Grassroots Crisis Intervention logoAs I was nearing retirement from the Air Force, I received briefings reminding me that the world outside of the military is nothing like the one inside of it. It’s a dog eat dog world out there; companies only care about their bottom line; companies won’t help anyone else unless it’s beneficial for them, etc.

When I came onboard with AIS, however, I was told that our Managed Services practice provides pro-bono support for the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center. I was taken aback to learn that AIS is the total opposite of what I’d been taught. This company really cares for the community — and doesn’t just say it, but proves it.

About Grassroots

Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center is the only homeless shelter in Columbia, Maryland that provides beds and round-the-clock support for those in need of professional crisis intervention, suicide prevention, or outreach services for personal, situational, mental health, and domestic violence crises. In 2018, they fielded 38,914 calls on their 24-Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline, served 2,028 clients in their various shelters, and ensuring the safety of 262 children. While Grassroots is a private non-profit agency and receives funding from grants, private foundations, community donations, and local businesses, it’s simply not enough to ensure their IT is ready to handle the day-to-day demands Grassroots volunteers endure.

Grassroots was lucky to have a volunteer donate their time to providing IT support. Unfortunately, there’s only so much one person can do for an organization like Grassroots. They continue to grow and face new IT challenges each day.

Providing 24/7 Support for a 24/7 Organization

AIS offered to help Grassroots’ volunteer IT person manage their needs and growth at no cost. Our Managed Services team worked with them to define their needs and bottlenecks so we could best support them. The result was an arrangement where the Grassroots volunteer IT staff handle onsite demands, while AIS Managed Services support any IT needs that can be handled remotely, 24/7/365.

In the past year, we’ve helped resolve over 100 different issues ranging from account creation/deletion and email connectivity problems to agency-wide network outages. Managed Services resolved each one of these tickets with a 100% satisfaction rate. Along with resolving tickets, the Managed Services team also provides basic IT training to Grassroots counselors to help increase their understanding of the system… so that they can quickly get back to the important work of helping people.

Service Before Self

In the Air Force, one of our core values was service before self. It’s refreshing to see that AIS is a company that puts community service ahead of self. It makes this veteran honored to work with this company and their support of the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

CMMI ML3 logoThe AIS Team is very proud to announce that we’ve successfully completed our first appraisal under the CMMI Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) for Services at Maturity Level 3 (ML3).

So…what does that mean? It means that after an extremely rigorous approval process, CMMI has independently validated and recognized AIS’ excellence and dedication to continuous improvement in our Service Management practices. It means our existing and future customers can count on continued increases in quality, productivity, efficiencies, and performance…while seeing decreases in defects, re-work, and risks.

Attaining CMMI ML3 means that we’ve defined our processes at the organizational level and take a proactive approach of continuous process evaluation and improvement to meet the business goals of our clients. We consistently improve upon existing organizational delivery standards, processes and procedures instead of redefining them on a project-by-project basis. This ensures that the best practices of AIS (and our industry) are not just adopted or implemented once, but captured over the long term. It also means that our team members can move seamlessly across multiple projects and exiting employees won’t take critical business information away with them.

CMMI not only rates the maturity of our processes, the distinction provides a level of assurance that AIS will always complete our work in both the time and price quoted for the project. CMMI ML3 allows organizations to improve consistency and deliver cost-effective solutions for current and future projects. And that consistency results in less money spent on detecting errors, less remediation and less manpower spent reworking old solutions.

In short, this achievement means we will always meet our customers’ demands, and consistently and predictably deliver the products, services, and sourced goods they want, when they want them, and at a price they’re willing to pay. All very good things!

Congrats and a big thank you to the AIS Team members who worked extra hard over the last year to make this happen.

AIS CMMI team members

Steve Iacovelli & Fred Elleman
A small delegation from AIS joined Stephen Iacovelli, his family, and his military peers to recognize his promotion to Brigadier General and observe the Change of Command ceremony.

Brigadier General Iacovelli took command of the 94th Training Division based in Ft. Lee, Virginia. The Army expressed their appreciation for AIS’ support of Stephen as he completed the Army War College and our continued flexibility that allows Stephen to balance his work responsibilities with those of a citizen Solider.

Fred Elleman, speaking for AIS, summed up perfectly how we all felt that morning: “Thank you for recognizing our company; our contributions seem trivial compared to what each of you does for our country. We thank each of you and Stephen for your service and for the opportunity to be here today and play a small role in this event.”

Microsoft US SI of the Year Award at Microsoft Inspire
AIS won the 2018 Microsoft US SI of the Year award for Azure Performance at Microsoft Inspire in Las Vegas. The award recognizes AIS’ work in Azure consumption values, as well as our success as the #1 United States Co-Sell Partner in the Microsoft Co-Sell Initiative. With over $26 million in Azure consumption and over $12 million in total contract value, AIS assisted Microsoft in retiring over $1 million in Azure goals.

Microsoft generated more than 11,000 co-sell wins with partners like AIS during the past 12 months, equating to roughly $5 billion in contract value through the channel. The figures are the result of Microsoft’s newly-formed One Commercial Partner (OCP) roll-out, designed to drive deeper collaboration between internal direct sellers and partners.

Microsoft described the OCP-driven co-sell program as the “largest sales transformation” in decades.

“In less than a year, AIS partnered with the OCP team to conceive and deliver our co-sell offerings with market-leading results,” said Larry Katzman, AIS Vice President of Marketing and Sales. “We leveraged our Cloud Adoption Framework, which is a collection of services we’ve delivered multiple times while helping our clients adopt Azure. We also included our Legacy Modernization offerings.”

AIS will be expanding our co-sell offerings to include our Office 365 and Dynamics 365 adoption programs in the coming year,

“Congratulations to the OCP Team and the AIS Marketing and Sales Teams for turning the OCP vision into a reality so quickly,” said Tom O’Connell, AIS Managing Partner. “This is only the beginning. We built a solid pipeline and see even better results in FY19.”

AIS Team Members Accepting Award

2018 Microsoft US SI of the Year Award

We can do this for you too! Check out our Azure QuickStart offering here.

I just finished teaching my Azure Master Class for Cloud Solution Architects and wanted to provide a quick recap:

Motivation

The motivation for organizing this class was three-fold:

  1. Like many companies, AIS has many open CSA (Cloud Solution Architect) positions that we are unable to fill. So the only solution is to take folks with a strong background in non-cloud environments (on any development stack for that matter) and “rewire” their brains for cloud computing 😊
    Note – Please refer to Gartner’s cautionary note [1] about Azure (the only note of caution in what is otherwise a very positive report on Azure). Gartner claims that that lack of deep technical expertise is impacting adoption.
  2. An effective CSA needs an understanding of a broad array of key concepts. Even though new features are being added to the Azure platform every day, the key concepts of availability sets, fault and upgrade domains and managed identity don’t change that often. My goal was to discuss each of these concepts in depth along with practical tips, guidance, and pitfalls.
    Note – Please refer to the list of key concepts [2] that I covered during this class.
  3. Engender a “Cloud Thinking” mindset. Cloud thinking is a mindset that goes beyond moving an existing application to the cloud (lift-n-shift) or starting out using a cloud-native service like Functions. Cloud thinking is a solution-focused approach to building cloud applications that maximizes the benefits that the cloud has to offer, including considerations like monitoring, cost, governance, HA and of course, compliance and security.

Format

  • The class spanned three intense days.
  • No hands-on lab – I expected the attendees to fork the repo and work through the samples on their own time. I also encouraged attendees to review Azure Essentials before attending the class.
  • I focused on building a conceptual understanding of key Azure topics. I relied on concept slides combined with focused demos.

Read More…

Best of Texas AwardTwo years ago, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) came to AIS with an outdated online budgeting tool called the “Texas Reality Check” for middle and high school students. The application, designed to give students a clear sense of how much their desired future lifestyle will cost and what education and career choices will support it, was plagued by performance and accessibility issues…and its young target demographic was simply tuning it out.

AIS modernized the site for teen sensibilities, streamlined the underlying information architecture for easier use, overhauled the content strategy and user experience, and made it fully compliant with the latest accessibility guidelines.  You can read more about our work on this project here.

The new and improved Texas Reality Check has since gone on to become the most popular application of the Labor Market and Career Information Department (LMCI) of the Texas Workforce Commission. And now it’s been honored with a 2018 “Best of Texas” Award for Best Application Serving the Public. The awards highlight the Texas state government’s top creative tech implementations of the year, for both internal improvements and public-facing services like TRC.

“Governmental and educational leaders in Texas are leveraging technology to improve cybersecurity, enhance citizen service and advance emergency response, among many other things,” said Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “Congratulations to this year’s Best of Texas winners for the vital role they are playing in advancing information technology in Texas.”

We’re really proud of our work on this project and thrilled that school students all across Texas have responded to the site in such a positive and engaged way. We hope the application continues to inspire them to dream big…while also equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve their goals.

Another new year, another Codemash in the books. Codemash is a fantastic family-friendly developer conference that brings in speakers and attendees from all over the world, with a wonderfully diverse range of topics and expertise. If there’s a hot new language or technology, it’ll be discussed here, in the sessions or in the hallways. Despite being held in Sandusky, OH in the middle of winter, it’s a blast for the whole family since it’s hosted at the Kalahari indoor waterpark resort.

Pro-Tips

This was the fourth Codemash I’ve been able to attend, so I’ve learned a few tricks. The pre-compilers are where you’ll actually learn the most – these are half- or whole-day sessions preceding the main conference, and allow you to deep-dive into a specific subject and get hands-on experience with expert guidance. Bring a laptop with enough power to play – you’ll be spinning up new VMs, IDEs, and hardware.

(Also, bring plenty of hand sanitizer, Emergen-C, and antacids – because The Crud seems to spread very fast at these indoor winter conferences!)

Networking

There are plenty of opportunities to expand your professional network – from the experts teaching the sessions, to fellow session attendees, to your dining table companions, to board-game players. I met a lot of great people doing interesting things from all over the Midwest and my neck of the woods – I even met local developers who had preceded me at my local office! Some were even familiar with AIS and our reputation for doing great work in the .NET/Azure space.

Session Recaps

Next I’ll break down the most memorable sessions that I attended, and the major takeaways from each… Read More…

AIS is excited to offer a truly unique opportunity for software engineers interested in building a career in Azure. In partnership with a long-time client, AIS is building a first-of-its-kind Azure Cloud Academy in Carmel, Indiana.

Together we will hire, train and mentor 400 software engineers in Azure over the next two years.

AIS will place Azure architects, mentors and senior staff to lead the Cloud Academy and follow-on customer projects. We’ll then seek software engineers in more junior trainee roles to go through the academy and learn Azure. We’ll also help our client in the sourcing, assessment, interviewing, and selection process for their additional roles.

Why Azure Cloud Academy? 

As anyone in the IT marketplace knows, there are simply not enough system and software engineers in the world today for all the work that needs to be done! This is especially true for new technology areas such as public cloud infrastructure like Azure, which has seen unprecedented, accelerated growth over the past few years. AIS built up our Azure staff and practice from the ground up as there just weren’t enough candidates in the job marketplace.

As a result, we already have a great deal of experience sourcing the right candidates, and the managing them through training and hands-on mentoring to build their skills so they can contribute to our world-class project teams. Now, with the Azure Cloud Academy, we’re ready to do that on a much larger scale! Read More…