Category Archives: Billhighway

Giving on the Go

Billhighway recently offered a webcast, in partnership with HandsOnTech Detroit covering the many mobile fundraising options for nonprofits.  In it, Tracy Ann-Palmer and myself outline some of the challenges facing nonprofits, specifically related to fundraising and donation processing and how to embrace this new era of mobile fundraising.

While mobile alone can’t remedy the decline in charitable gifting, there are techniques to leverage the areas that are working – notably online and special event fundraising, which grew more than 50% (Nonprofit Fundraising Study 4/12.)  Further, organizations that have embraced mobile technology have raised up to 180% more funds (Nonprofit Technology Network, NTEN.)

During the webcast we highlighted 5 [Mobile] Fundraising Flavors:

  • Text to Give
  • Scan to Give
  • Mobile Card Readers
  • Use of Native Apps
  • Use of HTML5

The above topics were chosen because they have the most potential for nonprofits to embrace quickly and cost-effectively.  The topics are also part of a larger mobile payments movement, which were outlined today by Business Insider as the only four to matter, which is consistent with our experience.  Again, they are:

  • Carrier billing: Where the consumer pays by text message and the charge is added to their phone bill. This is great for a variety of specific use cases (reaching the unbanked, especially teenagers; ecommerce and gaming), but is crimped by carrier fees and control.  
  • Near-Field Communications (NFC): Where the consumer can pay at the point of sale by waving his phone in front of a terminal. NFC has been overhyped: it’s not more convenient than cash or credit, and the many companies who want a piece of NFC are canceling each other’s efforts out.
  • Apps: Where the consumer uses an app on his smartphone to pay, typically by scanning a barcode at the register. This is especially useful for specific companies and retailers to offer, as it allows them to offer loyalty rewards and discounts on top of payments.
  • Card readers: Pioneered by startup Square, with recent entries from eBay (PayPal), Intuit, and Verifone, these solutions allow merchants to take payments by plugging a card reader into a smartphone or tablet. They’re very convenient (swiping a credit card is already ingrained consumer behavior) and piggyback on the existing credit card network.  However, only Billhighway’s Give App is catered to the needs of nonprofits.

You can read the full report from Business Insider here.

The slides from our presentation can be found here.

Who’s ready for Web 3.0?

Just when people started to become comfortable with Web 2.0, Social Media and increasingly “Cloud” – those internet hipsters have to push the envelope further!  In true geek style, increasing a version # is the equivalent to retail’s “New & Improved” formula for laundry detergent.  For supporters it sticks immediately because it has to be better than 2.0 – right?  In IT we move fast, learn, fail and iterate – using a zero based integer reflects our progress. For others it’s just another opportunity to exploit a “buzz word” an over-used, misunderstood acronym that attempts to differentiate the cool-kids from the has-beens.

Well, the only constant in technology is change – right?  Half the battle is determining what concepts are worth your time and which are just noise.  A good CIO should be able to help decipher that for your organization.  I often say, my level of detail fluctuates between 2″ or 20,000 feet – and not much in between.  It takes a respectable amount of time to stay abreast of what seems to be a daily innovation – as somebody, somewhere has uncovered the latest must-have technology/process or technique that you simply can’t live without.  Everyone once in a while, they’re right, most often they’re not.

At Billhighway, R&D is a first class citizen.  It’s important we’re able to speak to all modern technologies, tools, resources or methodologies – we pride ourselves on continuous improvement.  Agile, Scrum & Lean are deeply embedded into our thought process and rarely is there only a single way for getting something done.  Often, the correct answer to an IT question is “it depends.”  There are simply too many variables that can impact your results, having diverse perspectives and a process that can remove emotional decision-making is often key.  And, in a way, that’s what Web 3.0 is all about – the Semantic Web.

Arguably, each of the previous web generations was transformative to business and 3.0 aims to build upon that evolution.  Web 3.0 is a smarter Web, giving users/computers/processes better ways to share information, helping to make faster, more accurate decisions (business intelligence the the 3rd power.)  This has enormous benefits for people who need to search for information, automate business processes and transactions.  Information in a Web 3.0 world will be much easier to access, because systems will do a lot of the time-consuming work that people still do today.

Ultimately, it’s about transparency – by providing incentives for reducing waste and improving accountability.  The orchestration of tools that cut years of research down to days – the holy grail of “do more with less.”  The promise of Web 3.0 suggests information will be much better linked and more efficiently utilized on an increasingly global scale.  Gone are the days of walled gardens.  Sure there will always be private and confidential data, but it will be increasingly abstracted and consumed in more meaningful ways without jeopardizing critical data – via personal data lockers where you control access to your identity, configuring who gets access to what and in what context depending upon role, intent and location.  Think of it as a deeper understanding of the relationships between people, services and objects – paving the way for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), Open Energy Information (OpenEI), advancements in biotech and even improvements in customer service.

It remains to be seen, if Web 3.0 will have the fan fair of say, Web 2.0 – which even casual observers could see or feel an impact.  3.0 is about transparency whereas 2.0 fundamentally changed the landscape and has touched nearly everyone in a meaningful way.  Think I’m wrong?  Have you managed to boycott Facebook or refuse to tweet?  How about read the news on an iPhone/iPad or eReader?  Still writing checks?  It’s hard to imagine any brand that isn’t somehow trying to incorporate a social strategy – even if done poorly or lacking initial value. The “conversation” has begun and the integration of one’s online and offline life is becoming co-mingled – with or without your participation.  The pace of change is increasing, knowledge has paved the way for tools and business processes to streamline, automate and exploit what we were taught in kindergarten – SHARING.

Hindsight is 20/20, but a rare few are able to decipher the climate of the internet economy and position themselves and/or their organizations to benefit from the next wave of innovation – bring on the “real-time-web.”

*If you find this an interesting subject, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The ClueTrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.

Detroit CIO Executive Summit Recap

Whew!  Where to begin?  I spent the day out in Dearborn, MI attending a CIO Executive Summit  organized by Evanta and the CIO Leadership Network and I must admit, I was very impressed.  As the CIO of Billhighway.com I tend to participate in a number of local and national events, conferences, workshops, you name it – but the quality of content today was just superb.

The opening keynote by Ed Ruggero, Former U.S. Army Office, Author and Military Historian re: A Winning Culture: Leadership as Competitive Advantage set the stage for a very productive day.  Mr. Ruggero is a great story teller and excellent speaker – making countless comparisons between the military and IT leadership.  The CIO Leadership Network will be publishing videos of each presentation soon, and I’ll be sure to post a link once its available.

After a short break, Phillip Bertolini, Deputy County Executive & CIO of Oakland County along with L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive had a unique presentation about the “marriage” between the CEO and CIO, which was very well done.  They touched on the typical stages leading up to and into a successful marriage; courting, building trust, communication and partnership.  A couple noteworthy highlights:

  • CEO Vision + CIO Tools = ROI
  • CEO must have some understanding of Technology
  • CIO must have some understanding of Business
  • To gain the trust of the CEO, the CIO must build and delivery dependable, predictable, repeatable strategic technology solutions

At 11am there were several break out sessions, in which I attended “Achieving Higher Performance in your Current Role and How to Successfully Transition into Your Next Role.”  A couple of the takeways I found here were:

  • Have executive/leadership presence (this is something I’ve been hearing alot lately)
  • Be inspirational, captivate, motivate and lead by example
  • Handle touch situations with confidence
  • Build Relationships
  • Enhance Collaboration
  • Integration your Personal Values

Lastly, a couple book recommendations: Why CEOs Fail & What got you here, won’t get you there.

At lunch, Andre Mendes, SVP, Strategic Planning & Global CIO of the Special Olympics International gave a talk on Crisis-Driven Innovation: The Ultimate Change Agent, which I found very uplifting.  Not only is Mr Mendes extremely intelligent, but a great speaker – very TED esq. touching on a broad spectrum of topics, where we’ve been, where we’re going and the speed of change, often unrealized by industry that’s so closely engaged in the day-to-day business affairs.  This will be another great talk to catch online, once it’s available.  A few takeaways here, for a CIO’s to-do list:

  • Build abstraction layers
  • Consolidate – streamline line of business applications, investigate SaaS
  • Virtualize – reduce hardware footprint, increase manageability
  • Co-locate – ping, power, pipe are commodities, leave this to the pro’s
  • Cloud IT – have the applications you want, without any of the headaches

Lastly, Mr. Mendes challenged CIOs to get out of your comfort zone, expose yourself to the unknown and take [managed] risks.  Abstract technology, focus on the business.  Scalability, availability and security all have their place – in the abstraction layer; don’t let them choke innovation.  To me, this means if you’re spending any respectable amount of time here, GET OUT OF THE WEEDS – you, as the CIO are not allowing your business to realize the value of your role.  Oh yea, and don’t be a “NO” man, as we get older and more experienced, it’s natural to become complacent – not embracing “change”, however if/when opportunities get presented to improve X, you might be better served by giving it a try.

The day closed out for me with a session about eight simple rules for Survival, by Greg Schwem, president of Comedy with a Byte who was very entertaining, keeping things on the lighter side and some pointing out some (often overlooked) examples of Do’s & Don’ts.  Closing keynote was by Kevin Summers, Corporate VP & Global CIO of Whirlpool Corporation who shared some rare insight into the operational aspects of overhauling a nearly 100 year old, multinational organization.  His 10 Transformational best-practices were:

  1. Create a strategic roadmap
  2. Implement a formal change management program (and team)
  3. Adopt (and standardize) an Enterprise Architecture early
  4. Invest time/energy into Value Chain Integration (it works)
  5. Align vision/strategy with business partners
  6. Leverage strategic partners (reduce key vendors where possible)
  7. Manage IT like a business
  8. Talent management is key (yet more about Top-Grading, if you’re not familiar with it, take time to read up!)
  9. Ensure stable operational practices exist
  10. Markets (and opportunities) will return – so be ready!

That about summarizes it, overall GREAT day, packed with invaluable content, excellent speakers and thought-provoking subjects.  I literally took pages of notes, but this should suffice for those that couldn’t make it.  If you get the opportunity to attend this event next year, or in another city, I highly recommend it!  For more information visit: http://www.bycios.com/

TiECon 2009

What is TiE Midwest 20?

TiE Midwest 20 is a new program at the TiECon Midwest annual conference. TiE Midwest 20 acknowledges excellence among 20 startups within five industry tracks including Software, Wireless, Cleantech, media, Life Sciences. TiE Midwest 20

TiECon Midwest 2009 is an entrepreneurial conference , attracting Hundreds of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other professionals. TiECon Midwest has been running from 2008 in Detroit with well known keynote speakers. This year TiECon Midwest is being held on Oct 23-24, 2009 at The Ritz-Carlton, Dearborn.

Selection process:
TiE Midwest 20 finalists will be selected by a combination of public opinion polls and an experienced panel of industry judges. Last date for Nominations Sep 21th 2009.

The Benefits:
TiE Midwest 20 winners will be honored with awards of excellence in front of hundreds of entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists and other professionals at TiECon Midwest 2009. Additionally, the TiE Midwest 20 winners will get special invitations to PowerConnect premium networking sessions at TiECon and will be part of ongoing recognition from TiE Detroit throughout the year.

Substance is Everything

Responsibility. Resolve. Resourcefulness.

The list of qualities the very best executives demonstrate goes on and on. But first and foremost is a keen sense of leadership. Of knowing what needs to be done and doing it, unflinchingly, taking a never-give-up attitude to its logical conclusion. This year’s crop of Corp! magazine’s Michigan Top Executives is no exception. Once nominated, the list of individuals are further scrutinized and screened. And what remains are those who any company would be proud to consider their own.

I’m very thankful to have been recently recognized as a 2009 Honoree of Corp! Magazine’s Michigcan’s Top Executive Award.  More details can be found here: http://www.corpmagazine.com/Departments/CoverStories/tabid/54/itemid/871/Default.aspx

Many thanks to Corp! Magazine for helping to promote Michigan businesses and the leaders within those businesses helping to make a difference.

Billhighway is part of State’s Economic Development Plan

State Announces More Than 600 New Jobs

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm Tuesday (March 17, 2009) announced that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. is helping nine companies grow in Michigan and is backing two brownfield redevelopment projects.

Combined, the 11 projects are expected to create and retain 2,755 jobs and generate over $177.8 million in new investment in the state. “We are working the most aggressive economic plan in the nation to diversify and grow our economy and bring new jobs to Michigan,” Granholm said. “The scope of these projects, including four IT companies choosing to expand in Michigan, shows that our plan to diversify the state’s economy continues to produce results.
Billhighway is one of the eleven companies announced on Tuesday by the Governor; a excerpt of the press release is below:
Billhighway.com – The Web-based finance and accounting software provider that serves more than 1,450 organizations across North America, which has managed more than $1.6 billion in online transactions, plans to invest $5.7 million to expand operations in Troy to launch new programs. The project is expected to create 94 new jobs, including 43 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates that the increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 51 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $1.1 million over 10 years to encourage the company to expand in Michigan over competing sites in Texas, Kentucky and Washington, DC.  To support the project, Oakland County will provide an estimated $25,000 in job-training funds.

Additional coverage can be found here:

CodeMash 2009 – precompiler

Got an early start for the CodeMash 2009 precompiler (day 0)  – despite the fact i didn’t get much sleep, partly due to my iPhone SDK crash course last night.  After talking with others, seems I wasn’t the only one staying up late, not surprisingly, many of the folks here are pretty active into the late evenings, whether checking in with the office, coding, playing games or hanging at the bar..  Either way, I was excited to check out the iPhone session first thing.  I paired with Nayan in the iPhone 101 session, whereas we literally had a [simulated] iPhone application working in 15 minutes!

I have to admit, I was quite a bit outside of my comfort zone, Nayan seemed to keep up a little better than me, the ENTIRE environment was new to me, as I had never programmed anything on my mac (despite me owning one for nearly a year) instead, i’ve used it to dual-boot mac/vista, but thats another story..  The 1.5GB SDK was pretty well organized and included xCode which is Apples development IDE.  After a few intro slides Chris Adamson helped to walk us thru a quick sample application whereas we built a quick browser, hooking up a simple UI with a textBox, button and webView.  We dabbled with a little objective-C and Cocoa, which was a bit of a hurdle for me, not having any ‘C’ roots, but other than syntax ignorance, everything made good sense.  

With this as my first iPhone exposure I’ve got along way to go before producing anything of value, but my goal at this point was to get exposed to it and better understand what, when and how we may look to embrace it over at Billhighway.

In the afternoon I bounced between two sessions, 1.) test driven development with .NET by Leon Gersing & 2.) turning the ship, by Dave Donaldson.  Both were good, TDD is a hot subject and am on a fact-finding mission to overcome the mental hurdles i have before we can begin the practice internally, but I’m off to a good start.  Dave spent time educating folks transitioning to Agile, while we’ve been doing it for a while, there’s always more to learn and improvements to be made – iterate right?

I wrapped up the day listening to a RIA panel, WWE style between the Silverlight, Flex and yes, javascript camps.  The winner?  Based on the emotional tone of the room and intellectual debate, I’d have to say JAVASCRIPT.  That said, as with everything in technology, each situation is different, and we’re best served by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of all available tools, technologies and processes so that we can implement the right tool for the job, when it crosses your plate.  I then shared a few adult beverages with some great folks I met; Vlad, Butch, Becky, and Wayne.  

Day 0 was a great pre-compiler and looking forward to the next two days at the actual “conference.”