Productivity Requires Operational Change

imageThere is a definite ROI in improving productivity: faster employee onboarding and training, for example, or simply generating more business output and more usage of the platform, all of which lead to a faster realization of the financial investments you’ve made in the platform. But until you understand your business goals, and then develop a productivity strategy that links those goals to specific end user activities (workloads) and measurable outcomes, you will not be able to easily define those perceived benefits.

Thinking about this in terms of SharePoint, it reminded me of a great quote from my good friend and author Paul Culmsee:

It is common to hear consultants wax lyrical about how we have to align SharePoint to "business goals". While this and other popular clichés like "obtain executive support" or "obtain user buy-in" are easy to say, in practice they are much harder to do. After all, if this was not the case, then business goal alignment would not be near the top of the list for SharePoint challenges.”  The Heretics Guide to Best Practices (iUniverse)

There are some foundational questions you can ask that will help you begin to identify your productivity goals:

  • How do your employees search for content, expertise, and innovation within your organization today? Don’t think about the technology, specifically, but try to understand the process that people go through to find what they need to accomplish their work today. While we rely heavily on technology, tracing the real-life scenarios of employees often uncovers gaps in business processes and opportunities for automation and other improvements.
  • As new content, expertise, and innovation is created, how do your employees make them more ‘findable’ for future searches? This is a key component of your search strategy, but moves the activity ‘How do I find this?’ to ‘How do I make sure this can be found?’ Few organizations take the time to adequately tag or label the various content, data, and artifacts created within their system. The activity is seen as time-consuming and burdensome, and yet it has the most direct impact on long-term productivity. These two questions go hand-in-hand: one optimizes the experience for how people search within your platform, while the other optimizes for the artifact, so that it can be more quickly and accurately located within the search experience.
  • What are your employee’s primary workloads? Where do they “do” most of their work today, and what are the steps they follow to accomplish their work? Defining your key use cases is a critical piece of every organization’s productivity planning. Beyond searching and finding artifacts within the system, these use cases begin to define the business processes and workloads around which your system operates. Look at how your end users are working today, and look for opportunities to reduce steps, streamline workflows, and empower people to accomplish as much as possible with as few steps as possible. Remember that a critical aspect of the productivity-centric planning process is ensuring that solutions are designed to match your end user work patterns.
  • How can these workloads be improved? Here in your ongoing operational change management activity. Begin by analyzing the individual workloads, and then look at efficiencies between workloads.
  • What is your process for operational change? The most successful IT efforts are defined by the quality and effectiveness of their change management processes. Improving productivity in an ongoing effort – business requirements change, end user needs change, and, of course, technology changes. No platform is ever static — people will need modifications, customizations. Have a process defined and in place to capture their feedback and requests. Make it transparent, as the more you involve people in the process, the more likely they are to accept the end results (even if what is ultimately delivered does not matches their request 100%).

The goal of these questions is not to prescribe a methodology for change management, but to help you understand the fundamental steps within your current planning, and to identify whether the systems and tools in place today within your organization help or inhibit end user productivity. Once defined, these steps will also help you to incrementally improve on them.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Apps & Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and fractional-CMO for revealit.io, tyGraph, and Extranet User Manager.