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19 Nov

In Arizona an organization is making great strides in re-educating government procurement entities on their options for group purchasing insurance.  In many government settings, standard procurement processes are often used exclusively, without giving proper consideration to other options legally available.  Sometimes these other options can yield great savings and better services and products as well.

Here is a PowerPoint presentation put together recently by Bill Munch of the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) on how group purchasing options should be considered in addition to standard single-entity procurement:

Options in Insurance Buying FINAL 09132012

The Power Point is pretty self-explanatory, but for more information, please feel free to contact Bill Munch, Andrea Billings, or Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.

Bill Munch

Was Your Project “Done Right”? How Do You Know?

15 Nov

Was Your Project “Done Right”? How Do You Know?

Submitted by Esther Schindler

At the beginning of a development project, there’s no way you can know — or recognize — when the project is “done right.” Even if you know a lot about the problem domain.

We all like to think that we understand our users, and that we listen carefully when they explain what they need. Armed with that certainty, we go off to design an application that scratches every itch the users described. And we are annoyed when they announce that, to their own surprise, what the developer delivered wasn’t what the users wanted after all.

That’s not always because your understanding was imperfect, but because few of us humans know the difference between “What I want” and “What I need.” Often this distinction doesn’t occur to us until we’ve made a few bad choices, which is why divorce lawyers earn a pretty good living.

Proponents of Agile methodologies will nod along with the above and mutter, “Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?” (About the need/want issue; I’m not sure about the lawyers.) But I’ve recently bumped into a non-computer example that drove the message home for me.

It’s a case of the busman’s holiday: One of the things I do for fun (or at least to serve the community) is edit the monthly newsletter for a local all-volunteer nonprofit organization. That gives me a certain degree of dispassionate observer status, because every month I see (and correct the grammar in) the club’s board meeting minutes, as well as the newsletter’s other articles. I follow the club’s projects, including its recent plans to move into a new building under a local government sponsorship. (I’m intentionally coy about its identity, here, as I don’t want to embarrass anyone publicly, and the example doesn’t need specifics.)

The guy who volunteered as Project Manager is very much of the old waterfall school. For several months, he’s been proudly demonstrating to the club members how Gantt charts work and what “critical path” means. But I realized that in the past six months, about the only thing that has been produced is pretty charts, meeting reports, and a couple of architectural layouts (the latter generated by another volunteer who clearly has a workable vision for how it might all come together). There are real physical things to be built and installed in the new building, but as far as I can tell, not a single one of them is started.

Meanwhile, the club president, whom I like a lot, has left it up to this Project Manager (I’ll refer to him as “Stan”) because the president (let’s call him “Joseph”) wants to see the new building project “done right.” I admire Joseph’s delegation intent, but I’m beginning to see just how Waterfall projects go south. (Never mind that the situation is exacerbated because this is an all-volunteer organization. I spent many years as a computer user group activist, and learned from raw experience just how much is different when “motivating people” does not involve financial remuneration.) The bottom line is that nobody in this project could recognize whether or not it’s been “done right” until the very end (i.e. when the doors open on the new building), by which time it will be too late.

All of Stan’s energy has been put into organizing “What has to be done.” Very little, as far as I can tell, has been put into identifying the different constituencies who need to be satisfied, and figuring out how to make them happy. The result is that Stan’s plans are cast in concrete when the municipal authority says they require Such-And-So, then the concrete is blasted out when the Building Architects make a change… and nobody has asked, “What will make people actually pay to come into this building to see what we’re displaying?” or “We have a small group of volunteers who joined the organization to indulge in their hobby. How can we make the new building serve their needs?”

I foresee bad times ahead.

I could write at length about what it takes to find out what is needed-and-wanted, and what happens in volunteer organizations when the members’ needs are ignored (in fact, I did, before I deleted a big block of text). But the point I want to make is that a “Project Plan Is God” approach can only serve a bureaucracy. It can serve the end user only by accident. The users (whether it’s the club members or the building architects) become secondary to “compliance with The Plan.”

That wouldn’t be so bad, except that a project being “done right” can only be judged by whether each of those groups-of-users is happy at the end. And since they don’t know what they want (only what they think they want), they need developers (and project managers) to give them frequent opportunities to look at the results and make course corrections. And thenadjust the deliverables in response as necessary, as the players find out what truly is required, by which date, and with what priority.

So to (at length) come back to my original point: even if you know all about the problem domain (that is, you understand the nature of the business problem), both you and the users operate on assumptions. Those assumptions may not hold true for every case, and specifically those assumptions may be inaccurate for this particular project. There is no way that Stan can predict every problem the club will encounter, the more so because of the battling agendas of all the parties involved. But by putting all his emphasis on “creating a plan,” he loses sight of the purpose of a plan: to make sure that the project goals are met. With no allowance for the inevitable changes, either Stan will spend all his time updating his project management software, or the Plan will soon have no relationship to the actual project status.

This particular nonprofit isn’t my problem, really. But I hate to see well-meaning people set themselves up for failure. And right now, that’s all I can predict.

CRM Needs Assessment for Projects Done Right

13 Nov

CRM Projects Done Right Mean Business Process Changes

Like most enterprise applications, CRM systems mean tighter business processes. Unlike most enterprise apps, however, CRM users typically aren’t ready this for this. Here’s a look at what needs to be fixed before you should really start a CRM project.

By David Taber
Thu, September 13, 2012

CIO — Think about an accounting, ERP or even HR application. Making them work means some using pretty tight business rules and user practices. Most of the time, users have been fully indoctrinated by their professions and have no problem adopting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) or the more flexible ERP II.

Now think about the typical outbound marketing person or sales rep. There’s professionalism, yes, but there’s also a deeply held belief that what they do is a sort of artistry based on unique personal skills. The amount of CRM-oriented processes baked into most sales and marketing departments could fit in a couple of tea cups.

Commentary: Before You Invest in CRM Software, Assess Your Needs

I’m not just being snarky here. That’s coming from a 20-year veteran of the revenue generation business process. The shallowness and incoherence of marketing and sales processes is a major impediment to the effectiveness of CRM efforts and the adoption of the systems by users.

The bottom line is this: Successful CRM projects depend on the refinement and deepening of the relevant business processes. That can make CRM projects a taller order.


5 Business Process Issues Associated With CRM Projects


In the early stages of any significant CRM effort, you need to look for symptoms of business process disconnects and incentive misalignments across various parts of sales and marketing. Unifying and automating non-integrated business processes will only expose or exaggerate contradictions.

The place to look for these disconnects is in job descriptions, territory maps, sales channel rules of engagement, marketing programs, lead nurturing campaigns and other PowerPoint, Visio and Word documents. Here are five major problem areas.

Unclear or undifferentiated processes. Do the job descriptions in marketing (particularly the outbound side) and sales (particularly field marketing and pre-sales) reflect highly differentiated process roles, or are the responsibilities only vaguely stated? You want to see unique ownership of goals that can be independently achieved. You’re looking for specific descriptions of cogs in a machine, not vague statements about teamwork.

Pay close attention to service level agreements, especially those that involve the following parties:

  • Lead generation and lead cultivation
  • Lead cultivation and inside sales
  • Inside sales and the field
  • Channel managers and sales partners

Commentary: CRM and Sales: If it’s Broke, Fix It

Make sure each SLA includes explicit quality criteria, deadlines and rejection rules. Here’s a good example: “If Sales does not explicitly act on a new Opportunity within four business days, the Opportunity is reassigned.” In addition, develop a waterfall model that indicates each major phases of lead and deal maturation, with approximate times and conversion ratios for each major step.

Incentives Make sure the answers to the following questions are not “Well, it depends…”

  • Are marketing bonuses based on a balance of brand, reputation and loyalty as well as pipeline creation?
  • Are sales compensation plans pushing people in coherent directions across all parts of the sales organization?
  • Are quotas and compensation plans excessively individualized in different parts of the sales team?
  • In commission plans, does $1 really equal $1? Do direct reps get commission on channel sales in their territory?

Metrics Metrics for key success factors should be clearly identified and enforced. You don’t want metrics that are almost incidental—for example, “the sales rep will make at least 10 cold calls per week.”

In addition, metrics should evaluating things that an individual can actually control. One classic mis-metric is to hold outbound marketing responsible for revenue. (Instead, measure “number of sales-accepted leads” or “overall pipeline volume.”) Another is to hold the sales rep responsible for customer satisfaction when he has nothing to do with product quality or service responsiveness. (Instead, measure “customer complaints about sales” or “number of misconfigured orders.”)

Commentary: 5 Reasons Social CRM Is the High Ground for Revenue Production

Finally, ask if metrics are enforced by business rules with deadlines or approval cycles. For example, are qualified leads that have gone stale supposed to be returned to marketing? Are deals that haven’t moved in 60 days eligible to be closed or pulled back from the channel partner?

Terminology Start with a clear description, or even an indoctrination document, for what sales objects such as Lead, Contact, Account and Opportunity mean to the marketing and sales process. Get people to stop saying “We convert leads into opportunities”—and take double points off your score if you can’t explain the misconception baked into those words.

From there, look at every record type and status value for these sales objects. You need qualification and entry/exit conditions that make two things clear—one, that all leads, contacts, accounts and opportunities would in fact fit into the scheme, and two, that at least 80 percent of leads, contacts, accounts and opportunities would fit into exactly one record type or status value at any one point in time.

Commentary: Email-to-CRM Contact Connection Easier Said Than Done

Finally, for the status fields (leads, contacts and accounts) and the stage field (opportunities), make sure, again, that there is clear definition of what the status value means, as well as a set of unambiguous entry/exit criteria.

Channel conflict There are several key questions you must answer here.

  • Do outside sales reps view the ecommerce system and the inside reps as diverting their commission dollars?
  • Do your reps view distributors and resellers as competition?
  • Are customer renewals handled by an organization that doesn’t report into sales?
  • Does marketing treat your channel partners as an extension of the sales force?


Moving CRM Projects From Mere Magic to Machinery

Classic B2B sales and marketing came to full flower long before the advent of CRM. This lead to huge, sometimes miraculous, wins accompanied by big cost structures and unreliable sales forecasts. Even today, sales and marketing budgets are the single largest cost area of many firms.

The goal of CRM projects is to lower the cost and improve the reliability of the revenue engine so it’s always firing on all cylinders. Achieving that means moving beyond not-very-systematic thinking and adding models, metrics and machinery across the sales and marketing team. Like your car’s engine, the revenue engine needs to be carefully and coherently tuned in order to deliver its maximum output.

David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, “ Secrets of Success” and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel and India. Taber has more than 25 years of experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.

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Valley Schools Holds 5th Annual Conference

26 Oct

Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) is a group purchasing cooperative organization that saves its members millions per year in insurance, workers’ compensation and employee benefits costs.  It was created in 1987 and has expanded into all three areas over time.  This is the fifth consecutive year that the VSMG, run by Tom Boone, has held an annual conference to inform its members on the latest in insurance, workers’ compensation and employee benefits laws, regulations and opportunities for savings.  VSMG is truly a model for transparency and keeping their membership informed and up to date on all issues.

This year, Andrea Billings, Administrator for the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) was one of the speakers, discussing the latest in health care and other benefits for tens of thousands of members in the VSEBT.

Rebecca McGonigle of VSEBT, Dr. Steven Masley, and Andrea Billings of VSEBT

In the past, the conference has featured guest speakers including Congressman John Shadegg, Dr. Andrew Weil the wellness guru, and Dr. Nick Yphantides, author of My Big Fat Greek Diet.  This year the featured speaker was Dr. Steven Masley, author of Ten Years Younger.


Have you wondered, How Old Are You, Really?  You know what’s written on your birth certificate, but as you’re aware your chronological age may not match your biological age.  you are invited to hear a presentation by Steven Masley, M.D., a physician whose work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Today Show, and over 200 media interviews. His program, Ten Years Younger is scientifically proven to work, with results published in multiple peer reviewed medical journals.

The Ten Years Younger Program is designed to combat the roots of accelerated aging. Poor nutrition, toxins in the environment, stress, and exposure to free radicals all make us old before our time, along with a little-known aging culprit: low- and no-carb diets.

“Dr. Masley shows us how we can take control of the aging process. Follow this simple ten-week plan, and you’ll find yourself getting younger, day by day.”
– Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Steven Masley, M.D. is a board and fellow certified family physician and nutritionist, author, speaker, and award-winning patient educator. His research focuses on the impact of lifestyle choices on aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitive function, menopause, and weight control. His passion is empowering people to achieve optimal health through comprehensive medical assessments and lifestyle changes.

Senior staff from the Paradise Valley Unified School District study the presentations.

Attendees went through a grueling time of back-to-back presentations, but once again very much appreciated the in depth information.  More organizations need to bring in their senior clients and membership to keep them informed and inspired like the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) does regularly.

Left to right, Tom Boone, Tim O’Brien, Skip Brown, Jim Migliorino and Ted Carpenter

Tom Boone, Chairman and CEO of VSMG, Opens up the Conference



Arizona NIGP Adopts Cooperative Contract Criteria

22 Oct

Arizona NIGP Adopts Cooperative Contract Criteria

They have now received national recognition for this new way of evaluating cooperative purchasing in government settings.

reposted from:

National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP)

New Form Justifies Use of Cooperative Contract

The Arizona Capitol Chapter of NIGP recently adopted a new form to help school districts, cities, towns, counties and other municipalities justify the use of a particular cooperative contract. The Justification for Utilizing a Cooperative Contract was reviewed by the Cooperative Committee of the Arizona Capitol Chapter of NIGP with the input from a host of public procurement professionals across the State. The intent is that the document be used as a template starting point and edited as appropriate by the agency. This form can supplement due diligence documentation to further document the reasons for using a cooperative contract versus going out to bid independently.

The following questions and issues are addressed in the template document:

  1. Is there a Cooperative Purchase Agreement allowing use of the contract?
  2. Was the procurement done by a Public Procurement Unit?
  3. Do the terms, conditions and scope of work/specifications meet the need?
  4. If no, are the terms, conditions and scope of work/specifications negotiable?
  5. Does the cooperative contract provide the most advantageous solution? Why?
  6. Is the contract in effect and in force for all proposed purchases?
  7. Will any and all purchases comply with the terms and prices in the contract?
  8. Will volume pricing advantages be applied to purchases?
  9. Are there any fees associated with use of the contract? Are they reasonable and justified?
  10. Were local and regional vendors offered the opportunity to compete for the contracts?
  11. Did the cooperative or lead agency have the expertise, reputation and history of quality contracting for the good or service being procured?
  12. Was past experience with the cooperative or lead agency acceptable?
  13. Is it a unique purchase that is better serviced under another contract?
  14. Is the item urgently needed?
  15. What is the age of the contract? How many years is it into its contract term?

For your reference, attached is the template form, “Justification for Utilizing a Cooperative Contract.”

For more information about the form and its creation, contact:

Michelle Hamilton is the Director of Purchasing for Mesa Public Schools, serves on the AASBO Executive Board and may be reached by email at

Bill Munch is the Executive Director of Procurement Compliance, Outreach and Education with Valley Schools Management Group and may be reached by email at

Left to Right – Matt Donaghue, Brenda Carlson, of First Investors, Bill Munch of the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) and Dennis Snoozy with First Investors.

Special thanks to the Arizona Capitol Chapter of NIGP for sharing this resource with all NIGP members!

Source: Strategic Sourceror, Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Successful Project Examples

19 Oct

Successful Project Examples

This panel featured two successful projects in Oregon, one a retro-fit project and one a new construction project.  The Enterprise School is replacing a heating oil boiler to a biomass boiler that will utilize waste from a community wood products manufacturing facility.  The Harney County District Hospital installed a wood pellet boiler in the design of their new facility.

Download the presentations from the workshop to learn more about each project!


Biomass Boiler and Silo - Harney Co.

Biomass Boiler and Silo – Harney County, OregonThe Enterprise School Project 

Video Coming Soon!

Funding Renewable Projects Through Existing Budgets

Cam Hamilton – The McKinstry Group

Also check out theEnterprise Project Fact Page!


Harney County District Hospital Project

Wood Pellet Boiler Heating System

Jim Bishop – CEO

Also check out the Harney County Hospital Project Fact Page!


NASA Open Innovation Projects

14 Oct

Open Innovation Projects

NASA Challenges Through Open Innovation

this signifies a fact sheet with 'transparency.'
transparency |
this signifies a fact sheet with 'participation.'
participation |
This signifies a fact sheet with 'collaboration'.

The NASA Open Innovation projects develop challenges that seek innovative solutions to research and technology problems that impact human health and performance in short and long duration human spaceflight. The challenges are offered through organizations (InnoCentive and that offer challenges to a national and international community of potential solvers. A third pilot project was established with TopCoder and Harvard Business School to evaluate an open source code competition. These are pilot projects to determine the effectiveness of open innovation in solving NASA research and technology problems.


NASA Innovation Pavilion on InnoCentive index?pavilionName=NASA

NASA Logo and Open Innovation Text
NASA partnered with InnoCentive, Inc. to provide the public with the opportunity to solve difficult problems facing the U.S. space program in human health and performance. Solutions to the challenges on the NASA Innovation Pavilion will not only benefit space exploration, but may also further the development of commercial products and services in other industries. The first three challenges posted for one of the pilot projects have attracted more than 1,100 potential solvers across 64 countries. These challenges are currently undergoing evaluation for possible winning solutions. As an example, the challenge for a compact exercise device drew over 100 submissions that are undergoing evaluation.


The NASA Space Life Sciences developed a strategy in 2007 to pursue external alliances to establish a balanced portfolio of research and technology solutions for human health and performance during human space flight. We sought expertise from academia in mapping research and technology needs or gaps to the best possible collaborative strategy. One strategy that clearly emerged was the use of open innovation service providers to seek solutions to challenges external to NASA.

Open innovation was defined by Henry Chesbrough, a professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at UC Berkeley, as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.” This open innovation strategy requires NASA to refine problems in the research and technology portfolio into challenge statements that can be addressed by a wide variety of disciplines and technical expertise external to NASA. In this way, NASA seeks to obtain innovative technology, research, service, and software code solutions through the extended community. Each pilot project has a different means of seeking and rewarding winning solutions.

We have created the NASA Innovation Pavilion on the InnoCentive open innovation platform, which, to date, has had four challenges (three from Johnson Space Center and one from Langley Research Center). In 2009, we developed an open source competition on the TopCoder community resulting in the writing of 3,500 lines of code and drew more than 1,800 entrants for the posted NASA challenge. These results are currently undergoing evaluation.

Later in 2010, we will have completed the pilot projects and will have recommendations for the further use of open innovation challenges to solve research and technology problems for NASA. These recommendations will evaluate the yield of solutions obtained versus the costs of using these open innovation tools (costs may include the actual service cost, time for personnel to be engaged in the process, training time, etc). These recommendations could then include useful metrics for the further use and evaluation of these tools. Potential solutions are provided to the government through open innovation service providers using a variety of business models, but all cost much less than traditional methods of seeking research and technology solutions. A second value to this approach is the rapid development, posting and solution time of weeks for finding potential solutions, instead of months or years required using more traditional means.

How This Fits into Open Government

In order to use open innovation pilot projects, NASA must be transparent in articulating a current challenge for human spaceflight and other challenges facing NASA. These models are inherently participatory as large and diverse communities of solvers around the world may pose a potential solution to a challenge. Depending on the type of pilot project, solvers may collaborate on a solution or establish a partnership with NASA to develop the proposed deliverable. These pilot projects greatly diversify the number of potential external collaborators for NASA.

Open Government Goals

  • Three Months
    • Identify second round of challenges for two of the pilot projects and lessons learned developed from the first round.
      v1.5 Status Update: The first round of challenges has completed. The second round have been identified and posted on the NASA InnoCentive Pavilion.
  • Six Months
    • Execute additional challenges both internal to NASA and externally based on the results of the first pilot projects.
      v1.5 Status Update: The first round of challenges has completed. The second round have been identified and posted on the NASA InnoCentive Pavillion.
  • One Year
    • Develop a contract mechanism to permit open innovation models to be used by all NASA centers across a wide variety of challenges and disciplines.
    • Develop a “how to” guide for the future use of open innovation models within government.
  • Two Years
    • Establish open innovation services as a mechanism for problem solving within NASA.
    • Develop a “system of innovation” that will determine the best application of existing and new tools to solving NASA problems. This system could be captured in contracts, processes, or policy in the future.
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