The Big Picture
One of the main functions of a technology officer is to align the organization to grow revenue while at the same time reducing expenses and providing customer service. Thinking about the big picture of profitability and operating efficiencies is like looking at a pile of legos and having the vision to know what an organization can build with them. A popular business idea is to “build with the end in mind.” That’s the big picture. It is more of a journey than a destination. .
Painting the Big Picture
But what about the day-to-day activities in a technology environment? How do organizations do the work to paint the big picture one stroke at a time? I don’t believe in a one set answer or script for operational activities. I do believe that as with the marketing, technology processes and steps have an element of try, measure, and adjust in them. In practice, we want to align the activities with the greater goals of revenue growth and cost efficiencies.
Helping the people behind the technology
This past week I met with team members in my company to understand how work flows into, through, and out of their departments. As each team member shared the work flow with me they pointed out areas where technology solutions could help to make their jobs more efficient. I couldn’t help but see that it is on the front line where small changes can help make big differences in customer service and work throughput. Good customer service ultimately yields repeat customers which then yields the bigger goal of increased revenue. Increasing work throughput creates efficiencies which helps the bigger goal to reduce costs.
The challenge is that the bigger projects and tasks often compete and win the time-share with technology team members. So how do we align and justify shared technology resources with smaller process oriented projects? How do we align shared technology resources with other employees in the organization that are on the front line with customers or that need help making their work areas more efficient?
What about a rover employee?
In my professional experience I have seen some organizations solve this through time allocation. For example try to align technology team members with 70% of their time on projects, 20% on smaller tasks, and 10% administrative activities. In theory this type of resource allocation helps to keep some areas from starving while at the same time spending the greatest effort on the most impactful activities. What usually happens is the larger projects become resource hogs and almost 100% of the team’s time.
In softball with 10 players, the defense will use the 10th fielder as a rover. The rover positions themselves in a different location of the field depending on the batter. So they become a flexible player that helps the defense by working in multiple areas.
What would happen if organizations could create a rover employee with the job assignment to meet with inter-company departments to help identify, solve, or champion projects that create automated workflows? Could a position like this pay for itself by creating enough efficiencies that it drives more cost out of the organization than it costs to fund the position? Could the position identify many activities that could be solved without custom programming or large projects?
What would happen if an employee could spend two weeks in each department learning their processes and then working with them to automate those processes. How knowledgeable of the business would this employee be at the end of moving through each department and what type of leadership would this employee now be able to offer?
Could it work? Would it work?