Kris Collo, founder and CEO of MicroPact, became an entrepreneur at an early age (21) and continues to stress the importance of coming to the table with a finished product, not just ideas.
WashingtonExec recently sat down with Collo to discuss MicroPact’s Innovation Challenge, Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel’s “mobile first” strategy, as well as the need for a “down to earth” workplace.
WashingtonExec: You started MicroPact when you were just 21 years old. What was the catalyst that led you to start MicroPact and how would you describe the company?
Kris Collo: I started MicroPact in 1997 as an IT services company to help large-scale enterprises take control of their information. However, we quickly recognized a set of needs that were consistent in the federal government equal employment opportunity (EEO) space. We responded to this need with our first product, icomplaints, for EEO case management. From there we expanded our offerings to include entellitrak, our unified BPM platform for case and business process management, and entellidoc, our document management software. In fact, today MicroPact is the leading supplier of BPM software to the federal government.
WashingtonExec: MicroPact isn’t your “run-of-the-mill” BPM software company. What sets MicroPact and entellitrak apart?
Kris Collo: One of the core differences is how we work with our customers. We don’t start with the process and design a solution from there, but instead, our system is designed to consider the problem that is trying to be solved, the data that needs to be captured and the way that users will visualize and manage that data – from there we can then develop and inject processes that do just that. In contrast to other more rigid solutions, the entellitrak unified BPM platform provides a continuous spectrum of case and business management solutions, which in turn gives organizations flexibility with respect to how they commence their application development initiatives. Organizations can either begin with a traditional process modeling approach; or, based on existing case data, start by configuring business applications immediately, and layer-on rules and processes over time.
WashingtonExec: You’ve grown MicroPact with no outside funding. Can you tell us a bit about your growth strategy?
Kris Collo: When I started MicroPact I financed the whole operation with my own money. The small staff that I had at the time and I made it a point of never going to a potential customer presentation with just an idea. We came prepared with a finished product that we could show on the spot, demonstrating our product’s flexibility and ease-of-use. This tenacity and hard work has allowed MicroPact to continue to significantly increase revenue and add more staff to meet the ever-expanding needs of our customer base.
WashingtonExec: You recently launched the MicroPact Innovation Challenge. Can you tell us a bit about the challenge and why you created it?
Kris Collo: The Innovation Challenge Program is a new initiative that kicked off on June 1 that allows groups or individuals to propose new applications to be built on our entellitrak platform. I actually got the idea while watching the movie Freakonomics and it struck me – the best way to achieve what you want is to align the goals of all those involved with the team goal. At MicroPact, we all want to sell software licenses and share in the license revenue. Our clients want applications that solve their operational needs and save them money. I believe that the Innovation Challenge will help us align those otherwise unrelated goals. Additionally, the Innovation Challenge will give us a fresh and continuous flow of new and innovative applications based on the entellitrak platform, increasing the relevance and utility of our software. What we’re really focused on is leveraging the community to make sure we’re building the systems people really want and need. In order to draw people to the program we’ve sweetened the pot and for selected submissions, innovators will receive a minimum $500 cash award, royalty revenue from sales associated with the solution and publicity and recognition through our semi-annual awards program.
WashingtonExec: Who are some of your customers and what kind of applications have you built for them?
Kris Collo: We have a rich history of working with the federal government, serving more than 140 federal organizations and agencies. A current project we are working on is with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). In response to a directive from Congress requiring consistent tracking and reporting of sexual assaults across all branches of the U.S. Military, SAPRO set out to find an integrator who could assist in the development and implementation of a unified case management system – the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database (DSAID). The Defense Department chose the entellitrak unified BPM platform for this task. Other clients include education institutions, such as East Carolina University who uses entellitrak to manage EEO complaints filed by employees or job applicants. Additionally, several Fortune 500 companies use our products for labor relations and payroll and for managing employee grievances.
WashingtonExec: How is the “mobile workforce” changing the way you do business with the federal government?
Kris Collo: To be honest, so far the transition to a “mobile workforce” hasn’t had an affect on the way we do business with the federal government. However, it’s clearly where things are headed and we are focused on extending our Unified BPM platform for case and business process management to the mobile stage. Just as the Internet and related web based technologies initiated the movement to web-enable desktop and client-server applications, we saw the same trend occurring with mobile technologies. With that in mind we have designed and built our products with an open architecture based on industry standards so that our customers can mobile-enable their existing entellitrak applications with minimal effort through point and click configuration options. With our entellitrak platform you define an application using metadata instead of traditional coding.
WashingtonExec: Did Steve VanRoekel’s, Federal CIO, announcement of a “mobile first” strategy change your business plan? How so?
The announcement of a “mobile first” strategy hasn’t changed our business plan. We’ve always been a customer oriented company so being aware of changes taking place in either the federal or enterprise landscape, and adjusting our practices to fit those changes is something we do every day. We’ve been aware of the federal government’s shift towards mobile for a while now but because of how we designed our products to begin with we are fortunate to be poised and able to keep moving forward with business as usual.
WashingtonExec: MicroPact seems like a really fun place to work. What is your leadership style and how does that affect the culture at MicroPact?
Kris Collo: I’d like to believe that my staff agrees that I have taken an honest and down to earth approach to how I run MicroPact and how I engage with my team. Even though we have more than 100 team members, I think we are a very close-knit team and everyone knows that my door is always open to them. As we’ve grown, I’ve remained focused on keeping the same cultural feel as when the company consisted of only two people sharing a desk in an office. Not only do we have a “work hard, play hard” mentality (office Wii, foosball table, Nerf guns randomly located throughout the office leading to sporadic Nerf gun shootouts) but we are also very family oriented and regularly hold Easter egg hunts and Trick-or-Treat in the office for our team members and their families.