Fairfax, VA – On August 21, Washington Technology released the 2018 Fast 50 list. Highlight Technologies ranks #40 on the list of a small businesses that have been experiencing extraordinary growth in the government market. This is the third year Highlight has been recognized for this award.

The compound annual growth rates for small businesses are calculated by Washington Technology with data over the last five years. Highlight has experienced an annual growth rate of 57.39%. View the full list here.

About Highlight Technologies, LLC

Highlight Technologies is an award-winning woman owned, ISO® 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2011, and CMMI®-DEV Level 3 appraised small business that provides IT development and transformation, secure IT operations, and mission support services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, State, Army, Navy, DISA, the Joint Staff, DTRA, Intel), Health IT (USAID, USDA, NIH, HRSA, EPA) and Citizen Services (FDIC, FTC, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education, Labor). For more information, please visit www.highlighttech.com.

HighlightCast Episode #3 | Budget & Startups  

 Adam McNair: : Broadcasting from Fairfax, VA you are now tuned in to the highlight cast with your hosts Adam McNair and Kevin Long. Alright, welcome back to the highlight cast. This will be episode 3 of Adam McNair back here again with Kevin Long. 


Kevin Long: Hello, how’s it going? 


Adam McNair: All right. So wanted to do a couple of things in in this episode. First of which is to talk a little bit about. The end of the fiscal year and what the end of the fiscal year cycle looks like for the government and the contractors, but then also delve into a little bit of a, a, a short series of topics. We have a lot of conversations in industry and inside of the company as things change as things evolve as we continue to grow and. Hire people. What’s it like in the different parts of the company to go from? Being a really small business to a small business to a mid sized business and and really I think the trajectory continues when you go up into the larger business is kind of the the mindset really remains the same but so we’ll start with the the fiscal year cycle. Kevin, you know I I have a lot of. Contacts with folks where there’s really a lot of discussion about, well, you know, it’s the end of the fiscal year. I’m sure you’re busy, etcetera. Does that happen with you? 


Kevin Long: Yeah. I assume oh all the time and you know, with our I mean we have some contracts that. Provide support for acquisition shops and that they’ve been up to their eyeballs getting getting them ready and you know, it seems like for some reason everybody wants contracts to end and start on the fiscal year to to match up with the, you know, hey, we haven’t spent all of our money. Years. Here’s the end of end of fiscal year money that we can spend now. Yeah, it’s everyone. It’s like Christmas for for contractors. 


Adam McNair: You know, it’s interesting. I think that I don’t normally see that much of A dramatic push of things. I feel like we’re always really, really busy and. That’s usually event driven and it’s driven off of things like new contracts getting awarded, which are not necessarily always awarded at the end of the fiscal year, RFP’s coming out and there’s not necessarily a cycle to that. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: Does it feel specifically more busy during the end of the fiscal year cycle as opposed to any other window of time? 


Kevin Long: I think it does because there are. There can be small bumps that then just you you add to everything else, right? And so if you turn the faucet on just a little bit more, I can overfill the. Sink. Well, that makes a lot of. 


Adam McNair: Sense. Now, when you’ve been on site with with a customer embedded where you’re just focused on one. Customer versus more of a. Kind of a portfolio role, but you know we’re both mostly back here at headquarters at this point. How? How was it when you were on site? What did you see about? The end of the fiscal year. 


Kevin Long: Great question. Changes from customer to customer. Honestly some of them at you know at some agencies were really great at predicting how much money they were going to spend writ large. And so you didn’t really see anything. It was just sort of spending spending spending. Other times it would be, you know, hey, this other office didn’t spend all of their money. We’ve got this pet project we want to try. What can you do for half, $1,000,000 and you know then it’s a hurry up to try to get them enough information to. Help them get what they need and it’s always, you know, if they don’t have the money obligated to buy. By the end of September, then it it turns into a pumpkin and it’s just gone. 


Adam McNair: And I I don’t. I don’t know if it’s just, maybe I’m. I’m it incorrect in the thinking, but it it always seemed to me that it was more about ODC purchases. I’m I’m used to seeing other direct costs all of a sudden you get a note that there’s. Some number of thousands of dollars of equipment that, and I think like you say, oftentimes it’s we’re not sure if we need that money for something else. If we get to the end of the year and we can refresh this certain amount of network hardware or we can go ahead and renew some licenses or add licenses for some application. Then that kind of breaks free. 


Kevin Long: Certainly easier to just purchase something hardware based and services based. But you know most of the work that I’ve been involved with has been services. And so I I haven’t done a lot of ODC purchases, but boy, it would sure be nice to be able to say, hey, you know, you want want 27 extra laptops. We can sell them to you. Fine, but it’s because that’s essentially fungible in between. You know, from one thing to another. But it’s it’s really great when you have a creative and plugged in core or Kotar that has has plans that they want to be able to do and haven’t necessarily had the budget to do it. And when the call goes around, I mean anyone can say, you know, yes, I need. New servers fine. I need new monitors by me. Mice. But to be able to pull out a plan and say, hey, I’ve got this pilot program I want to try, we can do that. And you know, if you’ve got the right color of money, I’ve got something to do. And then. 


Adam McNair: With it and I think. That’s a good point. Also is is. It’s always better to have a long term road map or a long term plan. Even if your contract. Doesn’t require it. I mean, I feel like that’s kind of incumbent on us that if you’re going to be seen as any kind of a technical consultant or advisor on on a federal program. Ram, knowing what you would recommend in some likely scenarios and in an event like that, OK we we know that there’s there’s ODC and supply money on this contract a year out. We may not know exactly what the best expenditure would be, but here probably the most probable. Things that that I would recommend and have three or four different scenarios so that when you do get to the end of the year, things do happen. Sometimes people will have decided we’re going to decommission that application. We had money earmarked kind of for modernization of that hard. There and it can be a month by month decision as to whether or not you’re going to keep that online longer, it might sync up with some other contract you the modernization effort of it might have to wait until it the new system is ready. So having some of those recommendations of here’s probably 5 different ways to utilize. That money, depending on your priority. These. Kind of that. When you, you need the plan before you need it, and if you can be working on it on a regular basis, is that is that the, are those the kinds of things? I mean you’ve done a lot of CIO level CTO level programs where those kinds of some of. 


Kevin Long: The things that you, yeah, it’s it’s really it’s key because to to know. Where you want the the customer to go and to work with them to understand what they want to be, where they want to be in the. Next six months, eight months, two years, I mean that. That’ll be critical when you’re on a recompete or when they say. I’ve got a quarter, $1,000,000 that if I can come up with the best proposal for for its use I can spend it. And so it is absolutely and if if you’re working at A at a government contract on site and. There aren’t needs and they don’t have additional problems that they they’re fully staffed, funded and able to do everything that they need. Let me know I want that contract. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, right. Yeah. And that that’s one of the things that that I think you know it’s one of the topics we could probably talk about it one of these. Days but. Is it? It’s it’s much much easier and honestly mostly very rare to be on any kind of a program where you have all the time you need all the resources you need and all of the supplies and licensing that you need to accomplish something. I think the art of this business comes in when. One of those get compressed dramatically and you have to figure out what to do. Yeah, two. Pick two. So one of the areas I think maybe we could delve into a little bit about the, the. 


Kevin Long: Good, good, fast, cheap too. 


Adam McNair: The fiscal year cycle, though, is. I feel like there are surges of activity around kind of a whole lot of different timelines over the course of the year, the fiscal year being one of them, but also the. Your holiday seasons, or around Thanksgiving around Christmas, I think it’s just human nature. I’ve always assumed it’s because somebody is going to. Go on vacation. They want to get their major action items done and cleared off their desk before they leave, so they don’t to be there at Thanksgiving. Thinking about pushing out an RFP or or whatever, pushing out a contract mod when they get back. Yeah. And so that’s what they end up doing. And then we end up being oftentimes on the. Receiving end of that. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, well, that’s much nicer than the alternative possibility, which is. You know. We’re putting it out over holiday, so only people that really want it aren’t going to work on. 


Adam McNair: It, yeah, there there’s always that conspiracy side from the at least on the industry into the business that you, I wonder if they just wanted us to to see who really cared enough to give up Thanksgiving and Christmas to to write this proposal. But I’ve always kind of chalked it up a little bit more to hopefully the I’m going to go on vacation. I I said I was going to get this. Done before I left for. 


Kevin Long: Vacation the optimist in you, right? 


Adam McNair: So I think there’s certainly that that peak of activity around some of the holidays. I think there’s certainly some around the end of the fiscal year. Are there any customers that you’ve supported that had some other significant surges in activity that were things that had to be incorporated? 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Definitely. 


Adam McNair: And worked around. 


Kevin Long: Sure. Department of State Human Resources transfer season. It is that that is always a crazy time for good or for ill. All of the foreign services are the vast majority of the Foreign Service agents officers. In at the State Department, all transfer to new posts within about a three month period. And that’s that’s a lot of work for folks that run HR systems. It’s a lot of work for folks that do the IT transfers of of accounts. It’s a lot of people that do the IT for the logistics and housing. It’s yeah, transfer season is no joke. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, that’s. A good point. Yeah. And I’ve, I’ve certainly. I’ve, I’ve. Been involved in that a little bit as well. Other ones that come to mind census with their decennial census now. They certainly they do a lot more census activities than just the decennial. So they really do census activities every year, but the decennial being the big one that’s kind of the slowest build up and then the longest peak. 


Kevin Long: Oh wow, yeah. 


Adam McNair: Also, when you get into FEMA. And hurricane season, I learned that very, very early on was, if you wanted to do a system modernization. 


Kevin Long: Don’t do it in. 


Adam McNair: October. No, you don’t do it when there could be a hurricane. You know, one of the people that I used to work with, they during the hurricane season, they were there at FEMA and they had to figure out a way to enable purchase cards to be used by. Hurricane people that been impacted by the hurricane because they were promised by the president as he was there speaking to people that have been impacted by the hurricane and FEMA, you know, said, OK, well this we have to figure out how to do this. They need to have capacity to be able to do those kinds of things to address. Disasters and their real mission, they don’t want you upgrading the timesheet system during during hurricanes. 


Kevin Long: Sure. Yeah, Small Business Administration with their disaster loans, same same type of thing. You know where there’s where, you know, you have disasters or fire season out West, things like that. It’s it is. Predictable but unpredictable, yeah. 


Adam McNair: And I think maybe as the the experience from from the industry side, that might be a little bit different than from the government side, is it if you’re here on the industry side very often, you are supporting multiple agencies. So the operational cadence and tempo of of several different agencies. 


Kevin Long: Good. 


Adam McNair: Impact your schedule so if you are working only at Department of Agriculture and one of the organization. Options, their calendar and their tempo impact you when you’re supporting 14/15/20 different agencies, there’s always something happening and if and that’s kind of been my experience, the last very very long time is that I haven’t been so focused on just one customer that. If there was a budget change, that money is still going someplace, and it’s probably going to one of my other customers. And so we might be. Slowing down procurements and slowing down development initiatives and things for one customer. But then and then another one it it ramps up. And so I I kind of feel like you can’t really plan or schedule around much fiscal year anything else? 


Kevin Long: Yeah. You can you plan on it, but it always, I don’t know. It seems like you’ll always end up being busy if you’re. 


Adam McNair: Doing it right and also I think there’s a. The mindset that we’ve we’ve taken is people need to plan vacations. There are just things you have to do. You go ahead and plan and you, you accommodate it as best you can and you can’t sit around and wait forever for, OK, we’re waiting to start the modernization on Project X. We’re going to wait until it starts or we’re waiting for an RFP. To be released or any of those kinds of things. Because it it it just ends up, you could the only way that I think you can. You can really bet on is that the date you thought something was going to happen, that’s the date, it’s not going to happen, it’s going to. 


Kevin Long: Happen some other day than that. It’s just going to be earlier or later. Absolutely. It’s easier when you’re supporting less customers, but when you have, when you’ve got a wide swath. You just got to do what you got to do. It will. 


Adam McNair: Always be busy. Yeah, well, so just under the, the other thing I thought we would. We would talk about, you know, the. The different phases of of a business, and I think it translates pretty well to probably any office. I think if a government agency was scaling up their operations to go from you know 50 to 100 people or or 200 people or they were merging 2 organizations. I think a lot of the the fundamental parts of. Of of scaling and developing the the business and the team are. Are pretty similar but. What we look at is you’re trying to spend money and invest in talent and have the right people to run the company. Essentially, we have to do the things we have to do so we can deliver projects for the government. So we have to be able to recruit, we have to be able to. Run our own. It we have to. Be able to take contract actions, but yet. We don’t want to have so many people that they either have nothing to do or we are overspending the the operating dollars that we have. Before we actually need the people. 


Kevin Long: Lean but not starving. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And the idea of just in time staffing, you hear people talk about that, but it it doesn’t. It it doesn’t really work from a OK, they’ll show up when I need somebody to do that thing because I I think especially in this. Business. 


Kevin Long: They’re not going to know what you need. They’re not going to show up ready to participate. 


Adam McNair: Right. And then this isn’t we’re not making. Being you know, a widget, we can’t just say, hey, look, here’s the defined process for widget making show up and we just need to add a fourth person to the assembly line. The the balancing and shaping of of different parts of the business as you go from generally what I see is 1 multi headed person. You you see a business size where you have somebody that says. I handle HR recruiting. I’m the facility security officer and I do our IT. And on the face of it, you look at you say none of those duties really necessarily go together. But when you look at the workload, OK, well, there’s only enough. So this person is doing all of that and then eventually you get to the point where you have one person for each of those. And then at some point, they become departments. Now you’ve worked startups and. Large businesses, what’s been kind of your vantage point of kind of the start up business to see kind of how that operated versus going into a larger company? 


Kevin Long: Sure. The startups I’ve worked with are. It was actually really great because you when you get. To. Wear a bunch of hats. I mean, everyone wears a lot of hats. You get to learn a lot. You also get to it’s easier because you know you have, like, one of three people to walk up to and ask for help. If it’s. If you need help with the contract. If you need help with. Hiring. If you need help. With the password reset. Great, go talk to Bob. But. Also. When you do, when you do it right, you know eventually you know Bob starts getting, you know, bags under his eyes and starts getting snappish and is, you know, it’s obviously. Grows, grows it grows beyond the capacity of a single person and. Similarly, you know you know if you’re a project manager, business development, capture lead and and. You know, chief bottle wash for a program. You know, eventually that’s going to get to be too much. Too and so. It’s really interesting seeing how companies decide to break up. What’s important to them and hire a new a new person because you’re not going to suddenly go from one person that is contracts IT, security and HR and recruiting and have 5 new people, right? You, you’ll you’ll end up seeing, OK well. Charter recruiting makes sense. Maybe. Maybe payroll and finance makes sense. Maybe security and contracts make sense and so you get one or two extra people to help it out. And so it’s great being able to be to watch how those decisions are made and decide how companies want to grow and put their money, where they see what’s important and it’s. It’s it? Yeah, it’s just. It’s fascinating watching it grow. It’s like, you know, watching a kid grow. 


Adam McNair: Up. Really. Yeah. And I I think that’s that’s also it’s interesting to see as organizations once they have been the same size for for quite a while or they have gotten rather large. Trying to figure out if that is still the same makeup and organization that you need. I mean, there’s all these. There’s always been jokes about everybody reorganizes all the time. But. Really, businesses do change and people change, and I think one of the. One of the things that is especially important is like, you know what you said about, OK, well, so and so looked really stressed. Now we should probably get somebody else trying to be ahead of that so that everybody is not so completely worn out. Because realistically when you hire somebody to help that person, you’ve actually added more work to them. So they go from being 110%. Busy to 140% busy because now they’re trying to teach somebody who doesn’t know exactly what they do. Parts of it so that they don’t have. To do it anymore. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Or you’ve overspent hiring someone who is got, you know, a dozen years of experience doing it. But they do it their way and don’t necessarily understand everything else on it. 


Adam McNair: Which is a fundamental thing that. Generally, in my experience, when you say when you go to somebody you say OK, it seems like you based on work volume probably needs some help. Can we get somebody to come in here? They almost always without fail, say I need somebody with a lot of experience to come in and help me. And. What it oftentimes comes down to is if if you had enough time to slow down and look at the things that you are are needing to do and get done in your group, which it might be evolving to be a group. The senior level work you could actually do yourself, it’s the transactional nature of whatever it is that you’re doing that is a time suck that’s taking up all of your time and the person it takes to do that probably doesn’t have a lot of experience. The other thing is if they had a whole lot of experience, they would probably be just as tired of doing whatever that was. As you are. 


Kevin Long: Yep. Yeah, the ability to get someone to say, hey, you know, verify that resumes meet labor. Cats make sure that the job postings are are up. Take a look at are all the computers up to up to the current patch level. I mean those are things that you don’t need. Crazy experienced people to do. You need smart people that want to learn and. 


Adam McNair: Work hard. Yeah. And and it it will be interesting for them, as long as they’re learning. And then once they feel like they’ve gotten perfected, if you’re hiring right people, they then want to do something else. And so that’s where the growth has to continue. So. 


Kevin Long: You have something for them to do, but if you’re selling brains, then. What you’ve got is another interested and useful brain to sell. 


Adam McNair: Absolutely. So I just wanted to talk a little bit about some of the different the different areas, the different support functions of of a company and just some thoughts about scaling those in particular and we’ll do some of these and we’ll do a few. Of them in the next. Episode recruiting. What I end up seeing is. You go from the single person model where you have one person that does recruiting. Eventually you say, OK, I think I need two people. After you hit about two people, it starts to become a real department where you can break the workflow down. You can actually have a couple of people that are the points of contact that are interfacing with candidates and then you have people that are behind them that are just sourcing candidates and sourcing resumes. Because it takes more experience and and a little bit more outward facing personality type to be on the phone all the time with people from a recruiting. Standpoint. You find many more people that are comfortable doing. Sourcing and resume searching and handing them off to somebody that that does the searching. The other thing that I see is that you go from usually having a spreadsheet to having a real actual recruiting system. You’re a hiring manager. You have a bunch of people that work for you. What’s your level of interaction with the actual recruiting system? Is it a thing that you go into? Very often, or are you just kind? Of interviewing people. 


Kevin Long: I will go into it on occasion, like honestly, if I’ve got something. Really hot and my recruiters are busy doing other things. I’ve asked them to do. I’ll jump in the system and I’ll search for it or if I know we’ve been looking for hiring a particular job and I know we interviewed someone. Similarly for a different job, but they didn’t fit that one and they would fit something else. If I can short circuit a process like that and save time, I’ll go in there, but bluntly most of its interviewing and and being on the phone with the recruiting team and making sure they’re pointed. In the right. 


Adam McNair: Direction well the the things I’ve seen in recruiting systems. Your very baseline systems, when you get ready to go do your analysis, they’re a glorified spreadsheet. Really, all they they are is a is a slightly more visually appealing version of a spreadsheet that says what jobs you have open and what characteristics of the person you’re looking to hire. The next level of system up from that which really is those are probably the ones you’d really consider kind of a of a a real true business class for a services business type of of recruiting they do. 2. A lot. They do, tracking much more robustly. They allow you to more granularly look at your information so you can really decide who’s supposed to work for whom. And and those kinds of things. They also introduce OFCCP compliance, which is the there’s a lot of different things that are HR compliance in, in, in recruiting. But one of the things that when you hit a certain size as a company that you have to be able to do is to be able to demonstrate not just who you hired, but why you didn’t hire the. People that you didn’t hire. And. If that capability does not exist in your recruiting system, then you you say, Oh well, I’m sure we can keep that in a spreadsheet someplace that will be fine. And then what you find out that whatever point you find it out is that nobody did and you just couldn’t nobody remember to do it. And it wasn’t at the top of their head. And it was too slow. And they didn’t. They didn’t do it. And then you have. The issue either a compliance issue or you have to tackle this. Giant. Data exercise where you go through every wreck that you’ve had open and. 


Kevin Long: And every e-mail to every PM after every phone, screen and interview. To see why you liked them, why you didn’t like them, and why different people got booted. 


Adam McNair: And then the the third level of application, which really is I think there are economical options for businesses. Like us and people that are in the industry that. They actually help you a little bit. Not it’s not just tracking and compliance, but they do things like they allow you to automatically synchronize your jobs with external posting board. So if you have a subscription to indeed or monster or wherever else. There are some places that if you don’t have that system, you have one person that all they do is post an unposted jobs on external job boards. The application can do that for. 


Kevin Long: You can attach specific job related technical interview scripts to to run on it. 


Adam McNair: Can add functionality like allowing people to apply. With their LinkedIn profile or with a resume saved in their Google Drive, things like that, you might say, OK, well, that really doesn’t sound like it’s all that valuable. People don’t want to go through the effort of typing a whole bunch of stuff in, and they might be viable for that job, but they just end up saying I’ll do that later and then later never happens and they never end up applying. So if there’s an easy button that they can hit that takes some of their information and gets it to you that that can really help the process, the other thing. That. Some of those those systems can do is they will help you track people that have applied before and suggest resumes that appear to meet future requirements and the ability to save templates and work collaboratively on job Recs. All of them at this point are basically all cloud based. They’re all software as a service. There are a lot of options. The the thing that I think. Can help if you’re going to select one, demos are great. Asking them to let you have a live demo for a month or so so you can really see if. It works is. Good, but. Also, the understanding of what the licensing model is going to be, they they vary widely from hey, yeah, if you need this thing and you will have this size business, it’s $3000 a year as opposed to. It’s $500.00 for everybody that needs an account. The big place that that can spike because some of those that that’s their model. Every hiring manager that needs to go. Into approve Iraq. And so paying attention to that workflow, that’s where they can get you where after you decided you want to do it, you’re like, OK, well, I want to get my hiring managers need to approve these jobs like. OK, yeah, you just need another 40 accounts. Oh, not ideal. 


Kevin Long: Wow. 


Adam McNair: But so that’s that’s recruiting and then? The the important thing I think from from recruiting to watch the scalability of it. Is really just your your job wreck trajectory. How many jobs are getting opened and how many are getting closed? That shouldn’t be your metric for the productivity of your recruiters because it doesn’t indicate how hard those jobs are. If you’re going to develop a bonus plan. If you’re going to talk about performance standards or reviews. For people in your recruiting department. A tsci cleared person who is slightly below market rate working on a job site with no windows and no mass transportation and no parking. 


Kevin Long: And customer approval of. 


Adam McNair: Resumes and customer approval of resumes versus. No clearance janitor #2 yet slightly above above you know market pay grade. You’ve got free parking outside. There’s a bocci court Outback. I was down by the the GSA building the other day. And in between GSA and FAA. They had a band playing at lunchtime. There’s food trucks parked everywhere. Yeah, it’s great. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Or USDA. They’ve got a great farmers market. Yeah. I mean, right. Yeah. It much different to to hire one of those than the others. And you don’t want to incentivize only hiring the easy positions. 

Adam McNair: Right. And and that really is how a lot of times the bonus plans work against a recruiting organization is that? It’s get a job filled. OK, well, I’m going to fill all of the help desk one. Positions that are. It’s still. I mean it’s it’s still an art to find the right person, but there are more people that just from a a A shared data standpoint there are way more people that fit that profile than people who are. 

Kevin Long: Yep. Yep. Yep. 


Adam McNair: Microsoft database certified with the TSCI clearance and ITIL Foundation and CSP. I mean it’s just harder and so. If you focus just on the velocity of the job, Rex basically says I’m able to stay. At parity with as jobs get opened, jobs get closed and. You’re making sure to also track how many jobs do you have that are open past 30 days, because that really just says I’m not getting them filled. So if you’re opening as many as you’re closing and you know how many you have that are taking you more than a month to fill, you can tell how your how your recruiting capacity is going. And you have to watch that because when people get super busy, they’re not going to come to you and say I think we need an extra recruiter. But also like we’re talking about before, if they wait to that point now, they’re at, they’re they’re at peak activity. And now you want them to open a rec to. Fund a recruiter. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. And it’s insult to injury. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, just putting more work on them. The the other one that I think is. 


Kevin Long: Yep. 


Adam McNair: Interesting for a business of our size and you know we’re in the, you know couple 100 employee range is the IT organization. I have had before physical servers and. Been responsible for trying to own all of that infrastructure. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. 


Kevin Long: No, no. The cloud is lovely. 


Adam McNair: It it it I’m. Sure, there’s probably reasons or there are use cases for why you might have to have physical servers. I’d rather not do whatever that is that requires you to have all those things. 


Kevin Long: Right. It is not 2002. 


Adam McNair: Anymore. No. And you know what? I what, I. The kind of. The corollary I’ve always drawn is. I don’t want to run my own power company if I want the lights to work. I don’t want to actually have a power plant. That’s not the business I’m in. I kind of feel that’s where we’ve gotten to with data center it. It is available everywhere. All of our software that we what we use really is available in a cloud based software as a service. Here. And you just pay by the month, you pay for what you use and what you don’t. Want you don’t. Pay for and you turn back off. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, I I don’t want to pay for a San engineer back here to run, you know, a a raid array for for network attached storage. When when I can say, hey, Microsoft. Hey, Google. I would like hard drive space. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And to that point, you know most of what we end up doing. Would be account management for when somebody gets on boarded or off boarded. They need an e-mail account. They need an Active Directory account which triggers their Office 365 subscription. And then they need. Their laptop to work, and occasionally somebody drops it down an elevator shaft that the battery dies. Something happens and you need to swap it out now. That’s most of it. So that should be 90 to 95% of our IT staffing. You’re saying engineer handling the rate array, I mean what is that going to be an hour, a month probably, but now you have to have this person on staff, which means you’re going to have them do laptop swaps, I guess. 

Kevin Long: Yeah. Going to have them be really bored and quite expensive. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. So you’re either going to. Have really expensive. Really bored. Spending most of their time doing things that they don’t want to do, or you’re going to have people who are probably terrified that they’re going to have to go in and work on production gear that they’ve probably never done before. 

Kevin Long: Yeah, it’s it is. It is too easy and too cheap now to just get so much of what you need on on the cloud for for business this size. If you’re not doing, you know, harken back to previous episode, if you’re not holding classified information. Then seriously hard drives are cheap and they’re cheaper as you buy as you go. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, the. Everything, the architecture, we’ve gone to, everything we have is cloud based at this point, our Microsoft products all operate out of the cloud, our antivirus or all software as a service. Our device management is all done software as a service. We we don’t have any servers and we don’t want any. And. Our IT meetings which. Go pretty much the same every month. The capacity conversation is just about who’s going to call up or log into the Microsoft site and turn on more licenses. We don’t have to buy extra hardware. The only hardware we buy are laptops, and that’s really just on a standard refresh cycle. And you have to add some as you grow. But. Everything that we do is cloud related and that also means that our infrastructure here inside of the Headquarters Office is somewhat irrelevant. 


Kevin Long: What? Yeah, I mean, we’ve got the router that hooks us up to the up to the Internet and the the rest of the magic comes in from from outdoors. 


Adam McNair: The the process of doing some sort of a coupe plan you say? OK, I know that I have some contractual requirements that I have to be able to fulfill. We have response times with customers where we are beholding to make sure that we can be available within a certain number of hours from our headquarters management team. If if they needed something. We can go anywhere else, but our headquarters and work from there. Literally every everything that we that we connect to is in the cloud. So it can be connected to from home Wi-Fi from whatever area, some what whatever coffee shop had connectivity. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, from your cell phone hotspot, whatever. 


Adam McNair: And we have, we have VPNs set up to the things that we feel that we need to have added security and dual factor authentication. All of the laptops have all kinds of encryption, both software and hardware encryption on the. So there really is no no need to sit here in the headquarters other than just the space logistics of being able to interact, you know, eye to eye with people. But going full cloud means that you can do that. And it also means that your IT team. Is really just a Tier 1 Tier 2 organization. At that point, anything that is too hard, you’re calling whatever vendor specializes in that. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Yeah, they’re not. They’re not having to develop. Disaster recovery plans. They’re not having to develop crazy Coop plans. They’re not having to develop. Server backup models or anything like that. It’s just, you know, if it if it goes, if it goes down. All right, is is it the Internet or is it my or is? It my. Please, those are the questions. 


Adam McNair: The. That. Process of getting a phone call in the middle of the night that the data center went offline, which means that nobody can get e-mail. Is a big problem and it would be for us as well because we have project sites all the way from DC to Hawaii and we have staff that deploy globally at times, so they need to have access to their e-mail. If the data center goes offline, if the generator doesn’t kick in, I mean those are all the kinds of things that you really have to you have to have a duty phone, somebody has to be available 24 hours a day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had phone calls that. Something broke at the data. And now we don’t even know how bad it is because somebody was driving from their house to the data center and wherever in Maryland. We don’t have to do any of that there. There are times that where there’s occasionally a degradation of service from one of the cloud providers, which it’s never off because, you know, Microsoft doesn’t go offline. There may be some sort of an issue and they they send you an e-mail and they tell you that there’s some issue and they’re working on it. And then you get an e-mail. 


Kevin Long: No. 


Adam McNair: And it has gone back to full speed. 


Kevin Long: What’s that? 


Adam McNair: And the impact to us is usually it seems like it took a little bit longer for e-mail to come in than it normally does, but but nothing too significant on top of that. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, it’s. It’s so much easier than than it was at the first startup I worked at where we would literally run server crash drills. You know, I mean we it was a software as a service company before anyone called it software as a service. But yeah, I mean we had, you know, we were in in Arlington on Kent Street with a server room right there. And so I mean literally with a print class in case of emergency instruction set in the server room and it was, you know, every now and then the the CEO would would go in and like. Unplug a few things to make sure that it would work, or that we could cope. 


Adam McNair: That that’s always a good practice, I hear. Just go in and unplug. Things right? 


Kevin Long: Well, he he would let the customers know, just not us, yeah. 


Adam McNair: Well, and and honestly, so we we today earlier today had. Our. Tabletop exercise for the coop activity for our headquarters. It at least once a quarter. We sit down and talk through the current architecture, the coup plan that we have, and see if there’s anything different and just verify. OK, here are the things that we would do. Is there anything different? And I mean, it’s so simplistic, it really is. We send an alert out to all of the headquarters employees to tell them that the work site has been shifted to their telework location. An alert out to employees that if they needed something physically from headquarters, that the offices is closed and people are teleworking. And then our IT manager changes the routing on the cloud based phone system to go to the contingency mode basically kind of takes a message and forwards that message to the person’s e-mail. And that’s it. And so we revisit that quarterly just to see if anything has changed in the architecture to make sure that that would still work. But that’s what we do. And so there is no. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: Detailed we have to go spin up some server and see if something comes back online I. Mean that’s that’s. All we have to do is is set the phone to voicemail mode. That’s in cloud and we’re we’re set. The only other thing I was going to mention about it is that. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, yeah, it’s great. 


Adam McNair: The other thing that it really helps you do when you are not doing sysadmin on your own devices is. Is it’s always been very, very hard to tackle projects when you are doing ongoing O&M of systems and. When you do everything in the cloud, so all the Daily Systems administration work for the most part, you know platform down is being done by a third party. You actually have time to tackle things. Like migrating multiple Microsoft instances into one instance or evaluating a new antivirus application. Those things that are projects with a much smaller team, you’re able to assess them. It’s also easier because when you get ready to roll it out, you’re not trying to install it on a server, you’re just turning on a new service and in the linking to it from an IP standpoint, and then all of a sudden it works. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Knock on wood. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. So that was those are the couple of the areas. There are certainly others that I think would be would be worth chatting about a little bit there are you know HR and contracts and proposals and facilities. And then honestly probably the most complex of all of them is how do you actually do service delivery? As you grow the operational piece and so that we’ll, we’ll get to all of those on a on a future episode and. Thank you for for tuning in to to this episode and hope that this series about scaling and business is something that is interesting to people and answer some of the questions that we’ve received from from staff. 


Kevin Long: Outstanding. All right. 


Adam McNair: Thank you guys. 


The views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the host and do not necessarily reflect highlight technologies and Oregon any agency of the US government.