We discuss how to use a WordPress LMS for internal training websites in big companies and governments with Brad Williams and Lisa Sabin-Wilson from WebDevStudios in this LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS.
WebDevStudios has been around for 11 years, and in this episode Brad and Lisa share experience they have gained from developing LMS sites for companies such as INTAP, Starbucks, and the National Parks Service. Brad and Lisa emphasize the importance of having strong processes in your business to make it easier to function overall, especially as you grow and take on larger projects.
In client work, there is a discovery process that serves as an important step for sharing knowledge and strategizing with the client. This step is especially important with large clients. The discovery process is great for helping clients learn what is possible with a system and how you can help them.
At WebDevStudios, Lisa handles the discovery process with clients. She shares the discussion process she has with clients, and what she is looking for in order to outline a project. The main thing to look for from clients early on is what their vision is for the entire process a student will take from step one to step done. The discovery process for WebDevStudios tends to take up 10-20% of the project budget and at least a few weeks, so this process serves to create a strong foundation.
An intranet is a website that is locked down so you can only access the site if you have permissions. Often intranets are used for internal training. Brad and Lisa have worked with Starbucks and the National Parks Service to develop intranets for on-boarding and training their employees.
Course builders and freelancers mostly work in the private sector developing course websites, but those who have the opportunity to work with the government on a project will have a very different experience to that of a typical business, from speed to budget to winning a bid. Brad and Lisa share their insights from working with the National Parks Service on an internal training site, and how that job differed from typical site builds.
To learn more about Brad, Lisa, and WebDevStudios be sure to check out WebDevStudios.com. At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by two very special guests from WebDevStudios. I’ve got Lisa Sabin-Wilson and Brad Williams. How are you guys doing today?
Brad Williams: Doing great.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Doing good.
Chris Badgett: I’m really excited for this conversation. It’s always fun for me to interview people that I’ve known about online for a while that I haven’t spent a lot of time with. I’ve seen you guys on videos. I’ve followed the progress of WebDevStudios over the years. It’s cool to talk to you, and in a public format really geek out about WordPress, working with clients, learning social stuff. I think it’s going to be a great conversation.
Chris Badgett: I’d like to start around the importance of discovery with the client. Some of the people listening to this episode, or to the show, build sites for clients, or they themselves work at a certain kind of company, and they need to know, like, what they’re dealing with, what they’re getting into. Recently, I spend some time diving into the use cases and business cases of Learning Management Systems. I’m going to list off eight here.
Chris Badgett: The first one is an expert or guru business, is kind of the classic really, it’s really in trend in Vogue right now, with a course, a membership site based around expertise. Then we have internal training. Then we have blended learning scenarios. Then we have online learning marketplaces, online schools, continuing education, WordPress as a service, and then LMS for product marketing and onboarding.
Chris Badgett: These are a lot of different use cases. When you guys are working with a client and learning comes on the table, how do you discover that?
Brad Williams: Discovery. I mean, the I guess I’m just try to think in general how that happened. Generally speaking, when someone reaches out in learning, or an LMS, or some kind of learning component as a part of the project, we usually know ahead of time because at the very least, by reaching out to us they give us some insight into high level goals for a project. That’s not always the case. Right? But generally speaking is. We always hop on a call, and just like you would any other lead come in the door. But once we actually engage with the client, the most … one of the most important steps that we do at this company, no matter what we’re … what the project is, is in-depth discovery. That, I’ll let Lisa talk about that because she really has architected this discovery process that we do at WebDevStudios, really revamped it completely over the last few years, and honestly, it’s a beautiful thing to see it go, so I won’t steal your thunder Lisa. I’ll let you touch on how we do discovery.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Thanks Brad. Yeah, discovery is kind of my wheelhouse, my cup of tea. When somebody does come to us and say they have an LMS, they already have a good idea of what they want to accomplish, right? Whether they want to sell courses, whether they want to have internal private courses for their own staff, whatever, I mean, whatever it is, they already have an idea. From our standpoint, from an agency standpoint, it’s really just pulling that data, that … those details out of the clients had like what is the user experience, from step one to step done, and what are all the steps?
Lisa Sabin-W.: What we do is typically go through all of the different features that are available in an LMS, and by process of elimination, we know what they need, what they don’t need. There’s course building with an LMS, obviously, when you’re with tools for uploading different file types, like videos, PDFs, links to other content documents. What do they need around that? Course progress information, do they need to display to their users how well they’re doing with the course, yes or no? If they do, then we dig into that a little bit more.
Lisa Sabin-W.: We kind of run through the gambit of features available within LMS, things like I’ve already mentioned, student enrollment, and management, content dripping quizzes and tests. Do they need a kind of a social layer on that with BuddyPress, or even a forum like bbPress integration for users to generate profiles or interact with other users in the network, or for teachers to chat through forums or groups. We talk about things like reporting. Do they need to be able to report on user activity, or progress, or types of courses, or even financial marketing tools? What kind of automated emails do they need to look at?
Lisa Sabin-W.: Payment gateways are another really big question in terms of how are they selling this? If they’re selling this, what type of payment gateway do they want to use? Gamification and certificates are another feature that we want to talk about. There’s BadgeOS, and there are different gamification things that can really compliment an Online Learning Portal if they need or want to have that. Homework options, should users have the ability to submit homework, or assignments, and what’s the grading process? All of that.
Lisa Sabin-W.: We really dig into those, and the reason why we go through all the different features is because number one, our clients may not know what features are available with WordPress and an LMS. We may actually say something that sparks some excitement with them that they didn’t think about, like they might think, “Oh, gamification, that’s super cool to be able to encourage people and give them some achievements for participation. That’s another layer that maybe they didn’t think about. That discovery kind of serves two purposes. It gives us the set of requirements that the clients need, and it may be introduces the client into some different features and ideas that they didn’t think about.
Brad Williams: One other thing too, it also helps identify where a client’s at in their process because when they talk about having courses, or gamification, like, great, we can absolutely do that. Have you sat down and architected what the courses are going to be? How are they going to be managed? Have you talked about the type of gamification or achievements that they can earn and how they’re going to earn those? Generally speaking probably at that point, maybe they have a high level idea of some of the things, but they don’t have all the details. It’s a good way to help define some homework for the client say, “Okay, great. Let’s start, on your side, start thinking about the achievements you want to highlight through gamification. Start thinking about that coursework and how that will look, and how will present that,” because while we can make recommendations, we can’t necessarily always answer those questions because it’s very dependent on what they’re trying to do. It’s a really great process, really thorough process.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Yeah, so if you come to us and say, “I want an LMS,” expect a lot of questions from us. That means so many different things.
Chris Badgett: I got to ask you, Lisa, when you rattled that off all those features of LMS, how did you become familiar with that suite of feature sets there?
Lisa Sabin-W.: Through necessity.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Lisa Sabin-W.: [inaudible 00:07:48], number one, I write books on WordPress, right? I write WordPress For Dummies books, WordPress For Dummies for Web Design books, so I have to be on top of what’s current, what’s out there, what features are available in order to speak to that stuff intelligently. That’s number one. Number two, I have to be able to speak intelligently to our clients, right, and to help our development teams through maybe what they don’t know an LMS can do, if they don’t have experience with it. I think anybody who is a provider of service like we are should be able to speak intelligently to those types of things, if that’s the service that they’re offering.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. You guys do Enterprise WordPress Development, and if there’s somebody listening out there who hasn’t quite developed a discovery process or whatever, I’m just curious, how long does it take for you guys, or does it depend on the project? What percentage of an overall project is discovery? Can you just give us a sense of how much you invest in the discovery process?
Lisa Sabin-W.: I mean, every single project has a discovery, and I think with each project, it depends on the scale of the project, really. But I would and Brad, please step in on this, but I would say 10 to 20% of a project budget is discovery.
Brad Williams: Yeah, I mean on average, our discovery is at least a couple weeks, if not three to four weeks, sometimes even longer with a really complex build. The thing we … the way we really describe it is it needs to take as long as it needs to take, right, because we like to, the way we describe it to clients is it’s the blueprint, right? If you’re going to have an addition added to your house, or build a whole brand new house, cool, let’s build a house, right? But we got to sit down and figure out the blueprint of exactly how we’re going to build this house, not just what you want, but how are we going to build what you want? What tools are we going to use? What, if we’re building an LMS, what’s the backbone of that? Is it Lifter? Is it something else?
Brad Williams: A lot of it through the series of these questions is helping us identify the proper tools for the job. We’re not in the business of reinventing the wheel. I mean, that’s why we love WordPress and open source. There’s so many great tools out there that can get us so far ahead, we can focus on the customizing it, it’s really tailor, but the core of it is done.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Well, I think what our clients look at us to for Brad, is really being that expert, to consult to help them make that decision.
Brad Williams: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s really awesome. Before we go into the use case of internal training, a lot of people are looking for a website, but an internal training site is often an intranet site for a company. Can you help somebody who’s kind of new to that concept understand what a intranet is?
Brad Williams: Yeah. I mean, intranets are cool, right? Essentially, an intranet is a website that is locked down. You can only access the site if you have permissions. Usually when someone’s saying an intranet, it’s like an internal company portal. It’s for all the employees of that company that can access relevant information, maybe a calendar of events, maybe a personnel directory, things like that. It’s essentially, it’s a website at the end of the day, it’s a website, but it’s only accessible by certain people, and that’s usually the employees of the company in a nutshell. Did I do a good job, Lisa?
Lisa Sabin-W.: You did a great job, Brad.
Chris Badgett: Excellent. You guys have done internal training websites, intranet sites for Starbucks, the National Park Service, INTAP University, can you tell us what those kind of companies needed in terms of … for internal training? What do these websites do?
Lisa Sabin-W.: The one project that absolutely everybody is curious about, always asks us about, it is the top traffic portfolio piece on our website, no matter who comes to our website, and that’s the Starbucks build, right? Everybody wants to know because I think everybody’s a fan of Starbucks, and everybody can relate to that brand. So can I because I love Starbucks.
Brad Williams: She’s actually a super fan.
Lisa Sabin-W.: I think I’m a super fan. Is that called a stand? Is that what they call a stand?
Brad Williams: Sure.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Starbucks came to us and they wanted employee training. Internal, so this is an intranet, and it is geared towards employee training, which is a system that Starbucks wanted to use like WordPress and BuddyPress to train baristas how to make drinks with a particular piece of equipment. In this case, it was the Verismo, I believe. What they wanted to be able to do was upload videos, like training videos, to show people how to use it, right? This is where you put the coffee, this is how much water you put in, whatever. They’ve got these videos, and then after they watch the video, the barista takes a quiz, and they’re graded. In order to move on to the next quiz or the next level or whatever, I think it was like a 70 or 80% proficiency they needed to have on the quiz, something around there, and that would allow them to move on to the next quiz, and then to the next quiz.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Their managers at the stores were able to view the progress of the barista on how well they are doing, and really kind of dig into any problems that they were having. We use BuddyPress for their activity feed. We built leaderboards for them. There was gamification involved with badging and achievements. There were a lot of user access rules around the quizzes and who had access. Not only who had access to the results of the barista’s tests, but also the barista themselves, there were access rules that we had to build, right, because if they had to reach an 80% proficiency, you know that the only baristas that are should be on the level two quiz, or the people that got 80% on the level one quiz. Just kind of bad.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Then they just needed design overall. We used a variety of things. BuddyPress, we used custom post types, of course, Gravity Forms, and created a quiz system that the employees could participate in. We also integrated that with a Google Charts API, which allowed the managers to log in and see the statistics on how employees scored.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. Very cool. Was that for after they’ve already started or before you can come to your first day of work kind of thing? Do you know?
Lisa Sabin-W.: It was after they started. It was like a-
Chris Badgett: It’s like onboarding.
Lisa Sabin-W.: It’s like if you were a barista at Starbucks, and Starbucks introduced a new piece of equipment while you were working, I mean, you could work there for five years, but the Verismo is a brand new piece of equipment, so you need to be trained on it. Or the Unicorn Frappuccino where would you drink that, everybody’s crazy about it, so maybe you would take a quiz on how to make the best Unicorn Frappuccino in the world. Brad, you tried those Unicorn Frappucinos, didn’t you?
Brad Williams: I did. Even I had the zombie one too, and they’re, I mean, they’re literally just sugar. They look cool, but they’re all-
Lisa Sabin-W.: I’m a fan of Starbucks, but I never went that far.
Brad Williams: I mean, it’s cool because I remember after we rolled this out, a few months later, we could go to any Starbucks and we would always ask, “Hey, have you done any training on a website a portal?” They’re like, “Oh, yeah, I went through that,” and we’re like, “We built that,” and they’re like, “Oh, great, that’s nice,” and then gave us our coffee, but it’s still fun to hear like, oh yeah, it’s actually being used by literally every barista out there. It’s definitely a really fun project.
Chris Badgett: Well, if you guys, I mean, you guys serve the enterprise where there’s a lot of efficiency and there’s … I don’t know how many Starbucks there are in the world, but …
Brad Williams: A lot.
Chris Badgett: … when you streamline education, there’s huge gains. I mean, most small businesses just throw people to the fire, they’ll be like, “Hey, shadow this experienced person,” and in that’s what it is. This is what it looks like at scale with a lot of automation in there. That’s really cool. What about the National Park Service? What was that one like?
Brad Williams: That was a fun project because unique in the sense that it was a government project, and easily … I think we’d maybe done one or two smaller government bids up to that point. But this was certainly the large … easily the largest one that we had done. That has its own unique set of challenges, which I won’t get into because that’s not the point is context. But that always stands out to me because it was our first big government gig.
Brad Williams: It was fun, though. Basically, we built again, a portal for the National Park Service. You had to be a member of the National Park Service, and this is primarily for NPS employees, like park rangers, things like that. Really what the goal was is just a massive knowledge share, resource sharing, intranet or portal for all of the employees of the Park Service. A good example of how they would describe it to us one of the challenges they’re trying to solve is they had obviously have a ton of employees all over the US, all over the parks, the national parks. Some of these parks are huge, tons of traffic, tons of people, like Yellowstone, for example, and others aren’t. There in more remote locations where there might be like one park ranger that kind of works by themselves and they’re really disconnected from the larger NPS organization.
Brad Williams: It was a way to try to bring, one, a social component, again with BuddyPress so that there would be more interaction especially for those poor rangers out there by themselves. It was really sad hearing about it, I’m like this, “They’re just alone all day long,” and they’re like, “Oh, they love it, don’t worry.” Course around in the mountains and loving nature and stuff, so maybe I’m a little jealous, but there’s definitely a learning aspect to where they can do some training. There’s a Help Center. A lot of resource sharing, again, cultural resources for employees, there’s internship opportunities. Again, go back to that intranet idea of just a nice employee portal where they can access all the relevant information that they might need.
Brad Williams: It was it was a pretty big initiative. Again, all private, all behind the scenes, but the real uniqueness was the government, and they just … things just run differently with budgets, with allocation, timelines, all that stuff. That was pretty neat. But that was definitely a fun project.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Yeah, the interesting thing about the National Park Service, aside from the fact that it was the National Park Service, I mean, that was just super cool to be involved with … Anyways, but they had their own learning, online learning tool called DOI talent from the Department of Interior talent. We didn’t use any, like LearnDash or Lifter. We didn’t use any WordPress-specific LMS there. But basically, what we did is worked with their DOI and learn to provide access to their online courses. They also did face to face courses, and a lot of people to register for in-person courses that they wanted to send their people to. Then they also did webinars.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Part of their knowledge library or their, I guess they called that their comments area, was really resources that employees could tap into from white papers, just written documentation, to online courses that they could either register for or just view for free without registering, and then in-person webinars or in-person courses that they could attend. All of those details were filled within the comments in terms of all of the event logistics that you would expect to be there.
Lisa Sabin-W.: But yeah, that was their goal, is to really bring all of their park rangers together. Yeah, they gave us an example of the one singular park ranger guy who’s working in a park on the tippy top of Alaska all by himself. It’s really hard the logistics to bring that guy in for regular training to DC. Having this portal for those types of employees, and to really make their documentation and resources for training consistent across the board as well was important.
Lisa Sabin-W.: We used to have these binders of, you can imagine it’s a government, right, so we used these office shelves filled with these huge binders of tabbed papers where they would have to go through, and then that was their training materials. You can imagine the logistics of when that stuff updates, getting the new binders up to Alaska, and getting them updated with the most recent information was difficult. Now they’ve got the online portal that anybody can access.
Chris Badgett: That’s amazing. You guys probably don’t know this about me, but I spent about a decade in Alaska, and I think I might know the guy. I used to run sled dogs in Alaska for a while, and the guy, one of the guys that worked for the National Park Services to furthest north is a good friend of mine. He doesn’t do that anymore, but-
Brad Williams: That’s the guy.
Lisa Sabin-W.: [crosstalk 00:22:10].
Chris Badgett: I might actually know that guy. Everything I knew about his work up there was he was alone. He’d just get on the plane, go out into the field, and he was patrolling on dog team doing some-
Lisa Sabin-W.: I’m going to guess that that’s 80% the guy we’re talking.
Brad Williams: Small world.
Chris Badgett: His name was Zack, but-
Lisa Sabin-W.: [inaudible 00:22:30]. They just described his work environment.
Brad Williams: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: A question about working with governments. I’m seeing more and more people using Lifter sites. Mostly what I’m noticing is at the state level, because every state does different things for different government things, what advice do you have for people who are wanting to do client services in the government sector?
Brad Williams: Be patient.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, long sale cycle or?
Brad Williams: Yeah, I mean, that’s … that was the one that stands out to me is it’s a long road to get from the initial discussion to actually either winning or losing the project. They move about as fast as you would expect the government to move, and honestly, there’s a lot of similarities for valid reasons with … in the educational space too. But that was the one that stood out for me. It’s a totally different process for bidding, and proposals, and all that. What about you?
Lisa Sabin-W.: Yeah, for bidding, it’s completely different because the government has to go with the lowest bid. They’re required to because, right, they’re spending the people’s money, so they want to make sure that they’re being frugal with that money. That means that they’re not necessarily getting the best, which means the government doesn’t always end up with the best front-facing technology-
Brad Williams: Except in our case, right Lisa?
Lisa Sabin-W.: Well, I’m just saying that when you lose a contract to a government bid, for example, don’t be disheartened. A lot of times in corporate, in business, we lose the contract, we’re upset about it, and we want to know who it goes to. But we have to understand that in government bids, it goes to the lowest bidder, period. There are agencies out there that will just bid low just to get the contract.
Lisa Sabin-W.: But Brad’s right. I mean, they move about as fast as you would expect government to move, and that doesn’t always … that’s not limited to the bidding process either. I was the point person on the National Park Service, and I love those people. I really, really, really do. But they’re government, and they move … You always talk about the wheels of justice moving and turning really slow, so does the government. They move really slow. We’re used to moving and shaking in the corporate world and in technology, but in government, you just kind of have to sit back, and you work at their pace.
Lisa Sabin-W.: The National Park Service is great because it’s a group of academics. There’s anthropologists in there, there’s historians in there, it’s super interesting project, but academics. It was fun though, it was a lot of fun. Accessibility is the other thing. If an agency, like if you’re working with the government-
Brad Williams: It’s biggie.
Lisa Sabin-W.: … accessibility has to be top of mind and strict.
Brad Williams: One of the things that stood out to me is that at the end of the project, they’re also required to do a retrospective that they have to share with the vendor who did the project, which was great. We got some real raw, honest feedback. Exactly how they felt about the project at all levels. You don’t always get that from a client even though you might ask, and try to get it, sometimes people just don’t want to, don’t prioritize it or are comfortable doing it, whatever. But it’s an official thing that they have to fill out and have on file for the project. We get access to that, so it was really valuable feedback to see how they perceived the project, which by and large was a very successful projects. They were happy.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. Well, tell us about INTAP University, what was that one?
Brad Williams: Want to take that one, Lisa?
Lisa Sabin-W.: I can take it INTAP is … they’re more business, right? They’re not government. They’re not really education at all, they’re business, but they have clients that need to receive access to educational programs, to help them make the most of the investments that they make. INTAP provides software that enables law and accounting economic consulting firms to kind of leverage data, intelligent automation, and AI.
Lisa Sabin-W.: INTAP provides educational programs to help those clients make the most of their investment. Courses are like semi or fully customizable, and are led by their in-house people. With INTAP, we use LearnDash, I think. Brad?
Brad Williams: Yeah. Are we allowed to say that on this podcast?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Lisa Sabin-W.: We implemented LearnDash to create those learning pathways for them, and gosh, I’m trying to remember. I’m looking at our portfolio because it was a while ago. They have the different events like educational events that people can register for, but there’s these learning paths, and again, it’s all about progress and course progression within it, and they do require their customers to pay for the courses INTAP University, so we did integrate the stripe integration with LearnDash, which was really nice.
Chris Badgett: Very cool.
Lisa Sabin-W.: I wasn’t [inaudible 00:28:05] involved with INTAP, Brad I think you were more involved there than I was.
Brad Williams: Yeah. I mean that, yeah, you pretty much covered it. I mean it’s a more traditional kind of LMS. There is the paid component to it around events, and courses, and things like that. But yeah.
Chris Badgett: One of the buzzwords right now is social learning, and you guys have mentioned BuddyPress, and we run into this a lot, well, of different social applications in the learning context, whether that’s groups of people taking a course, or discussion areas and comments, forums, social feeds on the site off the site, and social media, group projects, students working together, having their own kind of like mini mastermind groups and things like that. At your agency, what are you seeing in terms of social, even if it’s not just specifically learning related, what’s going on with social on the website versus on social media? Are you seeing any trends or things that clients want socially? How do you see the WordPress website versus the social media group, or page, or whatever? Are people still doing social on the website? Are you seeing that?
Brad Williams: It’s good question. We’ve been involved with BuddyPress really since before it was BuddyPress. Long, long time. Always really enjoyed it. It’s fun. I always recommend BuddyPress. If you’re not familiar with BuddyPress, it’s essentially a plugin for WordPress that brings a lot of social networking features to WordPress. You can basically build your own social network, whether it’s public or private. They always call it kind of Facebook in a box, if you will.
Brad Williams: We’ve been a fan of BuddyPress. It’s fun. I always recommend BuddyPress if you’re looking to contribute into the WordPress world because it’s a lower kind of barrier to entry. It’s not as many people working on it, so it’s easier to get more directly involved than WordPress. For years, we specialize in building BuddyPress websites, a lot of the sites we just talked about have BuddyPress integration. But honestly, while we still are … we’ll work on it, it’s still available to work on it. It’s just it’s the people looking for BuddyPress or social component, we’re just not seeing it as much as we used to.
Brad Williams: This really, I think, has been on the downturn, at least from us, and this is just my perspective, from what we’re seeing and talking to clients, that they’re just not … they’re not coming in the door asking for that, well, like they used to be. We talked about a little bit pre-show, but I think some thoughts around why, it’s a little hard to tell, but what one thought that I do know comes to mind that some of our clients have run into is just the idea of having a social network and kind of owning your content is awesome, and great, getting people get excited about.
Brad Williams: The reality of managing a social network, and if it’s an inactive social network at that, that’s a big undertaking. When I mean managing, like moderating, like making sure that conversations are appropriate and people have access that should or maybe areas they shouldn’t have access. Just that constant grooming of the content and the social interactions to make sure that it’s on topic and appropriate is a lot of work. It’s a lot of work if you have an active social network. Look at Facebook. That’s obviously on the massive scale, but they can’t even figure it out. And they have a lot of money.
Brad Williams: I think that’s probably a part of it, is people that were interested have dabbled with it. Maybe they’ve even tried it. Maybe they’ve rolled it out and realized, “Oh, there’s … it’s not really a set it and forget it type of thing. You have to continually groom it, and that takes time,” and a lot of people just don’t have the time. One thought that might contribute to it. I’m not sure.
Chris Badgett: What are your thoughts, Lisa on social?
Lisa Sabin-W.: In two of the examples that we’ve talked about today, INTAP, Starbucks, National Park Service, there are two of them, Starbucks and the National Park Service that wanted a part of social layer where users of their educational program could interact with one another via groups, forums, that type of thing to form, not necessarily study groups, but just kind of a, “Hey, I’m here a minute with you,” kind of thing, “I’m learning along with you. Let’s talk about any challenges you have, or gripe about the program and it’s rigid restrictions or whatever.” There is some social layer that both of those clients wanted to provide for their user base because they thought their user base would benefit from that.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Now, some of the challenges of running a social forum, groups, things like that, that exists for anybody is things like moderating, and comment spam, and all that kind of stuff. But when you’re running an intranet, you really don’t run into those problems, because it’s an intranet, and it’s not open and available to every spambot out there to target your website. In the case of the National Park Service, in order to even be able to access that you had to have an NPS.gov and authenticate through their sign on authentication service. They don’t have those struggles, and even then, they had the problem of moderating sort of those social chatter that went on on their website, because not everybody is appropriate, and it’s a place of employment, and people were treating it like a online forum, which sometimes communication can be a little lacks.
Lisa Sabin-W.: They ran into those challenges too and found that it wasn’t going to be as easy for them to do this as they thought it would because now they need to employ somebody to moderate this program that they’ve put in place. They started thinking twice about doing that. I think in terms of the types of claims that we do, which are corporate government, moderating the conversation becomes important because they are places of employment. Whether you have a forum, or BuddyPress groups, or even if you’re moderating a Twitter chat on Twitter, or even a Facebook group, you always have to be mindful of the appropriateness of the communication that’s happening, because it is a place of employment.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s an excellent point about moderation. I think people think about like, “Oh, it’d be great to design a social component,” but you got to add management to that layer as well.
Lisa Sabin-W.: You really do. You really do.
Brad Williams: I still love it for intranets. I mean, like you said, Lisa, it’s such a great application, and you don’t have to use all the features, but just the idea of a little mini social network for a corporation, I think is awesome. It’s such a cool idea.
Chris Badgett: Well, you guys made it to the mystery round, so-
Lisa Sabin-W.: Are we winning prizes? Are we winning?
Chris Badgett: A lot of people that watch this show, if they’re … one of the things we see causing people to fail across the five areas of being an expert, a teacher, a community builder, a technologist, and entrepreneur is that they try to do too much by themselves for too long. You guys at WebDevStudios, you all should check out webdevstudios.com and check it out. Click on their team page, and you’ll see 40 or 50 smiling faces there. For someone who is trying, you guys are obviously really good at building a team, running a remote company, having a company culture, but so your mystery round question and each take a turn at it, what’s one piece of advice for somebody who’s needs to build a team? How do you build a team and run a remote company successfully? What are a couple key ideas?
Brad Williams: That’s a million dollar question, right? What’s funny is we’ve been around for 11 years now, and we just have always grown organically. Just as we needed to get bigger, we did, and there was never this five, 10 year super detailed plan for the beginning of, “All right, in two years, we’ll be this size, and five years we’ll be this size.” It’s always just been, “Let’s grow this as needed, let’s grow smartly with intent,” right? That’s a big one. But we don’t want to grow just to grow, or grow just to say, “Hey, we have 50 people, look at us.” That’s never been appealing to us.
Brad Williams: I think from my perspective, the best way to grow in a very general sense of the answer, I guess, because growing from one to two people, or from 20 to 50 are very different challenges, but is you obviously need to work with people that are really, especially early on, that are really all in and really buying into what you’re trying to do. You need people on your side that are not just in it for the paycheck necessarily, and obviously, that’s important. But early on, it’s important that you have people that are by your side, that truly are buying in, and all in to help make it work.
Brad Williams: As you get bigger, that starts to turn into what we’ve established on our side as a leadership team, and these are, in our case, people that have been here for a long time, people that have earned those positions, people have grown into the leaders that they are, and they’re extremely valuable components to what we’re doing because they’re all in. We really value the thoughts, ideas, suggestions, even the criticism that they bring, because we know they’re not just punching it nine out of five and saying, “That’s all I care about,” they will do anything I can to make this work, for better or for worse. They’ll be very raw and honest if there were doing something they don’t agree with. That’s great.
Lisa Sabin-W.: And have been.
Brad Williams: And have been. A bit of a broad answer, but that’s my [crosstalk 00:38:28].
Chris Badgett: It’s good.
Brad Williams: [inaudible 00:38:28] work with people you trust, work with people that are really buying into what you’re doing, and ultimately, that does form into a leadership style team.
Chris Badgett: How about you, Lisa?
Brad Williams: Did I take your answer?
Lisa Sabin-W.: You did, but I agree. I agree 100%, 110%. In a rare moment, of me agreeing with Brad.
Brad Williams: For better or worse, right, the criticism.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Mark this down on your calendar. Just a comment on that is that people are our greatest resource, and that sounds trite, but it is absolutely the truth. We would not be where we are today without the people around us. It’s important to surround yourself with people that you trust. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t trust Brad, for example. I do 100%, no question. But no, but, period.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Then my next thing is from my perspective, I’m the Operations at WebDev, Chief Operating Officer, so everything to me is process, process, workflow, workflow, checklist, all this stuff. When I think back over my time at WebDev, I think we could have probably had an easier time if we would have thought about that growth and what that meant in terms of our process first, rather than growing and then backtracking, and trying to create process sort of in response to that growth. If you know you’re going to grow, it is in your best interest to put workflows and processes in place, even minor one’s like, a consistent get workflow for your developers. Make that a thing so that there are no merge conflicts, and everybody’s doing it the same way, and you know what to do from project to project.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Thinking in advance and growing your team in your mind and trying to anticipate what you need in order to be successful with those people, and to help those people be successful in helping your business, and getting those processes in place. In my mind, process is so important, not as important as relationships with people for sure, but it’s a close second.
Brad Williams: She’s like, “You’re like the [inaudible 00:40:40].” She goes, “Watch the profit,” he’s always like, “People, process, product.”
Lisa Sabin-W.: Yeah, yeah.
Brad Williams: Yeah, two of the three there.
Chris Badgett: It’s awesome.
Lisa Sabin-W.: I think I think a lot of our pain points as a company over the last five or six years, probably could have been mitigated a little bit if we were a little bit more proactive about process. Now, I’m just I’m crazy about it. I’m …
Brad Williams: That’s that discovery piece we talked about was not something we were doing as a dedicated, required part of our process four or five years ago. Now that we are, is made, it’s night and day, the way we’re running projects. We start off on the right foot versus stumbling out of the gate, and then somehow make it across the finish line, we’re starting on a really solid place because that discovery, which is part of our process.
Lisa Sabin-W.: One, it’s a waterfall effect, because when we have a consistent discovery process, at the end of that discovery process, we have a document that serves as a roadmap for our developers. When our developers are hopping into a project, they know what to expect, they’re not hopping into the great unknown. They know what to expect. They know they’re going to get a document, they know they’re going to get a roadmap, they know that they’re going to get tasks to complete, and how much time they need to complete those tasks. I mean, it’s very … I don’t want to say it’s regimented because it’s not really that strict, but it is very much of a process that we follow from project to project, and it’s a formula that works really well for us.
Chris Badgett: That’s beautiful. Well, thank you guys for coming on the show. That’s Lisa Sabin-Wilson and Brad Williams from WebDevStudios. You can find them at webdevstudios.com. Thanks so much.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Thank you.
Brad Williams: Thanks for having us. I don’t remember the last time Lisa and I did a podcast together.
Lisa Sabin-W.: Been long time.
Brad Williams: It’s a special show today.
Chris Badgett: That was the first mystery round< so you guys did great. You guys did fantastic.
Brad Williams: Because you said we made it, so I [inaudible 00:42:38] some other people didn’t make it to that round [crosstalk 00:42:41].
Lisa Sabin-W.: [inaudible 00:42:41].
Chris Badgett: That’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to LifterLMS.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results-getting courses on the internet.