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Episode 4: Knowledge management and consulting
Welcome to episode four. Where, we'll talk about knowledge management and consulting.
Knowledge management is important because it enables individuals, organizations, and societies to effectively create, share, and use knowledge. It helps organizations to make informed decisions, enhance innovation and creativity, improve efficiency and productivity, and stay competitive in a rapidly changing business environment. In today's knowledge-based economy, the ability to manage and leverage knowledge effectively is crucial to success.
Taking responsibility for your own growth is important because it allows you to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve your personal and professional goals. It also helps you to stay relevant in the job market and be prepared for new opportunities. By taking ownership of your own learning, you can develop a growth mindset and cultivate a lifelong learning habit that will serve you well throughout your career.
Employees can create a workplace that encourages constant learning by fostering a culture of learning and development. This can be achieved through various initiatives such as providing training and development opportunities, creating mentorship programs, and promoting a learning-friendly work environment. Leaders can also encourage a culture of continuous learning by modeling the behavior themselves and recognizing and rewarding employees who demonstrate a commitment to learning.
As an individual, you can create a great environment for constant learning by setting goals and taking action to achieve them. This can involve seeking out new experiences, learning from mistakes, and seeking feedback from others. You can also cultivate a growth mindset by embracing challenges, persevering through obstacles, and viewing failures as opportunities to learn and grow. It's also important to stay curious and stay informed about new developments in your field or industry. By doing so, you can develop the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in your career and achieve your personal and professional goals.
At our company, we have a diverse set of professionals with wide range of skills and expertise. Our team includes developers who are responsible for writing and testing code. Architects who design and build software systems. Project managers who ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
We also have teamleads who oversee the work of their team members. And ensure that everyone is working together towards the same goals. Through collaboration and communication, we are able to deliver end to end solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing applications. Providing our clients with the best possible outcomes. This is the Avella way.
As a company, we are experts in delivering knowledge and expertise in enterprise application integration, which means that we are committed to helping our clients improve their business processes by making sure that their systems communicate with each other seamlessly. Expertise in this area has been developed and refined over the last 15 years. During which time we have worked with a wide range of clients across different industries. Our focus during this time has been on integrating disparate systems located anywhere. And we have achieved great success in doing so.
Our approach is based on a deep understanding of the challenges that our clients face. And we use this knowledge to develop customised solutions that meet their specific needs. By working closely with our clients, we are able to ensure that our solutions are tailored to their unique requirements and we are committed to delivering value at every stage of the integration process. We provide integration solutions based on 15 years of experience. Avella as a company is 15 years old. And we have employees and founders that have more than 20 years of experience. So in total, we must now be coming close to at least three, maybe 400 years of combined experience.
Our expertise lies in connecting different systems across any location, whether they're on premise or in the cloud. We have the experience to integrate applications and data sources wherever they reside.
We have experience with most of the large ERP vendors. Most of the large CRM vendors. We have also integrated on premise manufacturing equipment straight down to the hardware where we talk to PLS / PLM systems.
Our team comprises of highly skilled product experts with vast experience in various market offerings. We have a deep understanding of the intricacies of each tool in our arsenal. And each employee is specialises in specific ones. Combined we have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that enables us to cover all major enterprise integration software that has been available for some time.
We have a proven track record of delivering top-notch solutions that have helped our clients achieve their business objectives. We are of course committed to staying up to date with the latest trends and technologies, ensuring that our clients always receive cutting edge solutions that are tailored to their unique needs.
Now the question is how do we stay on top of the latest offerings in the market? It is not easy and it requires us to be diligent in how we approach knowledge management. As technology evolves, we keep up with the latest innovations to provide the best solutions for our clients. However we do not chase trends we rely on proven stable technologies that we know can deliver business value.
There are a set of patterns within integration that we follow. These are the path owners from Gregor Hope's book enterprise integration patterns. And these patterns they have proven over time to solve at least. 90-95% of all the problems that we face. Now not all tools support his patterns, and if they don't support the patterns we don't support the tool.
So our team has extensive hands-on experience working with integration platforms from a variety of vendors, including those who are present in the Gartner magic quadrant. We understand the unique challenges that each platform brings, can provide tailored recommendations based on your specific needs.
Our recommendations will take into account, not only the tools, capabilities, but also the level of support provided by the vendor. As well as any potential challenges that may arise during implementation. We also provide guidance on best practices for integration, including how to do data mapping message routing and error handling.
And maybe more importantly, how you should describe your integrations and how you should document the implementation of these. Additionally, we stay up to date with the latest developments in integration technology. So we can provide you with advice on emerging trends and how they may impact your integration strategy.
I'll come back to one of the ways that we stay on top of the latest trends. So, as I mentioned, we have a track record of success. Well, we wouldn't be here. The market in Norway is quite small. We live by our reputation. What we do is we help companies unlock data, streamline processes, reduce costs, and gain new insights.
I have the client who at one of the large IBM conferences said that what Avella did for them was basically the first step in their digital transformation journey. And we enabled a future growth. That's quite a powerful statement coming from a large enterprise. Our integration expertise and product knowledge allows us to solve even the most complex integration problems.
Tools, however, only need to technically work. They need to be backed by a support agreement and have at least. Quarterly release schedule for new features and enhancements. More importantly to us as a company is how well that when the supports that partners. And integration when that needs to have a partner strategy. And that partner strategy needs to be more than a PowerPoint saying that they're driven by partners. It would be impossible for us to deliver. Good solutions. If we are, weren't backed by the integration of unknown. As a company, we need access to training.Up to date documentation. And also a support organization. I have yet to see an integration tool. Which is cutting edge. Modern. And has a timely release schedule for new features. That is delivered without bugs.
Having access to a support organization and the support organization, and that can. Create fixes and punches is crucial for the success of any integration strategy. There are very few implementations. On the latest and greatest integration tools that do not encounter Software bugs. This isn't really a problem. Unless the vendor is unable to support you. This is also the reason why at the moment that list currently supports two major players in. The Gartner magic quadrant for enterprise integration tools.
If we dive into. What I mean by a partner strategy first. So a good partner starts with communication. There needs to be a mechanism in place to have at least monthly calls with product development and global support. As I mentioned, no software is without bugs and the more we report, the less reoccurring bugs we will face. I'm a firm believer that if one invests in a commercial off the shelf software package, like an integration platform. Then one should also benefit from the untitled support agreements. We train our consultants on how to interact with support organizations and we expect them to. Submit mugs and submit requests for new features and enhancements.
In my experience all our partners appreciate feedback and they act on the feedback. By issuing. Bug fixes if needed. Work arounds if available. Or even sometimes to tell us to go and read the manual, if we haven't, which is fine, that's fair enough. However, sometimes the manual isn't updated. And if it's not updated and not documented, then in all fairness, I expect the vendor to support us anyway. Which they do. Remember that the vendor is most likely to be supporting. At least a hundred, if not a thousand plus installations. And if I have ELA. And all other consultant disease and even customers, collectively report issues in feature enhancements. The vendor should over time have a great knowledge base to tap into. Or even better. Have a knowledge base that is searchable and public.
This is the difference between creating a bespoke integration solution by hand and buying off the shelf. If unless not ask one shall not receive. And you may as well build your own.
As a partner and recognised IBM champion. I have access to IBM labs, IBM developers. And I even get to be part of early designs before software is written. There's this truly partner driven. Not saying other partners are not good. They are not just at IBM's level in every category. Our company isn't really big for Europe when it comes to the field of integration. We are less than a hundred employees. At least for now. And that makes us a small fish compared to the largest consultancies. It's nice to be treated as a large player. And we do our best to give back.
One of the things we do to give back is that we ensure that we acquire the required skills. And how do we do this? Well, We attend training. We go to meet ups and we traveled to conferences. Without training, it would be difficult to deliver projects using integration tools. As consultants, we get experience with the products when we use them.
However we also need to know about all the areas we do not get to use in the project.
If we look at a typical integration tool. They will cover a lot of different areas. And if our consultants are working for a particular client, they will most likely be using. A subset of all the available features. It's , important to do training on the full product stack. So that we're able to bring new ideas to the table. As part of my role as the CTO, I try to follow weekly online talks about all the products we use.
I'm also part of a customer advisory board. And the right articles. I'm also working on a book. And I host this podcast. These activities helped me structure. And remember, while giving back. And in our company, we have created our own internal training material. It's basically a training course that covers what is required for our projects. Oh, he's the projects we've had. Up until now. Employees who have some experience thought to be curious and need more. And luckily I'm in a position to say yes to all the training requests. So I have a budget. Which is basically zero for training. Not just for myself, but for the whole company. This means that we send anyone and everyone to any conference and any training that they request. I'm a firm believer in training conferences and meet-ups. And, If you're working in a consultancy company like Avella. Then you should not be stopped in your pursuit of more knowledge.
I'll talk a bit about how we've set up training in our company. We have multiple competency teams. Each led by passionate individuals who have stepped forward and said, “I would like to lead a competency team within this topic because I am curios” Every consultant in the company can be a member of how many teams they want. We do not measure the input. We only measure the outcome. What time is spent we do not measure. What we do measure is that everyone should have active certifications since certifications, they usually expire. Everyone should go to an external conference. And they should present internally what they found. Interesting. It really is quite simple. We've done this for the last six years. And even when the pandemic lockdown, the group's have functioned.
Each of the team leads report to a consultant manager who is also responsible for competency. Trond Egil Hammer, a great human being and an all through trustworthy person. He leads the competency manager role. Without his vision and leadership in developing this approach. and establishing the teams and ensuring accountability this model would not have been successful. With Tronds guidance, the team leads work together to share best practices develop new skills through peer learning while holding each other accountable for progress and results. By allowing consultants, autonomy and flexibility in how they develop their competencies and also providing clear metrics and expectations.
We have created a learning ecosystem that continues to thrive.
New team leads emerge over time, based on interests and strengths teams evolve and adapt to new needs. Our consultants continue to strengthen their expertise through continuous learning and application of the skills. It's a simple model, but one that is deeply impactful in enabling our consultants to reach their full potential.
It's one of my core beliefs that every employee in whatever company or industry they work in. Everybody wants to be their best. And everybody wants to be a positive impact. No individual is created equal. And I think one of the tricks is to enable an environment where different personalities can find their way of learning and their way of contributing so that others can learn.
I've yet to meet anyone who, it hasn't been able to be a positive force for learning in our company. It's just a matter of finding what works for each individual.
Meet-ups are also great. We hope to host some ourselves, since we do attend open meet-ups and gain inspiration and different perspectives when doing so. One of the last meet-ups. Some of our consultants went to was called “catching criminals with Apache Kafka” The feedback was great. And it's inspired us to try out some theories internally.
Our company location or office space I should say. Is a SmartOffice. It has various sensors, smart door locks and various ways of tracking devices is in the office. During an internal project we used an integration platform as a service to integrate Google calendar with Phillips hue. When one books a meeting room, we have some led lights connected to Phillips hue these lights will turn red if the room is booked and they'll be green, if the room is available.
It's a good example of what can be achieved if on allows creates a learning environment and have access to public APIs- se my last podcast.
Conferences are great because they provide an opportunity to network with other professionals. We learn about the latest trends and technologies and we gain new insights and perspectives. When we attend conferences, they can also be a great way to stay motivated and inspired and to bring fresh ideas back to your team. However it's important to choose conferences that are relevant to your specific area. And to plan your time and resources accordingly. In Avella it is quite straightforward. If you're motivated by the topic and they are related to do what Avella does or should be doing? Then I can approve it and you can go to the conference. Simple.
There is one caveat when you come back, you have to share internally with the rest of the team. And while you're at the conference we expect a short travel post for LinkedIn.
I'm amazed by how many consultancies I meet at conferences, while I don't often meet clients and potential clients at these conferences. To me it seems a bit backwards that one doesn't invest in getting some outside inspiration. Perhaps customers go to different venues?
There are a lot of changes with integration tools and there are new features being released. And these are usually made publicly available at conferences. You also get to see some lessons learned from other users and to me it gives a lot of inspiration. And if you're inspired, I would expect that you would also be more motivated to keep innovating.
Roadmaps are important. The integration tools that we use, they should have a roadmap and this roadmap should be public. If I'm going to recommend a product that will be hosting integrations for years to come, then there must be a clear direction for the product. Integration software ia not easy to swap out once you get started. You will usually start out with a handful of integrations. And before you know, it you'll have a hundred or even thousands of integrations. And hopefully a few APIs, both internally and externally published. It's a marathon and not a sprint.
If there's a product roadmap available. It's easier to make a bet. So you should know your vendor and pick one that's been around for a long time. At least as long as you, if possible. I'm a firm believer that integration tools these days are a commodity. Get one with a pedigree and local partners in your area.
There's always going to be a new vendor in the integration space. However, not that many are around for years to come. I've seen a lot of new, cool, flashy Integration vendors pop up both in Forrester wave and in the Gartner magic quadrants. However, they tend to disappear over time. One of the things that happens is that they could be acquired by another software company or investment firm. I've actually been part of this where an integration tool suddenly got eaten by a larger fish, this it was quite painful not only for us as their partner but also for some of our customers (anyone remember Sun Microsystems?)
It's difficult, if not impossible to foresee all the things that can happen in the future. There are some factors that you should consider. In addition to longevity and vendors, stability is also important to consider and the level of customer support that the vendor provides. A company with a proven track record of success and a stable experienced leadership team with a longterm vision is also crucial. Additionally, it's important to consider the level of customization that the integration tool provides as well as the security measures in place to protect sensitive data. Most of the integration tools that we work with have published white papers on how to achieve. certain levels of security. This could be a security required for the health industry or financial industries. It could be white papers describing how you can achieve zero trust. This is an indication that these vendors have been around and they have clients within many different verticals.
It's also important to try and figure out if the vendor has an ability to adapt to industry trends and emerging technologies. For instance, do they have a plan for AI and how do they train their models - do they use you data and are you OK with that?
By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select an integration tool that will meet your organization's unique needs and help you achieve your business goals.
Integration projects are complex and long-term journeys. They're not quick fixes. So you need a partner that will be there for the duration to see projects through, to completion and beyond. So carefully considered a vendor's roadmap to make sure that the strategic direction aligns with your own longterm goals. And ensure that there is a commitment to ongoing investment in research and development, as well as high quality support. Ask for references. And do a reference call. Or do a couple of reference calls.
Only choose a vendor that provides transparency into their product strategy and roadmap. A roadmap demonstrates the focus on progress and keeping customers informed about the future of the tools that built their business around. It provides confidence that the product will continue evolving to meet growing needs. Without visibility into the road ahead, the future remains uncertain.
Another question to ask yourself is will my applications and business always be on this cloud? If the answer is yes, you are at best fooling yourself. There is no guarantee that you will not want to use more than one cloud. Thus, you will need to be able to support what the vendors call multi-cloud.
Another question is: will I always use my current ERP or my current CRM system? The answer to this is likely yes. However, I've been part of some migrations over the years. Let me start by saying it's not pretty if one has to change the Integration platform in place because it seemed easy at the time to go all in on a single vendor e.g. using the ERP vendors integration engine for everything. That's quite a bad lock-in. Potentially.
My recommendation is to choose an integration vendor that does not deliver their own ERP or CRM system. This is because an independent vendor must support all major ERP and CRM systems.
The reason you're going to invest in an integration tool is to connect anything anywhere. You shouldn't be investing in an integration tool to connect anything anywhere too just one ERP or CRM vendor.
If we look at cloud the three major public cloud vendors, Azure. AWS. And GCP. They offer various integration solutions. And thay are optimized for their respective cloud environments. However, at least. While I'm recording this podcast, the solutions may not be as effective when used outside their respective cloud environments. Additionally, these solutions may not be as easy to implement as one might expect.
Despite this, there are at least three independent integration tools that are great for supporting the free major public clouds. These tools also allow for a full experience on premise in addition to the cloud. Technology is constantly evolving and changing and the CTO part of me is eager to explore the possibility of a pure cloud native integration project.
This could potentially be a dream come true or a nightmare. Not really settled on what I think about it.
At the moment. Integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) are usually made available for one, maybe two public cloud offerings. Some of them also allow you to install them on any cloud and manage them yourself. The nice thing with having a single tool across all clouds and on premise is the amount of knowledge that you need to build to build your integrations. If you have a single tool, it's one language to integrate across the whole IT landscape this is a benefit. If you go and count the number of integration services that Azure, AWS and GCP offer you will quickly realise that it really isn't the way to go. Choosing a cloud agnostic solution really does offer less cloud lock.
Let's say that you did decide to build everything on for argument's sake, let's say Azure. In my opinion, Azure is the one that has the most comprehensive integration tools available of the three public clouds I mentioned. Then you would need to carefully evaluate the available options and determine the best path forward. This would likely involve extensive research into the latest cloud native technologies and solutions as well as collaboration with other experts in the field.
Ultimately the goal would be to create an integration solution that is just as good or better than a turnkey solution- using a metric you set for comparison. This would actually be a really fun and interesting project to be a part of. The reason I can't recommend it is. I don't have any experience to say that it's going to work, or even if it's not going to work. There are some good reasons to not do it. Especially now that for instance, IBM has a managed solution on AWS. They have the cloud pack for integration, which you can install on any cloud or even on-premise. The alternative is to build a lot of competency and start out on a cloud journey. Make sure to have a plan for integrating within, between and back once new SaaS offerings are being used on the other cloud.
So, these are just a few basic considerations to keep in mind as you proceed. I suggest crafting a detailed request for proposal or RFP to distribute to potential vendors, outlining your key requirements and objectives in a clear yet comprehensive manner. Within the RFP, you should pose open questions that probe how each vendor solutions and services specifically meet the most important needs of your organization. However. You should also try and have some questions open-ended. Where you can test out to see if potential vendors have experience. This will allow them to come up with solutions rather than having a true false answer which are meaningless.
While doing research and evaluating proposals, remember that? You know, your business and priorities better than anyone else. No vendor or tool can perfectly meet every last one of your demands. So determine the, which requirements are absolute must haves and which are nice to have. You should the way each one, the strengths and weaknesses against your essential criteria to make an objective choice.
I mean, it might be a wise. Not to always share what your criteria is upfront. So once you select the vendor and implement the solutions. I'll be sure to provide feedback and continue engaging them as a partner shareholder services help you achieve your goals so that they can further refine and improve to best serve your. Evolving needs. If you don't ask, you will get nothing.
So your ongoing input and insights will help ensure that their offerings remain optimally tailored to your key requirements and strategic plans. In my experience vendors are very happy to listen. And they're also happy to provide you with solutions for your problems.
In the end only you comprehend the full scope of your vision and what you need to succeed. So it's important to take the time to really think through your goals and aspirations and to consider all the steps necessary to achieve them. This process requires diligence and discernment, as well as willingness to ask the necessary questions and to seek out the right resources to support you along the way. One important resource to consider is a partner who is committed to supporting you and not only today, but also in the future. This type of partnership can provide a valuable source of guidance and support as you work towards your goals.
When you set out to build up your integration department. I would recommend that you have some architects and some developers internally. You should also try and find somebody who has a deep knowledge of your business. In my experience it's difficult for us as consultants to always understand all the intricacies of a business and the best project results occur when we team up with the customer employees. It's a very good idea to team them up with consultants then up-skill them to also be able to support the integration projects. A partner should be happy to help you succeed with this.
Integration is too important to only rely on consultants. You need to take some control of your projects. We are a true believer that it's only through a partnership that we can achieve great things together. For us it's more than a client engagement is more often a partnership and a journey.
I hope this episode gives some insight into the world of integration. I'm a day late with this episode due to Easter, oh well.