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CIO Applications connected with Joshua Millsapps, Senior Partner at MB&A to know more about their unique solution, how they are impacting the business world, and their plans for the future.
Can you tell us the story that led to the foundation of MB&A? What are the initial challenges that you faced and how did you counter them?
MB&A was born from conversations my Co-Founder Erik Ballinger and I had while working towards our MBA’s at George Washington University. We were spending a lot of time working together, got along well and had similar feeling about how a business should be run. At that point, I was a partner in a management consulting firm and I felt the market for consulting services without a differentiator was shrinking. I felt there needed to be something more to a company’s approach if it was to be successful. We saw complex data collection (which eventually became inspections) as a place where we might be able to make a difference. My Co-Founder Erik and I shared the vision and this led to the foundation of MB&A in 2011.
The first iteration of our product was built on a traditional Java and Oracle stack, but due to the price point, only large organizations could afford it. Although we felt that we had a great solution at hand, one that made the complex business of gathering information and managing the resulting enterprise portfolios easier, cost was a huge issue in getting to sales. We recognized very early on that we needed to re-platform in order to lower costs and appeal to a wider audience. Cloud-first policies were fast gaining momentum in the industry and this led us to Salesforce. Today, all our products and services are built on Salesforce and as an ISV (Independent Software Vendor) and Salesforce Consulting Partner, our clients get the benefit of our experience as a builder of Salesforce Apps as well as our implementation experience. I think one of the big keys of our success is understanding how to work with key Salesforce AppExchange products. By leveraging the Salesforce platform, our own ExAM product, and whatever the customer may need that is custom, to create enterprise solutions that can truly scale. Whether that is for the more than 30 hospitals that have chosen ExAM to help support environmental health and safety inspections, the thousands of property inspections performed by more than 250 public housing authorities, or by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Tell us more about your application ExAM4Inspections that is changing the game for inspectors when it comes to building, scheduling, and executing better inspections.
ExAM4Inspections is a cloud-based application that is built on top of the Salesforce platform and empowers inspectors to support complex inspection requirements, without the solution itself being overly complex. Today, we are rapidly becoming a preferred solution for private sector, municipalities, and federal organizations with complex inspection requirements in the field.
Our goal is to elegantly handle the complexity of our customers’ enterprise inspections. We want to make great inspections easy
Another key feature includes our ability to enable communities that allow our customers to bring their stakeholders together around the inspections that concern them. For example, school inspectors can work with principals to address deficiencies as we did for Los Angeles Unified School Districts, or like we do for Washington DC’s Department of General Service where we enable building stakeholders, facilities, maintenance staff, and private contractors to collaborate around facilities maintenance efforts. We can also help you develop an online training and certification system directly in ExAM4Inspections, enabling you to ensure only trained and certified inspectors are scheduled for certain types of inspections. This capability is critical to another unique feature. Our ability to use an inspector’s schedule, availability, certifications, and location to develop complex inspection assignments that take into account all of the above and even travel time to efficiently and effectively take a first cut at handling your inspection backlog.
Can you highlight a case study to give us a better understanding of ExAM’s unique value proposition?
One of our large inspection customers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been performing Housing Quality Standard inspections for more than 20 years, and the inspection protocol itself is essentially a checklist that relied completely on inspector experience to determine whether a unit was fit for occupancy. There was a desire by HUD to create a new, fairer protocol that would reduce inspector training requirements while at the same time delivering a fairer inspection process that enabled tenants, public housing authorities, and other stakeholders to have more insight into housing quality. Using ExAM to support the new inspection protocol has enabled more than 250 public housing authorities to transition to the new UPCS-V inspection protocol. Part of this is because we made scaling and going enterprise-level easy. Our platform was designed to scale to handle millions of inspections and all of the different stakeholders in the business process. Some of this is our own ExAM magic and some of it is Salesforce, for example customers love our simple and easy to use reporting features, a big hit with the inspector community that mostly comprises senior members who aren’t very tech-savvy. Of course, Salesforce pioneered this road by making reporting easy for sales staff. In general, our motto is “Make the Complex Simple.” For example, in the case of a complex HUD protocol, we leverage a standard Salesforce technology, Knowledge, and used it to create manuals and make them available within our inspection application. The goal of HUD’s new standard was to reduce subjectivity and increase transparency and our decision tree model makes that possible. When an inspector finds a defect, instead of just categorizing it as “pass/fail”, our software prompts a series of sequential questions that help produce additional details on deficiencies. This in turn, results in maintaining consistency, minimizing data entry errors, and facilitates better decision-making at every level. For HUD this means ExAM helps inspectors in making deficiency decisions, PHA staff evalauting units, HUD staff auditing PHA portfolios and congressional oversight. At every step along the path, ExAM supports better decision-making.
Give us a peek into your roadmap. Are there any expansion plans in the pipeline?
Innovation is the name of the game for us. One of the things we are focused on is evolving our mobile experience and making it even easier to use. We have started creating metadata packages that enable specific industries to get a version of ExAM that has been tailored for that industry. So whether that is facilities inspections, housing inspections or hospitals the customer is stepping into something that is immediately familiar and useful. More generally we release four times a year and each time we focus on a different theme. This year the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter releases will be about automated inspection scheduling, mobile UI, individualized reporting, and API extensions respectively. As an example, in the summer release where the focus is on individualized reporting, we are tightening our partnership with Docusign to build out document repositories to manage inspection results as well as to make it easier for Docusign customers to leverage Docusign’s digital signature products within ExAM. We are extremely proud of where we are today but the possibilities are endless for us. It’s all about fine-tuning the user experience, extending partnerships, and evolving our core expertise in data collection and information evaluation.