Shared Services: A lot like my snowblower

Ok, so this is a little bigger than ours...

Ok, so this is a little bigger than ours…

A few years back a couple of neighbors and I decided to band together and buy a snowblower. After years of pushing snow around on frigid mornings and nearly breaking an ankle the previous winter I was easy to convince. Anything that was going to keep me from pushing a shovel up and down my sidewalks and driveway seemed like a good idea. Plus, because I would only be using it part time it made sense to share the cost of the item with some like minded neighbors. I will admit that I occasionally still take the easy way out on particularly cold and snowy mornings.

When I get the knock on my door from the inevitable group of young men shoveling driveways comes, I am sometimes more than willing to part with a little cash rather rather than trooping out into the snow even with a snowblower. For the most part though our purchase has worked out nicely. I store it and reimburse my neighbors for gas and maintenance. We came to this arrangement once it was discovered that despite being a farmer’s son I actually have no mechanical ability whatsoever.  Since our initial investment a few other neighbors have come to use the snowblower and it has worked nicely for our little section of the street.

While some might thing of this as simply an example of good friends and neighbors working together I like to think of it as our own little neighborhood shared service. We’ve come together to share in the costs of delivering snow removal for our neighborhood. This has included some process improvements over time– for example a few years ago we decided it was important to have a designated coffee getter– someone who knew ahead of time that their only job was to ensure that the brave souls running the snowblower would be adequately caffeinated while fighting the elements. We’ve also developed and standardized on equipment and fuel reserves (ok, I was the guy who was holding an empty gas can during the last snow storm). For the most part our snow removal service has worked out fabulously – I only wish we could figure out where else we could take this approach. The lawns are an obvious example, but what about transportation or gardening? The possibilities might be endless. The problem is I don’t know enough about my neighbors to figure out who I might share these problems with and I’m guessing I might get some funny (funnier) looks if I started going door to door asking them about the inner workings of their households.

Of course organizations face these same challenges and while the idea of shared services has been around forever it seems that in most organizations there are only a few shining examples of success despite ample opportunity. I believe part of this is that there is no systematic approach to finding and taking advantage of these opportunities. For example:

  • One of the real problems organizations often have with implementing and getting the most out of shared services is that they do not have an approach to looking across the organizations capabilities and identifying areas (Payroll, etc) that might be great candidates for share shared services.
  • Organizations often struggle to develop the business case for creating a shared service. How much potential savings are there? What is the complexity of the effort?
  • Prioritization is another critical area where analysis is difficult and information is lacking. How do you rack and stack your opportunities in order to identify the best candidates?

As a consulting services provider we often find ourselves walking organizations through these types of questions and helping them develop internal approaches that enable them to identify these candidate opportunities and capitalize on them. This week there is a great opportunity to learn more about successful approaches in this area from two thought leaders in the space. Bill Cason is the CTO at Troux with more than 40 years of experience in providing business focused technology software and services. I’ve heard Bill speak on a number of topics around the intersection of business and technology and I’m looking forward to his take on Shared Services Planning. For those of you in the public sector he will be joined by Ted Reynolds–Troux’s Vice President Federal Sector. Both of these gentleman understand the challenges facing organizations as they look to implement successful shared serves and whether you use Troux’s software or not I think you’ll find a lot of value in listening to them talk about having the right approach.

If you are interested in attending the details are below:

Date: Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Time: 10:30am CT/ 11:30am ET

You can register at the following link:

http://resources.troux.com/fedweb14

I’ll be there – I hope you are too.

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Got a presentation? Ask the right questions, bring the right stuff.

Did I bring the right stuff?

Did I bring the right stuff?

As many of you know my day job includes running software company that develops apps on the Salesforce.com platform (ExAM4Enterprise.com). This means I spend lots and lots of time giving presentations and demos. I recently sent out my standard demo prep question list to a prospective customer and got an incredibly kind note back from the person asking if they could share it with their staff. I said “of course” and a blog entry was born.
The trend in recent years has been that more and more presentations and demos are virtual, but I still go onsite fairly regularly. Over time I’ve developed a standard set of questions I ask two days prior to the meeting and a standard list of stuff I bring. Please feel free to use my list and of course let me know what I should add.
What I bring?
  1. 10 one page summaries of the presentation 
  2. Laptop (even if they have their own equipment and room)
  3. Portable Screen (I leave it in the car but I always have it. I once set it up in a restaurant’s back room to do a demo after a very successful lunch meeting)
  4. MiFi + Charger
  5. Notepad
  6. 4 pens
  7. Business cards (20)
  8. 4 AA batteries (mouse)
Note: I make those  one page summaries for three reasons:
  1. Summing it up in one page helps you focus on telling a story instead of speaking in bullet points.
  2. It can help you tailor the presentation to the audience by forcing you to think through the message.
  3. One person will show up late, one  will leave early and one will miss the presentation entirely. Providing your own summary helps ensure the right message makes it to those audiences. 

What I ask?

Hi (meeting coordinator),
I have a few questions I hope you can help me with so I can be fully prepared for (date of meeting).
1. Should I bring a projector or will we be in a room that has dedicated meeting equipment? All I really need for the demo is a computer with a browser and a screen to show it on. If needed I can bring a projector, screen and my laptop, but if you have a meeting room that is already set up I will simply use your equipment.
2. Will I have access to the internet? I will have a portable MiFi device that I can use to support an internet connection and the demo, but it uses a cellular signal and is a little slower than a regular WiFi or LAN connection. If you have connection I can use that is the ideal situation. If I am using your computer, internet and screens this question is irrelevant.
3. Can I have access to the room 15 minutes prior to the demo to set up? Our application is easy to use and only requires an internet connection and a browser, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that being early and testing things ensures that I don’t waste everyone at the meetings time troubleshooting some small issue.
4. How many people will be in attendance? I will bring be bringing some presentation and reading materials and I would like to know how many to bring. I should also ask if there is a sensitivity to my bringing printed copies. I can certainly provide electronic instead and I know some offices are trying to minimize the amount of paper that is used. If the preference is for electronic I will simply send the materials out after the meeting.
5. Are there any security procedures or special instructions I will need in order to enter the building/find the meeting room?
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. I’m looking forward to meeting with you all, if you need to reach me for any reason my cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Regards,
Joshua Millsapps
Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates (MBA) A Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) TOGAF 9 Certified ITIL Foundation Certified josh.millsapps@mbaoutcome.com www.mbaoutcome.com
As always – I’d love to know what I missing and hop you get some benefit from my lists!

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.