An Interview is a Pitch of You

The company should hire me because blank.

Do you know your story? Are you ready to pitch your story and get the job? “Well, tell me your story, tell me about you”, the interviewer said.

That is the moment when candidates start looking down to their resume just to make sure they do not screw up. The very busy interviewer thinks, “Did you really just do that? Don’t you know who you are? This is a waste of my time!” The candidate starts saying exactly what is on the resume and immediately highlights the non-impressive skills that are already in the resume. “Hard-worker, disciplined, multi-tasking, excellent interpersonal communication skills, organized, leader”… STOP!

Dear Candidates, we are sure that you have a lot to bring to the table…just do not read it from your resume! An interview is a conversation, not to a read out loud. Let me explain, from my perspective what an interviewer really wants when they ask, “Tell me about you”. You have lived your own life and have worked hard to be the person you are today, so before going to an interview create your success story. WAIT, WHAT? Create a chronological movie of how you came to be the professional you are now. Answer questions like: Why you decided to study what you did? How you got your first job? Why you decided to change your job? What you liked most and less from your past job experiences? And please, please know what is your competitive advantage for the position you are applying and/or the company you want to work for.

For example, your competitive advantage may be that you are a natural leader. Make sure to show in your story how it leads you to achieve your goals. Another thing to keep in mind, is to focus on your successes, I am sure that some negative things do happen within experiences but do not let them opaque your story’s bright side. (Tip: Interviewers will ask you later on about the worst experience in different situations.) After you have your storyline, ask yourself, is this movie ready to be sold? If the answer is yes…Time to Sell!!!

But how do you sell a good story? Of course, it needs an: EXTRAORDINARY MOVIE TRAILER! As movie viewers, interviewers do not have much time during an interview to know your whole story, so you have to create a movie trailer that captures his or her attention and make them want to know more about you. What should be told in this trailer? Emphasize the parts that highlights all the skills that add value to you as a professional and to the position you are being interviewed for. As a candidate you may be thinking, “Why should I do a mental movie and then a trailer?” Well, as you capture your interviewer’s attention with the trailer, more questions will come. The movie will help you answer these questions.

Finally, remember to make your movie trailer an exciting one, make the interviewer want to know the whole movie. SELL YOUR MOVIE!!! Interviews usually take 45 minutes and from those you have 5 minutes to impress and sell your story to the interviewer. Differentiate yourself and make sure that the interviewer never forgets your movie clip.

Now…GO! create your movie and tell me more!

X12 EDI: From Electronic Transaction to Paper Format

Following a brief history of our Tx Manager product, a software solution that converts electronic 837 X12 EDI transactions, e.g. electronic claims, into a visual representation of their paper format, e.g. HCFA-1500, UB-04, and Dental Claims.

Note: Although this is a universal business problem, when the article refers to electronic transactions it specifically refers to ASC X12 EDI 837 electronic claims transactions.

Electronic transactions fail to process everyday.  There are multiple reasons why electronic transactions fail to process:

  • incorrect transaction formats
  • communication issues
  • subpar systems integration
  • availability of core systems
  • etc.

What happens when these electronic transactions fail to process correctly? Do you ask your providers to resend the transactions or do you reprocess them yourself?

In our experience, we have seen that when a customers is able to identify that an electronic transaction failed, they reprocess the transactions themselves. That is, companies seldom burden their customers to resend electronic transactions that have failed to process. How do they reprocess the transactions, you may ask.  The majority of companies manually reprocess failed electronic transactions.  They usually have a data entry department that takes the failed transactions and enters them into the core system.

Having a data entry department process failed transactions can be a time consuming error-prone endeavor. It is very difficult for data entry personnel to read an electronic transaction in its original format and be able to process the data into the core system.  Data entry personnel need that the electronic transactions be converted into a readable format that allows them to understand the data details of the transactions. Once they can read the electronic transactions they are able to enter them into the core system.  But organizations need to be very careful with this approach, because processing electronic data manually can lead to serious data errors and inconsistencies.

At Wovenware, we identified this problem and built the Tx Manager to help healthcare insurance companies overcome this challenge.  The Tx Manager reads ASC X12 EDI 837 electronic claims transactions extracts their data and presents them to the user in a visual representation of their paper format (HCFA-1500, UB-04, or Dental Claim). The TxManager includes workflow functionality that allows multiple users to work in the web application at the same time, ensuring that no two users work on the same transaction. Additionally, the TxManager validates the accuracy of the transaction information in the core system, thus, ensuring data quality of the process.

We have successfully implemented the Tx Manager in various customers and have seen an improvement in the quantity and data quality of all manually processed electronic transaction in the core system. Need to improve your process, what are you waiting for?

What is content marketing and how can it benefit your company?

Nowadays every costumer out there wants an engaging relationship in which they can exchange valuable content with the company they are receiving services from. It is now widely known that there is a new kid in Marketing Town, and yes this kid is as useful to the IT industry, as it is to other industries. This kid is “Content Marketing“. You might be asking yourself: “What is content marketing and how can it benefit my company?”

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action” (CMI)  The point of using content marketing is to create valuable content. As marketers that are helping IT companies in the midst of change, we must learn what our clients need the most, so we can plan strategies to help them. We are living days in which Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can do our work without us knowing. So, as content marketers we must know how to use these tools in all the right ways.

It is not only about selling something, is about creating value and making people engage with it. Give something to your clients that they can relate to so that they can understand better what you do and how you can help them. Facebook is a great tool these days, people are always scrolling that news feed like there’s no end to it. But, is that the only site you want to be in? We suggest you go big or you go home. Instead of focusing on Facebook, write blog post, white papers, provide webinars. These things attract audience and they get to know more about what you are selling without seeming like you are selling them. Once you grab their attention they will be intrigued to know more about your company and, if content is valuable enough, they will buy your products and services. For IT services companies, it is harder to sell, especially since they don’t have a specific software solution. All IT services companies sell is knowledge and experience that transforms into extraordinary service that help solve clients problems. Make sure you are letting your clients know you provide this value… and do it through content marketing.

 

5 Tips to Be a Better Consultant

Working for a client is not an easy thing.  Whether it is related to information systems, finance or operations, just the simple exercise of understanding the needs that a client has is a unique experience and sometimes it can be a task of titanic proportions.

But, that is your job.  Consulting gives you and your client the opportunity to see things from another perspective, taking into consideration aspects and issues you didn’t thought of before. In the end, you are the expert.  It’s you who the client chose to help him solving the problem he’s facing.  It doesn’t matter what he hired you for, what matters is that you are the person best qualified to find the right solution to the problem because, after all, you are the expert.  You are the one who understands the topic better than anyone and you are in a better position than him to make an assessment or recommendation.

So, just doing what the client asked you for is not good enough. You need to make a good analysis of the problem at hand and put the client in the best position possible to make the best decision.  What good are you if you are not advising your client correctly? Aren’t you supposed to be the expert? What’s the point of going into a meeting with a client and not make recommendations?  By not being proactive, you are not creating the necessary value so that the client feels satisfied with your contribution and you are putting a future relationship with your client at jeopardy.

In my experience this are 5 important keys to be a good consultant. As you can see, not all of them are related with your technical capability about a topic. As a consultant, you have to pay attention to other areas that sometimes go unnoticed.

1.  Know your stuff

Obviously you have to know what you are taking about. You are the expert the client chose to address the issue. You don’t only have to know why you recommend option A; you also have to know the reason by which options B, C and D are not appropriate. Remember that besides convincing the project “champion”, there are other crucial people that need to be persuaded too.

2.  Win their trust

There is no better proof that you are doing a good job as consultant that when your client trusts you. A vote of confidence not only earns you “bragging rights”, but also puts you in a better position than other consultants and in occasions above employees of that client. The power that trust gives you will let you be more effective and more assertive when giving your opinion and making recommendations.

3.  Beware of your hygiene and always dress to impress

I shouldn’t have to say this but…you have to pay attention to your hygiene and mostly your breath. Keep mints or chewing gum and use them after lunch or before a meeting. Your clothing is vital and you shouldn’t make assumptions about a specific way to dress. Always maintain conservative business attire, at least until you know your client well. This will earn you initial respect from your client and will make him look at you in a better way. Remember that you dictate the norm and there isn’t a second chance to create a first impression.

4.  Never Say Never

We have to watch the way we say things. One of the worst things you can do as a consultant is going to a meeting and say something can’t be done and end of story. It looks bad and participants don’t take it in a good way.  The way to say that something “can’t be done” is by giving alternatives and explaining why that option is not feasible. To say “can’t be done” puts you on the side of those who don’t want change and see the glass half empty. In engineering we say that: “everything can be done, it’s only a problem of time and money”. Try to always be positive, give options and alternatives.

5. Learn how to write an email

Marc Twain once said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Writing a concise email to a client, in general, takes times because we have to be careful of:

  • how we say what we want;
  • who do we send it to; and
  • what is the purpose.

We have to question ourselves: Is the email well written grammatically and logically? who should receive it and who I should send copy to? What the tone of the email?  Emails have replaced personal contact and, sometimes, people don’t pay attention to the way they write them. You have to make sure that your grammar is perfect because this says a lot about you. We have to make sure that we put the reader in position of understanding what are we talking about. Writing perfectly what we want to say is essential since, if we don’t do it, we are at risk of causing misunderstandings that we will have to explain.  Always remember that it is better to speak directly with the person rather than writing a long and confusing email.

Finally, don’t forget that everything has a balance. The client will place on a balance the cost of a consultant versus the value that you bring to him. It is your job to create enough value for the balance to move in your favor.

Is it Time to Move Your Custom Software Application to the Cloud?

You invested on a custom built software application to improve your business. Now you are running this mission critical application in a local server at your office site. Maybe you have a fancy datacenter or maybe you do not. What you have is a software application that cannot fail. Is your datacenter the right place to host your mission critical software application or is it time to move it to the Cloud? (Note: Not all Cloud vendors are alike please research extensively before choosing your Cloud Provider. At Wovenware we either use Amazon or Microsoft as our preferred Cloud Provider.)

Backup

How often do you backup your server? How about your data? Do you store a backup of your data off premise? A lot of companies large and small do not backup their servers and data following industry best practices. By moving your custom develop software application to the Cloud you can immediately benefit from an underlying backup solution that automatically backups your server and data. Depending on your Cloud service provider and configuration you can have three or more replicas of your server and data created in real time in multiple locations. By doing this you are minimizing the possibility of down time or loss of data in your software application.

Data Growth

Is the server where your custom develop software application is deployed too little or too big for your needs? Did you know that your data in the Cloud can shrink or expand depending on your data needs? You can rest assure that your data in the Cloud can expand to your needs and without any need of installing new hardware or dealing with complicated configurations.

Processing Power

Imagine if you could add or eliminate processing power to your server depending on the load of your application. By moving your software application to the Cloud you are able to configure your processing power needs. You can add more servers to improve the performance of your application in peak periods and you can eliminate servers when usage is low. Thus, ensuring you always have the correct processing power for your software application at all times.

Data Center

Do you like to have a Data Center at your office? Is your data center encased in glass so that everybody that visits the office can look at your cool hardware? If this is the case, then the Cloud is not for you. If you move your software application to the Cloud, you will no longer be able to see the physical sever in your office. Your employees and consultants will not be required to be in your office to fix any application problems. You will no longer have a hardware issue to deal with.

The truth is every custom developed software application is different and requires a detailed analysis to determine if a Cloud deployment makes sense. If you have not started to determine if your custom software application can benefit from a Cloud deployment, what are you waiting for?

Five Tips to Build a Better System Integration Software

In Software Engineering, System Integration “is the process of linking together different software applications, that can be spread across multiple computing system, to act as a coordinated whole”. (Definition found in Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_integration]). In its most basic form a System Integration is a software program that allows two or more disparate non-intercommunicating systems to communicate. A simple System Integration program is not a complicated task to complete. What is not so simple is designing and building a System Integration program to overcome all those worst case scenarios we encounter every day. Following are five tips to building a better System Integration program that can handle unexpected events.

Certify Messages

Sounds simple enough, but the majority of system integrations I have seen during my career fail to do this simple important initial step. When you first read an incoming message from a System Integration, perform a certification routine on the message. You want to make sure the incoming message is exactly what is expected. Failing to perform this simple step may cause your System Integration to fail unexpectedly.

Retry … Retry … Retry

In real life things fail, so code accordingly. A normal developer codes to handle expected scenarios. A great developer codes to handle unexpected scenarios. The easiest way and least complicated routine to handle unexpected events are to retry your logic when it fails. That is, if your database connection is down, retry connecting before exiting your code. If you fail to obtain a network connection, retry before quitting. Word of advice … retry more than once, in a majority of cases this simple step solves a lot of problems.

If Failing … Alert

Every developer has the tools to know when their code fails (hint: try/catch). So, if your code is failing or behaves unexpectedly alert the administrator or yourself. By taking a proactive approach to system failures, problems can be diagnosed and fixed faster.

Log Everything

Yes, log everything. When a message was received. How the message was processed. What was the outcome of the transaction? Etc. Storage is so cheap and reusable these days that the costs to store log files for a couple of months are minuscule next to the cost of not fixing a bug in a timely manner because there is no sufficient data to find the cause of the bug.

Do Something with the Logs!

Mine your logs.  Logs have so much useful information, transactions processed, processing time, incorrect messages, etc.  Prepare weekly reports from the logs to find out peak processing times, number of incorrect messages, most used processes, etc.  Then, use these data to enhance your System Integrations.

If you implement these five tips in your system integrations you will have developed software that can better handle unexpected events. Additionally, when the system integration fails you will know immediately what happened and will have sufficient data to fix the bug in no time.