How Nintex has Boosted Our Productivity

Understanding a return on investment can drive excitement through the organization about recent purchases, trainings, etc. Throughout my everyday work I don’t take much time to think about Nintex’s overall value to our organization, I just love working on the product and building. As an organization we have benefitted quite well from deploying the O365 Suite.

I sat down and busted out some numbers to give you an idea of what you can gain – in terms of the numbers.

To give you an idea of our organization:
– Approximately 400 employees – currently 85 are heavy Nintex automation users.
– 14 Departments – including Health Clinic, Court, Police, and Education.
– 5,500 citizens are serviced by the government to some capacity

To give you an idea of our SharePoint O365 Environment:
– Publishing Sites are all interconnected – all employees have capacity to some sort of information about each department
– All departments are provided with a team site to keep department centric content.
– All boards, committees, councils, and commissions have access to team workspaces in SharePoint
– Special project management groups utilize SharePoint
– Full automation has only been provided to 1 council

To give you an idea about our Nintex deployment:
– 25 Workflows and Forms
– 1/2 of these are complex processes – meaning multiple process brought together via site workflows.

To give you an idea of our current employee feelings on automation:
– Human Resources, Education, and Finance has been a large champions of the digital transformation.
– Current backlog of processes in need of automation is approximately 6 months out.
Here’s a numerical break down of our current processes:

Savings Per Request YTD
# of Requests Per Month 200
Cost per Request – for manual processing – average set based on time, cost of paper, and manual storage. $75.00
Total Cost Per Month $15,000.00
Total Annual Costs $180,000.00
Annual Savings – Reduction of employee time by 60% per transaction $135,000.00
Initial Nintex Investment $26,514.90
ROI on Requests 409.16%
Process Cost Savings YTD
# of Requests a Month 200
Average Minutes per Request 30
Total Minutes/Month 6000
Total Hours/Month 100
Average Labor Cost/Hour: For person(s) processing requests $25.00
Total Labor Cost/Month $2,500.00
Annual Labor Costs $30,000.00
Annual Savings $22,500
 
Productivity Gains YTD
Avg. Hourly Wage $35.00
Min. Productivity Gain(%): Estimate of time saved per employee through process automation. 5
Productivity Gain/Hour $1.75
Estimated Hours/Week 40
Productivity Gain/Week $70
Estimated Work Weeks/year 45
Productivity Gain/Year $3150
# of Employees Utilizing Currently 85
Total Productivity Gain/Year $267,750.00
FTE Saved YTD on 85 employees^ 4.4625
^ We are a nonprofit organization so our goal is give our employees more time to advocate for citizens. The savings of 4 FTE currently relates to departmental directors and mission critical employees having more time to coach front line employees on duties.
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Quick Wins in My Project

My project team and I have been charged with bringing the rest of our organization into the SharePoint/O365 realm by the end of the year. Working with ten departments and plenty of different personalities. Getting to know individuals has lent us opportunities to make decisions on how we want to hand off solutions to stakeholders.

One method I had stumbled upon is handing off one solution at a time. After providing a light proof of concept to a department, they became so excited they asked if they could begin using it at that instance. Luckily, I had created it on their own site, with permissions locked down, so it was just a matter of granting the team access.  They took to the solution like a fish to water, no training, no questions… just hit the ground running.

After spending some time thinking about it, I remembered why the solution was such a hit. The department spends a large amount of time downloading, faxing, and emailing documents to various other stakeholders. They were so ecstatic to be placing this information in one place and giving alerts to the departments that needed it! Who needs that old fax machine anyways… it’s 2015.

The beauty in this method is that we have saved time and funding on training. I’m seeing end users willing to take this one small nugget and run with it while I continue to work in the background on other useful solutions for them. The department’s realization of value is growing, seeing the “what’s in it for me” early on has helped our project team earn trust and goodwill with this stakeholder. That is my success story of the week!

Train Before You Buy, Why More Automation Platforms Should Offer Training

After spending the past week working through the intricacies of training on Nintex it is evident that more automation platforms need to take the time to train potential buyers. While offering a demo is a great way to get organizations introduced, it doesn’t give much overall value of understanding the nuances that each of the products carries.


Automation Platforms, much like SharePoint, are cumbersome to introduce most individuals to use. Many organizations have the hope of introducing these solutions as a way for departments to automate issues on their own, rather than bringing in the information technology or the enterprise systems departments. I beg to differ in this logic for a small organization. Many of the line of business employees, we encounter in small (500 employees or less) may not have an interest in learning Boolean logic or what a list query means. These skills ultimately need to be realized by the information technology/enterprise system departments. By starting with I.T. departments taking a look at platform based solutions the organization can make a call based on what I.T. can support rather than relying on consulting and solutions tech support to be the main contributing backbone.

Consulting is a great avenue to bring a new set of eyes in for a project that may be stalled out, needing more developer/programmer power, or a project that required an outside unbiased opinion. Yet, for smaller organizations it should not be the main structure supporting all the vital organs or building out a project. After evaluating Nintex at TekDog, I am comfortable the organization’s decision either way to acquire this platform or not. Empowerment leads towards an eventual goal of the self-sustaining I.T. Department.

As we move towards the online training facility age, I will still stand behind good brick and mortar classes. As adults, we loose an aspects of new friendship, uncertainty, and excitement that the first day of school provided everyone with. When attending brick and mortar training we, as adults, gain a tiny bit of that wonderment back. Those feelings aren’t all bad, since we have a tendency of being more engaged than just sitting in front of a monitor blankly staring. You sit with your coworkers 5 days a week… go out in the world and attend a class. Make a buddy that may either already own the product you’re training on, or looking to purchase. Turn those people into your support network… I met a couple great programmers this past week.. that I’m sure I may want to email and ask how the heck do I write some logical conditional statement or something of that nature.

If automation platforms took a step back and became less concerned with closing deals on the front end, I think we’d begin to see a trend of empowered purchasing for these sizable investments. If these companies took a few moments to look at how they can better excite potential buyers, it’s not conferences.

  • Conferences are merely a tease. They show you it’s easy, it works… Look this guy that sets up the same horse and pony workflow can do it in a matter of two minutes… I hope many of you aren’t wow’ed by this, if you are sorry… you’re a sucker.
  • Video classes are great, I love having on demand content. But it doesn’t force me to concentrate, I don’t have to absolutely use my mind… Yeah, I am kinda a rouge internet wanderer. If I’m not completely engaged, I’ll leave you and your online content. For all sorts of reasons color scheme, speakers voice, pace of content… This list could go on for days.
  • Online classes are great too, your all working in a virtual class room together with a live instructor. You get to ask questions then and there, but it’s lacking something. People don’t interact the same online as they do in person, I can read classmate/instructor body language… this drives me insane for some reason. I want to see people talking as if I don’t know them, possibly ask them questions about their jobs, compare my idea against theirs… These are all things that online just doesn’t facilitate well.

If you’re thinking about purchasing an automation platform or really any type of software/SaaS products go to a live class. Build something with it. Ask people who were already users… and not just the reference list the vendor will give you. Go out and scour LinkedIn to see if there are people using the products, message them, people always have opinions… doesn’t make them right or wrong. Generally speaking get your hands dirty with the product and see if you can live with supporting it.

I’d like to thank TekDog for the great week. Driving back to Michigan gave me time to reflect and think about issues with product sales and the approach currently taken. Coming in not knowing a single thing about Nintex products and walking away excited to dig in deeper was a great experience that conference and virtual training just can’t hit at 100%.

TEKDOG University Nintex Training

TEKDOG is a passionate little company based out of Columbus, Ohio. The newly renovated facility dons a great modern décor, giant televisions to see step-by-step instruction, and new desktops to work along on. Not to mention the pet friendly atmosphere, it’s nice to have dog interaction while being away from home.  I have had the pleasure of spending the past two days learning Nintex Forms with a great group of Ohioans.

TekDog Classroom - courtesy of www.TekDoginc.com

TekDog Classroom – courtesy of http://www.TekDoginc.com

Jason Keller, a die hard food lover, takes the time necessary to insure all students are on point with learning. I have felt comfortable navigating, creating, and automating various business use cases within Nintex and SharePoint. These are features that I have not been able to find from product sponsored courses in many instances… Either the instructor is dull or I get stuck watching some ancient slide deck, which who learns from either of those situations. Being able to realize the ROI during a class has been  a much different perspective, learning how software works prior to even considering a purchase grants an architect the ability to look at this from their everyday perspective and evaluate which functions would be easy for end users to adapt to.  Attending a class to evaluate a piece of software is a much better investment, even if it’s not purchased, than having buyers remorse at a later date.

TEKDOG University - courtesy of www.tekdoginc.com

TEKDOG University – courtesy of http://www.tekdoginc.com

With user adoption of SharePoint being a constant issue within every organization I see the value of investing into well prepared training materials.  It makes all the difference to have reusable reliable content with baked-in best practice.

Spending time at TEKDOG isn’t like setting at a classroom. It’s spending time getting to know other individuals who are passionate about SharePoint and SharePoint products. While working out in the field it isn’t an everyday opportunity we are granted. Sharing solution ideas, pains, and workaround has been a really great experience over the past two days, it has made me realize there are certain aspects of my organization that I absolutely love… and that is a good perspective to gain.

It will be exciting spending the rest of the week with Jason, Kerry, and the rest of the awesome TEKDOG staff. The verdict may still be out on if we want to introduce Nintex to our environment. But, I will say though that the verdict is in on TEKDOG – they rock.

Setting up Team Sites and Publishing Sites.

When I’m approached and asked to just “spin up a site” I stop and ask my end users a few questions. Many users may find themselves confused about what they are looking for. I find it difficult to also shut down someone’s enthusiasm to use SharePoint.  It takes some time to work through your end users wishes. I’ll include in my post these questions I like to ask, which I will follow with my rational for asking.


What do you envision on your new site?
Starting out with this question is going to quickly knock off people actually looking for a library. If they respond with “See we’ve noticed that we have X items, and they no longer fit in Y library.” They need a new library. If people are finding there area such as OneDrive or a library becoming cluttered with similar documents… they probably need a library.
Now when your approached with a rational… If they respond with “Well have decided that our three programs have become very large, and we’d like to see them in specialized areas so they can have calendars, contact lists, and placed to put X,Y,Z documents so it is organized to meet ABC organization’s reporting needs.”  You may need to investigate this need even deeper. A new sub site could be in their future depending on planning.

How do you see permissions on your new site? Who needs access to this information?
Understanding the rational behind permission an individual is looking to find may be a great way to direct them to look at one drive. If someone starts talking about “Well, I share this document with Joe, and only Joe needs it.”  This may be a great bridge to asking “Is this document important to the organization as a whole, if you and Joe were no longer with us?”
Depending on how the answer this second question… it could be this item is just something Joe and this person works on to add (copy/paste) to another report. At this point I’d advise Joe and company to consider keeping this one off on the One Drive for Business.  Now, if his answer is different and he starts explain the use, and who receives it, and who accomplishes what with this information we may need to look into a document library or a workflow possibility.

After receiving this bit of information I ask the requestor to grant me the time to assess the needs to see if we are looking at a bigger information architecture or business process issue. This time could include taking the liberty to ask other departments about their current interaction with this information. Taking time to investigate needs will lead towards a better information architecture.

Site Master Page Settings – A quick change to keep your sub-sites following your prescribe theme

Keeping your sub-sites congruent to the prescribed theme is an important way for your end users to keep track of where they at. Aesthetically, end users will begin to associate certain colors and themes with the work area they are visiting.

This change is easy to accomplish and can be done in a matter of a few clicks.


 1. Browse to site your wishing to edit.

2. Copy and paste the following: _layouts/15/ChangeSiteMasterPage.aspx” to the end of your SharePoint Page.
So your page should look something like this “https://yourcompany.sharepoint.com/testsite/
_layouts/15/ChangeSiteMasterPage.aspx

3. You’ll want to inherit from the parent page.

The following is an example of how you’ll inherit from the parent site page. It’s as easy as selecting the following three options.

Screenshot of how to complete this task.

Screenshot of how to complete this task.

Inheriting the theme is important to remember, otherwise your site will inherit the feature but will not have the same stylistic feel as the site your inheriting from.

4. Click “OK”
Your changes may take a few seconds to load. Your new page should have that same look and feel as your parent site.

Planning for next year’s project? Listen to your end users.

It’s that time of the year again, strategic planning.

Personally, I enjoy this time of the year. The organization as a whole gets to join together and talk through goals, needs, and pain points. Hopefully this isn’t the moment when you are beginning to gather your project ideas. If it is, that’s okay just get caught up, you don’t want your budget needs to be overlooked. In this article I’m going to outline some tips for picking up on your end users needs throughout the year, and during your strategic planning as well.


Spend Time In Various Departments

I am guilty just as much as the next person. It’s human nature to be attracted to departments that make you laugh, has great discussions, or just provides the most snacks. Other departments may be the quiet few that slip from your radar, these departments still have great input into your enterprise system development.

Grant yourself time every quarter to make house-calls. Larger organization may have many branches or buildings, go visit your colleagues. This time doesn’t need to be spent on technology projects, but just a visit. There is no need to for you to schedule a meeting, or find a room. Just stop into their space, watch how they are working, and ask questions. Here’s a couple great questions to get the conversation going?

  • How do you like working in your team site?
  • Is there anything your having trouble finding?
  • Is there any information you’d like to see added?
    • Leave this one open ended.. it could be metadata, libraries, custom lists, who knows…

Attend outside of work organization functions

Networking with your colleagues and peers outside of work is a great opportunity for them to begin opening up to you about their dreams of an ideal workplace. I’m not saying go out and become friends with your entire organization, but make an effort to step out of the office to do networking during off hours. Individuals that may be afraid of voicing opinions around management staff could lend great ideas to an organizational wide project. Remember, knowledge workers that are on the front line are going to use SharePoint much more than senior level staff.

My job is boring…”

Hopefully you don’t think your job is boring! End users have a tendency of down talking what it is they do on a daily basis. End users that are either afraid of change or hating talking will tell you “My job is boring…” or “I don’t really do anything that important…” peers like these will typically be your technology fence sitters. Getting to know these end users better may produce large quantities of processes that are currently inefficient, making their lives easier may free them up to learn other job roles that they may not consider to be so booorrring.

End Users may throw the line out that their job is boring, or that they don't do anything important..

End Users may throw the line out that their job is boring, or that they don’t do anything important..

Planning season should be fun, entertain others ideas because you never know where your next innovative solution to human issues may come from. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, I’d love to hear about it! Till next time… Happy SharePointing!

Two Words: Requirements. Gathering.

Want to clear a room out fast?
Mention free pizza.

Want to clear a room out fast, and not have a single person come back?
Mention requirements gathering.

This trend is ongoing and it really doesn’t matter what field of work you find yourself in. Requirements gathering is the necessary evil that exists for Business Analysts, SharePoint Architects, and end users alike. We all go into the room unaware of how a meeting will turn out, just like the first day of school.

Taking the bully approach of “give me everything you know about your job” has a tendency to leave end users not engaged, and at times… well bullied. Not everyone in the room is brave enough to share their ideas.

Here’s a few tricks that I’ve been using the past couple weeks to help facilitate productive meetings that have end users feeling engaged, heard, and appreciated for all the work they contribute to our organization and this project:

  • Keep Meeting Invites to a Minimum – A personal number that I shoot for is 10 people or less included in meetings. Naturally, people will feel more obligated to participate in the main conversation if there is a smaller group. The more people you bring in the chances of people starting side conversations or completing work in the meeting will go up dramatically. Utilizing smaller groups actually helps you, as a facilitator, better direct the attention of the room as well as keep a running tab of who your largest/smallest contributors are.
  • Get to Know Everyone in the Room – Working at a small organization is a wonderful opportunity. We get to share in the exciting news of our coworkers, see our peers grow in their jobs, and participate in employee gatherings where we know everyone’s name. It is still important have introductions at meetings, people want to share something about themselves. I like to change up my introduction slide whenever I’m getting ready to start a new project, conduct a training, or am working with external groups. Using fun questions give people an opportunity to share about themselves and learn more about their peers. This also give you, the facilitator, an opportunity to take notes on individuals you work with you may not see everyday, so later you can continue to build trust by remembering what is important to your peers.  On an intro slide ask people to provide the following:
    • Name
    • Quick Description of Position w/in Organization
    • Silly Question: What is your favorite vacation spot? What is something that should be on your resume but isn’t? Who’s your superhero/band/musician? If you could be an animal which one would you be and why?
  • Gamification –  Sitting for two hours straight can be a huge drag on end users. Especially to your introvert users, for some talking can be a huge undertaking. There are several companies out there providing valuable insight into how people want to share information. I’ve personally become interested in Innovation Games. After playing a few of these games with my end users I’ve found myself with more information than I have time to process. Turn your requirements gathering into a game of writing down what is important to end users. During a session we had sticky notes flying and staff having fun working together through how they do their jobs.

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

  • Assign a Scribe – When facilitating it is essential to have someone recording the meeting. Taking notes on body language, who said what, and all those little nuances that are happening around the room, who’s on their phone, drawing, working, or almost sleeping! Always make sure your scribe is someone you know has the ability to take detailed notes. Those notes will play a key role when it’s time to begin writing implementation plans.
  • Follow-up Emails –  Let end users, stakeholders, and anyone else you’ve schedule your meetings with know that your appreciate their time and input in your project. As mentioned earlier people want to know that you appreciate their support. Sending a quick email is a reminder that you are looking to build a working relationship on the foundation of trust. Becoming a strong contact point for your platform and department will lend others to reach out for help in the future for development as well as end user adoption since they know you are there to help out.

Remember, when your out working with end users have fun and try to keep the tech talk to a minimum. End users are not going to be excited hearing about libraries, custom lists, and the term store.  Nerding out is best done with your Information Technology department.

 

Please let me know what you’d like to see next, I’m open to topic suggestions.