Festival Season: Pennsylvania and North Carolina's Biggest




We love festivals. We love them so much we wrote a software system for managing them. More on that later, but as we enter June, the number and variety of festivals that happen across the US sky rockets.

We’ll be talking about festivals often over the summer, but we recently ran across a great list that identified the largest festival in each state. So, while we gather great stories about smaller local festivals we’ll highlight, we decided to get to know more about the big guys and share a couple that are near and dear to us.

Our home state of Pennsylvania hosts Musikfest in Bethlehem from August 1 - 11. Voted Best Music Festival in the USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards in 2019, more than 1.1 million people crowd into this historic city near Allentown to hear music – free and paid – over the course of ten days. It claims to be the largest free music festival, but it also features comedy and dance performances and a series of art installations. Some say it might be the best bargain of all summer events.


As we expanded into North Carolina, we began looking for the biggest event in our new state. We assumed it was the Azalea Festival in Wilmington. But no … it’s not flowers but food that draws southerners. The North Carolina Barbecue Festival is in Lexington, which falls between the Triangle and the Triad. Lexington has a population of about 20,000 – which blossoms 10-fold when chefs from across NC converge to demonstrate their BBQ acumen. It all happens in just one day – the last Saturday in October – but is a culmination of an entire month of BBQ festivities. A series of competitions, from the Tour de Pig cycling race to golf, fishing tournaments and a 5K run keep people flowing into town.

What these two festivals have in common is their reliance on volunteers. From planners to ushers, parking to ticket sales and set up/clean up, volunteers are what makes festivals work. That’s why so many organizers are turning to our newest software product, Chute Festival. It not only manages the schedules for volunteers, but it manages the information they come in contact with.

Who are your vendors? What’s the map of the site look like? Where are the closest parking options? And how do you manage your performers, livestock, and food?

Often, it’s in the heads of those who volunteer. But with Chute Festival, organizers keep the data that remains in the minds of volunteers. Volunteers come and go – they are committed, until they’re not. In order to keep the information about every last detail, it needs to reside – accessibly – in the Cloud so that future events run as smoothly as the last.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Chute Festival can help, email us at info@chutefestival.com

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How Smart Startups Stretch their Funding




When startups reach the key milestone of securing Angel or Venture Capital, their new partners are looking both for a series of deliverables but also a great return on their investment. One of the many questions they ask during the pitch process is generally ‘how long before you’ll need another infusion of capital?’ They love it when the response is … “a long time.”

Once that infusion is safely secured, how do smart entrepreneurs make the most of it? STRETCH. Find the best value for the money on every project. And that includes custom developed software.
In the early 2000s, the key to this savings was to off-shore development. Fast and inexpensive services sprung up across Asia and Eastern Europe, putting hundreds of thousands of software engineers to work… outside of the US.

“Americans are just too expensive,” was the cry.

What we learned, however, was that it’s not really American developers that are so untouchably expensive, but the US major cities that pushed up the prices. The developers in rural areas and small cities are actually quite affordable. Plus – they speak your language, understand your culture, and live somewhat near your time zone (if not in your time zone).

The Whole

Entrepreneurs often judge the viability of outsourcing based on hourly rates they are paying. This can be misleading. When you pay for the least expensive person to do the job, you seldom get the best. Then you wind up paying more for senior team members to work through the problems created by the less-experienced.

Here are three other ways that the whole can end up bigger than the sum of its parts (ie: it’s more expensive to offshore than it looks):

  • Miscommunication = Time Lost: Yes, they speak English. No, they don’t understand your colloquialisms, the cultural impact of the work or how it relates to the industry as a whole. So when the project is delivered, it’s wrong or incomplete. Re-scoping, re-scheduling, re-writing. All take more time, and as a start up it could cost you that window you have to beat your competition to the market
  • Intellectual Property in Lost & Found: When a team of developers works on your project, they get to know your business and understand how the software gives you a competitive advantage. More profoundly, they are actually creating some of your intellectual property. It appears to us that keeping your IP in the US is pretty critical.

The Where

Where you are does make a difference. If your developers are in major cities with high cost of living, you’ll simply spend more than you will when the teams live in places where the cost of living is lower. It’s just logical. And it’s been proven out time and time again on projects we’ve delivered.

But it’s not just the cost of the developer. It’s the cost of your time. That’s why we encourage you to take advantage of our US-based developers, and keep from going:

  • Time Zone Zany: I’ve never met an entrepreneur that wasn’t exhausted. Burning candles at both ends, they manage their business, their product, their employees… they have a hard time managing developers who live 12 hours away.
  • Partner Panicked: I’ve also never met an investor who preferred that the code she just invested in be developed or stored over seas in a distant land, subject to different law and different court system.

    Just because you need to stretch your investment dollars, don’t cheap out on software development. Be responsible. Keep development in the US by working with rural and small city teams. Consider the whole of your investment, and give us a call.

    Follow #PSSolutions on social media LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Facebook


  • Sales and Solos


    Strummer Bob Fields Heads Up Sales in Pittsburgh





    When you’ve been serving the IT industry since 1981, have deep roots in your region and throughout the Midwest, and, to quote Chuck Berry, can play guitar like ringin’ a bell, well, you’re bound to be a rockin’ success.

    PS Solutions’ Robert (Bob) Fields may have taken a brief hiatus from IT during the Y2K hangover, but we’ll forgive him for that and chalk up 35 years to his investment in the tech industry. He actually started in IT recruiting for an IT consulting firm, but they soon uncovered his true talent.

    “I still remember the day, sitting in Pittsburgh, when I sold the highest billing rate for a consultant in the history of the company to a client in Washington, DC,” reminisces Fields. “I found that I really enjoyed the sales side of the house and spent the next ten years with that company advancing in that role.”

    He joined PS Solutions in November of 2015. It was a great fit from the get-go, with IT services and the oft-desired tech recruitment. Earlier positions with big companies kept pigeon-holing him into doing things he was good at but didn’t love. He loved account management and the people/problem solving balance it offered. And that’s the role he was looking for.

    “Moving to PS Solutions gave me that opportunity,” he said. “It also provided a bit of a homecoming back to a more agile, entrepreneurial, smaller, quality-oriented, regional IT consulting firm. The strong values make such a difference, in my happiness and in the satisfaction of our clients.”

    The Bob Special Sauce



    What is it, really, about being an account manager that Bob loves? It’s solving problems for the people within the companies he serves. When we asked him why he thought he excelled, he told us it came down to one thing:

    “I listen,” he said. “Many people are too quick to talk, to sell what they want to sell. But if you develop the skill of listening, you’re more certain to understand what is needed. If you have listened, your questions are much more on point, and the client knows that you get it.”

    Of course, you have to get to that meeting, right? The one where you get to listen? Opening that door can be a tough nut to crack.

    “I have been told by clients that they have given us a chance because of my persistence. In some cases, it was persistence over the space of years,” he says with a smile.

    The Band Behind the Man



    He may have spent his first three years in Erie, but Bob’s a Pittsburgher through and through. In high school he fell in love with writing, and only became a guitar player at 17, once he realized he would like to be able to play the music he wrote. Like every good teenage guitar player, he formed a band, and like every good sales person, he stays in touch. After all these years, and across a myriad of time zones, Bob stays in touch with different members of the band.

    Even with more than 30 years of teaching, recording and live performances under his belt, Bob still finds the magic of playing for a crowd. At one particular performance at PPG Paints Arena, PPG Place, he performed for about 500 people during a summer arts festival. “It’s like a glass castle, and when you catch it at sunset, with fountains reflecting the colors, it’s just magical.”

    Sometimes it seems that magic is his middle name. It’s actually Boyle, however, which leads him to play a lot of Irish tunes. This means that St. Patrick’s week can be especially busy, as he tries to give back to people of all ages. He developed a way to use new music technology, using a loop pedal to record and play rhythm parts and guitar synthesizer to represent the bass, fiddle, bagpipes, pennywhistle and other instruments. He involves his audience, looping in the seniors at retirement homes and the partakers at the bars. And getting them to sing along is half the fun!

    He especially enjoys serving the underserved. “It brings validity to what you’re doing. When you’re playing music it’s not about you – it’s what can you do for others.”

    You’ll often find him playing in contemporary music services at church, but he can play classical, rock and folk. He finds what his audience is hungry to hear, and that’s what he delivers.

    You could say that Bob is a listener and a problem solver, whether he’s at work or performing. It’s what makes him great at what he does, at home with this family, in the clients’ offices, or on the stage. To Bob, what you can do to make others’ lives more rich is the thing to do.

    Follow #PSSolutions on social media LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Facebook


    Fairs, Festivals, Conferences:
Plan and Manage Vendors and Volunteers with Chute Festival


    Trade shows, County fairs. Film festivals. Street fairs. Flea Markets. Job fairs.

    Events like these are a compendium of thousands of details. Vendors, payments, marketing, invoicing… keeping it all organized and easily accessible can be exhausting.

    PS Solutions to the rescue! We’ve recently released our own vendor management system, and we call it Chute – as in, parachute – because it eases your entry into the event. We were working with a Pennsylvania County Fair which faced problems when volunteers left the organization. The result was increased difficulty tracking and managing billings. The team at PS Solutions saw an opportunity to help event managers across the country easily organize, communicate about and manage their interaction with vendors.

    Here are just a few things we took into consideration when creating our event management system for festivals:


    A Bird’s Eye View: Event maps

    Chute Festival provides you with a computerized interactive version of your festival or fairground layout. It’s easier than ever to determine which spaces are still are rented and quickly pinpoint where each vendor will reside. Of course, it’s also easier to show which spaces are open and left to be sold, allowing you to quickly close the deal. Vendor reservations are laid out in color, making it a snap to identify who’s where.


    Better Communication: Email Systems

    Keep up communications with potential, current and even former vendors through our simple email management system that ties directly to the data in your system.

    Get Paid Faster: Cloud-based Invoicing

    Let Chute Festival take the stress out of billing. Generate customized Invoices on the fly to track and manage payments and accounts. With a few clicks, you can generate all invoices for a given event. And all the information is tied back to each vendor, giving you greater insight into where you stand financially.
    And if you use a different accounting – or event database -- package, that’s no problem either. Chute provides easy export into PDF, .xls and CSV. With only a few clicks you can export an entire section of data in a pain-free process.

    Always On: Cloud-based Software

    There are so many advantages to having a cloud-hosted software solution. For example:
    • Any device, anywhere: with Chute you aren’t tied to a specific machine, so you can access information from your phone when traveling, your tablet on-site, or your desktop in the office.
    • Team-Driven: We don’t limit the number of users, and there’s no extra charges for access from multiple devices. Keep your team focused on success, not worried about the technology.
    • Secure and Off your Mind: The software itself and all of your data is hosted offsite in a secured environment, so you no longer have to worry about system failure, hard-drive crashes or obsolete technology. Leave maintenance and upgrades behind and focus on what makes your festival work.

    No Limits: Host Scores of Events

    We don’t believe in capping your creativity or your success. So, go ahead. Host two events this year. Or three. Even if you want to expand your mapping footprint or layout, the costs for new maps are available at extremely low rates, allowing you to expand or reorganize without worrying about excessive costs. Whether you host one event or a dozen there are no caps when you use Chute Festival to manage your projects.
    Feel confident. As you grow, Chute Festival will grow with you.
    Want to learn more about how Chute can help you? Connect with us at info@chutefestival.com

    Follow #PSSolutions on social media LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Facebook


    Outsourcing While Onshoring: A Better Option for Software Solutions


    Hiring programmers a world away has long been a desperate option for those looking to fill their need for tech talent. The argument was simply that American programmers weren’t available or affordable, and going off-shore promised lower costs and a tech team who worked while you slept.

    Over time, American C-suites learned that there were hidden costs to the overseas solution. The time zone differential left small windows for communication and problem-solving. And English fluency, together with other cultural understandings, have grown from “nice-to-haves” to essential factors. These ‘soft’ attributes had a major impact on internal project management.

    Such real-world lessons now collide with a growing concern of American jobs versus foreign jobs, and the real possibility that bad actors could comprise your offshore team and compromise your software integrity.

    Indeed, when offshoring one loses certain control of the project which frequently translates into losing control of the money spent on that project; some companies spend millions without reaching a satisfactory solution. We’ve all heard those nightmares.

    While acknowledging the cost savings companies cite for offshoring entire IT departments, what about the occasional, but necessary project updates, system and deliverable alignments that in-house software development teams inevitably face?

    Because hiring a full-time developer — or team — requires an extended search, considerable overhead and the moral fiber (or lack thereof) to eliminate staff when the project is complete, companies look to what seems to be the easier and cost-sensitive solution of outsourcing via offshoring.

    The alternative is onshore outsourcing. Assembling a stateside team to support and solve urgent software solutions invites creative collaboration, assures accessible control and eliminates the angst that comes with the “long-term commitment” of a new employee.

    At PS Solutions, we thrive on providing creative onshore solutions for companies hitting roadblocks with their technology. We assign skilled developers to work onsite with in-house teams, or offsite but easily accessible. Either way, you meet the designers and developers working on your project; you can see the progress they are making and engage as frequently as you like. You’re in control.

    Our capacity to scale, staff and site solutions according to client projects is what distinguishes PS Solutions. We match talent to task and temperament to team, assuring project needs and corporate culture are equally considered.

    The result is ten years of satisfied clients who have avoided or at least augmented the offshore approach. For major corporations or mid-sized companies alike, onshoring is a welcome alternative to the overseas and often over budget offshore solution.


    Software firm PS Solutions opens in Wilmington


    Company could bring on 15 employees, official says.

    WILMINGTON -- A software development firm has opened in Wilmington, hoping to tap into the region’s growing fintech hub and other industries.

    PS Solutions, an Altoona, Pennsylvania-based firm, is operating out of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This is the first PS Solutions location outside of Pennsylvania, where it also has an office in Pittsburgh.

    Managing partner Wayne Hippo said the company develops software solutions for a variety of clients, from mid-size landscaping businesses to convenience store chains to national healthcare and corrections companies. He anticipates PS Solutions having its own Wilmington space and about 15 employees within the year.

    “We’re pretty excited about it; it’s certainly the type of community we have been looking for,” he said. “Wilmington seems to be a growing community, willing to take on a lot of tech development.”

    In addition to IT support, PS Solutions can develop software and provide programming to clients. Hippo said many of PS’s clients have been fintech -- or financial technology -- companies, an industry that’s growing roots in Wilmington through companies like nCino and the recently opened Apiture. Live Oak Bank is building space at its Wilmington campus that will house future fintech companies doing business with the bank.

    Hippo said the presence of those and other tech companies helped draw PS Solutions to the Port City. Rather than locating in the Reasearch Triangle or Charlotte, Hippo said PS was looking for a North Carolina home that would offer future employees an attractive lifestyle.

    “Not everyone wants to be in the heart of the big development areas,” he said. “There’s plenty of talent out there that thinks, ‘maybe there’s a better way of life’.”

    PS plans to do business with clients throughout the Carolinas, and Hippo said the company is excited to keep tech talent in the Wilmington area.

    “I think we’re really pleased at the reception so far, and we’re looking forward to a long-term partnership,” he said.

    http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20180612/software-firm-ps-solutions-opens-in-wilmington


    Altoona Mirror Article: Altoona tech firm opens NC Office


    PS Solutions of Altoona and Pittsburgh is opening a Wilmington, N.C., office, bringing software development solutions to companies in the Carolinas that are hitting technology roadblocks.

    PS Solutions offers a staff of software and project management professionals and serves major corporations and mid-sized entrepreneurs, providing programming and software development, contract IT services and onsite placement of IT professionals.

    The company employs a diverse group of technology professionals with a commitment to solving the tech talent vacuum and keeping technology from moving off-shore. The company looks to grow its Carolina-based staff throughout the year.

    “Wilmington offers an im­portant new business landscape for us, opening ave­nues to RTP and the southeast region,” Wayne Hippo, managing partner of PS Solutions, said in a statement. “We look forward to serving the growing fintech, health care and service sector economy, all of which rely on secure, scalable and state-of-the-art software solutions.”

    “Ours is a team of creative problem solvers,” co-owner Joe Merilli said in a statement. “We are very adept at finding innovative solutions, whether our clients are facing changing technologies, expanding services or are even entering the technology/software world for the first time. We pride ourselves in working alongside our clients to solve their technology and software problems.”

    Below is the link to the article: http://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-news/2018/06/altoona-tech-firm-opens-nc-office/


    Software Development Firm PS Solutions Opens Wilmington, NC Office


    PS Solutions fills regional skills gap and provides on-shore solutions for

    companies facing technology roadblocks

      Wilmington, NC – May 29, 2018 -- PS Solutions is opening a Wilmington, NC, office bringing creative solutions in software development to companies in the Carolinas that are hitting technology roadblocks. PS Solutions offers a staff of software and project management professionals and serves major corporations and mid-size entrepreneurs alike, providing programming and software development, contract IT services, and onsite placement of IT professionals. With offices in Altoona and Pittsburgh, the company employs a diverse group of technology professionals with a commitment to solving the tech talent vacuum and keeping technology from moving off-shore. PS Solutions is currently working out of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on College Road and is looking to grow its Carolina-based staff throughout the year.

    “Wilmington offers an important new business landscape for us, opening avenues to RTP and the southeast region,” said Wayne Hippo, managing partner of PS Solutions. “We look forward to serving the growing fintech, healthcare and service sector economy, all of which rely on secure, scalable and state-of-the-art software solutions.” The company works for a broad range of clients who need help with .net, Java and Android platforms, providing creative and cost-saving solutions to support their growth.

    Creative Solutions to Technology Problems PS Solutions can scale its expertise for Fortune 500 and multi-national corporations, mid-size companies and start-ups, alike. Clients have included:
    • A convenience retail chain of 500 stores that required an enterprise-wide platform for HR systems
    • A landscape design company working to update its web portal and develop an app for real-time field-staff communications
    • A national education organization that, having invested nearly $2 million in a failed offshore software re-write, turned to PS Solutions to transition proprietary but outdated user-facing technology to a web-enabled standard.
    “Ours is a team of creative problem solvers,” explains Mr. Hippo, “we are adept at secure solutions for our fin-tech clients and have HIPPA-certified developers for our healthcare clients.”

    Keeping IT Stateside The trend of off-shoring technology development and IT support is a critical driver for Mr. Hippo and his partner, Joe Merilli. The two are committed to providing an accessible solution to companies who wish to keep their technology in the US. “Technology affects every aspect of our lives, so it is important that we, as a country, control how it is developed and applied,” explains Mr. Hippo. With comparisons to America’s furniture and textile industries, he asks, “Do we really want to offshore our banking and healthcare technologies? Keeping software development here at home is a matter of national security,” he says.

    About PS Solutions PS Solutions, a software development firm headquartered in Altoona, PA, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, NC, uses US-based developers to alleviate the technology talent vacuum. The company’s creative approach to software development services earned them a position on the Inc. 5000 list, in the top 150 fastest growing IT Services Private Companies (133) and ranked 7th in Pennsylvania.


    Inspire Act


    On February 28, 2017, the President signed the “Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Act” into law.  The primary aim of the bill is to compel the director of NASA to encourage women and girls to study within the STEM fields.  The purpose of this act is to support NASA and help women to consider and pursue a career in aerospace.  NASA will use three initiatives to support the efforts; the NASA GIRLS AND NASA BOYS programs, Aspire to Inspire, and the Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research.

    The INSPIRE Act is one additional step in what needs to be a comprehensive approach to break down the glass ceiling for women in many STEM fields.  We currently have a tremendous shortage of US trained personnel to fill the many opportunities in STEM fields.  The US is currently losing thousands of jobs overseas, simply because we don’t have trained people to do the work required.  While not anywhere near a cure for the problem INSPIRE is a step in the right direction.  The fastest fix to this problem is to make sure that women are given every opportunity to go after what are often traditionally male opportunities in the STEM fields.

    PS Solutions Foundation is dedicated to helping young girls get exposure to STEM opportunities, particularly software engineering in the hopes that they will be encouraged to pursue the field as they work through their educational path. PS Solutions Foundation has provided scholarships for girls participating in science camps at Penn State Altoona.


    Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act


    The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act was signed into law on February 28, 2017.  It was one of two bills designed to encourage woman to pursue careers in science and business fields.  This Act allows the National Science Foundation to encourage entrepreneurial programs for women.  These programs will allow women the opportunity to strive for careers in the STEM fields from the lab to the commercial world.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, they only hold 25.6 percent of computer and mathematical occupations and only 15.4 percent of architecture and engineering occupations.  At the college level, women only earn 18 percent of computer science degrees.

    Founded in 2012, PS Solutions Foundation focuses local efforts at encouraging young women to develop an interest in software engineering.  The Foundation partners with educational providers to engage the young women so they can explore Computer Science and hopefully one day strive for a career within the field.  There is a large opportunity for women within the STEM fields and this Act will hopefully be only one step in a comprehensive plan to help grow those opportunities for women.


    News on Latest Cyber Attack


    The most recent attack on Friday, May 12 affected 200,000 victims across at least 150 countries worldwide.  The latest attack comes from ransomware known as WannaCry.  Ransomware is software that blocks access by encrypting your data until a ransom is paid.  It displays a message that requests money to unlock access.  There has been an international search for the perpetrators behind the attack, being led by the Europol, the European Union’s Police Agency.  Luckily, there has been no second wave of attacks with many watching to see what the start of the new workweek brings.

    The WannaCry Ransomware takes advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.  Microsoft released a security patch in March to correct the problem.  However, there are many companies that do not automatically update their systems to incorporate the Windows patches.  A prime reason for not wanting to do so, is that often the newer releases or patches cause problems with companies operating legacy software programs.  Essentially, these companies have been running the gamble of not upgrading the security patches so they don’t have to spend potentially significant money to upgrade the legacy software.

    If you are considering doing a rewrite of your software systems, consider contacting PS Solutions for a quote.  Our rural outsourcing program allows you to save thousands of dollars by utilizing our Altoona-based software engineers.  You save money, keep jobs in the USA, and avoid the risks of the unknown results of gambling on using overseas development companies.


    PS Solutions Makes Recommendations in Light of Latest Cyber Attack


    While companies need to make the decision about investing money to upgrade legacy software, everyone should be considering the following steps to reduce the risk of downloading ransomware:

    • Do not open emails from someone you do not know or trust.
    • Never open an attachment within an email from a company or person you do not know.
    • Never click on a link inside of an email.
    • Never reply to SPAM emails.
    • Always use a SPAM filter/ Anti- Virus software.
    Utilize these tips to protect yourselves and your technology.  Cyber attacks are an increasing risk and it is better to be prepared and safe.



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    At PS Solutions, we believe that software and technology are important in our day-to-day lives. Our goal is to ensure that the computer code running everything from banking to healthcare to national security is written, protected and stored right here in the USA. We hire top-flight software developers who creatively solve problems and we put them to work here in the USA. Let’s tackle your software projects together, using American creativity and “know how”.

    FIND OUT MORE


    Altoona Development Center
    1601 Eleventh Avenue
    Ste. 201
    Altoona, PA, 16601
    814-942-7888

    Pittsburgh Development Center
    1500 Ardmore Boulevard
    Ste. 500
    Pittsburgh, PA, 15221
    412-731-2123

    Wilmington Development Center
    2109 Capital Drive
    Ste. 170
    Wilmington, NC, 28405
    910-399-6820