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M Corp Hired for Department of Water Resources & CDFA Contracts

M Corp. has two new contracts that will benefit Californians and the Golden State’s most precious resources. The company, one of the fastest-growing firms in the Sacramento region during the past three years, will be working with the Department of Water Resources to complete the analysis and requirements development phase of the Water Planning Information Exchange (PIE) project. The Water PIE will be a Geographic Information System (GIS) based portal that will improve data management and establish the technological framework by which water management planning data can be accessed and shared in order to help develop water management solutions at all levels of government. M Corp will use its proprietary Business Rules Mining Framework to assist DWR with requirement analysis sessions, system analysis, use case development, and documentation of business, functional and system requirements. Our framework methodology instills completeness, accuracy and efficiency into our business rules analysis processes while validating and filtering system functionality during multiple project phases. M Corp will also be providing programming and design services to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Leafy Greens Audit Verification Checklist program.  M Corp will develop modifications and enhancements to specified modules of the Leafy Greens and Feed, Fertilizer, Livestock Drugs, and Egg Regulatory Services (FFLDERS) Branch Inspect systems, data extracts and reports. The company also will provide knowledge transfer to CDFA staff on these systems. M Corp is currently providing similar services to the CDFA for its Leafy Greens-Enterprise Data Gathering and Management System.

Subjective Market Values: Does Kroger Do Anything Well?

Headlines seem to be driving the market without considering past performance and investment fundamentals. News that e-commerce giant Amazon.com is buying Whole Foods sent grocery stocks reeling. Kroger sank 14.5 percent, Supervalu plummeted 17 percent, Costco fell 7 percent, Sprouts Farmers skidded 12.7 percent, and United Natural Foods dropped more than 15 percent. Even discount retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, as well as many consumer product companies also fell after the deal’s announcement. Following the announcement, Amazon’s stock rose by 3 percent, as Whole Foods shares skyrocketed by 28 percent. In no way is this meant to be investment advice, but I must ask: Why did the Amazon headline move the market so dramatically, and what is really occurring in the retail grocery marketplace? I did some research. I looked at Kroger to find answers as to why the market has predicted their demise. What I found out is that Kroger has done multiple things very well. Kroger has one of the best dividend and revenue growth track records. From FY2007 through FY2017, Kroger has raised its dividend each year, and has had YOY revenue growth. Most companies can only dream of this type of consistency. According to a March 2017 Bizjournal article, Barclays investment analyst Karen Short said that Whole Foods is likely losing customers to a number of competitors, but the largest winner is Kroger, because it has clearly gained share in natural and organic food products. In fact, Kroger’s natural and organic product sales in fiscal 2016, which ended in January, hit $16 billion. That topped Whole Foods’ total sales of $15.8 billion over the past 12 months. With nearly $120 billion in sales, Kroger is the 2nd largest U.S. retailer, according to the National Retail Foundation. Kroger also has 40,000 items available through its ClickList home delivery service. I was also surprised to find out that Amazon has been attempting grocery delivery since 2007, which means that for 10 years they have been in the grocery business, and have admitted struggles with success. Is there new competition? Yes; German Grocery Chain Lidl plans to have at least 100 locations in United States by next summer, and could expand to more than 500 locations over the next five years, according to analyst estimates. Its initial stores are opening in competitive grocery markets, right on top of rivals’ locations. Aldi grocery chain recently announced plans to add an additional 900 locations over the next five years, and it is spending $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of its existing stores. The German discounters have battled across Europe for years, stealing sales from traditional grocers as consumers get accustomed to their private-label products. (The German grocery giant, Aldi Nord, also runs Trader Joe’s.) Competition and price wars is not a failed strategy by Kroger. Kroger cannot control what the competition does, and now is a time of rampant food deflation in the U.S., with falling prices already ravaging grocers’ earnings. I believe that Kroger has the scale to fight the price war, but other smaller chains could be in trouble. The rational for the large stock price hit is not warranted versus the execution of strategy which Kroger has implemented. The competitive threats and scenarios mentioned are certainly a nuisance to Kroger, however, I view it as a momentary blip on the competitive landscape which Kroger has faced during its 130-year existence. Their strategies over the past decade have resulted in Kroger advancing and growing well beyond any of its competitors. Some cases, such as the failed Supervalu experiment in buying Albertsons, have really shown just how well Kroger can acquire, compete, and win. Analysts are enamored with the movements of Amazon, and always want to predict the extreme negative consequences on their competitors. They need to look more closely at the winners over the last 130 years, and not the newcomers who are yet to demonstrate that they have the staying power to be a leader in the future. Kroger’s strong operational and fiscal position will win out, and once again they will return to being a darling of Wall Street investors.

Alex Castro to speak at Big Data 2014

M Corp founding partner and CEO Alex Castro is a featured speaker during Big Data 2014, a one-day conference on how to better manage government data. Castro will discuss how to make analytics and big data deliver its intended value during the conference on Jan 22 at the Sacramento Convention Center. He will share how this requires organizations to leverage the investment beyond a project or single use application; to justify the expense by making analytics part of the daily business operation. The session – which includes California State Lottery Chief Information Officer/ Deputy Director of IT Amy Tong and California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Enterprise Architect Chris Riesen – will also focus on how to leverage big data through analytics and business intelligence solutions. Effectively managing analytics initiatives is a critical issue for State Government and goes well beyond the choice of technology tools.The session will address numerous questions, including how to move past a silo model of single or multiple analytics deployment and ownership, who should drive the business intelligence and analytics direction, and what are the major failure points in leveraging analytics and big data? You can get more information on Big Data 2014, including a complete list of featured speakers, by visiting pspinfo.us/events/big-data-2014/.

M Corp to attend government IT conferences in Houston, Washington, D.C.

M Corp will attend two major conferences in August, the latest effort to connect with more government officials and expand our top-notch services. We’ll be at the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC) Aug. 3-6 in Houston (yes, we know, Houston in August). Hundreds of public-sector IT professionals, including many from Texas state government, will attend the premier event in the Lone Star State. M Corp executives will finish the month at the IT Legacy Modernization for Government conference Aug. 25-27 in Washington, D.C. The conference has several keynote speakers, including high-ranking executives from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. If you’re attending either – or both – conferences, please say hello and learn more about M Corp. We have big ideas that will change government IT and a first-rate team to put them in place. In June, M Corp attended the Texas Digital Government Summit in Austin, and was a major sponsor for the Public Sector Partners Conference in Sacramento.

M Corp Talks FI$Cal with State Agencies

On December 3, M Corp hosted its first educational forum about FI$Cal Readiness, during which we discussed why it’s so important for state agencies and departments to “Be Ready.” M Corp provided its private-sector perspective, and shed light on the challenges that lie ahead for many state entities as FI$Cal implementation approaches. Through its work as part of the FI$Cal Legacy Systems and Services (LSS) Team during Wave 1, M Corp has a unique understanding of the FI$Cal Project, and has gained deep insight and developed expertise around FI$Cal and what it means for state entities. Add to that M Corp’s work with the State Controller’s Office, both as part of its readiness team and on LSS, and we can safely say that we know firsthand the importance of building an integrated test plan between FI$Cal and the implementing department. Guests asked great questions after M Corp CEO Alex Castro presented ideas and approaches for FI$Cal readiness. The event, which will be the first of multiple sessions, took place at the Crocker Art Museum. Content covered in the forums include: Case study experience based on our direct involvement in the FI$Cal project What to consider in the readiness process to ensure that both FI$Cal and your department are successful with the transition What FI$Cal will handle, and what your department needs to be responsible for Lessons learned through M Corp’s experience Lessons learned from current waves; timing for the next waves Risks of waiting to get ready for this major transformation The importance of establishing user roles and gaining proper training before FI$Cal implementation An overview of M Corp’s FI$Cal Transition Framework If you’d like to RSVP early for our next FI$cal event, let us know.

Lessons learned #2: How to get the answers for success from within your organization

Most answers are within your organization. How can a leader in an organization get honest answers and feedback, and create a continuous communications feed-back loop, which will help give you the answers for effective project engagement? Effective leadership communication requires a long-term focus, not just short-lived initiatives. There are multiple venues where employees can receive information from senior leaders, ranging from quarterly call-ins to in-person and virtual town hall meetings. The key to bringing out truly honest feedback from employees is to take the time to meet with them in an informal, one-on-one setting, and to provide ways for anonymous feedback. Take the fear out of feedback Knowing what to ask employees during individual meetings, whether they are performance check-ins, lunches, or exit interviews, is crucial to drawing out honest, actionable feedback. Asking questions such as these can help employers to gain better insight: What would you change tomorrow? Why? What are you hearing from our customers? What do you enjoy most about your job? Least? How can I help you be more successful? According to a 2015 Entrepreneur Magazine Article on employee communications, Motley Fool, the multimedia financial-services company found a way to take the intimidation factor out of the feedback process. Instead of having employees report to their boss when it comes time to give or take feedback, they encourage employees to choose from a list of designated “feedback coaches.” These coaches are well-versed in handling employee feedback, and most importantly, they take some of the fear out of the review process. Designating a select few to handle employee grievances could be the key to eliciting honest, constructive feedback on everything from management issues to business solutions. Create an “Virtual” suggestion box You can try and build your own internal virtual suggestion box, and there are several tool vendors that offer a SaaS solution to collect feedback. It is critical that the feedback be anonymous to gauge your employees’ happiness.  Actionable data, accompanied by associated goals and corporate change will help to build a healthy culture.  A culture of appreciation and collaboration To empower your employees, hand them a little more responsibility on the projects which are of most interest to them. Let them make important decisions regarding the company direction. Recognize and praise hard work, and collaborate feedback and ideas. Trust their expertise and understand that this will help build confidence and trust. What are the benefits? You have taken the time to invest and implement these changes within your organization, so what are the benefits? Keep your “A” players on the important projects and avoid wasting valuable resources on the wrong projects Understand the risks and execution aptitude for innovation and organization change Uncover new ideas and opportunities for transformation Summary More and more organizations understand that distributed ideation unlocks more diverse ideas, which in turn dramatically increases employee satisfaction and uncovers great ideas. Successful business leaders have also widened the diversity of their objectives from the broad and sweeping, to the precise and strategic. Some companies are setting up formal Ideation programs, which are part of their larger corporate innovation strategy. Employees want to be engaged and know that their voice matters, and as leaders we need to think about the best ways to help and enable that process. Want to see more lessons learned? Check them out here.

M Corp Moves to Regis Building in Downtown Sacramento

M Corp has moved its headquarters to the historic Regis Building, a landmark mixed-use building a block from the state Capitol and in the middle of the revitalized K Street mall in downtown Sacramento. M Corp’s new headquarters are in the city of Sacramento, across the street from the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, in the middle of restaurant row on the K Street mall, near parking garages and on the light-rail line. The building is also a few blocks from the proposed new arena for the Sacramento Kings. M Corp, a leading provider of legacy migration and analytics solutions for government and private-sector clients, moved into the top floor of the 27,000-square-foot building in mid-June. The decade-old company moved from an office on Enterprise Drive in the Arden Arcade area of Sacramento County. M Corp – ranked No. 637 on Inc. magazine’s fastest-growing companies list last September based on revenue during the past three years – will also be closer to many of its clients, including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Employment Development Department and the State Controller’s Office. Ambrosia Café, a longtime business of K Street, anchors the ground floor of the century-old building, while professional offices dominate the next two floors. M Corp has the top floor. A lower level, which was built before K Street was raised, also offers office space. The building was the former Regis Hotel. The former hotel was converted into a mixed-use building with ground-floor retail and office space about 30 years ago. M Corp employs 100-plus people – including employees and contractors – with projects across the western region of the United States and Australia.

A Model for Growth

Recently, I have been having a lot conversations about business transformation. The question that keeps coming up is how best to navigate through a company’s growth process (as defined by many criteria such as: increased revenue, number of transactions, people, etc) without destroying culture or base capability - How do you blend the old with the new?

Why Good Consultants Fall Short: Winning IT Projects with Resume Readiness

The headlines are everywhere: “National IT unemployment rate below 3.3%! California’s unemployment rate 2.9%! IT staffing services juggling more job orders than candidates!” If there is so much demand for qualified consultants, then why is it so hard to get hired? In an industry theoretically desperate for resources, a surprising number of qualified technical candidates find their job applications unanswered, and calls unreturned. So, what’s the deal? Why do good candidates fall short? In my work as a career coach and recruiter, I have encountered my fair share of clients and candidates stumped by unexpected hurdles. A variety of subtle elements contribute to job search success. Here are three top items to consider if you’re finding yourself in a job search slump. 1. Your Resume Despite today’s sloppy hashtag-driven communication trends, a concisely written resume is a sign of respect to your prospective employer. When a recruiter notices that you didn’t take the time to intelligibly break down and illustrate your skills and experience, he or she will reciprocate your perceived lack of effort by ignoring your application. I don’t care how elusive your skill set is, for most hiring managers a poorly formatted resume riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors makes you look careless and disrespectful. Whatever resume rules may come and go, remember these timeless tips when writing your resume: List your top hard skills (hardware, software, languages, methodology, tools, etc.) and specializations in bullets independent of job descriptions – bonus points if you tailor them to the job to which you are applying. This helps recruiters and hiring managers immediately identify your qualifications and start liking you already. Be specific in your job descriptions by referencing the exact technologies and methodologies you utilized, and how you interacted with them on the project. Remember those bullet points at the top? Expand on those. Don’t assume people will “just know” what you did as a project manager, business analyst, or tester. We won’t know how great you are unless you tell us. Spell it out. Proof, spell check, repeat. Bonus Tip: Don’t submit your resume on a fancy template. It may look appealing, but save that as your backup copy. Most companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that parses your resume out by skills, experience, name, contact info etc. A non-standard resume format may not be recognized by the ATS correctly, and may be costing you prospective interviews. The chronological format is your best bet. 2. Your Education The Information Technology workforce, more so than almost any other industry, represents a large number of self-taught, high-level, top-skilled industry professionals. Degree requirements also pose a unique challenge to individuals who began their IT professions long before “Computer Science” or “Information Technology” were offered as majors by accredited universities. Though occasional situations allow for education requirement flexibility many, especially those in public sector consulting, unfortunately don’t. While there isn’t much of an immediate solution to these constraints, it helps to be mindful of job requirements so as not to waste time applying to positions outside your qualifications. To remain competitive in the job market, I always encourage my candidates and clients to pursue some form of continued education. Earning certifications and licenses relevant to your line of work will give you a competitive edge over other qualified applicants. 3. Value Add So, you’re an industry professional with 10+ years’ experience, and you have successfully contributed to the completion of multiple high-profile projects on-budget, and on-time. Sound like you? Good news: you’re not alone! Bad news: that’s not a good thing. Though a job well-done is certainly appreciated by any company, unfortunately simply listing that on your resume won’t guarantee you a phone call or an interview. Merely meeting the minimum qualifications of a job description is often not enough to have your resume ear-marked for further review. After we’ve verified that you match our bottom line qualifications, hiring managers start scanning your resume for items that make you stand out. We want to know that you mentored a team of 10 developers, increased project efficiency by 98%, or generated new business with your knowledge of and contributions to your clients’ needs. When considering a hire, hiring managers are looking for applicants whose professional strengths will not only contribute to the positive development of our growing team; we’re also keeping an eye out for candidates whose strengths will expand our clients’ awareness of the value we offer as a company. At the end of the day, recruiters are usually pretty good at sorting through an unbelievably messy assortment of well-qualified, yet questionable resumes to find the diamonds in the rough – but just in case we haven’t had our 3rd cup of coffee that morning, why not stack the odds in your favor? Start by taking a second glance at your resume’s formatting, beefing up your education qualifications, and giving yourself the credit you’re due for the value you bring to a team. Happy Job Hunting!

Alex Castro shares a winning strategy at CFO Global Conference

Choosing a winner is a lot harder than you think — whether it’s hiring a new employee or tackling a legacy modernization project. M Corp CEO and founding partner Alex Castro recently shared some insight about the importance of metrics that greatly increase the likelihood of success, at least when it comes to IT projects. Castro was a featured speaker during the California Public Employees’ Retirement System-organized 2014 Global CFO Conference at University of California, Davis. About 200 pension fund financial executives, from Canada to China, attended the three-day conference that started Sept. 3. “It’s about asking the right questions and reviewing your processes, while being honest about which issues you must address before starting a project,” said Castro during his 75-minute presentation. M Corp is developing a readiness tool that identifies issues and the likelihood of success before starting a project. “The company has done more than 120 government projects and we’ve never failed,” said Castro, who also discussed the changing role of chief financial officers, with many now overseeing IT projects. “Chief financial officers are becoming the decision-makers more often, and playing a much-larger role when it comes to IT projects,” Castro said. CalPERS organized the first-ever CFO Global Conference in the U.S. The annual conference had previously been held in Canada. “I want to thank CalPERS for the opportunity to connect with these financial experts who are changing the landscape when it comes to IT projects,” he said. ‘Every project is important, regardless of the cost and size, and I wanted to share how clients can choose winners.” Other speakers included Tyler Cohen Wood, cyber branch chief of the U.S. Department of Defense and author of Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life, and Anne Simpson, senior portfolio manager, director of global governance for CalPERS.