taking a known thing, going from Jive to SharePoint, and what are all the things you need to consider, and have a conversation around, before you know what you’re going to do going forward with that plan.


The workshops are trying to condense something that, maybe, would take, you know, two to four weeks, and try to do that in a matter of days, because we’ve honed in on what are the critical things you need to talk about. Yeah. Is it equivalent to Sprint Zero? I think it is, in a sense that you’re trying to establish a baseline of your backlog.


Danny Ryan:Yeah.


Tommy Ryan:A lot of our projects, we go in with a backlog, but we, you know, did that backlog at a level of estimation, and we need to confirm some things, drive out a little bit more detail, before we start rocking and rolling into implementation sprints.


Danny Ryan:Yeah, I think, you know, and we have, we’ve done it where we’ve tried to build out the product backlog in the whole estimate, and do that as part of the sales process, and what seems like, what happens is, we don’t, we’re not able to get into enough detail for that, or not talk to the right people, or for whatever reason, it just seems like, you know, we’re trying to put together a high-level estimate, but then, we don’t want to be too high or too low, and maybe having this additional time during the workshop allows for us to come up with a better estimate than if we just sort of did it through a couple sales conversations.


Tommy Ryan:Right. You know, the money for a workshop is, in the grand scheme of things, a small portion of what people are going to spend to go after that endeavor. When you’re spending money, usually, you can get more attention. I mean, even though it might not be a big dollar figure, it’s enough that people feel like, “I’ve got to pay attention, I’ve got to get involved, because, you know, there was money spent, and we want to have some answers coming out of that engagement.”


Danny Ryan:Yeah. You know how many times through the years this has happened, where you’ve had plenty of sales conversations, then when you get down to it, you get to the budget question, and they’re like, “We really don’t a budget for doing this,” and you’re going, like, “Well, how exactly were we going to do this, then?”


I guess with just doing the workshop, you’re like, you know, if you can’t put together, you know, typical workshops are, you know, they’re in the tens of thousands of dollars, you know, or like the Jive one that we have is right around that. It’s just, I think for us, it’s a little bit of a sanity check of, “Do you just want to talk about trying to go do something, or do you actually need to go get this thing done?”


Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think that is a good litmus test, to say, “Do we want to spend time? Do we have approval to do this, or is this just an idea that doesn’t have any backing from leadership or people that have funds to execute against the idea?” That kind of vets that out. You know, from a standpoint of a consulting company, it allows you to go through the process of, “Let’s get contractual things in place,” and that’s a nice catalyst to get that done. Because, when you go into the full-blown project, you need to have that in place, and so if we get that done during the workshop, then when they’re ready to go forward, we’re not waiting for the contract process. We can move very quickly after that workshop.


Danny Ryan:Yep. Absolutely, absolutely. There’s a part of this, I think, as well, is, you know, when you put together the product backlog and put together the estimate, we have what we call ‘project factors,’ and with those project factors, I think we’re, you know, they’re different for each project, and I think a part of what we’re doing during the workshop is trying to figure out, how fast are we going to be able to move?


Tommy Ryan:Right.


Danny Ryan:We don’t know this until we start divvying some things together. You know, case in point, we’ve had some of these workshops where, maybe we need to get something, a piece of, a tool run on a server inside their environment, and if we’re asking them to do that, and they’ve got to get something done, and, you know, it’s taking a month and a half to get something, you know, set up for that, it’s going to impact when we go do this for real. Part of this is just knowing, how fast are we going to be able to move together?


Tommy Ryan:Right. It is, it gives us the ability to understand, what is the pace, what is the typical processes that are in place to get decisions made, to get things accomplished. At the end of the day, it is a team effort between you and the client, that, together we have to accomplish this. I mean, we can’t do it in total isolation. Working together through a workshop and having to get certain things accomplished during that, allows us to do a better estimate. It allows us to understand how fast or how slow we need to move to accomplish certain things.


That way, we can budget things appropriately and not over or underestimate things, because on either side of that spectrum, it can be difficult to adjust, if you didn’t calibrate to that early on. I think it’s, you know, getting a sense of, what is that environment like? So when we assign a team, we’ve got the right type of individuals that know how to work in that type of environment. Believe it or not, there’s environments that people want you to go a little bit slower.


We always think that we want to go faster and faster, but sometimes it creates strain, and you have to have people that have maybe a little more patience for certain types of situations. Then you need some people who are a little bit more aggressive, in other situations, so that’s the tricky part, I think, of success on projects, is knowing your customer, and these workshops are great ways for us to get to know our customer before we make a bigger commitment.


Danny Ryan:Absolutely. Absolutely. Anything else that you’ve picked up, I guess some of the, either pros or cons of sort of taking this, you know, workshop approach and then the full project afterwards?


Tommy Ryan:I think it’s really all positive things.


Danny Ryan:Really?


Tommy Ryan:I think, at the end of the day, it’s a pretty good sign to say, if we can’t go into that workshop mode, then maybe we can’t provide the value that they need, because I think these workshops are very high-value and very low risk, and if we can’t start there, then maybe we shouldn’t be, you know, starting at a bigger project that has a lot more costs and risks associated with it. It’s not every engagement we have starts with a workshop, but the ones that we have repeatable tools and processes around it that, we really need to calibrate to that, to be able to take that and make a big impact. The workshops are the best way to go.


Danny Ryan:Yep, yep. I agree, I agree. You also get a sense of, when you’re doing the workshops, are folks going to show up?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah.


Danny Ryan:I think it’s a little bit of a, you know, “How high of a priority is this? Are we able to get the right people together?” I think that’s very telling for us, as well.


Tommy Ryan:It is, and I think, what you can do is, get a sense of, you know, of pace. For an organization that you see it’s really hard to get ahold of people, then you know, okay, well, we’ve got to schedule all the Sprint reviews at the beginning, and lock in to everybody’s calendar. When we start saying, we’ve got to interact and have an interdependency with the customer, let’s, you know, be realistic about what that takes, you know. It’s not going to take a day. It’s not going to take a week. It’s going to take a couple weeks. It allows you to plan appropriately and make sure you’re planting the seeds early enough to be able to accomplish that and manage it for the customer.


Because at the end of the day, we’re coming in, and we want to be part of the solution, and if we come in through a perspective of, “Oh, it’s going to go fast and it’s going to be easy,” and we plan, and budget and approach it that way, we’re going to frustrate ourselves and we’re going to frustrate our customer. Having a chance to interact and get something accomplished with a customer before you make a big commitment, it’s a way to, it doesn’t guarantee success, but it definitely puts you in the direction of more success than if you go in cold turkey.


Danny Ryan:What I think is interesting is, this workshop is typically done for new customers, and I think it’s there to reduce risk and give us an opportunity to work together. They’re able to work with a couple of the ThreeWill folks and sort of try us out. It’s a way for new projects, and, as you were just mentioning, not every project starts out with a workshop. For a lot of existing customers, you know, we’re charging backlogs, we’re doing a lot of the things that are done for a workshop, but it may not be package. It may be packaged up more as the time and materials, and then we’re just getting together and spending, doing a traditional Sprint Zero, and doing what we need for getting ready for the project.


Tommy Ryan:Right, and that makes sense. I think, you know, that’s the typical path for a new customer. Would we ever not do that for an existing customer? I don’t think so, but I think it is so important to have that opportunity to work with the customer before we make a big commitment, and because the workshops are fixed-price, low-cost, it puts us in the position that we can sell, based on how we deliver.


We know, for us, that’s a great way to have a client understand the value we can provide. When you’re talking about, say, hundreds of thousands of dollars that you’re going to spend with someone that you haven’t worked with before, it’s a harder conversation to have, and it’s harder to convince people. If you show them, you know, how we can help, that allows us to build the trust that we need to enter into a bigger relationship, a bigger commitment.


Danny Ryan:I was just thinking, you know, sort of the other way that we’ve started doing work, which we typically, you and I typically are not, stay away from RFPs and RFIs and RF-what-do-you-want-to-call-it, and do that because it’s just somewhat set up to make everybody who’s bidding be the same, and there’s no real way to differentiate sometimes.


What we’ve also seen, you know, we’re a part of a recent RFP that was run pretty, I think it was somewhat, had some interesting aspects to it. Maybe we can talk about sort of that, next week, but sort of talk about how to run a successful SharePoint, RFP, and some of the things that we’ve seen different people do through the years, where it’s been better than the typical one that’s out there.


Tommy Ryan:Sure, sure.


Danny Ryan:I think that might be a good subject to throw out there, especially the recent one that I’m thinking of, might be good to bring up some points that came out of that.


Tommy Ryan:Sounds good.


Danny Ryan:Anything else, before we wrap up here, about the workshops, or anything you want to mention?


Tommy Ryan:No, I think we covered it. I appreciate having time to talk about this, Danny.


Danny Ryan:Absolutely. Thank you for doing this, Tommy. I appreciate you doing this. Again, we’ll, if you hear this, definitely come out to our website if you want to look at the different practice areas that we have. You know, we’ve got, really, the first area where we really put together some very strong workshops, are around migration. If you’re looking to migrate from Jive to SharePoint, we’ve got a great workshop for that.


If you’re just trying to move from SharePoint to a later version of SharePoint, I have a workshop for that. Also have, there’s a certain set of folks who are out there, especially the larger companies, who are on Microsoft 365 dedicated, we’ve got a workshop about, some of those folks want to move over to multi-tenant environments. We’ve got a whole workshop around that. Come and check out our website, we’re also, you know, I have someone, have one for intranets, one for extranets, some for Azure apps, and for Office apps.


We’re really putting together a number of workshops that might be of interest to you. Again, the purpose around them is to keep it low-risk, and something where you can try out our services, and minimize the amount of time that’s involved with this, and really put together some solid plan for the project. Come out to the ThreeWill site, and go check them out, and thanks again, Tommy, for your time.


Tommy Ryan:You’re welcome, Danny.


Danny Ryan:Thanks, everybody, for listening, and have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.


Tommy Ryan:Bye-bye.



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