A Chat with the Chiefs of Innovate

On Friday, April 2nd, 2021, Innovate hosted a “Chat with the Chiefs” event with Phill Thomas, Chief Executive Officer; Matt Brumberger, Chief Operating Officer; and Denise Economy, Chief of Staff. They discussed their careers, their roles, what they love about Innovate, and the future of the company. Here are the top 3 things we learned from our chief executives.  

Our Core Values Are Key 

Innovate’s values are at the core of our work. Our values are to 1) love and value human beings, 2) take initiative and maintain a “Let me at it!” spirit, and 3) own our work because “It’s personal.” During the panel, Phill said, “If you get a group of 100 to 200 human beings who are consistently operating within a set of values, they win. That’s why our core values are so important, not just in our work with our clients but also to enable each employee to be effective and feel fulfilled.” To further illustrate, he used the metaphor of an incandescent lightbulb versus a laser. The difference between the two is focus. When everyone is operating from those core values, we are able to deliver elite services.” 

Denise agreed, adding that, due to her role as Chief of Staff, her job encompasses all parts of Innovate, from employees to financials to marketing. “I focus on our core values in every decision. If we, at Innovate, live out those values, we can move mountains.”  

These values have permeated Innovate, from the way we interact with our clients to how we recruit and hire new team members. Matt is particularly proud of how we’ve structured our recruiting efforts. “We connected recruiting to our core values, so the process ensures that the people we bring in not only serve the clients but also maintain the elite delivery of the existing team. We’ve seen this make a tremendous difference over the past few years.” 

Key to Innovate’s future as the company grows is to make sure that we amplify, exemplify, and expand those core values.  

Trust Is Everything 

Innovate recently celebrated our 19th anniversary as a company. Phill and Innovate President Lily Thomas started the company in 2002. Many small businesses struggle to land their first contract. However, Phill had a past client who wanted him to contribute strategic planning as part of a larger contract at EPA with the Central Data Exchange. Phill focused on not just completing the work but building relationships at EPA. “Trust is a big deal,” Phill said. “We have been at EPA ever since 2002 because we were able to cultivate those relationships.” How exactly has Phill built that trust? “If there’s ever an issue with a client, I learned to drop everything and deal with it. No deliverable matters more than the relationship.”  

Denise returned to the theme of core values. “We didn’t pick and choose our core values. We selected the values that Lily and Phill exemplified and what we wanted to see throughout the company.” The combination of love, respect, initiative, and proud ownership allows our team to build trusting relationships with our clients, ones that last decades.  

Innovate – It’s in Our Name 

Because Innovate is a small business, Matt is excited by the opportunity for more creative license. This creative license opens the door for employees to find ways to innovate within their teams or even companywide. “It’s easier for employees to suggest new services and make a difference here than at a larger company,” he said. Innovate is more than a flashy name; it’s how we solve problems, both for clients and within the company. 

Additionally, Matt sees the potential for further innovation within the company. “An individual can make a tremendous difference by dealing with the systems that people operate in. Innovate is a system that we all work inside of, and we want to make sure those systems are delivering elite services and serving clients. If there are barriers that prevent people from fully delivering and feeling fulfilled, we try to figure out how to identify and break down those barriers, so our staff has more time, energy, and passion.”  

Phill concluded, “There is no limit to a human being’s potential. In our 19 years as a company, we’ve tapped into a tiny percentage of it so far. It’s exciting to create an environment where we together expand what is possible for our lives, clients, and one another.” 

A special thanks to our chief officers, Phill, Matt, and Denise, for their participation and Michelle Jaeger for organizing and moderating the event. We enjoyed the opportunity to hear from our leadership and their perspectives.  

Innovate Celebrates World Health Day 2021

For World Health Day 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for a fairer, healthier world. While COVID-19 has impacted everyone, it has also exposed inequalities in health and healthcare access. The WHO emphasizes the need for collection and access to reliable health data to accurately assess inequities across populations and make data-driven decisions.

Innovate! Inc. (Innovate) has supported initiatives that gather and analyze health information that help organizations make more informed decisions and improve community health. Additionally, as a geospatial company, Innovate offers a unique perspective to health through the lens of geospatial data, technologies, and geographic information systems (GIS). With GIS, information can be instantly shared and updated in real-time, while complex data is analyzed and visualized for rapid response. GIS can be used to help improve communication of public health factors, identify communities at risk, and help manage critical resources.

We’ve helped our clients deliver on their mission to protect human health through the successful implementation of technology, geospatial services, and business consulting. Presented here are highlights of Innovate’s top health projects.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Safer Choice
The Safer Choice program works in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia to identify cleaning and other products that perform well and are safe for human health and the environment. The program empowers consumers to protect their health and minimize their impact on the environment through everyday purchasing decisions. Originally, Safer Choice staff and management had an increasing backlog of incoming applications to review and approve, spread across a complicated collection of databases, spreadsheets, documents, PDFs, and emails. As program response time increased, partner satisfaction decreased.

Innovate developed a custom Salesforce solution that offers a single structure for managing multiple facets of the Safer Choice Community, along with the flexibility of accessing the system anywhere. It now includes a simplified interface to a highly complicated and customized chemical formulation review process and a public facing online community that allows for companies to submit their new for review. The system facilitates project and program management and provides stakeholders the ability to monitor the progress of their applications and submissions. Safer Choice staff can communicate with program partners, receive critical documentation, and seamlessly process applications. Innovate developed custom functionality that prohibits submission of incomplete reviews and notifies third-party profilers about the specific review requirements that need to be met. This custom functionality benefits Safer Choice staff by effectively eliminating time spent by processing incomplete applications. Innovate was recognized by EPA OPPT with the 2016 Innovation Award for our work on the Safer Choice Tool.

EPA Office of Water (OW) – Sanitary Survey Application for Marine and Fresh Waters
The EPA OW works with states, territories, and tribal governments to protect and improve the nation’s water quality, a vital factor of human health. Innovate modernized OW’s Fresh Water and Marine Beach Sanitary Survey Application. We transformed the once-paper surveys into a web- and cloud-based application that is accessible over multiple platforms and devices through ArcGIS Survey123, which uses a consistent interface and data validation on each field, so collected data is less prone to error. The data feeds into ONE EPA GeoPlatform, a central repository for EPA partners—states, territories, and tribal governments—to collectively share data, visualize trends, create predictive modeling, or aid water quality decision-making. The data can be stored on the user’s device and then transmitted at a convenient time when the internet is accessible. This infrastructure provides the ability to maintain and extend core services throughout the application lifecycle, so as the EPA’s needs evolve, the survey will too. Innovate’s Sanitary Beach Survey was featured on NITAAC’s CIO-SP3 Solution Showcase as a solution that leverages a new approach to a complex IT challenge.

Do you have a health-IT problem we can solve? Interested in leveraging geospatial data to better understand health outcomes? Contact Stacy Roux at bd@innovateteam.com or 703-922-9090 ext. 723.

Innovate Celebrates World Water Day

This World Water Day, Innovate recognizes the importance of water in our health, livelihoods, and environments and the need to ensure clean, drinkable water for everyone. We reaffirm our dedication to supporting organizations and programs that seek to improve water quality across the US and world. Innovate is proud to work with organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to leverage geospatial solutions to help our partners understand and organize their mission-critical water data and facilitate better data-driven decision-making. Working together, we’ve created solutions that help programs manage their projects; detect, reduce, prevent, and eliminate sources of water pollution; and encourage other projects that seek to restore beaches, wetland, and other ecologies. Below are highlights of some of Innovate’s work with water quality projects and initiatives:

Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) Dashboard – EPA

The Chesapeake Bay Partnership (CBP), under the EPA, is responsible for environmental monitoring for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and promotes the improvement of watershed health in the area. Innovate developed the CHWA application, a visualization tool for CBP’s watershed GIS data. The application takes complex geospatial data and presents it in an interactive and user-friendly way. Users of CHWA can access information to support watershed conservation strategies and identify signals of change in healthy waters and watersheds. The app is used by CBP and other organizations to study and monitor the watershed catchments of the Chesapeake Bay.

Fresh Water and Marine Beach Sanitary Survey Application – EPA

The EPA works with states, territories, and tribal governments to protect and improve the nation’s water quality. The EPA Office of Water (OW) developed the Sanitary Surveys to help state and local beach programs identify sources of pollution in watersheds that are impacting beach water quality. State and local beach managers use the Sanitary Survey information to prioritize resources to improve beach water quality and develop models to predict beach water quality. The EPA OW, in conjunction with Innovate, developed an electronic entry form application based on the four Sanitary Surveys. This application is accessible via a mobile device using Esri’s Survey123 form and transmits the information to the ONE EPA Workplace GeoPlatform, which is then shared by different jurisdictions within the platform. The once paper survey is now an application that is accessible over multiple platforms—web browser, tablet, and mobile—allowing it to be viewed seamlessly on different devices. Users can complete and store forms offline which enables field data collection where connectivity is often unreliable. The data can be stored on the user’s device and then transmitted at a convenient time when the internet is accessible. Innovate’s application was featured on the National Institutes of Health Acquisition (NITAAC) Solution’s Showcase as a geospatial solution that impacts health and water quality.

San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund (SFBWQIF) – EPA

The SFBWQIF program helps protect and restore the San Francisco Bay wetlands, water quality, and green infrastructure development. Innovate created an interactive Esri story map and dashboard. The story map includes an overview of the program, interactive dashboard, project progress, and visualized results of completed projects visualized. The dashboard provided up-to-date information on funding and project progress and had a web-based, version-controlled data editing environment to ensure consistency across project data. The story map and dashboard also helps users learn and understand the environmental results of completed projects on water quality, wetland restoration, and green infrastructure.

PFAS Vulnerability Assessment – EPA Guam

EPA is developing a model to predict the vulnerability of drinking water systems to contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are unregulated compounds that do not break down in the environment but pose a high potential risk to human health. Innovate collaborated on a regional-scale assessment of known detections of PFAS, other potential sources, and public water systems. A detailed case study was undertaken on the island of Guam, where 177 wells and 234 potential sources of PFAS were identified. The analysis calculated the vulnerability of each well based on its distance from ranked potential sources of contamination. This study is currently the gold standard across the agency and Innovate is helping to plan ways to apply this analysis at a larger scale with state partners to better understand and detect PFAS compounds.

California Central Basin Aquifer Visualization – EPA Region 9

Innovate worked closely with EPA Region 9 (which focuses on the Pacific Southwest region of the United States), United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to create a 3D visualization of the aquifers and wells under the Central Basin, which services cities like Los Angeles. The long-term goal of the project is to better serve people who consume water from the local Central Basin by collecting data and expanding partnerships. We helped move the EPA and DTSC’s massive data holdings into a shared environment so both organizations can leverage the same information to make decisions. Once the data had been loaded, web scenes are created and shared with federated groups between DTSC and EPA. Based on the success of the 3D model, Innovate created a 2D model of the data to assesses underground water sources using well sampling to determine the hazard and prioritize water cleanup.

Curious how Innovate can leverage GIS data and technology to support your organization’s mission? For more information, please contact Stacy Roux at bd@innovateteam.com or (703) 922-9090 ext. 749.

 

Innovate Celebrates the International Day of Forests 2021

The UN announced the theme of the International Day of Forests for 2021 as, “forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being,” and called for the protection and revival of forests to address climate change crises. Innovate reaffirms the value of every tree, measured in economic, environmental, physical, and emotional benefits. We believe that a GIS approach to visualizing forest information can empower local and national reforestation efforts by offering new perspectives and insights. Innovate has collaborated with partners to understand and visualize the state of forests and preserve our forests. Presented below are a few of project highlights.

Integrated Reporting of Wildland Fire Information (IRWIN) – Department of Interior (DOI)
While wildland fires are a natural part of ecosystems, we’ve seen an increase in wildfires due to the effects of climate change such as warmed temperatures, reduced snowpack, and longer dry seasons. Because of these changes, forests are more susceptible to severe wildfire, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Wildfire management is imperative to protecting and preserving our nation’s forests.

Innovate supports DOI IRWIN, a large-scale, cross-agency application that maintains data exchange operations between wildfire organizations and provides a comprehensive picture of national wildfire efforts. IRWIN interconnects systems so that new and updated information is automatically available to different interagency systems. This data is vital to situational awareness, fire danger modeling, incident mapping, and decision support to the wildfire community. We designed data workflows to optimize data architecture, developed data exchange tools to generate insights, and provided new tools for visualization. Innovate also created a dashboard with queries and reports. We were awarded Esri’s “Collaboration Partner” Federal Small Business Specialty Award 2020 for our application of GIS software and innovative solutions to help the US government run more efficiently and transparently.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Report on Environment (ROE)
Innovate developed and updated web-based geospatial visualization tools for EPA’s ROE. The ROE is a dynamic, interactive website that displays how the condition of the environment and human health in the US changes over time. The ROE uses 80+ indicators to track land, air, water, and ecological conditions, such as changes in forest biomass, and forest carbon storage. We integrated mapping layers to supplement existing indicators and information related to analytical methods for an indicator (regional boundaries, regional reference conditions, etc.) and developed tools to allow multiple metrics to be mapped together (e.g., sulfur dioxide emissions and acid deposition). The ROE allows user to interact with the environment and human health data in a visual way and adds geospatial perspectives to many of these indicators. The ROE especially emphasizes the vital role forests play in environmental and human health and its interconnectedness to other indicators. For example, acidification can injure and slow the growth of forests, which results in ecological changes, impacts greenhouse gas emissions, and bird populations.

Idaho Forest Group (IFG) – GIS Support
It is important that foresters engage in sustainable practices and restore forest health to reduce their impact on the environment. Innovate works with IFG to optimize their GIS systems and GIS data to support their sustainable practices. Our services include GIS enterprise deployment and maintenance, training, data analysis, data management, data acquisition, authoring map products, and publishing GIS layers. We supported the migration and integration of data from a paper-based system to a complete digital system supporting both desktop and mobile devices, which both reduced their paper consumption and provided a single, accessible data repository. Innovate developed a 3D map and other applications to assist timber acquisition planning and analysis.

We also created a solution for obtaining county-level parcel data and serving it in a seamless map layer. The Northwest Parcel map harvests and standardizes data received in various formats from over 30 counties located across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Our solution enhances the value of the data for land-use professionals across diverse disciplines, including forestry, utilities, planning, government, and others. This system can be easily expanded to accommodate additional parcel data and cost-share partners, and it can be customized for a client’s specific area of interest. The data are then post-processed with several natural resource layers and served alongside complementary layers such as soils, the National Hydrography Dataset, Public Land Survey System, and Aerial Imagery. By integrating and displaying their forestry GIS data in an easy-to-understand way, IFG can make data-driven decisions about forests and other natural resources.

Global Cooling Network
Innovate sponsors the Global Cooling Network, a 501(c)(3) organization. The Global Cooling Network’s mission is to preserve 1,000,000 acres of our nation’s forests in its natural, undeveloped state to counteract the effects of climate change and preserve forested land for animals and people to enjoy. While everyone may not have the means to reforest and preserve trees, the Global Cooling Network allows individuals to band together, as all donations go straight to preserving forested land. If you’re interested in donating to the Global Cooling Network and helping to preserve forests, you can visit www.globalcoolingnetwork.org.

If you’re wondering how a GIS approach to visualizing information can empower your organization’s efforts, you can contact Stacy Roux at bd@innovateteam.com or (703) 922-9090 ext. 749 to learn how Innovate can help.

Innovate Partners with Spokane Community College to Mentor GIS Students in Real-World Capstone Projects 

Innovate is collaborating with 21 students from Spokane Community College to develop GIS capstone projects with real-world applicationsThese capstone projects provide students the opportunity to apply skills from their GIS coursework in real-world instances. According to Marilyn Nielsen, an Environmental Sciences Instructor at Spokane Community College, Creating meaningful map products for community partners allows students to practice independent and creative problem solving, become familiar with organizations related to their career area, and give back to their communities. This educational opportunity prepares upcoming GIS professionals who will push the field into new and exciting territories while maintaining a focus on users and communities 

In support of this collaboration, Innovate reached out to several of our local clients who expressed interest in supporting this initiativeCity of Ponderay, Idaho; City of Moses Lake, Washington; and the Sewer and Water District of Bayview, Idahoand matched students with projects based on their strengths and interest areas. Projects include street traffic control sign inventory and mapping, parks and green space corridor mapping, 3D mapping value per acre analysis, and digitizing wastewater features from as-built drawings. Innovate staff will serve as mentors for the students and coordinate communications between students and the City and District Managers.  

At the end of March, students will present their final mapping products to the managers. We’re excited to not only see the results but to help emerging GIS professionals gain valuable experience working with clients and performing GIS analysis and designFor more information about this capstone collaboration, please contact Innovate’s Jared Yost at jyost@innovateteam.com. 

Innovate Employee Spotlight: Mr. Michael Blair, GIS/IT

What is your role at Innovate?

I would say I have a diverse role at Innovate as one of the GIS/IT managers. Essentially, I do a bit of everything, from soup to nuts. I support various clients in everything from hardware, server, and network configuration. I gather architecture requirements. I operate as the Scrum Master and Project Manager. For application development, I primarily support the developers on the design, user interface, and user experience, which means taking my vision, building out the design, and turning it into reality. I also work with clients through training and documentation to integrate them into the final solution. I also assist the Business Development team by drafting proposals and offering technical perspectives.

When I came to Innovate, I self-coined my position as a Digital Strategist, which is just a catchy way of saying a liaison between non-technical and technical. I translate a client’s requirements and recommendations for our technical staff, like programmers and database administrators, so we can identify technical solutions and move forward from there.

What has surprised you about working at Innovate?

I wouldn’t say this was surprising—since it’s in our name—but I chose to work at Innovate because of our perspective on our solutions. We don’t look at problems as hurdles but as opportunities to deliver something great. Someone else may say a certain solution isn’t possible, but we make it possible.

What is refreshing about Innovate are our core values. It’s one of the reasons I joined the company. We have a great cast of people throughout the company who all feel strongly about what we do and have the technical chops to make the impossible possible. You give us a problem, and we’re going to try to figure out how to solve it for you. We bring that passion to our clients, which is why many of our current clients are long-time customers.

What have been some of your top accomplishments and success stories?

Our work with Engineering Consulting Services (ECS) is a great example of our innovation. ECS is a private business we’ve served for years. We started by supporting an existing application. We’ve since rebuilt and modernized the app. I’m talking about full-service; we worked through the requirements, engineered their backend servers and how the app would talk between databases, and brought everything together into a fully modern geospatial application that integrates into their business. We’re constantly building new functionality for it, and it currently services 5,000 users. I’ve helped grow the app with ECS, so it’s a project I’m proud of.

What are Innovate’s resources and opportunities for employees?

With Innovate’s emphasis on innovation, we have lots of opportunities to be on the cutting edge of technology. As an Esri partner, we have access to Esri resources, whether it’s early releases of software or direct access to their core developers. I recently completed a course on ArcGIS Enterprise through Esri. That kind of on-the-job training is invaluable, both for employees and our clients, who benefit from that knowledge. My team is also currently completing the AWS Cloud Certification. Innovate understands that training and certification are important for both staff growth and the maturity of the company.

What does Innovate’s mission and core values mean to you?

I would say Innovate’s value of “Love and Respect Human Beings” speaks directly to me. When you care about who you work with and who you work for, it speaks volumes. Clients appreciate that we want to get the task at hand done quickly and correctly. But we also value the client themselves and reach out to them on a human level. We have a client in Colorado who I reached out to during the wildfires to make sure they weren’t impacted. And it’s not just me who reaches out. I see it throughout the company, through our Slack channels when we celebrate someone’s work anniversary or birthday. That care matters. It’s not just, “Oh, I work for a company.” We truly are a big family, even though we work virtually.

Tell us about your career trajectory. How did you get to your position at Innovate?

I have a diverse background and have done a lot of different things, but I’m able to use those experiences and bring them to the table at Innovate. I earned my undergraduate degree in Human Ecology, so I am passionate about our place in the world and how we can make a difference, whether it is through recycling or building a new software technology. At school, I worked as a computer tutor, and the director recommended I take a course in GIS. I fell in love. At the time, I wanted to use GIS to track sharks and pelagic fishes, but it was too early for the technology. However, we recently modernized EPA’s sanitary surveys platform to help the Office of Water collect spatial data to maintain healthy waters and beaches. This project meant a lot to me because of my background in ecology and my love of sharks.

I then moved to New Hampshire, and one of the professors at Keene State College asked me to teach a course on GIS. I taught part-time for 20 years, so when clients ask for training, it’s a skill I can bring to the table. I was also president of a nonprofit in-school dance program and chair of the school board, which gave me great project management experience. I eventually started my own technology consulting business. However, I needed high-speed internet, which I couldn’t access from my 300-year-old home on a dirt road. I worked with the mayor to increase access to broadband throughout the city. This turned into a conversation with the state GIS director, who wanted to do a pilot on high-speed internet. We received stimulus money that allowed us to map high-speed internet in the state, which led me to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and then Innovate. Experiences and connections seemed to fall into place serendipitously. And it’s not just me. Innovate is full of people with interesting backgrounds, which means we all bring unique experiences and perspectives to the company.

NITAAC Rescinds CIO-SP3 Small Business Stop Work Order

As of January 26, 2021, NITAAC rescinded the stop work order on the Chief Information Officer – Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) Small Business category enabling Innovate! Inc. to perform work as a prime contractor under the vehicle.  CIO-SP3 is multiple award Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Information Technology Assessment and Acquisition Center (NITAAC). In addition, Innovate! is currently an 8(a)-contract holder on the vehicle. Innovate services all ten (10) task areas of this vehicle, optimizing customer access and use of CIO-SP3. 

CIO-SP3 offers government agencies an unprecedented breadth of IT that supports the Federal Enterprise Architecture, the Federal Health Architecture, and the DoD Enterprise Architecture, and it can be used to meet the requirements of agencies with Data Center Consolidation, Cloud Computing, Health IT, Mobility, and Cybersecurity needs. Highlights of CIO-SP3 include:

  • Ceiling value of $20 billion, and it can be used by federal civilian or Department of Defense (DoD) Agencies to meet scientific, health, administrative, operational, managerial and information management requirements.
  • Easy-to-use, secure web-based e-GOS ordering system for automated task order completion, set-aside, management, and awardee selection and notification.
  • NITAAC customer service center can deliver a 1-hour response time for any contractual, technical or procedural question, and it provides 1-day turnaround on free, comprehensive SOW/SOO assessment for every task order.
  • No special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” required.
  • Streamlined ordering and procedures under FAR Subpart 16.505 save time, money, and resources.
  • Simplified evaluations at the task order level, resulting in significant savings in time, money, and resources.
  • Ceiling rates were negotiated at the Master Contract level to be the best available, so agencies start with the most competitive rates available; however, competition will only help to lower those rates further.
  • Innovate was awarded all 10 task areas for optimal access to our clients.

Under the NITAAC program, agencies receive an easy-to-use, secure web-based e-GOS ordering system for automated task order completion, set-aside, management, and awardee selection and notification. The customer service center can deliver a 1-hour response time for any contractual, technical or procedural question, and it provides 1-day turnaround on free, comprehensive SOW/SOO assessment for every task order. Finally, there is no special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” required. Meanwhile, the GWAC offers streamlined ordering and procedures under FAR Subpart 16.505 save time, money, and resources.

CIO-SP3 Small Business Contract Holders have gone through a comprehensive review process prior to award, which includes dimensions such as technical capabilities, past performance, price, and cost. This enables contract officers to use simplified evaluations at the task order level, resulting in significant savings in time, money, and resources. Furthermore, ceiling rates were negotiated at the Master Contract level to be the best available, so agencies start with the most competitive rates available; however, competition will only help to lower those rates further.

For details, please visit Innovate’s CIO-SP3 page or reach out to our team: CIO-SP3@innovateteam.com.

Innovate and Chesapeake Bay Program: Healthy Watersheds Assessment Application

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a unique regional partnership that brings together federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to restore the Chesapeake Bay. As part of their efforts, the CBP recognizes the importance of conserving and sustaining healthy watersheds.

The CBP recently contracted with Innovate to create the Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) application, a visualization tool for their watershed GIS data. The goal of the CHWA is to promote the improvement of Chesapeake Watershed health through the visualization of its watershed health metrics. The application takes complex data—60+ attributes for over 80,000 unique catchments—and allows users, specifically non-GIS professionals, to interact with and visualize the data. Users of CHWA will be able to access useful information to support watershed conservation strategies and identify signals of change in healthy waters and watersheds.

Innovate created CHWA using Esri’s WebApp Builder Developer Edition. The mapping application contains over 130 layers and 9 widgets/tools, which enable users to use specific layers, filter data, turn on satellite imagery as a basemap, and create bookmarks for easy navigation, all on demand. One of the key features of the application is a custom reporting tool, designed by CBP staff and built by Innovate’s Max Marno via a custom Web AppBuilder widget. This tool allows users to explore metrics and indices related to watershed health and generate a custom report for the selected catchment. The app will be used by CBP and other organizations to study and monitor the watershed catchments of the Chesapeake.

Innovate’s Salesforce Product Owner Team Lead Recognized as Salesforce MVP

Stacey Cogswell, Innovate’s Salesforce Product Owner Team Lead, was recently recognized as a Salesforce MVP (https://www.salesforce.com/mvp) for a 4th year. Salesforce MVPs are leaders in the Trailblazer Community, an online learning ecosystem for all things Salesforce. We had a conversation with Stacey about her Salesforce work and some of her favorite things about Innovate.

  1. What is your role at Innovate?

I am the Product Owner Team Lead. The Product Owner does just that; they own the product. A lot of my day-to-day work involves translating between the client and our development team. I meet with the client to understand their needs and pain points. I meet with the development team to make sure they have all the information they need to be able to build. I then listen to the development team about what they’ve built and translate that back to the client. And we iterate from there. Anytime we show the client something we’ve built, there are always aspects we can change. It’s a repeating cycle of enhancements and improvements.

In addition to being the Product Owner, I am also the Product Owner Team Lead. I lead people on the product team, which includes other product owners, business analysts, and support specialists. I streamline our processes, remove hurdles or obstacles our employees face, and am available to assist in any way that I can.

  1. What has been one of your favorite projects while working at Innovate?

I’ve been singularly focused on one large project the entire time I’ve been at Innovate. I’m working on the Mission Transformation through Salesforce pilot we’re doing for the Office of Pesticides Programs within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s actually been really fun to help them take a primarily paper-based process and turn it into a digital system. I get to watch the OPP embrace the benefits of this digital transformation, which has been incredibly rewarding. One unexpected benefit was the switch to telework due to COVID-19, which the EPA has never had to do before. But because of our digital transformation pilot, they were able to use our cloud-based system in Salesforce to continue operations.

  1. Tell us about your professional growth while at Innovate. How have you been supported throughout your career here?

Innovate has absolutely been supportive and encouraging of my professional growth. In my year and a half that I’ve been with Innovate, I began as a Product Owner and am now the Product Owner Team Lead. So that is growth right there.

Innovate has also been very encouraging of the work I do within the Salesforce ecosystem. Since I’ve been at Innovate, I have been designated as a Salesforce Analytic Champion (https://www.salesforce.com/campaign/champions/overview/) and have learned more about Salesforce’s advanced analytic tools. I now get to share that by implementing Analytics Cloud for our clients and by hosting workshops for my coworkers to help them learn how to use these tools. There are certain things I knew I wanted to do to grow professionally—for example, I wanted to keep using Trailhead to learn more about the Salesforce platform—but there are other things that Innovate has suggested. Earlier this month, Innovate provided training in the Scrum framework for anyone who was interested. As soon as I heard about it, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. And so, thanks to Innovate, I am now a certified Professional Scrum Master, which allows me to run projects more efficiently.

And then there’s a whole third leg of growth that I see professionally, in the example set by my manager, Rebecca Thomas, and other managers like Eric Baptist, my counterpart on the technical side. They’re both phenomenal leaders and watching how they lead and help grow the individuals on their teams becomes inspiration for me to do likewise with my team.

  1. What are some of your passion projects?

My passion is all things Salesforce! I have a Salesforce podcast called Salesforce Campfire Stories. My co-host Justice Sikakane, Sr. and I share stories of Trailblazers in the Salesforce ecosystem and how they have overcome obstacles—personal, professional, or environmental—to reach incredible heights. The Trailblazer community is an incredible group of people with remarkable stories full of inspiration and encouragement.

My other passion project is Salesforce Saturdays, a monthly networking event I host in Wilmington, North Carolina. We meet the first Saturday of every month (right now we’re virtual but will meet in-person again once it’s safe). It’s for locals who work with Salesforce in any capacity to come together, network, share what we’ve learned, and maybe learn something new together. I am passionate about what Salesforce can do for people, for professions, and for companies that I’ll share it with anybody who will listen and give people a microphone to be able to share their own stories.

You can listen to Salesforce Campfire Stories here. (link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/campfire-stories/id1337155743)

  1. What are the main career lessons you’ve learned so far?

One area I’ve learned grown in recently is my confidence to speak up more. This may look like having the confidence to make a case for a new tool I know will be beneficial for my team or speaking up to a client when they want to rush through a vital quality check. Using Innovate’s value of “Love and Respect Human Beings,” I’m learning that speaking up confidently allows me to improve my and my team’s work.

Another lesson I’ve learned is to allow myself a bit of grace to fail. With innovation, there is potential for benefit, but there is also risk. As long as you’re innovating in a safe, responsible way—by communicating with a manager, doing research, getting proper approval, understanding risks, and putting safeguards in place—it’s okay to take small, incremental risks.

This growth has come from time and experience, as well as surrounding myself with support. I have incredible teammates who have my back even if my innovation does fail, a manager with whom I have a good working relationship who is incredibly supportive, and a challenging environment that inspires me to try new things. I have my own back, too, because I planned ahead and put safeguards in place. Then I move forward, boldly but cautiously, and iterate from there. There will be failure, but it’s not the end of the road. Take the lessons learned, apply them, and keep moving forward.

Interested in reading more of Stacey’s career lessons? She recently wrote a blog post for Salesforce Admin about how she got involved with Salesforce and her top three ways you can take your Salesforce Administrator career to the next level. (link: https://admin.salesforce.com/blog/2020/take-your-salesforce-administrator-career-to-the-next-level)

  1. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?

When people ask, “What is your favorite thing about Innovate?” I always mention the culture. While our three core values are not your typical marketing-approved buzzword-heavy values, they are genuine and authentic. I love being part of a company that lives out their values every day and in every project. And yes, we’re hiring! (link: https://innovateteam.secure.force.com/InnovatePublicJobBoard/Innovate_Public_Job_Board)

Innovate! Proud to Launch Drone and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) Services

Innovate announces the launch of our drone and small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) services as a powerful, cost-effective method of aerial data collection. We have FAA Part 107 certified pilots on staff with the skills and know-how to produce a range of products. A drone can generate high-resolution orthoimagery, elevation products, point cloud, 3D models, and other high-resolution static imagery. These products can be used for a variety of purposes, such as inspections, architectural planning, asset inventory and management, and marketing materials. Using drones and sUAS can also drastically reduce costs when compared to conventional surveying inspection or mapping workflows.

Innovate leverages our experience as a geospatial company to provide expertise in post-processing and analysis while maintaining a customer-focused perspective. We have certified staff members with a combined 14 years of piloting experience who can take customers through the process and spectrum of products and help evaluate the best fit for the customer’s needs. Additionally, as an Esri Silver Business Partner, we are experts at Esri technology throughout the drone workflow, from Esri Sight Scan to Drone2Map to ArcGIS Pro.

How does it work? First, Innovate performs a project evaluation to understand what the customer wants and determines whether drone services are the best fit. The next stage is flight planning and area of interest selection. Detailed flight planning allows us to estimate flight time and end-product characteristics, such as overlap, resolution, coverage, and ideal ground control point (GCP) placement to improve the accuracy of end products. We then place survey-grade GCPs. After GCP placement, we fly our drones and collect the data. Finally, we process the data and meet back with the client to explain the final products.

For our pilot flight, Innovate’s Max Marno worked with the Community Development Department of the City of Driggs, Idaho to utilize drone services for planning and marketing purposes. The City is developing a new aquatic center to be constructed summer 2021. Using drones at the future site of construction, Max was able to use sUAS to produce several key deliverables for the City. These deliverables included a 3D model for marketing purposes, a digital elevation model (DEM) for architectural planning, and other integral decision-making data on site selection.

Wondering how to leverage drone services for your project? For more information, please contact us at bd@innovateteam.com or (703) 922-9090.

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