I want to do something a little bit different from what I’ve been doing since we got started. I want to give you a LeapFrogBI update. I will tell you some of the latest things going on at LeapFrogBI. Then, I want to step you through a day in the life of one of the developers or myself, to give you an idea of how we accomplish the things that we are doing every day. Also, what processes do we have in place to monitor our own performance. Finally, I want to discuss future episodes, so hang around for that at the end.
Our little marketing team put out a newsletter last week and I want to go through it and make a few announcements. First, I want to welcome three new clients: Cable Holdings (which is an insurance company in the Southeast), Amarillo National bank (which is a regional bank in North Texas), and Village Family Capital (which is a capital investment company in the west). Welcome to those three companies, great to have you on board.
Second thing I want to mention is our apprenticeship program. If you’ve been following the news at all, you probably know that it is quite difficult to find people that have tech skills and specifically the type of skills that we need here at LeapfrogBI. We need developers that have data warehousing and business intelligence type skills. So, we started an apprenticeship program last year in 2021, and it went well. Our first two apprentices made it through that program, Joel and Daniel are their names, and they’re now consultants. They are engaging and helping clients build their reportopia.
We started a second class this year in January 2022, with three new apprentices. The program is going well. We continue to use that program to cultivate the talent that we can find and get them on client projects to help our clients meet their goals. We’re really excited about the program; we’re going to continue with it as aggressively as we can. And of course, if we do run across people who have the skills that we need, we’re always open to bringing people in directly as well. The apprenticeship program is a great program. I think it works out good for the people that go through it because they’re gaining skills and they’re getting paid to learn these skills.
We hope that all these apprentices stay with us forever. If that’s not the case, then the apprentices have skills that they can go elsewhere with and probably be very successful. From our perspective at LeapfrogBI, it’s just wonderful. We’re finding people that have the interest in what we do. They’re going to put in the effort to learn the things that we need them to learn, and they’re going to learn it the way that we want to have them learn it. They’re going to learn exactly the things that we need them to know. There’s no real replacement for that. Even if you do hire someone out of college or even someone that’s really experienced, they’re often going to have to be trained in our processes anyway. It is a very specialized thing that we do. So, the apprenticeship program is going great. I am happy and looking for great things to continue in the future.
And I’d also say that this podcast is doing good. We’ve seen quite a bit of listenership increase. Not that we’re looking at millions of listeners out there, but I do appreciate the listeners that are tuning in. That’s great to see that we’re reaching a few folks so thank you guys so much for listening.
We do have two events that we’re going to be at in the next couple of months. First, we’re going to be at WSIA’s Insuretech Conference. It is on March 20th to 23rd in New Orleans. That’s coming up quick. I’ll be there and Nancy will be there with me. If you happen to be going out to Insuretech, look us up, drop me a note, I’d love to connect with you.
The 2nd event that we have on the calendar is the Target Markets mid-year event. I think it’s called the mid-year meeting. That’s going to be in Boston and it’s in early May, the 2nd to 4th. If you’re going to be at either one of those events, please do reach out. We’d love to connect and just say hello and get to know one another.
Okay, so that’s kind of the news of the day here, I guess, of the month. That’s our March newsletter that just went out. So, if you’re not on that newsletter, please do subscribe to that as well. You can just go over to leapfrogbi.com and you’ll find a link over there to sign up for the newsletter.
Next, I want to give you an idea of what we do all day. It can be a mystery. I know we talk about value propositions and building solutions that are specific for a particular business process. So, what does that look like? It’s often about the blocking and tackling things that we must get done. So, I’m going to use my own calendar as an example, but all of us at LeapfrogBI really run our day on a few tools. Of course, you can imagine that reports are a big part of it.
First, I’m on Central time. We don’t have anybody on Eastern time so Central people are the ones that get up the earliest. I happen to get up earlier in the day, so I am the person that begins doing our monitoring. I have talked about this a little in the past, our monitoring process is what monitors all our client production processes every day of the year. This is very important. We must make sure that processes are succeeding at the cadence that they’re supposed to. Most processes are daily, some are multi times a day. There are weekly processes, monthly, and all sorts of different intervals. But every day that’s the first thing that I do is monitor these processes.
Now, as people are coming in, especially when the West Coast folks start coming into work, they’ll begin monitoring the clients that they’re directly responsible for as well. So, if there’s any issues with monitoring, that’s always going to be the first thing that we take care of. Any production process that fails or have errors, those things become top priority. We begin shifting things around if we must deal with a production failure.
So, the next thing that I’ll usually do is start doing my follow-ups. Each day we’re talking to clients from the prior day or even the prior week. We may have requested something, and we must keep track of those requests and make sure that we follow up if we didn’t get what we needed. So that’s the next thing I’ll generally do is I’ll go through follow ups. I get that knocked out early in the morning.
Looking at last Wednesday now, March 2nd, I began working on solutions for one of our new clients, Village Family Capital. This was a working session where I’m working by myself. We had agreed to do a few things for this client. One of which was system of record research, not from the scheme of perspective, but more from a functionality perspective. We’re just trying to use direct system of record reporting, using exports that come out of QuickBooks, desktop, and online. And we wanted to make sure there’s not going to be any problems in that process. Audrey, our practice manager, took QuickBooks desktop. I took QuickBooks online and we both tested this process out so that we can identify any problems that might come into play down the road once we start to build the system in total.
In this case, I did find a peculiar problem. When QuickBooks online generates Excel files as an export, which is what we’re trying to use as our data source, they don’t calculate the Excel file. If you’re familiar with Excel files, they have formulas and then there’s values, and the formulas and values are stored separately in the archive that is an XLSX. An XLSX is just an archive file, you can change it to a zip and see the contents. I didn’t realize that this was the case until I started looking into this, but this is exactly why we do this type of preliminary testing. As soon as I started bringing in Excel files, I could see all the values are zero when they’re sucked into PowerBI, which is the front-end tool we’re using. But when I look at the Excel file, there’s values there. So, after a little bit of digging, we figured that out. So, that became a topic of a conversation with the client. We’re past that now but that’s what that first working session was about.
So, then I moved on to another client. In this case, it would be Paragon, which is an insurance company, a managed general agent (MGA). We’re working on a web service, which one of their partners uses to collect coverage verification. In insurance, if someone tries to file a claim or if they need to file a claim, someone’s got to answer the phone and make sure that person that calls has coverage so they can begin the claim process.
So this web service that we build is something that coverage verification company Sedgwick is able to interactively collect data from and do coverage verification in real time. So, the call here was to discuss some issues that they’re having with the service and investigate those issues. We’re also spinning new versions of the service, so just working on that project is what we were trying to do in this meeting.
The next thing I was doing on Wednesday is meeting with Compulink, which is a company that offers an EHR health record system that one of our clients uses. Aymer, who is the direct consultant that’s managing the client in this case, and I met with Compulink because we are having some connectivity issues. We need to work through the issues that we’re having and figure out what is the root cause and how do we prevent these issues from happening in the future. Compulink is great, they come to the table, they’re ready to help figure these things out. It’s a process, all these things that we must overcome, when we’re building reportopia solutions. We don’t let any of them block us forever, but we do hit obstacles along the way. We deal with those obstacles as they come. This is just one of those things.
The next session that I had on Wednesday was a peer review. Daniel and I are working on a client together. Daniel’s one of our consultants, he did some work and I needed to review to make sure that it’s meeting the need. We also turned that into a little bit of a planning session for our next working session with the client. Peer review sessions are usually quick, half an hour or so, but they’re really, important. That’s a time when the seniors and the junior consultants get to work together and really try to improve what went well, what didn’t go well, why did something not work out the way we want it. Why did this take longer? Or why did this get done quicker than we expect it? All those things. If there’s anything that someone can’t figure out, maybe we need to bring in additional resources to help with it. We address all those things in these peer review sessions so they’re important to us.
Then in the middle of the day on Wednesdays, we have the senior consultant’s meeting. We do this once a week to do our internal process review. We’re not really a young company anymore, we’ve been around for a little while, but we’re still a pretty small company. We’re still trying to find ways, I guess we’re always trying to find ways, to improve our processes. Everything from how we track the tasks that we need to do for our clients, what phase of development things are in, and how are we determining demanding capacity? I’ve talked about that in the past in a prior podcast. That’s going well by the way, being able to track our demand and the capacity. We must meet the demand, it is really, really nice.
We’re not perfect yet. We still have a long way to go, frankly, but we’re on that road. We’re on the road to reportopia when it comes to understanding our internal capacity and the demand on that capacity. So, in this internal meeting, we allocate an hour and a half every Wednesday in the middle of the day, and we focus simply on our internal processes. How do we improve? It may not be terribly insightful for what we’re doing for our clients, but it’s very impactful. This is really where the leadership here at LeapfrogBI tries to figure out how we can do our job better, frankly. How can we help the juniors be more effective? Is the apprenticeship program going well? Everything about the company, we discuss those items and then implement whatever changes we think we want to implement.
Next up was a working session just to do a short little ad hoc report request for one of our clients, Platinum Dermatology, which is a healthcare practice here in the South. So, we got that out, just a quick little ad hoc report like I said.
Then I had a status meeting, that’s with the same company I mentioned earlier, Paragon. Again, this is an MGA, they’re a pretty big MGA. We meet with them three times a week because it’s very active, we’re doing a lot of things for them, we’re constantly building out their data warehouse. We’re pulling in quite a few different data sources. There’s a lot of feeds going out so it’s something that we really need to stay on top of. So, we meet with them three times a week.
And then the last part of the day was a working session with one of our new clients, Amarillo. Daniel and I are kind of tag teaming this one and it’s a little bit of a unique case because we are kind of co-developing with the client. Our client wants to have the knowledge. We totally understand, they want to be able to manage this thing once we get it up and running, they want to understand how this thing functions. They just want to be very involved in the process, which is fine.
Other clients don’t care about what we’re building. At the end of the day, most of our clients hand all of that off to us and we build everything and host everything. Typically, we just deliver the end result. But our clients span the whole gamut. Some clients are completely hands off, some are very hands on, and some are even, like in this case, sort of co-developing. We’re happy to meet any of those situations. So that was the final working session of the day. That’s a long one. Again, it’s actually just sitting down and building out an initial little data warehouse.
Finally, after that last working session, we had a back office call. Amy and I have a weekly meeting where we deal with all back-office stuff from finance, marketing, and anything else that must be dealt with.
Then before I leave for the day, I always do my end of day follow ups, any end to day tasks that I might have. That’s just kind of how I arrange my calendar. I’ll put any little quick follow ups I need to remind myself of at the beginning of the day and I’ll put any follow ups I need to do at the end of the day. I’m usually scheduling those things out at least a week or maybe two weeks into the future. So, I know every day when I go into the office, I know exactly what I need to accomplish. It’s really a good feeling, frankly, when you’ve got so many things going on to know the commitments that I made for that day. I know what I’m going to do and how much time I have to do each thing. That’s it. If I follow my calendar, I know I’m going to be in good shape.
If something interrupts the calendar, then no problem. If a client has a particular need, like I mentioned earlier, like a production failure, or maybe they just have an emergency, we’re going to meet that need. If some of our things on our calendar can be shifted around easily without impacting any other clients then we’ll do that to make sure that we deliver on whatever our clients need daily.
That’s pretty much it, we rinse and repeat every day. We start the day off with follow ups and doing monitoring, going through working sessions, status meetings, and just taking care of business. Whatever needs to be done, we are making sure our clients are taken care of. We finish up with any end of day task or follow ups and then we just keep doing the same thing repeatedly. I would say probably one of the most important things that we do here at LeapfrogBI though, is how we use Microsoft planner. We use it like a Kanban board. Every single task that we sign up to do, every feature that our clients request, goes into a backlog and we track them individually in detail. We’re moving them from the backlog through requirements, development, and ultimately, we deliver the feature.
I mentioned demand and capacity in a past podcast. We track the cards that we need to be acting on, such as the ones that are in development, and we make sure that those cards are referenced from our time blocks on our calendar. This has been a tremendous help to all of us. It helps us see how much demand has been placed daily. That helps us, frankly, throttle things.
We’re fortunate enough to have plenty of demand for our services. The challenge is how do we get people trained, so that we can have quality trained people, helping even more clients. It’s about throttling how quickly we’re going to bring clients on. So having that demand and capacity type of a view of things for us in the business that we’re in is important for making decisions on an everyday basis.
I want to make an announcement. I’ve been thinking about setting up some interviews. I mentioned this early on as one of the things that I want to do on this podcast. Last week, a friend of mine that was listening to this podcast, volunteered to do an interview. Seth, if you’re out there listening, I am going to take you up on that offer. It’s something that I really would like to do. I think there’s a lot of smart people out there that are involved in all sorts of things that the audience of this podcast would appreciate hearing about. I’m going to make it a point to make that happen. I’ve got a couple little technical things I need to figure out because obviously we’re not going to always be in the same place. I want to have quality audio recording.
People have figured that out before, I’ll figure it out as well. We’re going to get a couple of interviews soon so look for that.
I really appreciate everyone listening in. Next week. I have plans for a pretty good podcast so do return next Tuesday. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll talk to you again next Tuesday.