What’s the Scholastic Connection?

When starting a company, the first question that entrepreneurs are asked is “What’s your exit plan?” Being acquired is generally the most common response. The founders of NEXMachine felt the same way when we started the company two years ago. But, what happens when the startup becomes the acquirer? NEXMachine was faced with this prospect shortly before Christmas of 2014. The funny thing about starting a business is that surprises really are surprises and, oftentimes, how one reacts when presented with the unexpected is the difference between success and the regretful missed opportunity. That was the NEXMachine dilemma.  On February 13, 2015, NEXMachine acquired Scholastic Connections. The rationale for this acquisition was simple: Scholastic Connections provided us with the ability to follow our passion in ways we hadn’t considered previously.  We build applications that are habit forming because they change the way people work in a very positive way by giving them immediate access to relevant information, and connect them with their customers and partners. Since Scholastic Connections builds mobile software targeted at serving schools, they deepened our ability to make our applications mobile – and at a faster pace than we were able to achieve previously. In addition, Scholastic Connections makes it possible for NEXMachine to deliver these kinds of applications to a whole other industry – education – which, until now, has not even been a consideration. Starting a business is filled with twists and turns. The key to survival (and ultimately success) is the ability to recognize the opportunity that was never anticipated. Acquiring a company in the educational space is one of those unanticipated moves...

Help Dream Center Peoria Provide Backpacks to Kids in Need

At the Spring Central Illinois Salesforce User Group (CISUG) meeting, Matt Larson, the executive director for Dream Center Peoria (DCP), discussed how the Cloud is changing the lives of kids in the Peoria area who desperately need help.  Now, Dream Center Peoria urgently needs your help.   Before I get into what Matt needs from you, let me tell you a little about his organization.  Dream Center Peoria’s mission is to impact families living in poverty, starting with kids.  During Matt’s presentation, he painted a very vivid image and gut wrenching juxtaposition of the experience of an 11-year-old boy and his younger sister, currently clients at DCP, living in poverty vs the experience most of us had growing up.   While, as kids, we rode our bikes through our neighborhoods, lived in safe homes and ate three meals a day, children like this 11-year-old boy and his sister oftentimes spend their days wondering when they will eat their next meal, and where they will sleep that night. Moving from home-to-home. Living with relatives or whoever will take them in, sometimes living on the street.   I’m sure the question you are asking is “why the Cloud?” for children and families in such desperate situations.  Don’t they have other, more fundamental needs?  But, Matt saw things differently, as every innovator does.  He and his team work with Becky Steinlage, Director of Social Mission for NEXMachine, to develop a curriculum and teach the Dream Center Peoria kids how to become Cloud consultants and administer Salesforce.com.   The goal of this program is to expose these kids to the opportunities in life that lay ahead of...

The future of integration

The Cloud is once again liberating us from the complexities and costs we see from traditional technology platforms. For a long time, integrating with the Cloud was seen as being complicated. Integrating with apps in a business’s four walls was hard enough, but integrating with a platform that is in the Cloud? Come on! Time and the tremendous growth of Cloud-based apps has shown everyone that it is far easier to integrate with Cloud applications, such as Salesforce.com, Amazon and Google Apps, than it is to integrate traditional technologies from SAP, Microsoft and IBM. What has been traditionally known as middleware is becoming Integration Platform As A Service (IPAAS), a new term in the lexicon of all things Cloud. In many cases, existing middleware vendors are migrating their tools to the Cloud, as is the case with Informatica and Tibco. The Cloud has also created opportunities for disruptive service providers, such as Talend, Jitterbit and Boomi (acquired by Dell) to emerge. Then, there are those innovators that are pushing the envelope like Zapier and Cloud Elements whose mission is to make it possible to integrate everything using prebuilt connectors and a declarative interface for configuration. While these applications and tools are making our lives easier, the real revolution may not be in tools that simplify integration, it’s is likely to be that the Cloud is changing the way applications themselves are being architected and built to create seamlessness without a middle. More and more, the lines between enterprise applications are becoming blurred. Take for example Salesforce.com CRM and the ERP and general ledger applications Kenandy or Financial Force. Users...

Build it Yourself or Build it on Salesforce1

Anyone familiar with salesforce.com has heard the mantra of 5x faster at half the cost referring to the speed and agility of creating applications on the Force.com platform.  While I’ve personally experienced this in building apps on the platform, this advantage hadn’t previously included mobile app development.  That is until salesforce1.Unfortunately for my organization, we learned this lesson the hard way.  Last fall, NEXMachine set out to build an application for the rental industry on salesforce.com that included a mobile  with capabilities such as drag-and-drop for calendaring and creating relationships between records.  The mobile app is an HTML5 hybrid on PhoneGap using salesforce’s Mobile Tool Kit. We were convinced that our new app was going to be out in a few short months and revolutionize the industry.  Instead, we re-learned the same lesson as so many before us had: that developing software is hard. Enter Salesforce1 When the salesforce1 announcement was made last winter at Dreamforce, we paused for a moment in the development of our application to evaluate salesforce.com’s new mobile platform only return to continue down the path we were on not realizing the challenges that faced us in the coming months.  It seemed like a smart move at the time.  Salesforce1 had many things working against it, including: There wasn’t a lot of information about it at the time Not a lot of examples of what can be done with it It lacked features such as calendaring—a big part of our app It was as new as Chatter was in 2010 Our feeling was that we were so far along in the development of our mobile...

The Cloud Makes Friday Afternoons Fun Again

Anyone who has been in enterprise software long enough will tell you that they dread Friday afternoons because that’s when implementations blow up and premise-based technology is most vulnerable to failure.  The time between 1 PM and 4 PM on the last work day of the week is when it’s discovered that: training the following week can’t happen because the app is not ready and travel needs to be re-booked; the cut-over on the weekend can’t happen because some process failed; the upgrade can’t happen for a variety of reasons. The list could go on…. and on.  Some times these issues can be mitigated and sometimes, remediated.  Unfortunately, due to the complexity of enterprise software, they are neverAVOIDED, unless we’re talking about Cloud-based software.A little more than 5 years ago while working for a manufacturer, I was providing an overview of what was my first implementation of salesforce.com to my new manager (my 3rd person to take the helm of my organization in 15 months).  This middle manager had made the circuit from sales to IT to customer service as most people do when their employers have no idea what to do with them.As I explained that there was an upgrade happening that weekend from one of salesforce.com’s seasonal releases to the next, he asked to see my regression testing plan and the budget to support the upgrade.  He also assumed my team and I would be working the weekend during the upgrade.  When I told him my plan consisted of logging in Sunday morning to make sure everything was working, he panicked…. no, he lost his marbles.  As someone who had...