A Business Technology Place

The thought for a rover employee

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?Rover
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?

5 No-Brainers for Business Alignment

t’s that time of year when we deploy our yearly goals and objectives (business or personal). Businesses should already have been through planning processes to decide the goals. The challenge now is how to deploy the goals and turn them into objectives for each group within the organization. The objectives of each group should bring them into alignment with the overall company goals.  In my experience, I’ve seen organizations struggle with different aspects of this. Some create the goals well. Some deploy the goals well. While others maintain a dogged persistence to stay focused on the goals. But it’s a neat trick to put it all together.  It takes organization, persistence, and flexibility to keep yourself in alignment with the goals and objectives.  With that in mind, here are Bob’s 5 no-brainers for business alignment of your goals:

1. Communicate the goals to all employees/stakeholders

It seems so simple to say and you’d think a given in the equation. But run a quick informal survey of employees about what the business goals were last year or are for this year and you might be surprised at what you find. This step means delivering the goals down to each individual employee through their management chain. Document the goals in a meaningful format that employees understand and will be able to keep on the top of their daily heap. Most importantly, show the employees how their individual objectives help the overall company achieve its goals.

2. Press forward to the goal  by looking ahead

Ask yourself these questions.  Am I planning my daily and weekly activities toward based on the stated goals and objectives?  Can I articulate how my actions are contributing to achieving the goals and objectives? Looking ahead means being able to plan optimally by knowing the goal in front of you and planning your steps. As with a race, when you look behind you or to the side you’ll slow down or even stumble. This isn’t to say, you shouldn’t pause to reflect on lessons learned from the past. But don’t dwell on mistakes made in the past or you’ll run the risk of misalignment.

3. Base status reports on the objectives

This is very important because it serves as a weekly check for managers and employees to make sure their weekly activities are focused and aligned. An added benefit is that it allows you to review and measure progress. How many times have you come to the end of the year and then decided to measure if you obtained your goal? Worse yet, you don’t know how to measure if you are successful!@#! Aligning your status report documentation with the goals and objectives creates accountability for yourself to stay focused and to make sure you are measuring your progress.

4. Look for different routes to solving  the goals

If top level management is setting the higher level goals, then let those closest to the work decide how to solve the goals through specific objectives.This is about trusting your employees to solve problems. It’s about trusting your employees to serve your customers. It also promotes diversity of thought and strengthens employee involvement and satisfaction with their job.

Another potential way to setting specific objectives is to ask your customers how to do it? Yeah, put those surveys to good use. Read them, listen to your customers and provide value to them. Would you rather copy a competitor because they have something you don’t have or create something your customer is telling you would provide value to them?

5. Be prepared to adjust the goals or objectives

The last thing you need is to be locked into a goal that becomes irrelevant. Be flexible and prepared to change goals if they no longer add value to your customers or provide for the betterment of your employees. Perhaps in the periodic measurement you see that you are not going to meet a high level goal for the year. You might add an additional objective that pull different resources to help achieve the original goal. Examples include a new product launch, different product makeup, additional service offering, etc. Even macro level factors could change your goals such as a merger/acquisition, introduction of a substitute product on the market that reduces demand, or sudden changes in interest rates that reduce/increase customer demand. The easy part of this equation is to be flexible. Everyone is flexible if they realize they need to change something to meet a goal. The key is to ‘be prepared’ by monitoring your progress throughout the year. Be ready to adjust if necessary.