Episode #13 | Collaboration with ISO 44001

Announcement: Broadcasting from Fairfax, Virginia. You are now tuned in to The Highlight Cast with your hosts Adam McNair and Kevin Long.

Adam McNair: Episode of The Highlight Cast. Hi, I’m Adam McNair here from Highlight, uh, joined by, as always, so Kevin Long. Hi, Kevin. Hey, Adam. How’s it going? Doing great. Thank you. Great. And also, we’re very happy to have with us today, our guest, Norma Wattenpah. Norma, hi, how are you today? 

Norma Wattenpaugh: I’m doing great. And thank you for inviting me to your podcast.

Adam McNair: Absolutely. Glad to have you. So, uh, yeah, Highlight and, uh, and Norma, we’ve been working together here for a few months, I guess. Um, Norma, you want to, Introduce introduce yourself and kind of share the kinds of things that you do with the with the audience 

Norma Wattenpaugh: be happy to. So I’m the CEO and founder of a consultancy group called Phoenix Consulting Group as in transformational partnering and our company focuses on collaborative business relationships, you know, all sorts of B2B types of relationships, whether it’s strategic alliances, technology relationships, business, business, Um, it can be, um, channels or, you know, developer relationships. So that’s kind of our, our wheelhouse is where we focus as a company, but, you know, I’m very, always been very passionate about collaboration and how companies can work together to create. more value, more customer, uh, juiciness, if you will. And in that line, I’ve been very much involved with, um, the standard around collaborative relationships, the ISO 44001. I’ve been on the, uh, committee and led the U. S. delegation in, uh, trying to influence that collaboration. To reflect what we think are the best practices in and how you manage in and work in those kind of collaborative environments. 

Adam McNair: And that’s, I mean, I find fascinating, I think, you know, as we, um, we got started on our path with with ISOs and creating what we call highway, which is our quality framework that integrates a lot of the different standards are. Uh, pretty commonly required in government contracting, which is where we, um, you know, where we spend all of our time as, as company. Um, and as we were looking for ways to solve strategic challenges we had as a corporation there, you know, partnering and, And, and how, how to do business better, how to deliver services better, uh, we ended up going down the route of, we came across 44, 000 and 56, 000. So for collaborative business relationship management, and then also for innovation management, and the way that we found that was, I was out on the ISO website looking around for, um, you know, uh, other, uh, Other ISO standards to draw from to shore up some of the practices we have now, how did, how did your engagement with 44, 000 happen? I mean, what was that? Like, is that a group contact you? Or how does that how does that come about? 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Well, it actually started. Before it started in, uh, I think 2007, 2008, where I was contacted by a group in Britain who are working on a pre standard for the British Standards Institute, which was the precursor to the 44, 000 and just learned that we had a lot in common. He was trying to promote more collaboration in the largely government contracts, large infrastructure. Contracts like, um, the National Air Traffic Control and National Rail and, you know, some of these very large scale projects that required a lot of moving parts, a lot of subcontractors and partners to really execute. And the, the UK government and the MOD actually was very involved in that because they knew they needed a better way to work with, uh, these very complex requirements. And that’s how I got involved in terms of the British standard and being a part of helping to shape that standard at a very early stage and inserting what we knew to be, you know, best practices in, in working with, uh, strategic alliances.

Adam McNair: So that’s what you’re describing is, I mean, from the time that that happened until 44, 000 became a standard, that, that sounds like, uh, you know, 10 year timeline of, of, of evolution there. So 

Norma Wattenpaugh: long road. Yes. So from, 

Adam McNair: from the, the, the creation of the standard, is that, is it like a world Congress type activity? Did everybody go to 1 place? Is this all just trading back and forth emails? How did that happen? 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Yes, yes, that’s kind of, you kind of explained it quite well, is that, um, ISO standards originate from a national standard first. So any country and their standards organization can originate a standard. British took the lead on the collaboration one. Um, I think it was a group here in the U. S. that took the lead on the innovation standard. And when it gets, um, uh, you know, accepted as a national standard, they can then propose to the ISO organization, the International Standards Organization, that it should become an international standard. And at that point, they convene a committee, which has Experts in the subject matter from every country that wishes to participate. So in the collaboration standard, there was like 1516 countries that sent a delegation or representative to an ISO committee meeting to kind of represent their country’s interests and perspectives. So I led the U S delegation. Uh, there were delegations from, uh, the UK of course, cause they kind of started it, but Sweden, um, Austria was in there for a while. Italy has been a steady contributor. Um, but you know, all these different countries, China recently joined in kind of the latter stages and, and taking a stronger role, which is one reason when I think it’s very important that the U S and other countries also, you know, show pay attention and collaborate because. China’s a big trading partner, you know, we love him and hate him, right? So it’s, it’s important, particularly in the tone of collaboration to be able to work that way. 

Adam McNair: So now when you see collaboration as a, as a field, I mean, as a, as a, a work stream, that is something that’s addressed across all these different businesses, what kind of business sectors do you find are Most engaged or interested in in partnership and collaboration as part of their vocabulary, where it’s really something that they’re paying attention to. Now, you’d mentioned a little bit, but where do you see that? 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Yeah, there’s 3 that I see really stand out who have bet their business on collaboration. If you will, construction is 1 area. Uh, technology is another very large partner ecosystems. Everyone partners with everyone and everyone competes with everyone. Um, and pharmaceuticals, um, pharmaceuticals in particular have found that, you know, innovation doesn’t happen in a room full of chemists anymore. It’s geneticists. They partner very heavily with the biotech and, uh, organizations to find the solutions, but pharma. As the, um, the money capital that it takes to put a new, uh, therapy through all the clinical trials and sort of, and, you know, approval through the FDA. So there’s heavy partnering in that area and the R and D side of, and of course we saw that with COVID, you know, we saw credible amount of cooperation and collaboration among the pharmaceuticals and the biotech companies and coming through with vaccines in record time. 

Adam McNair: And that’s interesting, I think, also, because, you know, the, when something like COVID happens, um, I mean, I wouldn’t say that we’ve had, you know, a similar pandemic, at least not, you know, not, not, not in the US, um, you know, like that. Uh, certainly in, you know, during my career, but I do think there are transformational shifts and changes, and I think whether that be going from physical servers to the cloud, whether that be, um, you know, the, the pandemic that has required all this remote work, uh, a lot of the different things, I think you’ve got, um, it’s an interesting impact to other standards. You know, I think when I, as we were going through some of our ISO 27, 000 recertification, and I’m reading some of the documentation that we put forward around the continuity of our business, we were thinking about snowstorms. We were thinking about a pipe breaks in the office power outage. We were thinking about a power 

Norma Wattenpaugh: earthquakes. If you’re in California, 

Adam McNair: right? And, you know, and frankly, you know, even though during this, it did happen during the pandemic here. We had a, we had a drain backup, a storm drain backup that impacted our headquarters office. And it’s funny because all the conversations that we had about what happens if something closes the main office. It had literally zero impact on us at this point, because nobody was there. Nobody was going to go in when you said, Oh, well, it turns out there’s six inches of water on the first floor. Um, you know, they’re calling, the building is calling us. I said, let’s take your time. You know, what, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. And I went over and unplugged some things and that was about the extent of it. But I’m wondering, have you seen these partnerships that have been. Um, that have been in place as COVID has happened, like you’re talking about, have you seen areas where you feel like their involvement in, in collaboration as a real practice, whether they are 44, 000 certified or not? Have you seen areas where you feel like they probably, Handled the adversity and the change of coven better than maybe they would have if they hadn’t been involved with some of the things that you’ve been doing. 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Well, I think what you’re speaking to is that you’re better equipped to respond to a challenge or disruption. If you have the culture and process in place. 1st, trying to put that together in a, in a crisis is, uh, you don’t want to do that. Yeah. So, I think for those organizations, I’m thinking to 1 with, uh, PTC, which is a, they do a lot of modeling and, and engineering modeling. Kind of work and we just had an award nomination through the Association of strategic alliance professionals where they had worked with some of their partners and we’re very quickly able to create new plans and new manufacturing processes for ventilators. And this was, of course, very early in the pandemic, but they were able to increase the supply of ventilators like threefold because they had an existing relationship. And they said, okay, we can apply our skills and what we know, and what we’ve learned in working with each other to this new problem, and we’re able to have a major impact in, um, you know, production of ventilators in the short order.

Adam McNair: Yeah, well, and that’s certainly impactful and helpful for, for everybody. Um, you know, it also, one of the things that it, it makes me think of is, you know, as we, as that was going and sounds like was going well, um, you know, one of the things that does the pandemic was, was starting up is we were running a facility for a customer and our ecosystem of partners, uh, Included a commercial real estate organization and, um, you know, I think I think there were probably areas where that could have been a lot done a lot better. Um, or could have been ironed out a little bit better. I think from a collaboration standpoint, I think we, we entered into that that relationship. Along quite a while ago, I think before we had really gotten as mature as I hopefully think we have in the last couple of years in this area. Um, because Kevin, I mean, that was all your, you got to enjoy the benefit of going to go. Shut down a facility and figure that out remotely and everything else. I think as, as the pandemic started, I was at a, in a conference and, you know, so I was, I was down in New Orleans and Kevin was up in Boston. And so I know that was like, I think you officially took the, the last flight appropriately. 

Announcement: I was the last, last highlight traveler before. Before everything got shut down. Yeah. March 13th, Friday. Friday the 13th. 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Yeah. Friday the 13th. I recall . Yeah. How does 

Adam McNair: the, the interaction with, with our partner, you know, up there from a facility standpoint, did, did, how did that go? 

Announcement: Yeah, well, it went. So we got really used to working with them every day, honestly, and, uh, had been for, you know, six months on the ground with them because they had people in the building. And if there’s one thing, you know, about our customer up there is that, um, uh, they’re quite agile and their demands are, are fluid, which means that, uh, for us to meet our customer’s needs. They had to, I mean, we had to have really strong collaboration between us and our real estate provider, right? I mean, and when I say we talked to them every day that, I mean, that’s underselling it. Like we probably talked to them so much. Every two hours, every two hours of every workday, right, because something was coming up, right? Um, with that, uh, and not everything was bad. It was like, you know, we developed a lot of standard operating procedures and, and, you know, shorthand to, to, to help them out. But as we were shutting it down, I think that we really got to lean heavily on the fact that, uh, That we had those established, documented ways of interacting with them that, you know, say, hey, when we, when we need to collect key cards, this is how we do that. When we, when we need to, to, uh, have a, a change in security or a change in HVAC, you know, this is how we do that. Right. And we had all of that worked out, which, uh, which made it easier, uh, to, To shut it down, um, but then, you know, you just had all of the additional paperwork that was essentially, okay, we’re now going to vacate because it’s not safe to be, you know, three feet from, from your coworker where everybody was, you know, literally sharing like every, like two people would share one computer monitor so they could work together. Right. Yeah. Um, just not safe anymore. It was honestly, it was a lot of, the more work was shutting down. Uh, real estate stuff. It was working with our partners, uh, in the hardware folks, where we then had to put in the clutch and shift to be able to stop having everybody share monitors and all right, now we need to. Leverage our relationships with our providers to get everybody laptops that don’t already have get everybody prepared to work remotely from home. And as they didn’t stop hiring folks for customers, hiring folks as they were coming in. So we were having to to onboard new folks across the country with with hardware. And so we had to really lean on on our, uh, our. norms for working with, uh, you know, CDW and Apple and all of our, all of our hardware vendors to be able to, to really not misappeared and mean to the point where even this customer had an engagement day the other day and made mention of how easy it was to switch to fully remote. So, um, I did a little dance around the room there because it wasn’t easy. It just looked like that to them. You made it look easy. 

Adam McNair: Yes. I, and, you know, based on, out of all of that, and I, I think, you know, or I have a question for you related to this is, you know, I think an area for my viewpoint, the way that kind of shut down went and that whole, you know, involvement, the day to day working relationships that we had. I think were strong and, and worked well. It almost seemed to me like where some of the challenges would come in is when there was a decision to be made above the level of the people that you were used to working with, and sometimes their decisions that they haven’t had to make before, um, whether that be hardware, are we going to allow it to be shipped? Uh, you know, how are we going to allow things to be shipped? Or how are we going to allow that to be billed? Or if we have to use a different vendor, um, at the at the facility level? So, you know, some of those conversations, not just about the day to day operations, but, you know, if we’re going to exit this, you know, engagement, how are we going to do that? Because it, you know, that was certainly not something that looked like was going to be even an option. I mean, every conversation we’d always had there was how do we get more space and how do we get more people in here? Because this thing just continues to grow. And so I think there are, you know, as we were getting the standard. Um, and we were looking at this early on a lot of the people that it seemed like we’re getting 44, 000 certified, uh, were in the U. K. Um, and I saw a lot of utility companies, construction organizations, I think, which, which mirrors normal what you were saying. So I was wondering if you have an organization where. The understanding of partnership and collaboration and the different layers of that business need to kind of get on the same page about how they want to handle partnerships. Are there, are there conferences, are there events, are there, are there places that people like that can go to be able to, to say, hey, partnership in this era, everything’s interconnected. We really ought to have some more thinking about this. Where are there places that you’re involved in where they can go for those kinds of, um, Yeah, those kinds of thoughts. 

Norma Wattenpaugh: Well, absolutely. I have been on the board, full disclosure of an organization called the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, and that is what the mission of the organization is, is to enable those people who are working with partners to have access to best practices to network to share ideas to ask questions. And we do have webinars and conferences and, and other events that we host where we’re partnering professionals can come up with that. And perhaps later I can send you more information on the summit that’s coming up in March. And in fact, I think you are the closing speaker with the interview with our president, Mike Leonetti, and they’ll be having a fireside chat talking to you about. Your journey through collaboration and and building up a systemic capability and collaboration. 

Adam McNair: Yes, certainly looking forward to that as well. Um, and I, um, I think it’s, it’s, it’s good on for just awareness that, uh, you know, that that organization is out there. I think on the government side, we see a lot. of very government focused, uh, organizations, uh, whether that be, we’re, we’re a member of Act IAC. Uh, we are a member of AFCIA and those organizations are great in so many ways. And they do a lot related to the partnership between industry and government. Uh, they also do a lot. Towards tackling very specific and tangible challenges like cyber security, uh, like, you know, cloud computing, um, dev ops, these, these specific things that are, that, that government agencies face. But I think the thing that your organization can add is that the collaboration aspect is a connecting work stream across all of these. And I think it’s a really good way to look at it. And, you know, we’ve said for. Uh, for a long time and eventually got certified in it that collaboration is what makes a lot of programs successful or makes them fail because the days of not being able to make technology do things are, are, are mostly, mostly over. There are still places where you will get to the top end of something and you can’t crunch that much data for some reason and there are some constraints, but for the most part. Everything can kind of work with everything and, and it comes down to relationships and collaboration of how a couple different organizations are going to work together, realizing they got down a path where they now want to change course. And they find out they can’t because they never thought it was ever going to come to that point. And they have kind of painted themselves into a proverbial corner. So, um, so I do think that, you know, we’ve seen a lot of value from, you know, Uh, from the standard and from the best practices. So certainly thank you for all of your, uh, time and effort involved in the last decade to pull all of that together, because we have certainly, uh, stood on that previous work to, to advance our, uh, our partnerships. And, uh, we’ll make sure that we put out on our LinkedIn and our social media information about, uh, ASAP and in the upcoming March event. So with that, we just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to be part of the, uh, part of the podcast and to work with Highlight. Is there anything as a parting message or anything, uh, for whether it be, you know, your organization or anything to, to, to mention or draw folks attention to?

Norma Wattenpaugh: Well, they can certainly reach out to me. Um, my. website www. phoenixcg. com. But I think it’s a parting thought. I think I’d like to leave people thinking that, you know, collaboration is more than a process. It’s a mindset. It’s a culture. It’s a way of doing business. And it’s, it’s important, as you said, it, it, It takes more than just process to make things work. It takes a spirit of collaboration. 

Adam McNair: Great. I appreciate that. And I think that’s a good message for all of us to end on as we continue to try to do the best we can to, to, to. Run organizations and support our customers and support our employees. So, uh, thank you for taking the time to listen to the highlight cast. If you take a look at our LinkedIn page for highlight, we have, uh, content that we, uh, we put out there as well with, uh, some of the, uh, updates from the company, and if you check our website, highlight tech. com, we put up news articles and so forth there for, uh, other ways to, uh, Learn about and engage with the company. Thank you everybody. Thank you for your time and I look forward to talking to you on the next Highlight Cast. 

Announcement: The views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the hosts and do not necessarily reflect Highlight Technologies and or any agency of the U. S. government.

Building Spaces and Culture for Innovation within Software Factories

When you think of traditional offices, your first image is of long rooms filled with people typing away in their isolated cubicles. When you imagine a government facility, you envision military bases or Federal buildings filled with people in uniform, strong security, and people following orders given by their chain of command.

However, what do you envision when thinking of a startup or a cutting-edge company? What does their space look like? I think of Google or Uber. Offices that don’t really feel or look like offices. They have open spaces, large desks, amenities like comfortable and informal meeting spaces, and access to food on-site. The people are collaborating in every nook, to build the next generation of solutions.

The spaces we create, help to create the culture within them.

Software Factories are the embodiment of that exact mission. Software Factories rely on being agile and diverse to drive innovation to meet the needs of the warfighter by blending government missions with startup culture. Software Factories blend teams of Military and civilian personnel to work together outside of traditional government facilities to develop. In order to build next-generation solutions within these new environments, these teams rely on a strong culture of collaboration, innovation, inclusion, and adaptability.

How do you build a Software Factory to embody and reflect this culture? There are four core elements to bring this vision to life.

1.     Security

As with any government mission, security is at the forefront. You must ensure that the people, the information, and the facility are secure from potential threats.

Creating a secure Software Factory begins with picking a facility location. Facilities need to be in discrete locations that allow team members to travel easily to and from without hesitation. Also, the facility needs to be outfitted with access-controlled locks, cameras, and more to create peace of mind.

After securing the building, comes securing the information and technology within them. This includes setting up secure network capabilities, secure Wi-Fi connections, secure communication pipelines, and potentially SCIFs.

2.     Workspaces & Amenities

To achieve the mission of a collaborative space for the output of the best ideas, you need to attract and retain the best talent. You can build a collaborative workplace by creating a space with large workspaces with all the necessary technology in open floor plans with no walls or cubicles separating team members.

Collaborative spaces with amenities such as facility cleaning services, access to snacks and food on-site, and making informal meeting spaces and more, encourage team members to want to work and stay a part of the innovation team.

3.     Workplace Guidelines

The key to building culture is workplace guidelines. Within Software Factories a key element to promote collaboration is the removal of uniforms, all team members wear business casual attire including all military members. By removing the representation of rank through uniforms, it allows people to discuss their ideas freely without hesitation of respect to hierarchy. In addition, within these spaces by streamlining Technology sharing and updates through our ToolChain as a Service capability, members are always access to team tools and software.

4.     Adaptability

In the past year, we have all learned how vital it is to be adaptable to change. When creating these spaces, it is vital to be prepared to overcome any unforeseen challenges. Implementation of the proper technology channels can allow security on-site or remote and security against current and future threats. Implementation of open flow workspaces allows people to change workspaces or orientations of furniture to meet the changing needs of the mission. The adaptability of the space and the technology allow the team to keep operating regardless of the impending changes that can occur.

Software Factories require solutions to unique challenges, unseen in other parts of the Federal Sector. By implementing spaces that are adaptable, attractive to talent, drive collaboration, and ensure security, Software Factories can thrive to meet mission success.

Author: Victoria Robinson | Marketing Manager

Highlight Donates $10,000 Dollars To Feeding America And Donates 1,500 Items In Virtual Food Drive Event

According to Feeding America, an estimated 35 million Americans were living in food-insecure households before the COVID-19 pandemic. This number was expected to exceed 50 million by the end of 2020.

One of Highlight’s core values is to make a difference through community service. As a part of our Highlight Cares Initiative, Highlight held our first virtual food drive to encourage food donations across the country. In the month-long food drive, the team contributed a combination of physical canned foods and monetary donations to a total of 1,526 items across 15 states.

To further our positive impact, Highlight has donated $10,000 dollars to Feeding America. For each dollar donated, 10 meals are provided to those in need. In a combined effort of the corporate donation and team’s food drive, we have donated 115,000 meals across America!

Highlight thanks to all the employees who contributed to the food drive. Highlight understands community members have been affected differently by the Covid-19 pandemic and hopes that these donations will help those affected during these challenging times.

“This is a difficult time for so many people, and I’m pleased and grateful that so many Highlight team members were willing to contribute to food banks in their respective communities. I’m also grateful that Highlight was able to provide a financial contribution to Feeding America, to help families have the food they need” said Highlight CEO, Rebecca Andino.


About Highlight

Highlight is an award-winning woman-owned ISO® 9001, ISO 20000. ISO 27001, ISO 44001, ISO 56002 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3, and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised woman-owned small business that provides critical services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Using our HI-WAY™™ best practices framework, we design and deliver solutions that integrate current systems and procedures, address all stakeholders, and seamlessly advance the mission. With over 10 years of federal contracting experience, we apply our proven transformation and evolution process to deliver quality services that balance agility, continuity, security, and compliance. To learn more, visit highlighttech.com.