Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Small Business

Why Workforce Development is Everybody’s Business

Government, Hiring, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology, Training

By Stephen Alfano

Scan the U.S. economic forecast newsfeeds today and you’ll find nearly all of them contain or point to a reference about the status of the available workforce.

The reason for this attention is quite clear: Research continues to show the country in the middle of an employment crisis with rapidly declining rolls, due in large part to an aging population (10,000 retirees a day), coupled with the widening knowledge-base and skills gap among entry-level and mid-career candidates looking to be the backfill.

Of course, the employment crisis isn’t just a U.S. issue. Large and small employers, and national and local politicians the world over are involved in the response—especially where economic empowerment in the form of access to good paying jobs and career advancing training comes into play. In other words, workforce development is everyone’s business.

Originally designed to address the needs of personnel rather than businesses, workforce development has evolved to become an all-encompassing economic growth catchphrase used to describe multifaceted, multiphasic initiatives that attempt to knock down a wide array of employment barriers and achieve overall labor goals of a region.

Today, when business leaders and politicians talk about workforce development, they do so in terms of socio-economic reforms in education, urban planning, tax policy, and social services (to name a few of the areas affected).

Regardless of the size of their payroll or party affiliation, these community stalwarts are undeniably talking about jobs. They are talking about good paying jobs, jobs that require skills in high demand. The kind of jobs that attract—and keep—employees rooted in the region. And there’s the rub—as the Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out in a recently published article.

With insight (data analysis) pulled from requirements from job listings posted since 2008, the HBR identifies the growing skills gap found in U.S. labor pool since the “Great Recession.” In case you don’t have spare time to read the whole article, here’s an abridged version to help point out why (and where) workforce development is needed:

“[Recent research has established] a new fact: the skill requirements of job ads increased in metro areas that suffered larger employment shocks in the Great Recession … the companies that reacted to the recession by looking for more skilled workers were still pursuing that strategy five years later.”

“[Specifically, job ads in] hard-hit metro area are about 5 percentage points (16%) more likely to contain education and experience requirements and about 2–3 percentage points (8‒12%) more likely to include requirements for analytical and computer skills … [and nearly all] education, experience, analytical aptitude, and computer skills — have been found to complement new technologies … [identified in the job postings] analytical requirements by the presence of keywords like “research,” “decision,” and “solving.”

“… [it was found] that businesses more severely affected by the Great Recession were more likely to invest in new technology, and while this technology may have helped replace some forms of routine jobs, it apparently increased the demand for greater worker skills for other routine jobs.”

The Sacramento metro region was one of the areas hardest hit by the “Great Recession.” (When the “housing bubble” burst, the economy suffered another big shock with the exit of several large employers.) The resulting devalued homes and downturn in available jobs crippled the Capital Corridor’s economy—it took nearly 10 years for a modest rebound to take place.

As of October 2017, there are relatively few underwater properties left in the area inventory. Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of area residents underemployed and too few big employer prospects in the pipeline. Sounds like the right market conditions for an innovative and inclusive workforce development initiative, specifically one that will:

  1. Ensure business and civic leaders work together regularly to identify and then mitigate skill gaps in the labor pool addressing regional employment challenges through dedicated sponsorship and resource allocations;
  2. Employ empirical data analysis and change management best practices in tandem to inform and guide employers and employees on how to fulfill growing or evolving job requirements in alignment with regional marketplace growth goals and objectives;
  3. Enlist subject matter experts and key stakeholders to create processes and governance and compliance policies and procedures that will facilitate reconfiguring or reconstructing regional human resource management goals and objectives on an ongoing basis; and
  4. Engage and empower instructors and advisors to help train and promote work-ready employees for both short and long-term economic growth objectives that serve vital regional business and public sector needs for better prepared and for higher-qualified candidates.

Who’s with me?

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 25 years of experience leading and managing internal and external marketing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and support services to California State Departments.

Why you Should Document Business Processes

Best Practices, Business Analysis, Documentation, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Small Business

By Denise Larcade

One thing I’ve seen in my 25+ years working in change management and business analysis is that documenting Business Processes and supporting documents like Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) adds value to a business in a variety of ways.

Unfortunately, some believe that documenting processes and procedures is not always the most exciting of tasks, and it’s often put off from one person to the next. Before you know it, the documented process for a task may be severely outdated—or nonexistent.

A lack of documentation can reduce efficiency of your business if, for example, someone goes on vacation. The back-up who’s covering for them should have access to the Business Process Diagram (BPD) and accompanying SOPs so they can do the job of the person who’s out. If there’s no documentation, the back-up has no idea what to do. The impact to the business is that while the process may be well-defined and streamlined, if it’s not documented, then time and labor is not utilized efficiently.

A complete lack of documentation can be a major problem if an employee leaves. Without knowing their day-to-day processes, it will be difficult to hire a qualified person to take over for them, not to mention keeping business running in the interim.

Luckily, documenting processes and procedures is not a daunting task. Businesses of any size can and should document their process. KAI Partners, a certified small business with fewer than 100 employees, regularly documents its processes and procedures.

When starting out, a good rule of thumb is that each WHAT documented in the BPD should be supported by some documentation on HOW (oftentimes an SOP). Further, when the Business Processes are updated, the accompanying SOP should be updated at the same time.

For example, if the diagram step in the BPD states, “Create Invoice,” there should be a manual/guide, SOP, or job aid detailing how to create the invoice. If today the invoice is created on a Mac and tomorrow it’s changed to a PC, the step in the BPD may not change, but the supporting documents will.

So, what do you do once you’ve documented your Business Processes? Stick them in a drawer and forget about them? No!

Depending on your current business state, you should look at your Business Processes quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. For mergers and acquisitions, I recommending looking at your processes quarterly. If your business is not going through a major change, you should check in with your Business Processes every six months or every year.

When you do regular audits of your business process, you’re checking for:

  1. Accuracy.Is everything the same, or have you made any business changes that should be updated? Think about the scenario above—if the software used to create the invoice is inaccessible due to a licensing issue, a work around may need to be created to keep the BPD current. If the work around does not have a solution date and may be a long-term work around, you should consider updating the BPD to reflect that. (Another reason why regularly-scheduled reviews are valuable—it forces the business owner to address something that was supposed to have been fixed by a certain date.)
  2. Improvements. Is there a way you can improve or streamline the process? What steps no longer need to be done or how can we automate? Perform a cost analysis to determine which step is most efficient.
  3. Future state. What may the future of this process look like? Look at how is the industry shifting or how have other organizations changed. If there’s a new system the industry is using, assess the initial cost to stand up using a new system, as well as the cost over time to change to the new process. This information will be helpful in the future, as changes start making their way down the pike.

I recommend every business—large or small—regularly document and update their processes and procedures. For those who are on the fence, just remember that while eliminating processes may eliminate roles, streamlining a business process means you can now put people in roles that need more attention. This will help your business running at its most efficient.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

Equifax Data Breach: Next Steps

Cyber Security, Information Security, Information Security Management System (ISMS), Information Technology, ISO27001, KAI Partners, Ransomware, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology

As you may have heard, there has been a major breach of data at credit bureau Equifax.

It’s now more important than ever to protect yourself. To check whether you were affected by this data breach, visit: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/. It’s quick and easy—it took our staff less than a minute to check their status.

If you were compromised, check out this article on ways you can protect yourself:
http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/07/technology/business/equifax-data-breach/index.html?iid=EL

Remember, KAI Partners can help your organization assess its security protection through our small business information security risk assessments and Information Security Management System frameworks.

Fanning the Innovation Ecosystem Fire in the Sacramento Region

Co-working, Conferences, Event Recap, Extend Your Runway, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology

Photo Credit: Greater Sacramento Economic Council

By Terry Daffin

It’s been an exciting time for the entrepreneur community in the Sacramento region.

  • It started with an announcement that the Founder Institute will officially launch its newest chapter in Sacramento based on the overwhelming response to the open house events they have hosted targeted at startups in the Greater Sacramento area.
  • As part of their Extend Your Runway campaign, Mayor Darrell Steinberg; Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council; and a host of Sacramento entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and local government innovation proponents infiltrated the heart of Silicon Valley to pitch a group of local entrepreneurs that Sacramento is the place to be for startups and innovation. Citing the benefits of direct access to talent via UC Davis and CSUS, cost of living efficiency (over 50% less than Bay Area), and access to the entire mega-region competitive marketplace (12.2 million people), Mayor Steinberg stated that Sacramento has the “attitude” to become one of the nation’s great locations for innovation and entrepreneurial startups.
  • Kevin Nagle, one of area’s most well-known entrepreneurs and partnership owner in both the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento Republic FC, spoke to a group of entrepreneurs in Davis at a Startup Grind Sacramento. Nagel relayed his own journey as an entrepreneur, sharing with the audience that he, along with other venture capitalists in the area, are interested in investing in startups here in the Sacramento region and encouraged them to stay in the region as opposed leaving for the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. He said that these venture capitalists were small in comparison but that he and other investors were planning to build a fund starting with $100 million that could reach as much as $250 million with the addition of other investment dollars from the area. This, he said will, “light a fire that has already been lit and make it go faster.”

So, what is this “fire” Nagel alluded to and how do we keep it burning?

In my view, the fire is the innovation ecosystem that has been sparked by creatives in many industries in the Sacramento region such as the arts, food and agriculture, and tech, among others. It is exciting to see and feel the energy and momentum the region has going right now. While a transplant from the Deep South, I have been a resident in Sacramento for 30+ years and have never been more encouraged by growth and opportunity than what is happening in our city and our region.

So, what will it take to fan the flames of this fire? Here are three things that I believe in combination will help the fire burn faster:

  1. Entrepreneurs: We need entrepreneurs to both stay and relocate to our region, and take up residence in business and in life. The entrepreneur is where the innovation begins. This fire is a nonstarter without the startup small business entrepreneur.
  2. Incubators and Accelerators: We need these institutions here in our community to help entrepreneurs mature not only the product they are selling, but the business that produces the product. Yes, the entrepreneur can probably figure these things out on their own, but studies have shown that the 5-year survival rate of business nurtured by incubators is 87%. By comparison, the survival rate of those entrepreneurs who do it alone without the support of incubators is only 44%.
  3. Venture Capitalists and Investors: When you ask seasoned and serial entrepreneurs, “What was the biggest challenge you faced during the startup of your business?”, you will most often hear “funding” or “under capitalization.” Sacramento has a short list of investors and venture capitalists who have publicly announced that a large percentage of their investment portfolio will be for companies in the Sacrament region. That is truly a huge benefit to local small businesses.

If we want our ecosystem for innovation to achieve success and become sustainable and scalable, these three things need to occur in combination. We need all three logs on the fire so others will see the smoke, come to investigate, and join in the excitement. Let’s keep this fire burning Sacramento!

About the Author: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin has assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged on since 2001. He has worked with the California Medi-Cal Management and Information System (CA-MMIS) division of the Department of Health Care Services, California Franchise Tax Board, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, California Department of Consumer Affairs, California Board of Equalization, and California Department of Water Resources. Mr. Daffin is currently working on a project for KAI Partners to expand an existing co-working organization into an innovation incubator/accelerator focused on connecting innovative start-ups and the public sector.

Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking Startup Sac Event Recap

Agile, Conferences, Event Recap, Government, Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking event, Project Management, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology, Waterfall


Picture Credit: Startup Sac

By Terry Daffin

The Death of the Traditional Product Development Lifecycle

When we think of innovation, we typically think of product innovation. The tangible things we use on a daily basis go through massive change in one’s lifetime.

For example, the smartphone: Does anyone remember using a rotary phone that had to stay plugged into the wall? What about music? Does anyone still buy or play LPs? Maybe the historians, a few collectors, and the staunch laggards of society still have these items around, but they have almost totally been forgotten.

Process and methodology also experiences periods of innovation. The assembly line revolutionized the manufacturing industry over 100 years ago. Kaizen was introduced in the 1980s as an innovative improvement for manufacturing and beyond. The tech industry has certainly seen its fair share of technology products.

The process for developing those products is also changing. The traditional methods for product development is far too laborious to keep up with demand and often does not meet the needs of users once the product is complete. Private industries and even some public sector departments have move to more innovative processes and methodologies to meet the demand.

I recently attended an event sponsored by Startup Sac. The event, Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking, featured presenter Jake Elia, Bamboo Creative’s Head of Products and Technology.

Jake delivered an impressive presentation and provided many examples of his own startup experiences, as well as example of other startups to accentuate points along the way. I was intrigued by his description of his own life path as a “lean startup” and pivoting when needing to do so.

I started to think my own career path and compared it to the product lifecycles I’ve used over my 30-year career in the industry. Has my life/career mirrored a traditional waterfall development lifecycle? Maybe to a certain degree, but here is what I’ve come to know about life: It doesn’t follow any set process or plan. You have to be ready to make a change when the plan falls apart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all plans fall apart, but even a minor deviation in the plan creates some sort of change that may alter the direction of the original plan. That is also the case with product development. The big difference between the traditional development lifecycles and today’s more agile or lean lifecycles is the speed in which product builds, feedback, and changes in direction occur. The increase in “speed” can be attributed to several changes/innovations in the traditional development lifecycle process itself:

  1. Clarity of the problem being solved
  2. Frequent customer involvement and feedback
  3. Simplify the minimum viable product (MVP)

In their own way, Lean Startup and Design Thinking both take into account these three factors. So, how can you use them in your next product development project? Here are my takeaways of the presentation:

Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a methodology and book written by Eric Reis about his experiences with startup companies. Through his experiences, he saw the need to develop and document a methodology to share with others. I recommend The Lean Startup be on the reading list of anyone who has vision with a solution to a problem and a notion to engage in a startup.

According to Reis, the lean startup “provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup … and grow a business with maximum acceleration.”

The model is simple: Build, Measure, and Learn. Here’s how it works:

  • Starting with a vision or an idea for how to resolve a problem, you create a hypothesis on how the solution might resolve a problem. This step is the clarification of the problem to be solved.
  • Then you build a minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP should focus on the main or most important problem to be solved. Know that there may be many problems to solve which means many build iterations. Resist the urge to solve all problems with your MVP.
  • Next, you must develop measurable metrics,present to customers who have this problem, record customer feedback, and use the data to learn something about your solution.

The key is using the data to make sound decisions about the path forward. Be brutally honest with yourself and the problem you are trying to solve. The data should provide you with the information to either continue down the path you are on or pivot with a different idea. You don’t want to waste time building something no one needs or wants.

The model looks like this:

Picture credit

Think of your solution to a problem as an experiment. Experiments are valuable not only to prove your hypothesis was correct, but to prove your hypotheses was incorrect as well.

Design Thinking

According to Stanford Graduate School of Business, Design Thinking is a “user-centered way to conceive and create a successful product.”

The Design Thinking model is similar to Lean Startup, however the customer interaction is at the beginning and may be a more beneficial method to use when your customer has known problem.

The model is simple and is meant to be more expedient than a traditional model because it is also iterative.

The phases of Design Thinking include Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. The model looks like this:

Picture credit

  • The Empathize and Define steps are critical to making crystal clear the problem to be solved. The interviewer should probe the customer for pain points. These steps are to get to the root cause of the problem.
  • The Ideate and Prototype steps are to come up with solutions and to build an MVP. Problems are prioritized and prototypes are simplified focusing on the most important problems to resolve first.
  • Finally, Test your solution by presenting to customers and collecting feedback to be used in making the next decision on what to move forward with. Rinse and repeat!

Unlike traditional develop lifecycles, the Lean Startup and Design Thinking methodologies are highly iterative to simplify build cycles and involve frequent customer interaction and feedback to provide data for plan adjustments.

These and other innovative process improvements are becoming more and more the norm. Even the Federal government has recognized this is true in order to meet the demands of the general public. Case in point, the Federal General Services Administration created an office known as 18F to deliver “digital services” in response to the failure of the website that was developed for the Affordable Care Act.

California is also beginning to ramp up its own digital service methodologies as evidenced by the recent contract award by the California Child Welfare Digital Services project to CivicActions for development of the Department’s new system.

The traditional development lifecycle is not dead yet, but it may be on its last leg. How are you pivoting to these innovations and changes in development?

About the Author: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin has assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged on since 2001. He has worked with the California Medi-Cal Management and Information System (CA-MMIS) division of the Department of Health Care Services, California Franchise Tax Board, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, California Department of Consumer Affairs, California Board of Equalization, and California Department of Water Resources. Mr. Daffin is currently working on a project for KAI Partners to expand an existing co-working organization into an innovation incubator/accelerator focused on connecting innovative start-ups and the public sector.

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