The Cloud is Your Transformation Concierge – Where Do You Want to Take Your Business?

We’ve all heard of the ethereal cloud but few of us understand what it is and even fewer are leveraging it properly.  For most, the cloud is another place to store the ever-growing accumulation of stuff.  But the cloud has potential beyond managing your iTunes library and some are adopting it to the exponential benefit of their business.


According to a study from consulting firm Emergent Research and Intuit, the percentage of U.S. small businesses using cloud computing is expected to more than double during the next six years, from 37% to nearly 80%.  Many small business owners utilize the cloud to streamline communication, increase efficiency, and generally save time and money.  In fact, cloud technology is already having a broader impact on the macro-economy.


With the growing library of platforms and applications accessible across an enterprise and on mobile devices, small and large business are increasingly able to focus on mission critical aspects of their business.  In turn, we’re seeing an explosion in innovation and efficiency that shadows a similar boom during the first years of the Internet.  The cloud is enabling a culture of quick and precise communication and collaboration.  Small and mid-sized businesses are now able to level the competitive landscape and directly challenge traditionally held business sectors – for example, Airbnb.


At NEXMachine, we give our customers the tools and the solutions they need to transform their business.  Process optimization, cross organizational communication, precise reporting, and increased client interaction and intelligence are just a few ways that NEXMachine clients are using the cloud to gain a competitive advantage.  For more information, feel free to contact us or request a demo.

NEXMachine Helps KidKnits Address Global Poverty with The Cloud

KidKnits was founded in 2010 by nine-year old knitter, Ellie, who believed that “You’re never too young to change a life on the other side of the world.”  Through the fair trade import of handspun yarn from women living and working in developing countries, KidKnits offers a simple craft kit for students that is integrated with a comprehensive service-learning curriculum.  KidKnits is dedicated to two separate, yet uniquely connected goals:

  • To support dignity and sustainable employment for vulnerable families living in poverty in developing countries.
  • To honor our founder’s original belief and inspire American youth to help change lives around the world.


Through this innovative model, KidKnits has been able to impact hundreds of lives around the world, including families in Rwanda, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Liberia, and India.  However, as this small, family-run business was growing, the logistical challenges of managing the supply chain, inventory, and customer challenges continued to mount.  This is where NEXMachine stepped in to allow KidKnits to continue to scale their global impact.


Members of the NEXMachine team helped to create a custom solution for KidKnits, built upon the ten free licenses that salesforce offers to all non-profits.  This solution allows KidKnits to stay in close communication with their rapidly growing list of customers and partners across a variety of channels.  For example, school teachers represent the largest portion of KidKnits demand, as they implement the program inside of their classrooms.  KidKnits is able to stay in close communication with the teachers to ask any questions that may arise about the curriculum, can provide additional yarn to any students that are interested in knitting additional hats outside of the classroom, or can stay in touch to offer the KidKnits project the following year as a new group of students comes through the teacher’s classroom each year.


Another key sales channel for KidKnits is their ecommerce site, hosted by Shopify.  Because KidKnits uses salesforce both for managing the customer relationship as well as managing inventory, it became critical for KidKnits to have an integration between Shopify and Salesforce.  While many off the shelf integration tools exist, none of them met the specific needs of KidKnits.  Because of KidKnits’ interest in tracking product inventory, passing customer information to salesforce is insufficient, rather the details of individual order items must also be passed to salesforce.


The NEXMachine solution for KidKnits allows us  to capture purchases on Shopify in the recently introduced Order object in  In addition, KidKnits is also participating in the Orders trial program through which makes it possible to immediately convert opportunities into Orders.  We can now take orders through any channel, convert them to orders and manage our inventory.


The Cloud makes it possible for organizations like KidKnits to have the same features and capabilities that are enjoyed by the largest, most sophisticated enterprises in the world, including the Fortune 50 company located in Ellie’s home town.  This means that KidKnits is able to integrate their sales and marketing, eCommerce which is on Shopify and ERP—Quickbooks Online, to create a single platform upon which to manage her enterprise…. her global enterprise that keeps nearly 100 people outside the US working.


If you’d like to learn more about how you can help address the issue of global poverty or are interested in getting your hands on your very own craft kit, visit


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


The goal of this program is to expose these kids to the opportunities in life that lay ahead of them. To inspire them to break the cycle of poverty they are living in and see a future that is prosperous, a future that does not leave them searching for food and shelter, but instead for ways to help the next generation of kids. Hopefully, we create a generation of entrepreneurs and business people whose success will inspire the generations that follow them.


For those kids who decide to work hard through high school, attend post-secondary education, and pursue a career in the Cloud, there will likely be a good job waiting for them. Careers in technology tend to pay well.  Combine that with the growth in Cloud computing and I can only be optimistic that some of these kids may come to work for me some day. Possibly even become my competitors. Or, even more inspiring, I may work for one of them.


First, we need to help Matt and his team continue their work. They are in urgent need of money for Backpack Peoria, a program designed to provide Peoria’s impoverished kids with the things they need to start the upcoming school year.  Backpack Peoria helps kids start the school year right, which will help to keep them in school and to keep them motivated to stick with their education.  By helping now, we hope to create the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.


To help Dream Center Peoria help these kids, please find it in your hearts to contribute to Backpack Peoria today… now!


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, 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 CRM and the ERP and general ledger applications Kenandy or Financial Force. Users and even developers have difficulty in knowing where one app ends and the other starts.

The middle that middleware occupies is shrinking as the Cloud brings apps together. But there are still plenty of legacy applications being used to make everyone’s lives a little more interesting and challenging. In fact, there are companies who pride themselves in their ability to unravel the mystery of these archaic systems and have turned this wizardry into their own intellectual property.

In the evolution of technology and the Cloud, the goal is to shrink and even collapse the middle that exists between applications. Where this is not entirely possible, it’s to simplify and squeeze out the unproductive complexities using disruptive integration tools. And, for those companies who thrive on guarding your knowledge of integrating the complex and the archaic, good luck. You are basing the value of your company and your future on a dying legacy.

Integrare in nube

Build it Yourself or Build it on Salesforce1

Anyone familiar with has heard the mantra of 5x faster at half the cost referring to the speed and agility of creating applications on the 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 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’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 client and we were speeding to our first release. Drag-and-drop record creation for things like calendar events and other records were done.  All we needed to do was the spit and polish needed to make it easy for users to search for accounts, contacts, rental job sites and other records along with being able to view these records and the related lists. The easy stuff… yeah, right.

Making the Developer’s Life Easier
For NEXMachine and our developers, this was one of those teachable moments in which we completely took for granted the challenges of implementing a simple mobile app that includes features, such as:

  • Account and contact records that reliably render in the mobile app
  • Searching for records that is fast and responsive
  • Chatter
  • Distribution of the app (remember, it takes weeks or longer to get an app published on iTunes)
  • Cross platform support
  • Implementing a solid user experience that was also a responsive design
  • The ability to make changes quickly

PictureFind Nearby Job Sites feature implemented in salesforce1

As a seasoned admin and developer (alas my certs have expired), what frustrated me the most was that I needed engage developers just to add a field on our shiny new app.  I started having nightmares as I imagined my customers using this app wanting even small customization that we could not economically deliver.So, in mid-April, less than 4 weeks from our first go-live, we faced a critical moment of truth.  We stalled.  Over budget and with the most critical deadline in my company’s history looming, were on the verge of failure.  Not because of the fancy drag-and-drop features in our app, but because of the aforementioned simple things that does so well.

Moving Forward
After the cold sweat had subsided when we realized the jam we were in, we put our app side-by-side with salesforce1. Comparing the two apps, we came to the immediate realization that the critical capabilities in our app, such as drag-and-drop calendaring, are the things missing in salesforce1.  The things that were jeopardizing the success of our app, already existed in salesforce1.It took only minutes to make the decision to change direction.  It was late in the day when we communicated our decision to the developers.  The decision was met with resistance and eventually, capitulation when they discovered how easy it was to implement our critical capabilities into salesforce1.

Going to bed that night, I had no idea what we would wake up to the next morning, assuming anyone on the team was going to be able to sleep.  The next day was a new morning for application development for NEXMachine.  Not only did the developers prove they could port our features over to the salesforce1 platform, but it was actually pretty easy.

PictureDrag-and-drop calendaring in salesforce1

With 2-1/2 weeks before our first implementation, we were able to implement all of the critical features demanded by the market for our app with enough time to add several new features we had on the roadmap for our second release.The only regret we have was not making this decision sooner. While the majority of our development effort was on delivering innovative features, we spent valuable time and money attempting to re-create the wheel.   As we go to market, I find that our competitors resist using the Cloud to develop their apps because they feel it commodifies the complexity which they find threatening.

For NEXMachine, we embrace the simplification of the complex because we know that there is no end to the number of innovative ideas we can implement.  The platform along with salesforce1 allow us to focus on capabilities that will enable our customers to compete and win.  That’s what makes us successful.

innovetur in nube

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 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’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 come to the conclusion that he knew infinitely more about my deployment than I did, he fell into the comfort rut he was mentally conditioned to during his tour of duty in IT.  IT guys have been trained to accept, even appreciate, the impending disasters brought on by upgrades.  It’s a kind of twisted Stockholm Syndrome in which IT bonds with their vendor/captors while the project sponsors sit and wonder how their project could go off the rails so badly.  

The beauty of the Cloud is that the people responsible for its implementation are no longer held hostage by their vendors.  In the case of companies like, upgrades come like clock-work and problems are the exception.  So, as I prepare for Spring ’14, I’ll celebrate the cut-over on Friday afternoon hanging out with my family planning for a nice, relaxing weekend.