We’ve been talking about how to leverage open APIs to connect content-centric solutions together. The goal is to leverage the success from deploying point solutions without creating the numerous silos that typically accompany that approach.
The question that arises is what kind of platform providers are incented to create and maintain open APIs? Any vendor can claim to have an open API. Unless supporting those APIs long-term is core to their business model, those APIs may vanish or become closed in the future. While any enterprise content management (ECM) vendor may have open APIs, open source and software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors are the ones whose business depends on open APIs.
The Open Source Advantage
Open source software (OSS) is a natural tool in creating open ECM ecosystems. Being open is core to who they are, making their APIs open by default. Documented and supported APIs are very useful, but when the code is open source, a new level of capability can be taken leveraged.
There has been talk of creating enterprise content management (ECM) platforms for years. They typically do not live up to the hype or expectations. The upfront investment typically required dooms most projects before they deploy their first business solution. It has reached the point where if an organization wants to implement ECM I typically walk away if I cannot persuade them otherwise.
That doesn’t mean that the need for ECM platforms don’t exist. Given the ever increasing creation of content today, it is even more important to be able to rapidly solve content-centric problems without creating numerous content silos. What is needed is an alternate approach to gaining the benefits of an ECM platform without forcing a big-bang approach to ECM with its large upfront investment.
The answer is to pick an ECM system the same way an organization picks a database system. Choose based upon the system’s ability to scale and meet the needs of the organization. An open API (application programming interface) allows the exposure of content services that can be used to add content capabilities to other applications and to build new solutions. Being open allows an organization to move forward without worrying information being bound to that system forever.
In two weeks, IBC will be attending the annual AIIM Conference in New Orleans. I’ll be attending along with Jed Carr to check to see what the latest is in content management and information governance. While the city of New Orleans with its unique food and culture (beignets!) would seem like enough of a reason to attend, there are many more important reasons.
It starts simply enough. Your company needs a system for managing its contracts process. The finance department goes out and purchases a contracts system. Being forward thinking, they pick one that is cloud-based so they don’t have to maintain the infrastructure. Things are going well until…
- The ability to track supporting documents from within the system is identified shortly after launch
- After finance loads supporting documents, those documents are now stored in multiple locations
- Nobody knows which version is the current version any longer
- Groups outside of finance need access to the contracts but licenses are limited
- Contracts need to be linked to their CRM and ERP records but nobody can figure out how
The contracts process may be working well but information is trapped in a system that is closed-off from the rest of the organization. The only way to have information everywhere it is needed is to duplicate it which leads to complications in managing information.
This is a common problem in organizations. Whether it is contracts, FOIA processing, investigations, or team collaboration, there are a multiple systems containing content and information needed by other business processes. The existence of shared information conflicts with the reality that many processes are best solved with different solutions.
Reston, VA – January 12, 2016 – At the end of last year, IBC was awarded a new contract by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide complementary financial management services to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), Associate Chief Financial Officer for Financial Systems (ACFO-FS). IBC will be providing expert level support for incident management as well as SAP-specific training with the ultimate goal of creating operational improvements and efficiencies within the Financial Management Modernization Initiative (FMMI) environment. The IBC team will deliver superior software development and effective training resources with proven implementation methods including SAP ASAP, Agile, and traditional waterfall programs. Todd Barber, Managing Principal with IBC said, “This award is a testament to the excellent value brought to USDA by the IBC Team over the last few years. We are extremely proud to continue our ongoing support at OCFO and look forward to the further development of their people and systems.”
Inc. Magazine Unveils Its Annual Exclusive List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies – the Inc. 500|5000
IBC, a DBS Company Ranks No. 2113 on the Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Sales Growth of 185%
Reston, Virginia, September 30, 2015 – Inc. magazine ranked IBC, a DBS Company NO. 2113 on its eighth annual Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents the most comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy – America’s independent entrepreneurs.
Achieving an outstanding 3-year growth rate of over 185% percent, IBC has seen revenue climb from $11.2M to over $31.9M and the addition of over 50 jobs during this time period. This growth has landed us on the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row and truly shows the dedication of our incredible team of professionals.
Do you know your customer?
I mean, do you really know your customer?
You know who your customer is, you hopefully know the mission that they serve, and you might even know that the head of their company likes to play tennis every weekend. But, and I’ll ask again, do you actually know your customer? As a newly large company, your efforts to grow engagements organically as the Prime contractor, getting to really know your customer, and understand their stories, is of utmost importance.
Every customer has a story, and more specifically, every program has a story. The story is likely more in depth than “we need project management support on an upgrade of a financial management system.” Sure, that may be a part of the story, but it is not the entire story. Why does your customer want to upgrade their financial management system? Why does this matter, and how can we use it to our advantage?
Washington, DC (June 19, 2015) – IBC, a DBS Company (IBC) is pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of Washington Post’s 2015 Top Workplaces. The Washington Post’s Top Workplaces list spotlights the best places to work in the Washington DC region. IBC ranked #22 out of 75 small businesses that were honored as a Top Workplace. Overall, nearly 2,000 organizations were nominated for the award and over 50,000 employees were surveyed. The Top Workplaces are determined based solely on employee feedback.
“IBC is thrilled to be honored as a Washington Post Top Workplace,” said IBC Chief Operating Officer Tim Spadafore. “Our employees are what makes IBC a Top Workplace, so this award really is a testament to them.”
IBC was recognized for its innovative communication techniques used in creating a cohesive and close-knit company culture, despite the majority of employees working off-site at project locations. The company prides itself on having an “employee-focused” culture, with cell phone reimbursement, unique all-hand meeting locations (i.e. TopGolf), and free Washington Nationals tickets as a few examples of employee-focused benefits.
(This is part three of a three part series of articles examining the importance of scaling all aspects of your growing business. Part one and two can be found here: The Importance of Scaling – Part 1 of 3, The Importance of Scaling – Part 2 of 3: People and Culture)
Beyond just the people within your four walls, organizations that scale effectively know how and when to leverage partners. Even if your company has gotten to this point without much outside assistance, that doesn’t mean you need to or should complete your journey alone.
There is tremendous value in tapping the experience and advice from others who have been there before you. Even the biggest companies started out small and had to scale up at some point. Reaching out and learning from those who have already ‘been there, done that’, can save you countless time, money, and effort by entirely avoiding an issue altogether. In her article “5 Things You Must Do to Scale Your Company”, Marla Tabaka illustrates the value of establishing key advisory networks. “When you get into groups and are around mentors and advisors you can address the issues you are facing with people who have experienced a similar set of problems; you sill see things in a different light.” It often takes someone removed from your situation to give a fresh perspective that you were unable to have given your embedded position. Even though you might compete with someone in the future, you will see companies generally want to share success with others, and a different perspective is invaluable.
(This is part two of a three part series of articles examining the importance of scaling all aspects of your growing business. Part one and three can be found here: The Importance of Scaling – Part 1 of 3, The Importance of Scaling – Part 3 of 3: External Partners and Communication)
The people that make up your company are at the heart of every initiative, often ultimately responsible for determining its success or failure. When a company grows and looks to scale its operations, having the right talent focused on building for the long term is critical. A shared sense of purpose amongst employees to grow the company is certainly one aspect to the equation, but the other aspect is having the right people capable of executing that growth. Adding professionals with the necessary experience, background, and relationships/networks can immediately provide a boost to the company’s strategic positioning that may have not been possible without those resources.
At IBC, we pride ourselves on the team we’ve assembled and our ability to find, hire, and keep great people. We provide our employees with incentives to recruit colleagues and associates they believe are a good fit for our culture. This has helped us onboard high-quality individuals who know who we are, what work that we do, and where our company values are. With this talent, we have been able to formalize individualized roles that previously, as a small company, were often done by committee or based on individual resource availability. This has minimized duplication of effort, empowered our leaders with the authority to make decisions quickly, and has ensured we have the capacity to respond to multiple activities in parallel. Finally, we encourage and provide opportunities to our more junior resources to get involved in all aspects of our company, so that they can to become key drivers of our future success and growth.
In the back office, you must also carefully consider the impacts to your internal and back office operations and the willingness to bolster those capabilities with non-billable resources to support the volume and size of your new pipeline. This might include contract specialists, proposal writers, financial support, and business development professionals.
While directly tied to the people that make up your company, your company culture is a key aspect of your organization and its ability to scale successfully. In addition to defining how your company operates, it identifies the behaviors that your organization values and reinforces, establishes the model for what your company will look like, and drives how your company grows and expands, both internally within the company and externally in the marketplace.
When your company scales, it is critical to ensure your culture remains in tact. Your culture is often what attract your talent to your company in the first place. In his article “How to turn a small business into a bigger one” , Conrad Bates amplifies this point stating, “A strong company culture built upon respect and honesty will also keep those same people happy and secure throughout the often changing period of growth.”
At IBC, an accelerator to our growth came as a result of a merger that we went through in 2013. It brought two entities with different skills sets together, but shared the same sense of purpose, passion, and commitment to serving our clients, while placing significant value on keeping IBC a special place to work. We focus on getting our teams together for regular informal meetings, networking and recruiting events, community service functions, brown bags, and happy hours. This time spent together outside of the typical workday plays a critical role in building a true team-oriented environment and culture that is increasingly difficult to find. Having a shared vision of what is important to each of your employees is a major priority in establishing the trust, admiration, and camaraderie required to propel your organization to grow and prosper.
When you organization loses its culture, it loses part of its identity, which is often the tie that binds your team together. If those things that distinguished your organization and made it a special place to work are lost, employees can feel as though they are lost too, can get lost as well, which will likely result in a hit to morale or worse, employee churn. Don’t let scaling take your company’s culture away. Its one of the few things that is yours and only yours, so make it a priority to keep it in tact.
Again, we invite others to join this #HowToCompete discussion and share your own ideas and experiences. We’d love to hear about the role that scaling has played in how your company competes.
Join the #HowToCompete discussion:
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