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8 Questions to Ask before You Automate

This post is revised and republished from Carl’s blog at Crain’s Detroit Business.

Mobile phone construction conceptInnovation is not exclusively about revolutionary new products or services. Extending an existing offering or improving an internal business process can be an important form of innovation, too.

When I talk with business owners about using software to automate an existing business process, the request usually goes something like this: “We have this clunky process to do X which uses an old buggy application (or spreadsheets or email). It drives the people who do the work crazy. We’re growing and really need to automate the whole thing. Can you help?”

Of course, custom software and even automation is not always the answer. Given the cost of software development, jumping into a project too quickly can doom the hoped-for return. I always start with a few crucial questions: Read more on 8 Questions to Ask before You Automate…

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2 Under 40

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I nominated both of our managing partners in the Grand Rapids office this year for the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under 40″ recognition. Atomic has always believed strongly in the power of pairs, and Mike Marsiglia and Shawn Crowley exemplify why that is.

Since 2009 when they left development positions and effectively apprenticed themselves to me, Shawn and Mike have grown significantly in the scope and depth of their responsibilities and made invaluable contributions to Atomic. In January of this year, we officially pulled the trigger on our succession plan, and they took the titles Managing Partner, Grand Rapids, in addition to their Vice President roles, which span our multiple offices. Read more on 2 Under 40…

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3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ask Us to Sign your NDA

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Nondisclosure agreements are legal contracts that limit one or both parties from disclosing information covered by the NDA. They can be used to protect trade secrets, business plans, customer lists, sources — in short, pretty much any aspect of business. They tend to be short and are readily understandable by non-lawyers.

You may be surprised to find that Atomic Object usually doesn’t sign NDAs at the first stage of a potential relationship. We don’t do this entirely from our self-interest, we just think that you don’t really need one, and you’re better off without one. Read more on 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ask Us to Sign your NDA…

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To In-source or to Out-source? 9 Questions to Ask Potential Teams

This post is revised and republished from Carl’s blog at Crain’s Detroit Business.

insourcing-vs-outsourcing

How should you build your next innovative product or service? One major consideration is whether to do the work inside your company or outsource it. I’ve identified some key dimensions of this problem to help you think through your choice. I’m assuming you have a project large enough to need at least a small team of people, that the stakes are high for you and your company, that time-to-market matters, but is not the overriding factor and that your company is large enough to have employees to consider using. Read more on To In-source or to Out-source? 9 Questions to Ask Potential Teams…

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The First Tech Hire – Helping Clients Build their Software Company

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Atomic’s success ultimately depends on our client’s success, and their success turns on much more than the quality of the software we build. This drives a lot of our business decisions:

  • We brought design practices and designers into Atomic back in 2007 to help our clients determine the right thing to build.
  • We start every project by digging into the business ecosystem and our client’s business goals — that understanding helps our teams contribute valuable new ideas and guides development priorities.
  • We’re as diligent with deployment and hosting as we are with programming and design.
  • We offer beneficial support agreements.

In short, we take a broad view of what’s necessary for market success and provide help well beyond programming. Read more on The First Tech Hire – Helping Clients Build their Software Company…

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Saying Goodbye to Maja

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We lost a member of the Atomic family recently. Maja, my 11-year-old Siberian Husky, reached the end of her long, happy dog life.

We got Maja as a puppy, and though we tried numerous crates and outdoor kennels, she was not a dog to be away from her pack. So from a very early age, Maja came to the office with us. She must have met hundreds of customers, guests, and other office visitors over the years. I can only think of one she didn’t like, and only a couple of people who didn’t like her (they were allergic to dogs).

Maja had a big personality. She was an integral part of my family’s life, and she’s the dog my kids will always remember. She was a dog I’ll never forget. Read more on Saying Goodbye to Maja…

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Growing through Acquisition: Atomic Welcomes Former SRT Solutions Employees

Atomic Object Ann Arbor

I’m pleased to announce that Atomic Object is opening an office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Unlike when we started our office in Detroit last year, we’re opening our doors in Ann Arbor with a small, but strong and diverse team of developers. Our acquisition of SRT Solutions positions us to be part of the vibrant technology and software ecosystem centered around Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

We’re operating out of the former SRT Solutions office at 5th and Washington in the heart of downtown (shown above — yeah, you could probably say we have a thing for old brick buildings…)

Read more on Growing through Acquisition: Atomic Welcomes Former SRT Solutions Employees…

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Opportunity Knocking: Atomic Seeks Managing Partner for Detroit Office

AOD Atoms at Work Atomic Object is searching for a managing partner to lead our Detroit office. The managing partner role at Atomic is a challenging and correspondingly satisfying one. It is an opportunity to build your own software product development office, supported by a proven model, strong brand, and active mentoring and training.

Our Detroit office is one year old and currently employs five great developers, so this isn’t starting from scratch. What our Detroit office ultimately becomes, however, will be crucially dependent on our new managing partner’s skills, dedication, and ambition. This position is a rare opportunity for a developer or designer who relishes the idea of building and leading a team of dedicated, passionate makers.

Qualifications

We’re looking for someone who is excited about contributing to the revival of the city of Detroit and interested in doing the hard work to gain the entrepreneurial rewards associated with the creation of long-term, sustainable value for our clients, Atomic, and themselves.

Read more on Opportunity Knocking: Atomic Seeks Managing Partner for Detroit Office…

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Start Garden & Grand Angels Invest $1.25M in Atomic Sister Company

Atomic Object has been making speculative development investments, or “spec dev” as we call it, since 2003. We give up some project revenue in exchange for equity, a royalty, or a revenue share in a new company. By taking on some of the market risk alongside our partners, we are exposed to the potential upside of the products we help create. This strategy increases our financial leverage while respecting and nurturing our services core.

Blue Medora LogoOne of our most successful investments so far is an enterprise software company called Blue Medora. We co-founded Blue Medora with Nathan Owen in the summer of 2007. Six years later, our partnership remains strong, and I consider myself and Atomic Object as part of Blue Medora.

Read more on Start Garden & Grand Angels Invest $1.25M in Atomic Sister Company…

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I Hate This Question

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

I participated on a panel last night for Rapid Growth’s Not Your Average Speaker Series. (The venue was the very impressive new Bissell Tree House at the John Ball Zoo, served by Grand Rapid’s first and only funicular.)

Four of us from Grand Rapids technology companies (me, Meredith Bronk of OST, Josh Stauffer of Agent-X, and Mike Williams of Springthrough) responded to questions from Rapid Growth editor Jeff Hill. We’re all friends and collaborators, as well as competitors, and it’s fun to get together and swap stories.

Jeff does a great job of moderating this series, and he had an interesting set of questions about how we built our businesses, what matters for culture, what challenges we face, what’s good or bad about Grand Rapids for business, etc. The audience, too, chimed in with thoughtful questions and some discussion.

It was all really great until Jeff asked the question. That would, of course, be: “What’s going to be the next big thing in technology?”     Read more on I Hate This Question…

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