TAC Talk Episode 3: Reducing Baseline Costs through Better Demand Management

Recorded July 24, 2015
A conversation about Demand Management between TAC president Peter Schay and TAC expert Patrick Savard, who consults with Fortune 500 businesses to provide solutions which help companies optimize their IT spending and maximize the value of their IT investments.

Six Easy Ways to Get More Done in Less Time

We still have only twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and to-do lists that continue to grow. Large companies get around many time limitations by buying more time in the form of employee man-hours, but not all of us can afford to do this.

We made it to the new year, but some things never change. We still have only twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and to-do lists that continue to grow. Large companies get around many time limitations by buying more time in the form of employee man-hours, but not all of us can afford to do this. It becomes important, therefore, to get more done in the hours one has. This means using time more efficiently and minimizing distractions. Here are six easy tips that will help you accomplish this:

  1. Don’t let emails and texts become a distraction – it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to get back on task after an interruption. Shut off the notifications on your laptop, tablet, and smart phone that warn you that emails or texts have come in. Then check and respond to your emails and texts only a few times a day, like first thing in the morning, noon, and 4:00 PM. Give yourself a half hour (or other appropriate amount of time) to respond to the emails and texts
  2. Don’t answer the phone unless you really have to… Or it’s a customer – the same rules apply here as they do to emails and texts. The only difference is that you have to be aware of providing the best customer service you can, and that may mean answering the phone for customers and clients. Again, check voice-mails only a few times a day and respond as necessary.
  3. Tie your to-do list to your calendar – Most of us have a to-do list, and that list seems to get longer, not shorter, as time goes on. We then have trouble prioritizing and reshuffling the tasks and fewer and fewer of them get done. Part of the problem lies with due dates of “soon”, “sometime next week”, and “ASAP”. Since these are abstract ideas of time, the human brain doesn’t process them the same way as a hard due date. By putting tasks on your calendar with blocks of time to accomplish them, just as you would set an appointment, you automatically prioritize the tasks and reserve the proper amount of time to get that task done. Make sure that if the task is more than a few days out, you set periodic reminders for yourself.
  4. Delegate wherever and whenever possible –Much of the time we find ourselves doing things ourselves that we can delegate to others, freeing up our valuable time for those things we can’t delegate. Make sure that when you delegate a task, you assign it in writing with a due date, and if the due date is more than a few days out, make sure you get periodic status reports. Most CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) allow you to assign tasks to others. If you don’t have a CRM, do it on a shared calendar.
  5. Share your calendar – It’s important that others on your team know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it so they know when not to disturb you. By calendaring tasks (above) and sharing that calendar, you indicate the times you are busy, removing in-office distractions.
  6. Access Expertise-as-a-Service when and where needed – by using experts to get the information you need in the proper context, you shorten the amount of time needed to make mission-critical decisions, freeing up time to do other important tasks.

Try these tips for 60 days. Why 60? Because it will take you at least 30 days to break the habits of looking at your smart phone 50-100 times a day and keeping your email folders open. After using these methods for a few months, I think you’ll find that it’s easier to get more things done faster, with less aggravation and better results.

Have you tried any of these tips before? how did they work for you? What advice do you have to use time efficiently? Please comment to let us know.

3 Reasons Advisory Services Fail… And Why You Need One

Traditional advisory services companies are not really advisory companies; they are research companies. They don’t give actionable advice, they provide “forward-looking information” based on research and the past performance of clients and other companies. In other words, they are in the “past and future” business.

Many IT organizations today use traditional advisory services. The reasons they use them vary, but it is usually to gain the advantage of expertise, information, and actionable advice that the organization does not have access to in-house. The personnel within the organization who use these services varies, but because of the high per-user costs, the users are generally higher level managers and executives. But regardless of the who and why, traditional advisory services companies continue to fail their clients.

They look into the crystal ball… They don’t eat the glass

Traditional advisory services companies are not really advisory companies; they are research companies. They don’t give actionable advice, they provide “forward-looking information” based on research and the past performance of clients and other companies. In other words, they are in the “past and future” business.  Anyone who has ever purchased a mutual fund has heard the phrase “past performance does not guarantee future results” and other “Safe Harbor” statements,  yet it is these predictions based on past performance that enterprises rely on to make decisions, and they are finding that in an era of fluctuating economics and the rapid growth of disruptive technologies, the predictions are becoming less and less accurate and so are becoming less and less valuable. Traditional advisory services “hide” these inaccuracies by issuing “revised estimates” essentially saying, “we got that one wrong folks, but now we’re right… until the next revision”.

Being in the “past and future” business, these companies leave out the one place we actually do business… in the present.

One size fits all… Except that it doesn’t

Only in the business world would a company that provides “food for thought” ironically license by the “seat”. We all know that prices are somewhat negotiable, but for traditional advisory services companies, seat licensing is the norm, meaning a small or medium-sized business (SMB) will pay the same price (or more) for a seat as a Fortune 100 company. This “seat license” becomes a much bigger percentage of the IT spend for an SMB; some companies can only afford a single seat, and many can’t even afford that. Add to that the fact that only the seat holder can access the information, and must then “digest” and reformat the information so it can be used by the rest of the team without violating the advisory services contract, wasting the time and effort of what is usually a senior manager. This greatly reduces productivity and collaboration.

Since advisory services companies make most of their money catering to the large enterprises, most of their research is targeted at these enterprises, leaving the SMB to figure out for themselves whether the information has any relevance at all to their unique situation.

“I’ll do anything for you, but I won’t do that!”

Traditional Advisory services companies use analysts to do research and write their findings into white papers. Each analyst is immersed in a single subject matter area and does not stray into other areas. For that reason, it is difficult for these types of advisory services groups to provide information in niche areas or very new markets. Clients who have questions that fall outside the knowledge base of the analysts are stuck without an answer; and unless the advisory services group feels that it would be profitable for them to add an analyst in that area, the client will never get an answer to that particular query.

Why you need advisory services

The irony is that you need an advisory services company for the exact reasons that traditional advisory services companies fail. You need access to practicing professionals who can give you real world advice and information in the context of your own organization and circumstances. You need services that are scalable to both your size and budget, and save you time by providing these services to your whole IT organization instead of a single seat. And you need to be able to get information in niche areas and in a specific context.

Companies employing the Expertise-as-a-Service® (EaaS™) business model have been able to overcome these failings of traditional advisory services organizations. The EaaS™ delivery model uses a network of practicing experts instead of analysts, so the information available is firsthand and current. Because of the nature of the expert network, it is easy to add expertise to cover emerging technologies and other niche areas of interest to a single client; and because of the EaaS™ business model, costs are greatly reduced, since a company does not need to pass on the high cost of maintaining a bench of full-time analysts.

Advisory Services groups using the EaaS™ business model deliver highly personalized, highly targeted, and highly contextualized, actionable advice and information to the individual client, regardless of the size of the company or IT organization.

Which is why you need an advisory service in the first place, isnt it?

Time Management: The Shift to Expertise-as-a-Service

EaaS leverages a “knowledge cloud”: a network of practicing IT professionals who provide information, advice, performance management and measurement, and professional and organizational development expertise. EaaS uses the best of the “-as-a-Service” framework, providing scalable, on-demand services with high quality, low cost, and rapid delivery.

“Time is money.” Everyone has heard the phrase, and in the business world, it has never been more true than it is today. We literally exchange money for time in increased staff and overtime hours. Time management has become a cost savings strategy; there are many courses and webinars on “working smarter, not harder,” and productivity consultants make a good living pointing out the “time wasters” in our daily business routines.

Yet studies show that many IT managers and CIOs continue to source critical information, advice and metrics using time consuming methods and inaccurate, out-of-context resources. Searching generic white papers and “surfing the web” to uncover sources of possibly relevant information without context is wasting as much as 25% of a manager’s time. What IT management really needs is in-context data and information, and direct answers to direct questions. Acquiring this kind of information, however, has traditionally meant high cost (money) or slow delivery (time).

Enter Expertise-as-a-Service (EaaS). EaaS leverages a “knowledge cloud”: a network of practicing IT professionals who provide information, advice, performance management and measurement, and professional and organizational development expertise. EaaS uses the best of the “-as-a-Service” framework, providing scalable, on-demand services with high quality, low cost, and rapid delivery. Enterprise-licensed EaaS gives IT management the ability to collect and disseminate information rapidly to all team members, thus fostering better collaboration. The rapid delivery of EaaS short-circuits the long drawn out process of searching for information, as it allows direct, in-context questions to be asked of practicing IT professionals, and direct, in-context answers are delivered, typically within a three-to-five day time span. In short, EaaS enables IT teams to be more productive.

Information Overload – Filter the Noise, Increase Productivity

Information overload reduces productivity. Here are some tips to reducing the “background noise” that inundates you on a daily basis

Today’s IT executive is inundated with information. Spreadsheets, research, web articles, newspapers and magazines (yes, we still read the paper versions), emails, voicemail, video, audio and white papers. Most of this information is either restated from original sources or updates to outdated published work. Because we’re all constantly “connected”, this influx of information becomes the background noise in which we live our lives. With the constant flood of information, how can we manage and control it to maintain or increase our personal productivity?

1)      Shut off email, text message and RSS alerts – Most of us read and respond to emails and text messages immediately upon receipt. This breaks concentration and wastes time. Decide on a schedule to read and respond instead,  once every 60 or 90 minutes for example. This allows you to concentrate on the task at hand, and take a needed break every so often to answer the emails and text messages.

2)      Don’t answer the phone unless your job requires you to do so – The same reasoning applies. Schedule two or three times during the day to listen to your voicemail. This gives you a break from your other tasks and allows you the option of returning or not returning a call.

3)      Take breaks from “connectivity” – take time to go for a walk or some other physical activity during the day, without your mobile device. This renews blood flow, clears your head, and invigorates you, getting you ready for the rest of the day.

4)      Minimize distractions – clear your computer desktop of widgets, icons and windows that pull your attention from the task at hand.  Clear your work surface of those things not needed for the current task.

5)      Don’t multitask – studies have shown that “cognitive multitasking” is a myth; the human brain isn’t wired for it. Designate time periods for individual tasks and stay on that particular task until you’ve either completed it or the allotted time is up.

6)      Be flexible, but not too flexible– It has been my personal experience that I’ll come up with a solution to the previous task while I’m working on the next task; the answer just “pops” into my head… it’s OK to go back and get the solution down, odds are you’re not too far into the next task anyway. Then make sure to get back to the current task quickly.

7)      Use instant messaging instead of email when possible – you get faster resolution to an issue, the feedback is immediate and you are not constantly interrupted with having to reply to sporadic emails. Some companies are banning internal email altogether.

8)      Limit your information intake to trusted sources – using too many RSS feeds and news outlets overloads you with redundant information, wasting time having to sift through it. Limit yourself to only the “best” online sources for the information you need.

9)      Talk to experts instead of reading about their work – Real-time interaction with subject matter experts is the best way to get the first hand experiential information. Asking questions as they come up is the fastest and best way to get the actionable information you need. Reading about the work may not frame the issue in the correct context.

Managing the number and timing of information sources, minimizing the noise and distractions, using the optimal methods of communication, and using only high quality information, can greatly reduce information overload, save time, and increase productivity