Sometimes It’s Hard to See Change From Up Close

geonetric-cultureFor 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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Geonetric Clients Really Like Us!

When I review the results of our quarterly client satisfaction survey, I feel a lot like Sally Field felt when she won the Oscar® for Best Actress in 1985.

“This time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now you like me!”

There is no denying the fact that our clients like us. And that’s a really great feeling!

To put some numbers behind those emotions (because we’re all about the data!), this quarter’s survey again surpassed our targets for both participation level AND satisfaction ranking.

  • 72% of our clients completed the survey, slightly higher than our 70% goal.
  • Clients ranked us at 5.21 on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest), well above our target of 5.0.

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Rating Healthcare Rating Systems

rating-healthcare

We know patients want to choose providers that deliver the highest quality of care. They tell us so in survey after survey, after all. The trouble is – how do healthcare providers tell them they’re good or, at the very least, better than local competition?

The business of communicating quality is a tough one. There is no one clear definition of what constitutes quality healthcare. I think this surprises many people not involved in the field, but those of us who spend our time here realize the complexities of our discipline.

Every specialty has its own elements of quality. But even within a specialty, there are many different ways organizations measure what quality means to them. The number of cases performed can be important, the training the care team has completed may be a factor, adherence to best of breed practices and protocols may be the key as can be the high tech tools available at the facility.

Add to this that no two patients are alike – arriving with different levels of progression with a disease, differing basic levels of overall health and a range of comorbities, all of which adds layers to the quality picture. With all of this complexity, you begin to see the difficulty in delivering solid quantitative measures of the relative quality of, for example, cardiology programs.

The quality data that’s reported to government agencies is little help here. Truly, most patients would be shocked that one of the key metrics for the quality of a cardiology program is how long it takes for a patient with symptoms of a cardiac event to receive an aspirin!

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Value, Release Frequency and VitalSite CMS

vitalsite 7 cms

A number of years ago we took pride in the fact that we released VitalSite updates every quarter. Not only was it a significant differentiator from other software developers who struggled to deliver even one release a year, but frequent releases just seemed like the right thing to do. Why? Quarterly updates allowed us more opportunities to help our clients manage their top performing hospital websites. And that’s hard to do when you have to wait a year or more to take advantage of new features.

Over the last few years we’ve been resolute in our commitment to frequently delivering software, and the rate at which we release updates has increased manyfold. In fact, we now consider a quarterly release cadence to be slow and often symptomatic of problems on software development teams. Such problems can be the result of:

  1. A software development team that is incapable of responding quickly to changing market needs, or of quickly deploying fixes and updates to clients. This can be because of anything from code quality to management problems. Regardless of the cause, it should be considered a warning sign for many types of software.
  2. A vendor who has decided to withhold valuable changes and updates from their clients until the marketing team decides that they have ‘enough’ new functionality for them to bundle it all in a release and promote it in the market. This approach is common among software vendors who just want to rack up new sales and have little regard for existing clients.

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Clients Still Satisfied? Check.

Client Satisfaction Graph
We did it again! The results of this quarter’s client satisfaction survey (and yes, we do it every three months) shows that our clients continue to value Geonetric as their Web partner. Last quarter, we hit an all-time high overall score of 5.32 on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). This quarter, we maintained that impressive score.

We have a pretty lofty goal for response rate. We need 70% participation, every survey. And you know what? We’ve consistently exceed that goal for more than two years. This time around, 73% of our clients participated in the survey and 92% of those respondents gave us a 5.0 or higher overall score!

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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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Client Advisors Are Here to Save the Day


man and woman dressed as super heros

What is the difference between a project manager and a client advisor?

It’s an interesting question and one we at Geonetric have been answering for some time now. During our company-wide roll out of agile, we refined some of our internal roles, and with that came the transformation of our project managers.

Geonetric’s project managers have always handled more than just timelines and budgets. We are a very hands-on group – we do everything from place content to test new website functionality.

But now, we’ve taken on more of an advisory role. What does that mean for our clients?

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Learning to Build a Better Team


team building with adhesive notes

What do you get when you gather 150 digital project managers together for two days? A well-organized conference that runs on time.

I spent two days in Philadelphia at the inaugural Digital PM Conference produced by the Bureau of Digital Affairs in association with Happy Cog™. This event is being touted as the first of its kind. There are plenty of conferences that include topics relevant to project managers as a side discussion. But to have a conference dedicated to the trials and tribulations of the digital project manager was definitely unique.

The topics covered how to manage projects from a variety of perspectives. The sessions shared ways to keep projects moving, clients happy and teams engaged. I have to say I picked up some really great tips and met a lot of “my people.”

Rachel Gertz presented “Clients Matter; So Put Your Team First.” This topic fits well into the agile culture we work in daily at Geonetric. Clients continue to make requests and our primary goal as project managers is to keep them happy, but sometimes we do this at our internal team’s expense. We are so buried in the weeds that we forget the needs of our team. If we lose our team’s confidences, we’re sunk.

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Voice of the Customer versus Survey Fatigue

Photo of a man holding his hand to his ear.

It’s a well-documented fact that Geonetric surveys our clients every quarter to find out how we’re doing. In fact, we just wrapped up our Q3 survey.

Some might ask why we survey so frequently. Doesn’t that lead to survey fatigue? Aren’t we worried about over-surveying leading to skewed results and lowered response rates?

On the other hand, good businesses have to pay attention to the “Voice of the Customer.” What are their preferences, expectations, and experiences with our company?

So how do we balance these two seemingly conflicted questions?
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Embrace What Makes a Team Better and Ditch What Doesn’t

light-a-match

Change is scary. But what happens when you throw all convention out the window? Like really let loose and do something totally extreme. When you keep doing something over and over that doesn’t work… isn’t that the definition of insanity? So instead of driving yourself crazy, beating your head against the wall doing the same old thing, what’s stopping you from trying something different?

If you follow our blog, you’ve probably heard how we jumped in and implemented agile methodologies throughout our entire organization. Whether you know what that means or not, the bottom line is we knew we could do things better but the constraints of traditional management and organizational structure were preventing us from changing.

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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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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:

  •  We’re continuing our steady growth and we simply need more room. Our new location will be almost twice as large as our current one, and can accommodate projected growth for the next 10 years, at least.
  • We have a creative team. We need access to coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, markets, and beer to fuel all that creativity. New Bohemia is packed with this stuff: everything will be available in a one-block radius of our new location.
  • It’s being built on a former industrial site (it was once a steel plant at 415 12th Ave SE). Our project will convert an empty brownfield lot into a state-of-the-art office facility for several progressive companies.
  • Our current location doesn’t offer the collaboration space we desperately need. Our Agile adoption has put tremendous pressure on our teams to be flexible and communicate better. The new location will have lots of room for us to easily get together and make things happen.
  • The new facility will feature important amenities we don’t have now:
    • Open floor plans for easy pairing (two employees work together on one task)
    • It’s on the major bike path in our area, so employees can bike to work
    • Showers for those who do bike to work
    • A café for serendipitous conversations
    • A room large enough for our all-hands company meetings in which we can sit comfortably as we grow
    • Training lab space for group learning
    • An indoor grill so we can continue our mission-critical provision of meat (or veggie burgers) to our team, even in the winter. Grilling outside in the winter in Iowa is not fun.

In short, the new location will help Geonetric grow and continue to deliver outstanding work for our clients.

When we’re ready, I promise we will throw one heck of an open house party!

What Makes Geonetric a Cool Place to Work?

Geonetric was named one of the Coolest Places to Work this morning by the Corridor Business Journal along with 23 other companies from the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor. Before each company accepted their award, a one-minute video played highlighting the culture of that company. The video below was played before Ben got up to accept the award on behalf of Geonetric.

The video does a great job highlighting was makes Geonetric cool. It could easily have gone longer than one minute. Especially when it listed the part about the employees being what really makes the company rock. Here are some other things that we didn’t have time to include in the video:

Sound like you’d fit right in? Check out our current job openings and browse the site to learn more about us. If you don’t see a job that matches your talents, send us your resume anyways! We’re always looking for bright, dedicated employees.

Schema.org, Structured Content and VitalSite 6.7

The recent announcement from Google underscores the growing importance of structured content on the Web. This is not a new trend, but it’s one that has definitely been gaining more and more momentum recently. I expect this to continue to increase, which is why I’m excited to talk a little about how our upcoming VitalSite 6.7 release will begin supporting schema.org microdata.

Based on the enhancement requests I’ve seen since schema.org was launched by Google, Yahoo! and Bing, I know that a fair number of clients will be excited by this support. If it’s a new concept for you, hang in there: I’m about to give a quick overview describing what it is and why you should care. At the end, I’ll also share some helpful links.
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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.

Client Satisfaction - Overall Score - Q1 2013

Client Satisfaction – Overall Score – Q1 2013

Clients also commented positively on how we’re deeply aligning our work together on the website to their corporate goals. In many cases, we’re helping clients draft eHealth goals in the first place. We also got kudos for our new Responsive Marketing Campaigns that produced amazing results for Crozer-Keystone Health System. And, we got a bunch of comments about the attentiveness and thoroughness of our client advisors that regularly meet with clients and help them manage their projects.

That said, there were some areas for us to work on that clients identified. Two came up in particular:

  • Some clients expressed that they didn’t find our current clients-only GeoLabs as useful as they could be. So we’re going to revamp them this summer.
  • A few clients mentioned that certain types of services take longer than they should. We agree; our no-hierarchy peer-accountable culture initiative is designed to address exactly this problem. We should see an impact from these changes over the next few months.

All in all, getting the highest overall score we’ve ever gotten is a great way to start 2013! We’re excited about the improvements we’re making and the incredible work we’re doing with our clients every day!