May 2, 2022

Microsoft Center of Excellence Starter Kit for Power Platform

DeveloperTown believes that the best decisions are made when informed with knowledge and transparency. The Microsoft Center of Excellence Starter Kit for Power Platforms brings both to the surface in a way that would manually not be capable. This centralized solution shines a light on all the efforts of developers and citizen developers across all of the environments of the Microsoft tenant.

Why?
Gaining insight and understanding of what exists today while tracking and governing the new builds

going forward.

The Center of Excellence Starter Kit package is an in depth way to jumpstart your understanding and transparency of how the Power Platform is used throughout your organization.

What?
At its core, CoE Starter Kit is a package of governance tools and metrics. This is a way to foster use and understanding of Power Platform. This centralized, and very thorough package, affords IT and Business leadership the ability to come together and have a full view into the efforts made by everyone in the organization from citizen developers to traditional IT developers.

The Microsoft Power Platform CoE Starter Kit is a collection of components and tools that are designed to help you get started with developing a strategy for adopting and supporting Microsoft Power Platform, with a focus on Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents and SharePoint.

Core. Governance. Nurture. Innovation Backlog.

Who?
A Center of Excellence (CoE) in an organization drives innovation and improvement and brings together like-minded people with similar business goals to share knowledge and success, while at the same time providing standards, consistency, and governance to the organization.

The Power Platform CoE Starter Kit is typically managed and utilized by IT as a starting point for conversation and decision making.

When?
Establishing a Center of Excellence of any kind takes time and attention. Starting early with the Power Platform CoE Starter Kit allows for the necessary stakeholders to better understand what to focus on now.

Where?
Starter Kit utilizes a set of solutions which will be installed to the Power Platform creating dozens of CoE Power Apps and Power BI reports. These dashboards surface all of the different aspects of the organization’s Power Platform journey.

How?
Monitor. Govern. Nurture.

These staples of the Starter Kit are designed to be the easiest and most robust way to get a full view of your environments and what is inside them. Several of the top features to accomplish this include:

  • Environment and environment security management
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) policy management
  • Data integration and gateway management
  • Admin analytics (to view capacity and activity on Microsoft Dataverse, Power Apps, and Power Automate)

April 4, 2022

Replace InfoPath with Microsoft Power Platform

Is your organization still relying on InfoPath to intake business data? If so, here are some important things to note:

  1. Microsoft InfoPath Announcement 2014 – Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms
  2. InfoPath is deprecated as of July 2021 – Products Ending Support in 2021
  3. SharePoint Server 2019 Deprecated Features – SharePoint Server 2019 What's New
  4. Only limited support for product through 2026 – MS Lifecycle Policy, InfoPath 2013

So, InfoPath is going away, is it really worth the time and effort to replace them? 

Absolutely! While this may seem like an overwhelming, daunting task, there are HUGE benefits to properly coordinating the replacements of your InfoPath. Let’s look at some of the key benefits:

  • Streamline and modernize older processes
  • Incorporate automation
  • Build in opportunities to leverage your data in a more meaningful way

Ok, so you have loads of InfoPath you need to replace, but where do you start?

Unsure how to start? Consider leveraging Microsoft Power Platform. While Power Platform is not a one-to-one replacement, it is the best option if you are already using Microsoft 365. 

Power Platform doesn’t just give you a means to replace antiquated InfoPath solutions but offers a whole host of new technologies to help you modernize your business process. 

Power Apps – Allows you to create customized, responsive, intake forms with a more modern user experience and standardize your business data. 

Go from this (InfoPath)

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To this (Power Apps)

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Power Automate – Automate manual process with flows, create automated approvals, schedule automations, incorporate chat bots (Power Virtual Agents), leverage RPA (Robotic Process Automation) for your repetitive processes, and so much more!

Power BI – Enhance your business data by creating rich, interactive dashboards and reports, identify trends, transforming data, and more!
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Get Started Today

Whether you have one or many InfoPath Forms today, getting started can feel overwhelming. With our guidance and experience, taking on this project in an agile way will produce meaningful results. We work with clients to manage this transformation through discovery, planning, development and implementation. 

August 17, 2021

Getting Started with Microsoft Power Platform

So, you’ve decided to give low-code process automation a try and start your journey into using Microsoft Power Platform...Great! But where do you start?

When I started down the path of all things MS Power Platform nearly 5 years ago, there were almost no resources, outside of Microsoft’s documentation. Needless to say, I got my experience through the school of hard knocks. Now, with abundant resources and multiple ways to accomplish the same task, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Fear not! Getting started is simpler than you think.

Here are the top 5 things to get any MS Power Platform newbie started:

1. Start small and selfish!

    With tons of potential use cases, it can be challenging to decide which one to tackle first. My recommendation - identify a small task you don’t like doing and automate it for yourself. The best way to launch a successful automation is to start with a familiar task.

    Automated Personal Productivity Task Ideas Using Power Automate:

    • Save all email attachments in OneDrive/Google Drive (beginner - There is even a template for this!).
    • Create calendar events, when email reminders are received, to block time for monthly/quarterly/yearly training or other recurring tasks (intermediate).
    • When accepting new meetings invitations, create a section/page in OneNote for easy note-taking at the ready (advanced).

    2. Research

      With an ever growing sea of resources out there - dive in! Don’t be afraid to go to the deepest parts either.

      Research Tips:

      • Bookmark the good ones, so you have a library of resources to refer back to.
      • Don’t settle on the first method you find because there is usually something easier/more efficient/etc.
      • If using a resource on youtube, don’t be afraid to ask questions in the comments.
      • Keep an eye on the Microsoft Roadmap for the schedule of all the new features/functionality they are working on.

      Some Of My Favorite Resources:

      3. Play!

        Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and start trying out the different Power Platform applications. I recommend starting with the Microsoft App In A Day PowerApps Training. This hands-on experience is a great way to get started. Also remember, it’s ok to fail - Failure is the best teacher!

        “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

        - Thomas A. Edison

        4. Document, Document, Document!

          Have you ever inherited something (a spreadsheet, application, etc.) you were expected to maintain, with no background information?

          Make sure you write down what you do, preferably in a standardized format. The practice of documenting will not only help you if you need to replicate something, but it will also allow others to see what was done. Additionally, it is the first step in continuous improvement. After all, how can you improve if you don’t know what you did?

          For guidance on standards, there are White Papers for nearly every MS application - all you have to do is a web search for them. Here are a couple to get you started:

          5. Evolve

            Once you have successfully created a few personal productivity automations, volunteer to automate something small for your company (sign up for quarterly pitch-in, annual awards nominations, etc.). Keep pushing the limits of MS Power Platform. After almost 5 years, I still find new functionality to leverage almost weekly and even discovered some new things to try while writing this blog post!

            Happy automating, friends!

            June 14, 2021

            Process Automation: Let the Journey Begin

            There are countless routes explored on a company’s digital journey. 

            Build? Buy? Lease? In-house? Outsourced? On-prem? Cloud? While all of these questions should be asked, with process automation, starting with one use case and opening the feedback loops is the ultimate starting point. You've got to walk before you run, right?

            At DeveloperTown, we started the Process Automation practice in February and are learning so many lessons so quickly.

            Here are a few that we think are helpful:

            1. Use what you've got. You may already be paying for licenses that allow you to get started today. With so many companies on Microsoft’s Business or Enterprise licensing, access to Power Automate and Power Apps may be included in what you already pay for. Look to see what’s available to you before making a big purchase!

            2. Think big, start small. Identifying a use case runs the spectrum of being incredibly easy at times and daunting at others. Don’t believe that you have to solve the end-to-end process with automation in order to get started. Automating pieces of a process is a great place to start. And starting is always more important than perfecting.

            3. The human isn’t being replaced; the tasks are being automated. Automation is not a replacement for staff, rather an enhancer. If we can automate repetitive or menial tasks of someone’s role, they are able to be elevated, not replaced. And we’re all about moving people to areas that allow them to shine.

            Regardless of your company’s history with automation and low-code tools, we can meet you where you are and be a partner for productivity.

            June 10, 2021

            What’s Driving the IT Talent Gap? (And What to do About It)

            It’s no secret that our nation is facing a skills gap when it comes to trained carpenters, toolmakers, welders, and so on. But there’s also a massive tech talent vacuum leaving thousands of tech jobs unfilled globally.

            Even with the national unemployment rate hovering around 7%, the technology unemployment rate was just 3% in December 2020. That means tech talent doesn’t have a hard time finding a job, even when other work sectors are suffering.

            So what’s behind this tech talent desert?

            For starters, finding candidates with all the right skills is a challenge. As emerging technologies continue to rapidly change and expand, exploding fields like artificial intelligence and automation are becoming more mainstream. IT companies are scrambling to create brand new job categories requiring special capabilities at a rate faster than businesses can fill them. No longer does a single skill set fit the bill. Now businesses need people with niche expertise who aren’t easy to find.

            Perhaps the hardest hit tech companies forced to scrounge for qualified workers are those right here at home. Never-ending sunshine, beaches, and flip-flop work culture lure top talent to Silicon Valley. While snow shoveling and cicada infestations aren’t big draws, the Midwest does have some perks the West Coast simply can’t compete with like lower cost-of-living, less traffic, and a decreased crime rates for starters. These may not be the sexiest benefits, but don’t count them out when recruiting.

            Also, as remote working has become more commonplace nationwide (thank you, COVID-19), CIOs face additional challenges wooing talent from Silicon Valley. While some tech geniuses are attracted to the California sunshine, not everyone is bewitched by beaches—and now they don’t have to be. Thanks to remote work capabilities, even those who don’t want the hassle of moving and high-cost West Coast expenses can get all the prestige of working for a tech behemoth while living anywhere they want. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

            If CIOs want to snag talent before they get snatched up, they might want to steal a play from the Oakland A’s. Michael Lewis tells this story well in his book, Moneyball. The A’s were working on a shoestring budget up against baseball giants, and yet they went all the way to the playoffs. How? By using a unique, low-cost solution to identify the best players. Sounds unconventional, right? If Midwest tech companies want to find the right stuff, then CIOs need to lean into alternative strategies that can still compete with the big boys.

            Here are some innovative ways to entice top IT talent:

            1. Woo them with culture.
            Today’s workers want more than just a punch-the-clock job. They want a company culture that promotes from within, respects the individual, and balances work and life commitments. As you recruit, don’t just talk about job tasks—speak to empowerment, growth, and how you value your employees.

              2. Invest in your technology.
              Tech talent gets excited about—you guessed it—technology, and they’re scrutinizing the digital goods at your company when deciding whether or not to accept a job. The money you put into internal tech says a lot to a candidate about you and how much you value staying current. At the very least, be prepared to offer them the same level of tech they’re using at home.

                3. Offer top-notch benefits.
                Perks aren’t just perks anymore. They’re mission critical for snagging and retaining top talent. Gone are the days where solid health insurance and PTO were enough to entice and satisfy new employees.

                Maintaining a work-life balance is a top priority, especially for candidates in their 30s and 40s raising families. Many workers are even willing to sacrifice some salary to get tailored work hours and other benefits that complement their lifestyle.

                Not sure what perks fit best? Ask your current employees and snoop around your competitors. Find out what people are looking for and then make it happen!

                  4. Support growth.
                  Gone are the days of linear career paths working for the same company. More so than most workers, tech employees tend to leapfrog from job to job and company to company chasing after the next provocative project. Don’t let your savvy tech gurus fly the nest so easily by creating a variety of exciting internal opportunities for them to grow their skills.

                    Recruiting top IT expertise may feel like battle (they don’t call it a Talent War for nothing), but it’s important to stay focused. Lean into what makes your company great and don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. You never know what kind of fish you’ll land.

                    June 2, 2021

                    5 Groups That Need to Check Out Wearables

                    What’s New in Wearable Health Technology

                    Think monitoring your health through something you wear sounds a little sci-fi? Think again. Today, more than half of Americans (56% to be exact) own some kind of smart device tracking everything from pulse to sleep cycles and more. While current technology may not yet be able to, say, neurologically control a robotic arm (think Luke Skywalker or Marvel’s Bucky Barnes), wearable tech is rapidly advancing—especially in the healthcare space.

                    So what’s trending with wearable health technology? For starters, wearables are no longer just for fitness nerds logging steps and recording heart rates after a Crossfit WOD. In fact, health tech has gone from simple hobby to medical-grade and FDA-approved in just a matter of a few years. The truth is there’s something for everybody when it comes to wearable health technology. Here’s a peek at just some of today’s tech changing how we do both fitness and healthcare.

                    For the everyday Joe (and Jane)

                    Debuting in 2008, Fitbit quickly rose in popularity and remains a household name in fitness trackers. While early Fitbits captured data on movement, sleep, and calories burned, the technology has quickly evolved to go beyond the basics. Now, Fitbits can measure breathing, pulse and altitude climbed, as well as logging glucose levels (more on that below), and giving feedback on how your body handles stress.

                    Next up, smartwatches have taken fitness tracking to a whole new level. Sure, the first smartwatches were basically glorified pedometers, but as technology has boomed with new capabilities and ever shrinking components, these compact pieces of tech go way beyond counting steps.

                    Now anyone can get in-depth health metrics without visiting the doctor’s office. In 2020, Apple released its latest Series 6 smartwatch that monitors blood oxygen saturation, sleep cycles, heart rhythms using FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors, and even more in-depth health monitoring.

                    For heart health patients

                    While Apple’s Series 6 smartwatch has heart monitoring functions, the Move ECG by Withings is an award-winning choice for heart health. Not only does this sleek analog-looking device collect your heart rhythm data, but the software analyzes the data and can communicate directly with your doctor.

                    The Move ECG can also detect atrial fibrillation, a possibly life-threatening condition which can lead to stroke (frightening stat: almost 3 million Americans unknowingly suffer from afib). If you feel an irregular heartbeat or palpitation, you simply press and hold the side button for 30 seconds. Sensors on the back create a medical-grade ECG and can send the info to your doctor or store the data for later.

                    Monitoring blood pressure outside the doctor’s office is a gamechanger for many heart-conscious patients. Omron’s HeartGuide wears like a wristwatch and allows users to track and monitor blood pressure and pulse fluctuations throughout the day. Inside the wristband, a tiny inflatable cuff fills with air to get the readings. The HeartGuide is also a fitness tracker so users can better understand how their everyday lifestyle affects their heart health.

                    For the hospital or nursing home patient

                    When you or a loved one are admitted to a hospital or nursing home, keeping tabs on vitals is a necessary part of healthcare management. But traditional vital monitoring is bulky and leaves patients physically tethered to machines by wires. No, thank you.

                    Enter the Philips biosensor, an adhesive patch that sticks anywhere on the skin and sends data wirelessly to the healthcare team. Now nurses and doctors can monitor heart rate and respirations—and even be alerted if the patient has fallen or is having a heart attack—all while giving patients more freedom to move around and peace.

                    Still in development, a Japanese professor has created a wearable biosensor called e-skin. Similar to the Philips biosensor, e-skin monitors heart rate, rhythms, and respirations. But what makes e-skin unique is its super thin application that resembles, well, skin. The “skin” is embedded with thin electrodes that wirelessly connect to a smartphone, computer, or the cloud so doctors can easily monitor patients no matter if they’re in a hospital bed or at home.

                    For the athlete

                    Fitness trackers and smartwatches can detect and analyze heart health, sleep, activity, and more. But what about the serious athlete needing to replenish fluids after a killer workout or competition? With any physical activity, dehydration is a real risk. And on the flip side, drinking too much water (called hyponatremia) can be a life-threatening situation and is more common than you might think with endurance athletes.

                    That’s what led a group of researchers to team up with Epicore Biosystems to release the Gx Sweat Patch in March 2021. Sweat might seem like an unusual fluid to measure, but since perspiration contains sugar, salts, and even hormones, measuring sweat can give a real-time snapshot of overall health.

                    To use the sensor, simply stick the small patch to the skin and let the sweat come as it may. Two microchannels capture perspiration where it interacts with chemicals that change the color of the patch. Users snap a photo of the sensor with their smartphone, then interface with the app to get recommendations for how much water and sodium to stay balanced and hydrated.

                    For the cancer fighter

                    In 2021, it’s estimated 1.9 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Cancer treatment is complex, but often includes regular measurements of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), an important benchmark determining treatment plans. CTCs are usually collected at a routine laboratory visit, but unfortunately the results are often undiagnostic since the blood samples don’t always contain enough CTCs.

                    That drove University of Michigan researchers to develop a prototype called the Cancer Cell Detector, a wrist-worn device that detects CTCs. Instead of taking a quick blood sample, this new device collects blood over the course of a few hours to ensure enough CTCs are captured to get a diagnostic reading. Still in development, the Cancer Cell Detector is undergoing clinical studies, but proves to be a welcomed piece of wearable health tech for cancer patients in the future.

                    For the diabetic

                    Did you know diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US? And 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes—a condition where blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be considered diabetes—but 84% of them don’t even know it. Yikes. Unchecked blood sugar can cause all sorts of health problems like blindness, nerve damage, heart issues, skin conditions, hearing impairment, and even death.

                    At DeveloperTown, we’re excited about changing the landscape of diabetic care and saving lives with wearable tech. One of our favorite products we’ve had a hand in developing is a diabetic tool for Fitbit integration. Some Fitbit users can now track their blood sugar levels over time, set personalized ranges, and since it's joined with a fitness tracker, see how lifestyle and exercise affect their blood glucose levels.

                    For the [fill in the blank]

                    The future of wearables is only limited by our imaginations. Have an idea for a health product or tech integration? We’re here to help. At DeveloperTown, we know the ins and outs of wearables, including healthcare technology. Contact us today and lets flex those creative problem solving muscles together.

                    March 10, 2021

                    Thriving in the Midst of Product Team Turnover

                    There’s no way around it; turnover is a bear. We’ve likely all been a part of a team that experiences ill-timed or, at best, unexpected turnover. Even in writing this, I squirm at the thought of the scrambling to backfill, the difficult conversations with stakeholders, and the pressure that mounts while desperately working to get a new resource up to speed with an eye on dwindling velocity. Does any of this sound familiar?

                    Why is that for so many organizations, developer turnover comes as a surprise? Just a quick look at the numbers shows the simple nature of the industry landscape of which we are all at least implicitly aware. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for software developers is on the rise, projected to grow by 22% by 2029—a staggering trajectory when compared to the average projected growth rate across all occupations, paling in comparison at a meager 4%. In terms of new jobs in the application development space, 310,000 are expected to be created in the same time period. Simply put, demand for developers is up and the sheer volume of employment options is far from gratuitous.

                    Given the industry employment landscape, the question of whether or not turnover will happen is not a question worth asking. It will. And while a healthy focus of building employee retention is crucial, an equally crucial endeavor is positioning your product teams to handle turnover when it does happen.

                    As with all businesses, emphasis on the balance sheet is crucial to bottomline health. An issue with this emphasis, however, often arises in the tension between business value add versus real value add. Put into context, the unchecked objective of eliminating as much time as possible spent on business value add objectives curtails any meaningful effort to focus development team capacity on adequate succession planning. This common scenario, played out to its logical end, can leave teams feeling debilitating pressure when someone on their team moves on to a new opportunity, and plagued by the questions of how much time will be spent helping a new team member get up to speed.

                    “How quickly will a replacement be brought in?”

                    “What additional slack will need to be picked up in the meantime to ensure objectives are still met?”

                    “How long will it take to get back to our previous velocity?”

                    Such questions not only distract the team and detract from their work, they can also be the precursors to subsequent burnout resulting in additional turnover.

                    So what is one practical step that can be taken to help mitigate the negative effects of product team turnover?

                    The concept of minimal viability, generally applied to Agile product development, just may be the cure for what ails you.

                    Just as product teams seek to define and develop the minimum requirements necessary to deliver a testable piece of software and continue iterating from there, so too can succession planning be approached from the perspective of minimum viability. Think about it, or better yet, provide a bit of time for your product teams to think about it.

                    What are the bare minimum requirements of a viable succession plan within the context of the team’s work?

                    Focus in on the must-have features and lean on your Scrum Masters to compile the plan for their teams. From there, iterate. Take each instance of turnover (and hopefully there aren’t many!) as an opportunity to reflect on and improve the onboarding process, a perfect conversation for a sprint retrospective. And understand that the upfront costs associated with planning will yield dividends down the road.

                    In doing so, not only will the members of the team feel better cared for—especially new members backfilling open positions—but should turnover occur, velocity will be better maintained in spite of it.

                    And chances are you’ll see the value of that upfront investment in your teams jump across the balance sheet.

                    February 22, 2021

                    Healthcare Tech: Helping or Hurting?

                    You’re sitting nervously in the cold, antiseptic-smelling room waiting for the doctor to show up. They finally rush in, only to spend the majority of their time staring at a screen. Their fingers fly, inputting as much data as they can, spending only a few minutes making eye contact and actually examining you. Then they rush off in a flurry of scrubs and screens.

                    All too many of us can relate to this experience.

                    It’s easy to blame the doctor for being so harried and impersonal. What a terrible bedside manner, we might mutter. But what if there’s more to it?

                    42% of physicians struggle with burnout. Pandemic-related stressors, overworking, and lack of respect and autonomy are just a few factors doctors cite as causes of weariness and overwhelm. But surprisingly, some of the very tools created to ease healthcare burdens are also seriously contributing to the problem.

                    As you know, around here we are tech fanatics. Building agile and creative tools to help businesses solve problems and capture opportunities gets us all kinds of giddy. But we know that sometimes tech gets in the way and actually makes things worse.

                    When new tools are developed without the proper input, foresight, and strategy, it’s a recipe for disaster. And we’re watching this play out in the healthcare space in a big way right now.

                    Physicians report “too many bureaucratic tasks” and “increased computerization of practice” as some of the leading causes for burnout. And today’s surge in telemedicine and our constant digital connection has blurred the line between work and home more than ever.

                    Truth be told, most doctors just want to treat patients. They want to help and heal. And they want to have a life outside of work. But ever-changing data capture requirements, shifts in telemedicine, and other tech changes seem to take them further and further away from the heart of why they become physicians in the first place.

                    The result? Doctors are exhausted, frustrated, discouraged, and even experiencing symptoms of despair, depression, and PTSD. The pandemic has shown us more than ever how much we desperately need our frontline health heroes. So it’s time we started paying attention to what they need from us.

                    Healthcare tech tools are often created with one population primarily in mind: the patient. While patient experience obviously matters, the cost of minimizing or ignoring altogether a tool’s impact on the physician is great. Tech that isn’t doctor-friendly often creates more work, more frustration, and more burden than anything else.

                    Business author and speaker Tom Peters shares this, “Put your customers first and your people before anyone else. If your employees are happy and you treat them right, it will naturally result in them treating your customers right. This is why your customers can never be happier than your employees.”

                    In the same way, happy doctors equals happy patients. We can’t expect patient care to improve after handing over tech that makes life miserable for physicians. They don’t need one more thing in their already hectic lives. Clunky, disruptive tech just adds to the heavy loads they already carry.

                    Our client and friends at Uppstroms get this issue more than most. Founded by a physician, this startup is creating a machine-learning app that proactively identifies patient need. And they’re going about it the right way—looking at how the tech will reduce physician workload and not add to it; examining ways to integrate the tool into natural workflows to minimize disruption.

                    When it comes to developing new healthcare tech, we have to start listening to physicians and involving them heavily in the process. We owe it to them now more than ever.

                    January 7, 2021

                    When and How to Modernize Legacy Systems

                    When and How to Modernize Legacy Systems

                    Jack be nimble...

                    Jack be quick …

                    If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that being nimble is everything. And in today’s ever-fluctuating business climate, if you can’t be agile and change course quickly, you most definitely will get burned.

                    But how can you pivot and adapt quickly when your systems are outdated? The answer is: you sometimes can, but it’s a heck of a lot slower and tougher. And in this state of constant flux we’re living in, inefficiency and lag can be the death of a business.

                    But, we get it. Thinking about replacing existing systems or creating new integrations can feel overwhelming or even downright impossible. There’s disruption to consider, staff training, and budget, just to name a few concerns that go along with a big change like this. Often the pain of not evolving has to get worse than the pain of sticking with an outdated system for changes to be made. But waiting to the point of crisis often means bleeding time and money for way longer than necessary.

                    Is it Time? Symptoms of a Legacy System

                    One of the most common questions we get is whether a system overhaul is really needed. And even though we’re dev nerds who love building new things, we don’t hesitate to tell clients if the time’s not right for them to upgrade.

                    If you find yourself stuck in the should-we-should-we-not rut, here are some common indicators a change might be needed:

                    1. Are you seeing speed issues?
                    2. Do security or compliance issues keep cropping up?
                    3. Is your team disengaged due to system issues?
                    4. Are you getting the metrics you need?
                    5. Is your system functional but not scalable?
                    6. What’s the key business value and is it being accomplished well?
                    7. Are you finding your system to be more and more unpredictable or unreliable?
                    8. Can it handle the needed data formats?
                    9. Is output going down?
                    10. Are frustrations going up?

                    A Thoughtful Approach to System Upgrades

                    Sometimes a good ol’ fashioned pro and con list can help make system replacement issues easier. While it’s not always that simplistic, we love sitting down with clients and wading through the good, the bad, and often the ugly related to system needs and how they fit into overall business goals.

                    Here are a few topics we hash out with clients all the time as system decisions get made:

                    Replacing vs Bandaiding

                    You’ve probably sat in those meetings where the groans start as it’s decided the company needs to limp along further with an under-functioning system. Sure, from an immediate budget standpoint it might seem to make the most sense. And in some situations, you really can stick with an existing system and just make some process changes or add a few bandaid fixes to extend its life. But oftentimes, staying the course with an outdated system means way more trouble than it’s worth.

                    Certainly making the decision to implement a new system or to create some integrations that will help isn’t easy. And it can be super helpful to have an outside source weigh in. Sometimes you’re just too “in it” to see the best course of action. And often the solution isn’t black and white. That’s where having a third party to guide you into asking the right questions and diving deep alongside you can help.

                    Phased Implementation

                    Doing an all-at-once system replacement might sound sexy, but it’s not always wise. New systems can often be built in parts and pieces over time and sometimes even off-the-shelf products can be incorporated to ease costs. We walk our clients through the pros and cons of going “big bang,” as we like to call it, and brainstorm different implementation scenarios to determine what’s best.

                    Often a phased rollout makes the most sense. Not only can this be a budget-friendly option, but it allows you to swap out different parts of the system a bit at a time, allowing for testing and feedback from internal teams and users as things unfold.

                    Testing Early and Often

                    While it requires some upfront work, testing regularly (and with the right folks) can save you significant time and money in the long run. And it’s critical to get holistic feedback from different audiences, especially end users. So often development teams and others who are deep in the trenches miss glaring issues and opportunities that end users can spot in a moment. Thorough testing means not only catching potential problems but creating a better user experience, too.

                    Maybe there’s a new feature your team hasn’t thought of but end users are craving. Or perhaps there’s a common user workaround going on (e.g. repurposing a field) that could trip up data migration. Gathering input from those who use your system day in and day out means fewer surprises and maximized ROI.

                    Other things to consider:

                    • How is the new system going to change your business processes? Or should it be built to accommodate current processes?
                    • What’s the plan for reverting back if issues arise?
                    • How do you maintain the highest system security?
                    • What team training will need to happen?
                    • How can disruption be minimized?
                    • Will the new tech be easy for your developers to run with?
                    • How will a new system play with the tech you’re keeping?
                    • How do you teach customers to adopt new systems and features?
                    • When you develop a new system, are you porting over every feature?
                    • What can be done to ease the transition for everyone involved?

                    These are the kinds of questions that keep our clients up at night. But they’re questions that get us all kinds of giddy when working through. Because at the end of the day, we don’t see ourselves as product-builders but problem solvers. Putting our heads together with clients—instead of just dictating what we think should happen—means an all-around better result (and a heck of a lot more fun).

                    If we had to give you just one piece of advice on legacy systems, it would be this: the most seamless and successful transitions are a result of solid planning. Know what you’ve got. Understand thoroughly what’s working for you and your customers and what’s not. Engage experts to help you make good decisions if you can. Have a plan for where you want to go, while staying flexible as you test and tweak along the way.

                    December 7, 2020

                    What is the Difference Between a Microsite and a Website?

                    The difference between a website and a microsite is primarily a matter of marketing strategy. A company’s main website is the hub of its online presence, the place where potential customers visit to learn more, where potential employees start their research on the brand. So what is the purpose of a microsite? A microsite isn’t a full statement of a company’s values and services, but rather focused on a specific product, event, or service. A microsite is still a website, but there are key differences in when you would use a microsite and how to create a microsite. The content of the site may also differ from the parent company’s brand standards, messaging, voice, and tone.

                    So when should you choose a microsite over a website? Here are 5 factors to consider as you plan a marketing or web development project that harnesses the power of a microsite.

                    Microsite Design is Flashier

                    The purpose of a microsite is to draw a high volume of attention to a new product, spin-up, or upcoming event. This is why they are often more interactive and visually complex than a company’s brochure website.

                    What is a microsite example? Browse the microsites on Hubspot’s most ingenious microsites list to see several examples of the features that make microsites stand out. Countdown clocks, interactive test drives and tours, or the chance to immediately create a GIF or social media post are some of the calls to action a user might encounter on a microsite. These features are all part of the marketing strategy to build excitement and buzz about the subject of the microsite.

                    A website, on the other hand, is more likely to lead with a values-forward statement or an image--like the cover of a brochure. Even when interactive elements are present, it’s probable that they will be more about introducing the company, and less about an immediate call to action.

                    Microsites Are Time-Sensitive

                    One of the reasons calls to action are such an important part of a microsite is these sites are time-sensitive. Whether you’re driving event signups or boosting the signal of a new product, the launch strategy won’t last forever. But that doesn’t mean the microsite has to go away as the marketing strategy evolves. The microsite can exist for as long as it needs to, and there isn’t one defined best practice.

                    A website, on the other hand, is part of a brand’s authority and is largely permanent. Though the design, content, and structure might change with the times, the website remains. In fact, if a company’s main website disappears, it might cause concern among customers or affiliates—not to mention employees.

                    Microsites Have Independent Domains

                    You might wonder, what is the value of creating a distinct microsite versus a landing page or other content on the main website? When it comes to microsite vs landing page, there are several factors to consider.

                    Firstly, a microsite can be larger than just one page. Many include a collection of pages, allowing users their own unique experience of this event or product. The ability to have a unique, fully-independent domain means the microsite can be divorced from other perceptions of the brand completely. With a landing page or content on the main website, that would not be possible.

                    Another benefit of a microsite is that it allows flexibility with the launch of new products or services. If you integrate information about this offering into your main website, then remove it later, this could give a perception of failure or weakness. With a microsite, on the other hand, the site can just be taken down without any reflection on the parent company whatsoever.

                    Another value of an independent microsite is the ability to experiment with domain extensions that may appeal more to your target audience. This includes everything from the ubiquitous “.com” to trendy new options like “.life” or “.app”. Just remember that some demographics may be less familiar with newer extensions—you don’t want your hard-built microsite to be suspected as spam. When in doubt, stick with what you know.

                    Microsites Must Be Highly Performant

                    What makes a good microsite? One of the most essential elements is performance.

                    Every website on the Internet today is expected to be performant. 1 in 4 people will abandon a website that takes longer than four seconds to load. Microsites must go beyond customer expectations in this regard if the marketing strategy is to be successful. With a powerful strategy behind it, the microsite might be attracting lots more traffic at once. Plus, the site itself is equipped with all the animated and interactive features that provide the payoff for the visitors. If these features don’t load with the same speed, quality, and efficiency for every user, a large part of the attention for the microsite will fade before those interested people can become customers. This is why we believe a microsite should load in a tenth of a second or less, an outcome that depends on microsite architecture.

                    Performance doesn’t just include speed, but also functionality across a wide variety of devices. From multiple models of mobile phone, to laptops, desktops, tablets, and even other smart devices, the content of the microsite needs to translate well across all platforms and operating systems.

                    Microsites Aren’t Necessarily Easier

                    There might be an expectation that because a microsite contains fewer pages and is more focused in scope than a website, it will be easier to build or maintain. But the time to complete each actually depends on the functionality. Since the content of a brochure website is historically more static, it might be easier to implement. A microsite with complex functionality and animation might be more intensive to create, especially with concerns around load time efficiency and performance to consider.

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                    Though microsites and websites are used for different purposes, users on the web don’t know whether they are visiting one or the other. They just want information, and to be engaged and excited by the content they find. At DeveloperTown, we collaborate with marketing teams to understand what features of either type of site will achieve your goals. Contact us to discuss upgrading your web presence.