About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

Sometimes It’s Hard to See Change From Up Close

Geonetric Values
For the past month or so I’ve been working very little with the Geonetric team. We moved to our brand new building last month, and I was pretty focused on that. But I’ve also been working with startup teams on our second floor in the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and will be until November. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know about our 18-month old experiment in which our teams operate without managers. Perhaps this takes the experiment to its logical conclusion: can the teams run without a CEO for three months?Of course the answer is yes.

Today I joined the entire company in our new café for our monthly company meeting. But unbeknownst to me, they had changed it up dramatically. And the modifications they made to the meeting are indicative of the important cultural changes that have been taking place.

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Agile Leadership Experiment Retro, Year 1


Scrum Stand Up
It has been a little more than a year since we took the radical step to eliminate traditional management entirely. The goal was to extend the observations we had made from human psychology and the performance of Agile teams to the furthest extent we could imagine. It was truly an experiment: there were a handful of well-known examples to learn from, but the literature is pretty thin on the practical realities of self-organizing teams outside the software industry. And there were no peers that we knew of in eastern Iowa that had gone as far as we were intending to go. So, we rolled the dice and went for it using the best information we had at the time. Since we declared we’d be open about the experiment, it’s about time to revisit where we’re at, what’s working and what’s not. This post will just outline a few of the areas where we’ve seen success, and some where we’ve had difficulty. I’ll use the same format we use each week on each team in our retrospectives.
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Humanizing Work: Conference Review

About 1/20 of the giant post-its capturing learning at the Humanizing Work Conference.

A number of the readers of GeoVoices are other companies using Agile methods, or considering it, because Geonetric is particularly aggressive in using Agile methods. If you’re interested in Agile, this post is for you. If not, feel free to skip this one!

Our Agile coach, Richard Lawrence, and his company Agile For All, put on a conference called Humanizing Work this week for advanced practitioners of Agile. Everyone had at the minimum been through a full Agile training program already; most had been involved with Agile for quite some time, some for many years. Attendees ranged from very large, well known corporations to small businesses and everything in between. Continue reading

Pit Stops and Continuous Improvement

At our last company meeting, we watched a video about pit stops. Why? Because it was freaking awesome to watch! The Red Bull team set the record for the fastest pit stop in April of this year. The video shows it in slow motion for a minute and a half, and then the entire process in real time.

So, before you watch it, predict right now how long you think it takes to do a pit stop for a Formula One racecar. Remember it, we’ll come back after you check it out (you will want to put in on HD, and turn up your speakers):

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Aiming for Five: Q2 2013 Client Satisfaction Results

FiveYou probably know we’re a bit fanatical about measuring and acting on our clients’ feedback, so much so that we do it every 90 days. And then we post about it publicly on this blog. (Why? Because we think it holds us accountable to both clients and prospective clients!)

For our second quarter 2013 client satisfaction survey, we’re proud to announce that we exceeded our goal of 5.0 or better on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest) in the Overall Satisfaction category, scoring a 5.08.
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Geonetric’s New Home in New Bohemia

If you’re in the Creative Corridor, you might know that Geonetric is planning a big move next year to the New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids. We’ve been in our current location since 2004, and while it has treated us well, we’re excited about swapping our current office park for a real, well, neighborhood.

We’ll be on the third floor of a building that will look something like this:

Rendering of the new Geonetric building in New Bohemia, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Rendering of the new Geonetric building in New Bohemia, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

If all goes according to plan, the new facility should be ready in the Spring of 2014. This is an important move for Geonetric for a couple of reasons:
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eHealth Symposium 2013: Creating, Innovating, Pushing Boundaries

Last week we held our 8th annual eHealth Symposium. Clients from all over the country came to Iowa to work together on pushing the boundaries of healthcare marketing. With a jam-packed agenda of topics ranging from the latest website design trends to agile marketing methods to newsjacking, clients left with brains full of new ideas, knowledge and relationships:

Clients also received a healthy dose of Iowa hospitality, which consists of overwhelming friendliness, and over-the-top food:

It helps that we hold the event at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, which is unlike any hotel you’d expect to find in Iowa:
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Q1 2013 Client Satisfaction Results

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know we’re relentless about measuring Client Satisfaction and posting it here.

Last quarter, and most of 2012, the primary pain point our clients revealed in our Client Satisfaction survey was issues with deployment of our software. So for the past few months we’ve been implementing our new push button automated deployment system, which takes a single click to do, is more reliable, and much faster.

We looked with anticipation to the Q1 2013 survey to see if the changes had any effect. The results are in, and we had the highest overall score we’ve ever gotten: 5.27 on a scale of 1-6.
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Building a Peer-Accountable Culture with Agile Methods

Photo of Geonetric's sales team attending their first Scrum standupIt’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took our first step toward Agile in 2008 with our development team. We’ve taken hundreds of additional steps since then. But by 2013, we felt like we had taken all of the easy steps we could take. The next steps looked tougher.

So we decided to take a big leap instead.

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“Wow! That Was the Most Productive Meeting I’ve Ever Seen!”

Photo of Post-its describing the agile software development cycle for VitalSiteAs we continue embracing Agile in the software team, we’ve also started carrying the behaviors and cultural changes to other teams. To be fair, we have a few teams that have adopted some of the tools and techniques, but we’re in the process of figuring out how to do it more formally and more aggressively.

So my first step has been to simply introduce others within the company to the ideas. Last week, I invited two team members to simply observe a retrospective. (And yes, I asked the software team in advance if it was OK to have observers.*)

You’ll have to imagine this: I’m sitting in the back of the software development team’s workspace with the two “outsiders.” The team – about 20 people – begins the process of describing what went well, what needed improvement, and what they should do differently in the future.

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Agile Behaviors vs. Agile Culture

Photo of a yellow street sign with an arrow pointing upThere are lots of companies that use agile software development methods like Scrum to varying degrees of success. Just getting the hang of the techniques is difficult for organizations steeped in traditional development approaches. It has taken us years to master these behaviors, and to be honest, there’s still more we can improve upon.

But this past year, I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation at Geonetric: Agile has become something much, much more than a software development technique. Within that same software team, Agile behaviors (daily standups, sprints, retrospectives) have evolved into an Agile culture.

Most company cultures are, frankly, aspirational claptrap derived by overzealous HR departments: they’re imposed from the outside. An authentic culture comes directly from the team itself, from its attitudes and beliefs. And those attitudes and beliefs can and do change over time.

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New Geonetric Website – Our Turn to Show Off a Bit!

We get to celebrate client website and portal launches all the time – it’s a fantastic milestone as we work together with our clients to build the best in eHealth. The vast majority of our efforts around here goes to our clients, as it should.

But yesterday, we also launched a complete overhaul of our own website, featuring a number of innovative new capabilities and tons of content useful to our industry.

Specifically:

  • The site runs on the latest release of our award-winning VitalSite software – making it incredibly easy for our team to update and manage over time.
  • The new site is a fully responsive design that beautifully adapts to any platform: desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Check it out!
  • We’re committed to discussing and promoting innovation in the eHealth industry, so we’ve provided a plethora of resources, all available for free to our prospects and clients (or competitors)  to learn from, including:

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No Hiding Here: What We Do with Client Satisfaction Feedback

Yesterday I posted the key takeaways from our quarterly client satisfaction survey. Some questions we hear about it is: where does the data go? Who sees it? How do you use it?

It’s an interesting set of questions, because the answers have evolved a lot in the past few years.

It used to be that we’d collect the data and then just a couple of us would pick some action items to be done and distribute them through the organization. This had the advantage of letting us hide anything we didn’t want everyone to know about, or we didn’t want to deal with yet. But now it’s a bit different. We’ve matured a lot as a company, and we’ve been eschewing top-down management methods and empowering teams to solve problems. Sharing the data widely forces us to face candid feedback even if it’s uncomfortable. Therefore, we share the data very widely within the company, and only in a few cases make it anonymous when we feel it must be.

Who Sees it and Takes Action Based on it?

The data from the client satisfaction survey is:

  • Viewed in its entirety, verbatim, by the entire Geonetric leadership team – 12 people and discussed and debated for a couple of hours. We want to make sure that the team charged with guiding Geonetric forward is 100% clear on whether we’re accomplishing our mission to “Wow!” clients. We identify trends and propose possible ways to address shortcomings or pass along kudos to teams doing things right.
  • Client-by-client scores and most client comments are shared with the Account Managers and Project Managers to give them feedback on areas they’re excelling or failing to meet expectations. AMs and PMs tend to have the closest relationships with clients and often can best address issues. In almost every case, the surveys are confirming what the AMs and PMs already know, but the survey helps us stay focused on resolving any outstanding issues, or illuminating exceptional work that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
  • Teams, like our software development team or design team, are given the scores for their respective areas of influence through the company meetings, where we present the aggregate scores in each of 12 categories in front of everyone. Depending on the feedback, they might choose to take action within their realm of control.
  • The monthly company meeting after the survey closes includes a discussion and rank of every client from best-scoring to lowest scoring: everyone knows where every client stands at that point.

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Giving Back: Operation Overnight

Geonetric has been building some of the most advanced websites and digital campaigns in the healthcare industry for over a decade. We’ve done all kinds of neat things for our community, and this year, we made community involvement one of our highest-priority company goals.

But what’s the best way for a bunch of software engineers and strategists and designers and project managers to give back to our community?

We first considered doing something like Habitat for Humanity to build a house for someone in need, but a quick review of the typical construction skillset of our team made it clear that we’re not ready for something like that. Here’s an example of a toothpick-and-marshmallow bridge constructed by one of us* at Bring Your Kid to Work Day, slowly falling over:

No, we should not build a house.

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We’re a Bit Obsessed with Feedback: Client Satisfaction Q2 2012

We’ve been having a great year at Geonetric and we’re making huge strides in a number of areas. One thing we hold constant is our focus on client satisfaction. In fact, though we’ve consistently surveyed clients every quarter for about five years, we recently updated our mission statement to include “To ‘Wow!’ our clients.” So as you can imagine, we don’t just strive for average. Mediocre survey results simply won’t do.

We share the compiled results every quarter with our entire team. We pat each other on the back for successes and talk candidly about opportunities for improvement. We also share the results with our clients – especially in instances where we changed a process or enhanced a feature due to their direct feedback.

We don’t always post the scores publicly. But every once in a while something interesting comes out of the survey that makes me think… this is blog worthy. This is one of those times.

Overall Score

The primary measure we watch is the overall satisfaction score. This quarter’s overall average client satisfaction improved slightly over last quarter, with score of 5.06, up from 5.00 in Q1. This is on a scale of 1.0-6.0, and our goal is to be at 5.0 or better – intentionally a difficult measure to achieve. For example, we need to be getting a bunch of 6.0s – perfect scores – to keep ahead of our 5.0 mark in the event any individual client ranks us less than 5.0.

In short, the Geonetric team has been working exceptionally hard this year to ‘Wow!’ clients, and the scores reflect that, overall, we’re doing very well by our clients.

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