Category Archives: WIMSisms

Q4 Finish Like a Savage Prep for 2020

STILL PLENTY OF TIME IN Q4: FINISH LIKE A SAVAGE & PREPARE FOR 2020 DOMINATION!

There’s something about Q4 that is always exhilarating to me. Knowing that “the game” is coming to an end, each and every play is more significant, there’s less margin for error. Perform well during this time and you can make up for a lot of previous mistakes and setbacks along the way. Let up or fumble the ball, and you can destroy all the momentum you made thus far. No pressure, right?

All of this is going on while simultaneously a new game is going to begin soon thereafter. Endings are always thrilling, but so are new beginnings after all. The new year coming up is especially enticing. Not only is it a new year, but it’s a whole new DECADE. The freaking Roaring 2020’s are upon us.

Despite the hectic grind I’ve been on lately (pretty perpetual at this point, but even crazier with baby #2 arriving very soon), I wanted to take a little time to revisit and write up a quick/updated “Q4 Manifesto” which is mostly for myself, but then I decided to add a few extra tips for you too, primarily applicable to both your business and professional life.

  • Don’t wait for January 1st to start your New Year’s Resolutions, now’s as good a time as any. It’s a misguided practice that usually doesn’t end well anyway. You don’t need an arbitrary start date to work on self-improvement, that should be a daily practice as it is. Why not start right now?
  • Get AGGRESSIVE – Close out ALL of those pending dream deals that have been lingering. Do much more outreach and lead generation. Don’t dwell on whether you’re annoying people or assume that they already have an expert helping them that does what you do. Push harder!
  • Try not to eat and drink everything in sight just because it’s the holidays. Maintain (or in some cases start) your workout routine consistently and only indulge occasionally. It’s especially tough given all the parties and networking events, but some balance now will spare you later.
  • Enjoy time with my family and friends and BE PRESENT. Don’t spend that precious time distracted with your head in the clouds and worrying about things that are out of your control.
  • Debrief/Reflect on the past year. What worked, what didn’t, what do you need to improve upon? Lay it all out objectively and identify opportunities to get better. While this may seem obvious, it’s crucial.
  • Strategize for 2020 (and beyond) now. Spend an appropriate amount of time writing out specific goals, sketching out project plans, and dreaming big. It’s rare that a whole new decade is about to start so let your imagination run a little wild to kick things off. From there be mindful, thoughtful, deliberate, and thorough enough to also make your plan realistic while still stretching yourself. Once this exercise is completed, start working on implementing that strategy ASAP to carry some momentum with you.
  • Add appointments to your 2020 calendar (monthly/quarterly, etc.) now to make sure you schedule the time to reflect on your progress and measure where you’re at along the way to ensure you continuously improve.

A few specifically for you:

  • Get and implement a CRM already! Seriously, how many times do I have to say it? If you need to spend some time asking a few questions on how to get started, reach out to me, that part is, and always will be, on the house.
  • Start a blog, a podcastvideo/webinar series, whatever. Leverage content marketing to develop and enhance your brand and get your business’ name out there.
  • Finally start that business you’ve been day dreaming about for years now.
  • Or at least start working on that side hustle you’ve been planning.
  • Identify an organization you’re interested in and get involved in the community. This could be philanthropic or civic, doesn’t matter as much as simply taking action and giving back.

I’m sure there are plenty others I’m forgetting. And I will likely revisit this some more over the next few months to continue tweaking it.

What are some of your Q4 goals? What about your 2020 goals? How can I help you achieve them? Please let me know, would love to hear from you!

Data Analytics Dashboard

How Anyone can Build a Custom Data Analytics Dashboard

If you could carve out an hour a month for analysis in order to save a dozen hours of work, the one-hour investment would be worth it, right?

How about if that same hour led to crucial details about your sales trends and customers insights?

On top of all that, what if that same one-hour investment came at no additional cost to you?

Seems like a pretty great deal.

Welcome to the benefits of an Excel-based analytical dashboard.

Benefits of an Analytical Dashboard

You’ve most likely heard of the powers and benefits of data analytics. You’ve probably seen examples from things like POS systems, Tableau, cloud-based software, and many others.

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Saving you time and money through efficiency and more impactful insights

Spending time looking over your dashboard saves hours of debating anecdotal or piecemeal results and helps guide you towards the best path forward

  • Giving you better insights into your customer to improve marketing campaigns

Campaigns based on hard data are more successful as you can target your intended customer more effectively

  • Taking the guesswork out and make great, data supported, decisions in less time

The high end services all have their merits, but in a small business where you might not have the budget for those services (which are also potentially far beyond the capabilities you actually need), plus a large learning curve, those services don’t always make the most sense.

By learning (on a much faster learning curve) to make a dashboard in Excel, you can get the benefits you want in a completely customized dashboard at no cost (since you already have Excel on your computer).

 

Why use Excel for this

Let’s start with some common business questions.

How did your sales do last month? How does that compare to the same month of the prior year? How about compared to the pace you’ve been running at this year?

Now how about separating those numbers by project, item, or client? How about by distribution channel? Sales rep? What about the specific days you had promotions?

The first set of questions is somewhat easy to have a gut feeling for, if nothing else. You might even have some quick analysis created for you in QuickBooks (or similar software).

However, the second set of questions represents another level deeper. You might feel a bit less confident about your gut feeling. They require you to dive into the data each time you want to look, and maybe even anecdotally piece it together from a few different sources. It’s kind of a hassle, but they’re important insights, so it’s worth the time.

Here’s the good news from Excel – you can answer all of those questions, from top line revenue down to whatever level of detail you need, and have them at your fingertips in one place!

With a simple export of data from whatever source you need, you can populate dozens of custom views that you’ve templated and turn it into your very own analytical dashboard!

The only time intensive piece is building the template and framework for all your custom views.

After you create that, you’re essentially just updating with data each week/month/etc. and looking it over for trends. Making changes to it? Duplicating views with variations? Actually, all pretty easy.

The Excel Dashboard

Here is a very quick sample dashboard that shows that topline sales numbers (black chart) followed by a few, slightly deeper, analytical pieces that help evaluate performance (gray charts).

When I say “very quick” … this dashboard took less than an hour to fully create. Real life dashboards of this level of depth take a similar amount of time. Getting significantly deeper into the data does not necessarily mean significantly more time to create though.

Only a few “next level” type questions are displayed (although these may only be half a level deeper), but they are meant to be representative, and the great feature about the “behind the scenes” of the dashboard is that the building blocks for all levels of analysis can be VERY easily duplicated to get at any question you need.

Take a quick look at the dashboard, follow it along the yellow markers, 1 to 5. Any trends jump out at you?

You can likely see the following in a quick pass:

  • Sales are up in 2019! (Callout #1) – by 22.1% if we want to be specific

  • There seemed to be a change in performance starting in February (Callout #2). Perhaps a new item was released? Or a new marketing campaign?

  • All Sales Reps are selling more this year (Callout #3). Shawn leading the pack with a 28.7% increase over 2018

  • In Store sales have grown by over 60%! (Callout #4). However, Online sales have shrunk a tiny bit.

  • Further diagnosing, it looks like Jennifer and Oliver have really improved their In Store sales, while Shawn has faltered there (Callout #5). Perhaps there was a training that stuck with Jennifer and Oliver? Maybe Shawn has just focused all of his attention on Online sales?

Those types of insights are crucial to running your business and can be seen quickly from the dashboard. On top of that, there are still tons of different ways to cut the data… by product, by product and distribution channel, by sales rep by month, etc. All of these examples are (almost) as easy as copying and pasting.

Creating the Backend of the Dashboard – a General Guide

We start with one of the building blocks of an Excel-based analytical dashboard. Simply, the Pivot Table.

Depending on your level of familiarity with Excel, Pivot Tables might seem like “that complicated next level” or “that tool we use every day”.

The truth is, everyone can easily be at the latter, and if you’re already there, you could probably be using them more even more effectively. Investing just a bit of time can have a very outsized benefit to your business.

Pivot Tables are fantastic, for all levels of users, because of a few main pieces of functionality:

  • Very easy to build, use, and manipulate

Drag and drop methods, no complex formulas, no macros or coding

  • Ability to create charts and dashboards from the Table(s) easily

  • Build automatically updating formulas off the Table to create new data elements

It deserves mentioning that the quality of your data is very important. If the data is wrong to start, then there is no point is doing any analysis.

First… a few tips on how to create a Pivot Table

Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar.

For a detailed “how to” build a Pivot Table, I recommend watching from ~2:30 to ~5:30 in this video. The rest of the video has some good explanations as well, but for a quick guide, the 3 minutes is really all you need.

One piece I would highly recommend changing though, is in the data selection piece.

Important – select the entire column in the data, making sure the headers are in row 1. This allows you to add data in the future and have it included in the pivot table without having to change the data range.

The boxed-in range is okay as “ Sample Data!$A$1:$E$13 ”, but would need to be changed if you add more data to the end of it. The better version’s range “ Sample Data!$A:$E” highlights the entire columns.

Onto Creating the Dashboard

Start with creating a Pivot Table, and from there it is really just about dragging and dropping fields, copying and pasting, and picking a layout!

  • Let’s say you begin by creating a simple Pivot Table with sales by month:

  • From there, go up to the ribbon and find the “Pivot Table Analyze” or “Analyze” tab, depending on which version of Excel you’re working with.

  • Select the “Pivot Chart” option, and out pops a variety of options. Select your favorite chart option (bar chart, line graph, multiple types, etc.) and boom! You’ve got a working chart to help you analyze!

  • Any time you change what’s in the Pivot Table that created the Pivot Chart, the Pivot Chart will change accordingly.

Example, if you limited the data to just “Jennifer” (Sales Rep filter), you’ll see only her sales in both the Table and Chart.

Tip for the aesthetics of the Chart

To get rid of the “buttons” or ugly looking gray bubbles polluting your chart, you can right click on any of them and select “Hide All Field Buttons on Chart” and they’ll go away (as shown below).

If you don’t mind their appearance, each button acts as a filter for the Pivot Table. So instead of scrolling over to the Table, you can filter right from the Chart.

  • From there it is just preferences:

You can add a chart title, hide the legend, and a lot of other customization by clicking on the Chart, and then selecting the green “+” button that appears to the right of the Chart (shown below).

Once you’ve got your first chart, you can then start the duplication process!
  • To make another Pivot Table and Chart combo, you can just select the entirety of the Table, then copy and paste it elsewhere on the sheet

Copying the Pivot Table to be replicated
  • Drag and drop the fields (from the Field List on the right) you want to look at in the new Table (ex. Sales Rep in place of Month), and then go through the same quick process to create a Chart

The premise here is that each Table you create is referencing the same data. Each variation is just how you want to cut the data for that particular view.

Note – the formatting you select for one chart will not transfer to a new chart. The easiest method is to pick from Excel’s preset templates, which are normally visually appealing enough – both the black and the gray Charts above are in Excel’s preset templates. You can always customize the look of every chart individually to how you want though.

Best practice is probably to settle on a color scheme and layout after you’ve created all the charts you want, that way you can quickly go through each and select the same layout all at once.

After creating however many variations that get to your necessary level of depth, you’ve now just created yourself a dashboard! Congrats!

Best Way to Create Formulas Based on the Tables to get Additional Metrics in your Dashboard

You may notice that some pieces in the above dashboard (the tables with headers that have blue background and white text) are not Pivot Tables or Pivot Charts. These are created using the same information though.

Enter the GETPIVOTDATA formula. It is one of the most complicated looking formulas, but one of the most effective to use.

Note that it is simply complicated “looking”, but not actually that complicated to use.

Here’s an example. We’re going to walk through the Sales By Month table in the dashboard above (and referenced below).

Let’s say you wanted to get that 41.1% “Growth vs Prior Yr” for Feb from the information in the Pivot Table.

Naturally, you would do the following (referencing picture below) U10 / T10 – 1 = 41.1%

When you go to do that though, this scary looking formula comes out:

Let’s break it down and look at the first piece, before the “/”:

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

Translating, it is saying the following:

  • From the Pivot Table

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Grab the metric “Sale Amount”

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • In the Pivot Table located in cell S7

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Given the following criteria, Year = 2019

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,“Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • And the second criteria Month = Feb

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,“Month”,”Feb”)

You’ll notice the second GETPIVOTDATA (after the “/”) is the same formula, just referencing Year = 2018 instead of 2019.

It is the same formula as the nice and easy U10 / T10 – 1 above, just bringing in the functionality of the Pivot Table.

So why on earth would you actually use the complicated version?

Reason #1: Let’s say you add in another filter and the bulk of the Pivot Table shifts down by one row. The U10 / T10 – 1 will remain but will now be looking at a different month.

Reason #2: What if you changed the Pivot Table to include each Sales Rep’s details in each month (like below)?

Now that “U10 / T10 – 1” formula would be referencing Jennifer’s sales in Jan… not even close to total Feb sales.

If you used the GETPIVOTDATA formula, you would still get the result you want (Total Feb Sales Amount, 2019 over 2018) because you’re telling it what criteria to look at, regardless of what cells the intended data ended up in. It would still do $26,070 / $18,470 – 1, or 41.1%.

Note – in a scenario like the above picture, make sure Subtotals are enabled in the “Design” tab that appears when you click in the Pivot Table

Reason #3: You can completely customize the look of your created table, whereas you have limited aesthetic flexibility in the Pivot Table itself. I choose a blue header with white text.

Reason #4: You retain the copy and paste functionality of the “U10 / T10 – 1” formula but increase the accuracy of the formula.

Notice in our summary chart with each month’s “Growth vs Prior Yr”, we have the month abbreviation in the left column, then the % growth in the right column.

To utilize the copy and paste functionality of formulas in Excel, we just have to reference the month in the formula.

It is the same formula as above in every way except for the P9 in place of “Feb”. This just tells the formula to take the value in cell P9 as the criteria needed to be found in the “Month” section.
You can then copy and paste this formula to each of the months, and the “Growth vs Prior Yr” will fill out for each month, regardless of how many other variables are in the Pivot Table, or where the numbers you want are located (cell-wise).

Summary

So now you’ve learned…

  • The benefits of a dashboard, specifically one in Excel

  • How to make a Pivot Table

  • How to make a Pivot Chart based off it

  • How to duplicate those efforts (for efficiency)

  • How to reference the information in it to get analytical metrics that aren’t directly called out in the Pivot Table

  • (Most importantly) How to build your own fully functional, completely customizable analytical dashboard!

Updating the dashboard is an exercise that takes mere minutes to download the data and add it into your data sheet.

Reasonable time investment to make the dashboard, small time investment to update it, big business benefits.

Introduction to Kanban

What is Kanban?

Kanban is the Japanese phrase for signboard or billboard. It is additionally a scheduling tool used across manufacturing, restaurants, and software development to stay on track and effectively completing tasks for project. The concept originated in Japan by Toyota under the leadership of Taiichi Ohno who worked as an industrial engineer helping to spread the technique of lean manufacturing. Kanban was initially implemented to expedite the just-in-time production method producing a specific quantity of necessary products based on consumer demand.

 

Overview of Kanban

Understanding the origin and general principles of Kanban allows for an easier adoption of Kanban. If you do not anticipate fully incorporating Kanban, understanding an additional time management and organizational design tool will allow for better results. At its core, Kanban is a form of managing work by balancing the required actions needed to complete work with the available capacity in order to complete different tasks. Since work is completed on a just-in-time manner waste is limited across the entire system. Workers only complete tasks that are necessary at the time the work is being done ensuring that the overall objective is maintained.

 

Sushi and production management

An example of just-in-time production outside of manufacturing is a sushi menu with a list of possible items and a box to check the quantity and type of each sushi roll. By completing work in a just-in-time manner customers will have fresh sushi rolls that were specifically made for them. On the production side, Kanban reduces food waste since food is prepared only when customers order a specific dish. The combination of reducing food waste and providing customers with fresher food will make the experience of both the restaurant and the customer more enjoyable.

 

Kanban board

However, the implications go beyond sushi! The seamless structure of ordering fresh rolls makes for an easy to grasp visual and edible example. The Kanban board is a practical visual tool used to follow the journey into Kanban by displaying relevant tasks on a visual board. While every Kanban board will be structured in a unique way to maximize value to the user, the general concept is that work is tracked from left to right as progress is made. Kanban boards can be utilized on whiteboards with sticky notes, in a spreadsheet of your choice, or through the online project management software of your choice including Zoho, Trello, and Atlassian.

 

Further Actions

Like any methodology, the key to becoming successful with Kanban is to stick to something that you will commit to the long run. Success through using Kanban can be maximized through additional agile frameworks ensuring that the quality of work is improved through focusing on moving tasks through the system and completing them in a timely manner. The importance of continual improvement, self-reflection, and increasing output are meaningful to the project itself and the outlook of the workers on the project by empowering them to take more ownership of the finished product. Kanban holds an important value by taking ownership of your own life and fully understanding the power of this approach and is beneficial for those who embrace Kanban and those who study it. Tools are merely the instruments used to accomplish goals and since Kanban is a tool it can be used in varying degrees to reach goals, set new ones, and complete projects in more efficient ways.

Project Management Banner

The Project Lifecycle

 

At its core, project management is about focusing on a plan to execute a series of tasks to accomplish an end goal within a specific constraint. Projects take many different forms and are often defined by having to perform complex tasks under the constraints of limited budget and time. Before diving into the article I suggest that you the reader take the time to go back and look through the WIMS Guide archive to read some of the other insights from myself and my colleagues.

 

I have addressed some matters related to project management and am going to embark on a further process of highlighting my experiences moving through the world as a project manager. Projects can be scary, and this is something which I am aware of and address these myself as I go through my daily life both professionally and personally. Projects do not need to be fretted or feared but should be embraced to tell the stories about your own journey and the strengthens the organizations you are a part of through your career, civic engagements, and volunteer organizations.

 

Getting started with a project

A five part project, lifecycle which was compiled by Villanova University is a good starting place to understand the values of going through a series of steps to complete successful projects. These five distinct phases occur over the life cycle of a project. The ability to see structure through the course of a project and learn about the structure of the project lifecycle is valuable to both the project manager and the entire team who is implementing specific pieces of the project and are not entrenched in the language and specifics of project management.

 

Project Initiation: This serves the starting point for the entire project. Often feasibility and value for the course of the entire project are measured at the on set of the project before any additional planning has commenced. If the project seems feasible and profitable the project manager will move forward with the project and showcase how this specific project fits into the core of current business operations.

 

Project Planning: The project has been given the go ahead and planning is needed to get it up and running. A plan will differ slightly for every project but will often include an outlined schedule, budget, how risk will be addressed, and the scope of the project to outline necessary resources and departments involved in different phases of the project.

 

Project Execution: After the plan has been written the work on the project will be done. The deliverable goods or services will be delivered through a series of deadlines to involved stakeholders and sponsors. Executing a project can only happen by following and updating the project plan as work is accomplished and some tasks are met.

 

Project Monitoring and Control: As tasks and work is completed some deadlines will not be met and adjustments to resources and timing are necessary. The project manager must monitor, document, and control these changes to ensure the project can move forward towards completion.

 

Project Closure: The project will have an end date when it is delivered to the customer. The end of the project should involve communication with the stakeholders across the project and serve as an important closure point for the team members to look back on the time they spent on it. Furthermore, this closure can serve as a celebration to enjoy the successful completion of the project while sharing lessons learned and spending time with some project members for a final time.

 

 

Concluding Thoughts

The steps surrounding the project plan are not rigid steps which need to be followed like financial equations but are guidelines to improve the process and outcome of projects of all sizes. Project Management offers ways to improve scheduling and optimize different tasks across projects for both individuals and teams. Empowerment occurs working through complex projects using a well-developed project plan. It is vital to understand that while projects are difficult the ability to deconstruct them into simpler steps will allow the lifecycle of the project to be completed in an easier and more rewarding manner.

 

Resources

 

“The WIMS Guide.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/the-wims-guide/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/category/project-management/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Consulting. Retrieved from https://www.wims-consulting.com/project-management.

“Five Phases of the Project Management Lifecycle.” Villanova University. Retrieved from https://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/5-phases-project-management-lifecycle/.

Photo by Jo Szczepanska.

Sea Level Rising and What the Future Holds

Where are we headed?

What exactly does it mean to be sustainable and do behaviors that people follow determine if they are or are not following a sustainable lifestyle or does sustainability have to be engrained into the core philosophy of an individual?

I do not know the answer to this question, and I will not attempt to get to the bottom of what drives people to choose sustainable choices be it monetary, spiritual, or moral. In the past few months I have found myself thinking about not what draws people to becoming sustainable but the deeper question of does it matter how we live and how can we, as individuals make decisions that will help protect the earth. The earth needs to be protected not only for future generations but for those of us alive because the world and unexpected climate events are already impacting the world and causing irreversible effects. Instead of playing a blame game of who should take the burden of climate change the only path forward is to work with individuals, non-profit institutions, and corporations. While full cooperation is impossible the world needs cooperation on a stage never seen before to offset the costs on the economy and more importantly the environment.

 

Center for Climate Integrity

A recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity highlights the pressing nature of sea level change and how this one aspect of climate change will have immense impacts on coastal communities, the economy of the entire nation, and millions of Americans. This study highlights impacts of one of the major aspects of climate change being rising sea levels and how to handle the costs of these changes. Coastal regions have vast importance on ecological, economic, and cultural importance with vibrant communities. These communities also are home to many marine mammals, birds, and unique ecosystems including salt marshes and lowlands which add to the beauty of the coastal communities and can help as carbon sinks in marshlands that can reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

 

Coastal Impacts

Beyond the beauty of these coastal regions, commercial fisheries and farms in these coastal regions provide fresh food and jobs. Many of the areas which will be hardest hit by the increased sea levels are popular tourist destinations which provide a valuable tax base and employment opportunities to communities. From the Florida Keys to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the Outer Banks of North Carolina popular summer destinations face increased risks of rising sea levels. North Carolina, faces the third highest cost in the lower 48 from rising sea levels with projected increased costs in the Old North State to be over $35 billion by 2040. This places the economic costs behind only Florida and Louisiana and part of the total costs which could exceed $400 billion over the next 20 years with many of the costs incurred over the next decade.

 

Projected costs to build sea walls by state. Credit Center for Climate Integrity

 

Now what

The first step in advocacy is understanding the issues at hand, gaining background information about the causes of climate change and sea level rising will allow for beginning the dialogue on these issues. Here in North Carolina, some unique geography in the northeast part of the state means the one congressional district, the 3rd District, has the highest economic impact of any congressional district in the nation representing over 80% of the total cost in the state from sea level rise. While congressional district boundaries change the impacts of coastal changes from rising sea levels will dramatically impact the tourist centers of the Outer Banks.

The small coastal communities that many people only think about during yearly beach trips or when shrimp cocktails are order face uphill battles and will bear the brunt of the burden of rising sea levels. All is not lost. Actions can be made which will help protect the coastal communities including reaching out to local politicians, beginning conversations about how to combat climate change, and making purchases when possible to companies that value sustainability. The fight to protect our coasts is not over and by understanding that actions can be taken the coastal ecosystems can be protected.

The costs of climate change can not be thought of as after thoughts because communities are already dealing with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. The impacts of climate change are not set in stone and can be minimized through advocacy, taking individual decisions to reduce your carbon footprint, and taking the steps to hold large corporations accountable for their carbon emissions and incentive sustainable investments.

 

Sources

Debruyn, Jason. “Rising Seas To Cost NC $35B In Just 20 Years, New Study Finds.” WUNC 91.5 North Carolina Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.wunc.org/post/rising-seas-cost-nc-35b-just-20-years-new-study-finds.

“Study: U.S. Costal Communities Face More Than $400 Billion in Seawall Costs by 2040.” IGSD: Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. http://www.igsd.org/study-u-s-costal-communities-face-more-than-400-billion-in-seawall-costs-by-2040/.

Salesforce Heads North

In June 2019 Salesforce announced that it would be purchasing Tableau in a deal worth over $15.7 billion. This deal will allow San Francisco based Salesforce to expand its presence in Seattle creating a second headquarters in Seattle, home of Tableau, like what Seattle-based Amazon did with its HQ2 competition last year. I was in the Seattle area on vacation as the news broke and was able to read local newspapers on this deal from the local perspective which went beyond the financial terms of the agreement.

This deal represents the second largest acquisition in the history of the state of Washington and shows the power of the technology sector in the Pacific Northwest and willingness of companies to expand beyond Silicon Valley (Romano, Seattle Times). With a presence of 1,000 employees already in Seattle, Salesforce is familiar with the business climate in Washington. Moving forward this acquisition is not an outlier and additional companies in the cloud computing space will look to expand their operations and establish additional offices beyond their initial headquarters.

This trend poses the opportunity for companies to benefit from the strengths of different metropolitan areas while also increasing the expectations the residents of these cities have of these companies to become stewards of the community and provide jobs to locals. This deal will change the entire landscape and power dynamics in the CRM and Business Intelligence world. This deal seems to represent a move by Salesforce to invest in research and development through the purchase of Tableau which may signal slowing internal innovation (Moorehead, Forbes). This deal comes after Salesforce paid $300 million to integrate the companies non-profit arm, Salesforce.org, into the companies for-profit side (Salesforce Press Release). This deal will have a substantial impact to the overall company and could create anywhere from $150 to $200 million this Fiscal Year depending on when the deal closes. These strategic changes show how Salesforce is moving beyond CRM and taking the potentially risky decision of incorporating its non-profit wing into its for-profit business. Although Salesforce has been on the leading edge of philanthropic causes with rising housing prices and inequality in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle areas Salesforce will be held accountable and pushed to create more equitable growth as their operations expand.

Seattle is a city that has long struggled with homelessness and affordable housing. While the city is the thirteenth largest city it has the third largest homeless population. Driving through Seattle and talking with locals on my recent trip to the city I heard and saw homeless camps and the stories of how homelessness and affordability is an issue impacting suburbs across the Seattle area with camps in view of I-5.

While Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led his company to be a leader of philanthropic efforts and combating homelessness, he is entering a new arena in Seattle (Romano, Seattle Times). Long a leader in giving back Salesforce pledges 1% of profits, products, and employee time to philanthropic efforts. Marc and Lynne Benioff have signed the Giving Pledge and are leading advocates in the San Francisco area working to combat homelessness. Lynne Benioff cofounded a program in 2011 to provide shelters for families around San Francisco. Tableau also has taken on a philanthropic approach as well and pledged $100 million in grants and technology to global health and equality organizations (Romano, Seattle Times).

This merger has just occurred, but challenges persist moving forward. Benioff says that Tableau will operate independent of Salesforce and affirmed that this is a merger of two equals. This is rarely the case in mergers as power dynamics and even the slightest of differences can cause division between leaders in the merged companies. Time will tell how this deal will be remembered but one thing is certain which is that this will not be the last big software deal of the year.

 

Links

Image from: Romano, Benjamin. “Why Salesforce is shelling out $15.7 billion in stock for Seattle’s Tableau, in one of the NW’s largest acquisitions?” Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/salesforce-buying-seattle-based-tableau-for-15-7-billion-in-stock-one-of-the-northwests-largest-acquisitions/.

 

Moorehead, Patrick. “Salesforce.com’s Tableau Acquisition: Admitting Organic Innovation Failure?” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2019/06/18/salesforces-tableau-acquisition-admitting-organic-innovation-failure/.

 

Salesforce Press Releases. “Salesforce and Salesforce.org Combine to Drive Greater Philanthropic Impact and Success for Social Good Organizations.” https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2019/Salesforce-and-Salesforceorg-Combine-to-Drive-Greater-Philanthropic-Impact-and-Success-for-Social-Good-Organizations/default.aspx.

Summer Reset

Where has the year gone!!!??? Is this a thought that is going through your mind too? The calendar has turned to June and the temperature has increased. The summer travel season kicked off Memorial Day and will last through Labor Day with millions of Americans taking trips from National Parks to beaches. In addition to the much-needed break and the refresher a summer vacation offers the opportunity to revisit goals from earlier in the year, make new goals, and improve the world around you.

 

The best way to hold yourself accountable to goals is to set ones that push you towards success while having realistic time frames. Instead of making a series of goals in January for the entire year plan out different times in the year for goal setting and make more realistic goals. Break down goals by season and plan goals for the winter, spring, summer, and fall. Now that the summer is here take some time to take steps back and revisit what priorities you have. During this season of travel and relaxation goals and improved decision-making go hand in hand.

 

Everyone has different ways of formulating goals and inevitably you are the best person at determining if you can reach your goals. By understanding how some of your past goals have gone future goal making may be easier to make. I know that for me I need to be in the right mindset to begin making goals and often set time aside to clean and organize things to push myself into setting and achieving my goals. The beautiful thing about people is that everyone is different, and no two people will take the same path and establish the same series of goals. Instead of following the conventional New Years Resolution, find a system that works for you to create goals so that you are working with a strong framework to ensure that the path you set out on is built with a good foundation.

 

As the warm months of June, July, and August take hold I will offer a few suggestions on how you can get into a mindset to help yourself make the most effective goals on both the personal and professional level. Take time to unplug and walk away from technology to revisit where you stand in your life and what changes need to be done. The noise of the internet, particularly social media, can drive decisions to be based on short term outcomes and not with a focus on long-term sustainability. Take a weekend or a week to go and experience the world outside of the internet sphere and use this experience to think about and prioritize what is important in your own life.

 

Whatever goals you set aside take the time to identify someone who can help you along the process. I am a strong believer in collaboration and the power it can add. Seeking assistance when needed shows the ability to take a step in the right direction while working through processes with someone else and gain their opinion. Listening to others is important and can be difficult, more so for some people.  Listening to others and taking the time to gather information and talk things out with others before making critical decisions can be crucial. Being in the right mindset and talking with others can spur new ideas and open new perspectives.

 

Summer serves as an opportunity to visit new places, grilling with friends, and taking family vacations which provide lifelong memories but also can cause stress levels to increase through planning and coordinating group activities. These projects and endeavors should be undertaken in a meaningful manner where they serve the goal of making everyone’s experience more enjoyable. Take the time to make reflections on what occurred and use these experiences to strengthen your goal making process.

 

The summer is not a break but should serve as a reset period. Our world is constantly going at full pace yet many of the most important things that will happen in our lives are the simple things that we might miss if we do not take the time to enjoy them. Take the time moving forward to thank those around you in service industry positions, write meaningful handwritten letters to loved ones, and partake in community events to improve the place where you live. These rewarding tasks will reap many rewards and can improve your outlook on life and push you to make better decision while also becoming more present in your life. We only get one life to live so let’s take steps to make it the best life we can for ourselves and those around us. Start with the simple things making an effort to improve your life and in the process making the world around all of us a better and more civil place because it is needed more than ever in our current time.

2019 Small Business Week

 

 

This week, May 5th to May 11th, 2019, is National Small Business Week, which is a great time to think about the importance of small businesses in our economy. In addition to this piece I would also direct you to my colleague Michael Simmons piece on 2019 Small Business Week which is filled with valuable Small Business Resources. In this post I will be looking into the data behind small businesses in America and tackle some of the FAQ’s about small businesses. During this week small business owners and their employees are celebrated for their contributions to the economy, society, and their local community. The value of these companies goes well beyond the economic impact they provide as they contribute to the culture and identity of local communities.

 

Small Business Data

 

Small businesses across America serve as the engine steering economic growth of the economy in general. The Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy has complied data and answers to common asked questions about small businesses. There are over 29.6 million small businesses in America and these organizations create many jobs in all corners of the nation. The impact of these small businesses account for 63% of net new private-sector jobs created and in total account for 59 million jobs which is almost half of all jobs across the nation (47.5%). These figures are impressive and show the scope and volume of economic activity provided by small businesses.

 

Small Business FAQs

 

What is the composition of small businesses in the US?

The role of small businesses is felt across the US economy and contributes to the economy in different ways. Most of the small businesses are nonemployer firms, in total these firms account for 80% of small business and number around 24.3 million of the 30.2 million businesses while the other 20% of small businesses, around 5.9 million total businesses have paid employees.

 

How do these small businesses fit into the wider economy?

Some of the stats regarding the importance of small businesses to the greater economy are very impressive and show how the greater economy would greatly suffer. This includes the 40.8% of all private-sector payrolls paid by small business and 32.9% of known export value amounting to $440 billion of the total $1.3 trillion in export value. These figures show the value that small businesses create and highlight how the resilient business leaders across America and beyond generate economic growth through the power of exports.

 

What is the survival rate of small businesses?

The one-year survival rate of businesses started in 2016 was 79.8%, the most recent data available meaning that almost 4 in 5 businesses survive their first year. The five-year survival rate has differed over the past decade with firms started in 2006 and weathering through the great recession have a 45.4% rate of still being in operation after five years. Companies established in 2011 as the economic recovery was into effect had a five-year survival rate of 51% showing how external macroeconomic factors also have an impact on the survival rate of a small business.

 

Small Business Week Actions

 

Everyone can take some small steps to support small businesses both this week and throughout the year. Buying from small businesses when possible is one way to support them and offers the opportunity to learn about the business owner and their employees. From here a connect and relationship can be formed with the business and then the business can become a part of your routine. In addition to becoming a customer of different small businesses people can lobby local and national politicians to support legislation that is favorable for small business growth. One of the simplest ways to help small business owners is to thank them for what they are doing and provide validation that they are making a meaningful impact on the community.

 

Sources

 

National Small Business Week. SBA. U.S. Small Business Administration. https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week.

SBA Office of Advocacy. Frequently Asked Questions, August 2018. https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf.

Simmons, Michael. “WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!” WIMS Guide. https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/small-business-week/.

 

Project Management in Perspective: The Panama Canal

 

Project Management in Action

 

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of volunteering at a meaningful event held by PMI (Project Management Institute) Metrolina Chapter for members of the military who are about to transition into civilian life. The 3rd Annual Veterans Transition & Skillfest Event serves as outreach to military personnel from the Fayetteville area interested in learning about career paths and certifications in project management.

 

This is a great event which provides networking and education to military members who are about to transition into civilian life. This event also centered on some of the connections between the military and project management including a look at some of the historic additions made to the project management world by the military. One of the most significant lasting contributions from the military world on project management was the construction of the Panama Canal, which was a decades long project that including death, corruption, innovation, uncertainty, and finally triumph.

 

 

Historical Foundation of Project Management

 

The discussion of the Panama Canal project and other important historical projects including the D-Day Invasion was a central theme of the keynote speech given by Jay Hicks. Hicks is a Florida based author of a series of books on military transition including The Transitioning Military Project Manager. The aspect of his presentation which I found most meaningful was centered on the historic relationship between planning effective projects and the military.

I believe looking to the past is a good way in understanding the underlying values of a topic. This is true in project management which is used across industries and has a foundation in the US Military. To understand the value that project management can add to an organization understanding from past projects and noting lessons learned from these past projects is one of the best ways to enhance project management terms.

 

This can be used by those looking to get started in the project management field, amateur historians interested in learning more about history, and those interested in gaining a better understanding about geopolitics. I am interested in all of the above areas so the chance to write and share some of this history is something I find to be intellectually delightful. So, let’s venture to the Isthmus of Panama and see how the improbable connection of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean forever changed the world.

 

 

A Complex Project

 

The military undertook some of the most complex projects of the 20th century under the leadership of effective project planning and effective execution. Of all these projects the Panama Canal project which was completed under the direction of the Army Corp of Engineers stands as one of the most important.

 

 

The Panama Canal and Project Management

 

The most significant contribution to the world of project management from the Panama Canal project was the construction of the first work breakdown structure (WBS). This is a concept that is central to the core of operating and maintaining projects under budgetary and time constraints.  In the century since this project, practitioners around the world have implemented WBS into projects across the world to deconstruct the cost and schedule of a project into manageable pieces to best accomplish the project. By reframing the project into many pieces which need to be accomplished to reach the final goal the schedule of the project can better be handled, and the cost structure become more manageable. Over a century after the project began the WBS is still a major tenant of project management across industries showing the value that this adds to constructing and operating efficient projects.

 

 

The French Experiment

 

The French undertook the first attempt at constructing a canal across the Isthmus in the 1880s and was highlighted by corruption and ineffective project execution. The rampant spread of illness was a main factor behind the reason that the project was forced to be abandoned. In addition to this corruption, poor execution led to the halting of construction in 1889. The human cost of this ineffectiveness was massive with over 20,000 deaths. While the main factor behind the failed project was illness it was exacerbated by poor management. Although few projects will fail this spectacularly the understanding that projects often fail because of a range of factors which are made worse by ineffective leadership. The takeaway from this is that understanding that poor leadership is never the singular cause of a failure but can make shortcoming become more extreme and can lead to setting up a project for failure from the beginning.

 

 

The American Experiment

 

The history of this project tells a compelling story about a project on a massive scale which provided many technological innovations and helped propel the US onto a platform as a world leader during the 20th century. It is hard to believe but through the early 20th century the US was still seen as a minor player on the global stage with a few colonial holdings. By constructing the canal, the US was able to stand out as the undoubted leader of the western hemisphere and allow the US to shape the politics and international relations of a complex century.

 

By the time of the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt the ideas of constructing some type of canal across Central America dated back hundreds of years. The initial thoughts of construction on a canal began during the Colonial period of the 1600s and marked one of the first global projects undertaken by the US. This period was historically important as the US expanded onto the global stage during this era and the construction of the Panama Canal proved the leadership and effectiveness of American execptionalism. The success of the project centered on the ability to shift and build off the failures of the French project.

 

The first year of construction by the Americans appeared like the French project with high turnover rates and major financial losses. Eventually, the arrival of a new chief engineer, John Stevens led to a unique approach to the construction by not building but by building up the surrounding infrastructure of the construction zone beginning with eradicating the diseases which were so rampant. This major undertaking occurred by bringing in Dr. William Gargas who had previously worked to eradicate yellow fever in Cuba.

 

 

Creating Infrastructure

 

By spraying chemicals in the Panamanian jungle, the threat of diseases from mosquitoes was mitigated allowing for the work to begin on the supplemental infrastructure needed to complete the construction of the canal. Towns grew from the jungle as swamps were drained and critical infrastructure was completed. By breaking the project into manageable steps, the scope of the project grew from merely building a canal to limiting the factors which caused illness and creating the infrastructure needed for success. By repositioning what work was necessary to be undertaken the Panama Canal was able to be completed. This success shows the importance of planning for the intermediate steps and understanding that changes in the project will strengthen end results and overall efficiency of the project.

 

To understand the impressive feat the Americans accomplished by finishing this project it is important to examine the long and complex history surrounding the construction of a canal. A good place to take a further look is the attempt by the French to construct a canal decades before the Americans undertook a similar plan. This endeavor provides an example of the complexities of building a canal and some common themes that stand in the way of effectively executing a project to completion including rampant corruption.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

With such a strong history the military and project management have gone hand in hand for generations. Long before the corporate world adopted project management the military was utilizing complex projects under quasi project management offices from the Army Corp of Engineers as they constructed the Panama Canal during the early 20th century. The addition of the work breakdown structure (WBS) allowed this complex construction project to be deconstructed into a series of manageable tasks along the course of the project.

 

The completion of the Panama Canal stands as one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of all times. Combine this with the timing of the completion of the project as the US ascent on the international stage highlights the value that effective project management had in this historic event.  The opening of the canal was overshadowed by World War I and the spread of conflict in Europe. The completion of the Panama Canal meant that the Americans had made the steps to enter the top of the world stage influencing geopolitics and forever altering Central America.

Strengthening Project Management

 

In the current business world competition and adding value to your current operation is becoming increasingly important. Every organization needs to address and strategize how to attract and sustain top talent. The specifics differ from company to company and often depend on location and the necessary skill set to accomplish a specific task. Some challenges stand in the way of companies as they attempt to grow their company with a talented and engaged workforce. Staffing and operating strong project portfolios go hand in hand and should be thought of as ways to improve the efficiency of both specific projects and the entire organization.

 

Good organizations understand that to stand out resources and focus should be placed on finding people to fit roles. Looking outside your organization as well as within can assist in understanding and using human resources and project management to establish a company culture. Getting the right personnel can help improve solutions and reduce friction among current team members. Collaboration should be viewed from the perspective of bringing in new team members.

 

To grow, companies need to address how to maintain a competitive edge in their industry while growing internally. Some hurdles stand in the way of growing and sustaining a workforce which can handle projects and helps your organization grow.

 

The focus is placed on creating effective and simple project proposals for existing external projects while building up internal systems. Quickly it becomes evident that this would be a valuable investment which would provide an additional service line. Many organizations are in the same spot as WIMS in need of investing internally to increase the effectiveness of existing operations while making plans to expand into new business opportunities. This can be difficult, and close to impossible, without a developed internal project system which allows for maximizing the value of your team while fulfilling growth and expansion into new projects.

 

The project manager must document the steps across the project lifecycle and create an environment where every team member actively documents work and changes to the project. There should be a standard procedure for documenting the project which should be communicated up front and allow for input from workers. The project manager needs to ensure that accurate progress is being communicated. Communication is critical across the entire team and when the chain of communication is well constructed with multiple ways to raise questions and provide insights the entire team can focus on issues that need the most attention. Communication can help build trust across the entire team and allow for the specific focus areas of the team to be given more attention and be build up for sustained success.

 

The time to invest in project management solutions is now. If your organization already has a project management system in place the system should constantly be evaluated and additional improvements should be made when necessary. Planning to improve project planning poses the opportunity to create a project itself which can be used as a learning experience to incorporate new ideas. Every additional opportunity to expand projects provides the chance for members of the entire team to gain meaningful hands on practice across the development of projects.

 

Creating the final projects and tasks around all of us are truly unique with many complex aspects. A project involves many internal and external stakeholders who must be in constant communication. With many complex parts and changes the need to have a robust team which can deal with the changes that arise across the project is necessary. Taking the time to invest heavily in project planning will allow for the best-case scenario for reacting to unexpected changes. By having a developed and strategic project management system in place, organizations can better handle existing projects while also bringing in new work and expanding the project portfolio.