Making Operational Excellence a Personal Strategy

CollabTalk and the escalatorAs productivity increases , so does our need for an increased focus on change management and operational improvement. The more we understand about how to leverage the technology we have in place — delivering more value to our teams, the more we should be thinking about additional ways to improve our business outputs. We live in a hyper-competitive world, and few companies will ever have the luxury of sitting still for very long. You could say that the cash cow has been lead out to pasture, replaced by the continually-evolving need for innovation, change management, and operational excellence.

In a conversation with a partner at Microsoft Inspire last week in Washington DC, our conversation turned to the topic of “operational excellence” and how important it is for organizations to not rest on their laurels, but to learn from their successes (and failures) and proactively look for opportunities to improve. The competitive landscape does not sit idle, technology will continue to innovate, and your employees will not remain satisfied with the current slate of tools forever. Life is an escalator — it’s always moving up, or down. If you come to a stop, people will find their own path forward, with or without you.

With the increase in productivity due to technology innovations and advances in collaboration, on the surface we view the negative impacts of decreased headcount (lost jobs) and negative or flat income growth, but the focus should be on re-evaluating these roles, refocusing on the shift from manual execution of business processes to end users facilitation and the automation of those business processes.

Having said that, there is a gap between productivity increases and resource utilization decreases, and here are three business impacts that I believe will become more visible:

  1. Repurposed roles.
    With a decline in traditional IT headcount, organizations are learning to do more with less. Platforms like Office 365 allow teams to do much more with their remaining funds, shifting focus of headcount costs from maintenance to innovation services. As I’ve blogged about previously, the emphasis of these roles will turn to more or less Business Analyst functions, where they need to know enough about the systems to troubleshoot any issues and to work with service providers to keep things up and running, but much of what they do on a day-to-day basis is about understanding and translating business requirements into SharePoint solutions.
  2. Increased reliance on services.
    While there is healthy opportunity for IT Pro and consultant alike in building out customized collaboration environments, increasingly organizations are looking to the partner ecosystem to automate the workplace (digital transformation, anyone?), and simplify the complexity of the platform to allow the average employee to do much more, to have more control of their environment. Look to the rapid growth of Office 365, as well as the breadth and comprehensive nature of many third-party applications. Organizations will increasingly buy rather than build, and hire resources as needed to expand their environments to meet business needs, allowing them to focus on the business.
  3. Focus on user adoption.
    By shifting the focus of resources away from the hardware and toward the business, organizations will get more value out of their existing investments. One of the real concerns of the rapid growth of the platform was that many large customers who had made huge investments were not fully deploying the platform. One definite result of this gap between increased productivity and decreased resource investment has been the focus on user adoption. Stakeholders want to know that value is being received before approving additional investment.

 

Just as the global economy moved from an agricultural to an industrial market, and from industrial to an information-based market, within the world of the Information Worker this increase in productivity is allowing organizations to move from a hardware-centric view (where IT pulls cables, stands up servers, maintains those servers) to a cloud-based business intelligence and decision support view. Whether your view of these changes is that of an ISV, a consultant, or an Information Worker, you should not fear the coming technology changes — even if it appears to bring with it a major change to your own world. The opportunities these technologies bring with them will far surpass the number of opportunities and roles that are coming to an end.

Much like an organization’s operational excellence strategy, we as individuals need to be constantly looking for ways to improve our own roles. Change is a fact of life — and one of three constants in life (along with taxes and death). Might as well accept it, and take some ownership of your future.

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.