Make somebody’s day and show your appreciation

Make soebodys day blog

No matter who you are I think it’s always nice to get a compliment especially if it comes out of the blue and you weren’t expecting it. Somebody says something nice and it can just change your whole day.  For the better part of the last week or so I’ve been working pretty hard on things and I’ve had my head down. So when I had somebody kind of unexpectedly say something really nice it just completely brightened up my entire day and it’s sort of carried forward the rest of the week. It’s amazing; you can have all the self confidence in the world, you can believe in what you’re doing, and it’s still nice to hear someone say, “Hey you’re doing a great job” or “I believe in what you’re doing.”  A simple compliment can make a lot of the time and effort that you spend worthwhile.

I think the biggest reminder in that for executives and managers is that sometimes you got staff that work really hard all the time. It’s not that they’re not doing anything extraordinary they’re just doing the great things that they do all the time at all times. It’s easy to forget that what they’re doing really is exceptional.  So I think you almost have to file a reminder away somewhere to make sure that you don’t overlook the everyday excellence. You need to take time to compliment people for the great things they do every day.  I know I’ve talked about it a few different times on here about making sure that you give credit and provide feedback both positive and negative. Particularly making sure that you provide positive feedback where it’s applicable but I think it’s something that’s really easy to forget the power that a quick little bit of positive feedback or compliment can have on a person.

Having that occurrence the other day just reminded me of how important that is to everybody, no matter who you are. It makes a difference, raises your performance, re-energizes you, and I think it’s something that everybody should try to do on a regular basis. So if you haven’t done it recently and you’ve got people sitting in your office today that really deserve a compliment for all their hard work, make sure you take the time to walk by, pick up the phone or get on a conference line and say thanks for all the hard work. Make sure to shoot them a quick note because it really makes a difference for people to be recognized for all the hard work they put in every day. Anyway I’d love to hear back from people and get their thoughts on things and if you want to call out somebody in particular for all their hard work and effort feel free to here.

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.

Nobody holds the monopoly on good ideas

Nobody holds the monopoly on good ideas

Every once in a while I find myself disregarding advice, even though I know that it’s good advice.  I have to stop myself, take a step back, and remember that there are other people that are worth listening to. I was thinking about that this morning. I was having a conversation yesterday where somebody was talking me through an approach to something and I found myself kind of shaking my head. When the person finished and walked out, I thought about it a little bit more and realized I had fallen into the classic “not invented here” trap.  You should never be so smart that you can’t take somebody else’s advice and I’ve really made an effort to over time, make sure that I listen to other people. I am always trying to focus in on the fact that it’s hard to learn while you’re talking.

I have a tendency to want to be the person that comes up with the solution. I have to work to remember that I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and sometimes the best solutions come from outside. I don’t think this is an uncommon feeling among managers and executives. A lot of times you got to the management position you’re in because you were the one with the good ideas and the ability to come up with things quickly. I know at least for me it was a big part of the advancement of my career and so as a manager and executive, I’ve become a little bit less technically focused and have had to grudgingly learn to rely more on the people around me to supply solutions and ideas.  If you don’t embrace that approach, you won’t be nearly as effective at managing people, working together in teams, functioning as a communications coordinator, and all the other things that are important to managing people. You can’t do that and have the monopoly on good ideas too.  It’s definitely a hard transition to make and it’s something that I think most people struggle with for their whole career in management.

Everyone wants to be the person with the good ideas because that’s the person who gets the biggest pat on the back. Probably one of the most exciting parts of being on a team is when you come up with that good idea that everyone on the team gets behind and adopts.  There’s a real sense of pride and accomplishment in that and as a manager, those moments seem to get farther and farther apart. Even if you’re sometimes able to have unique insight into a problem because of your experience in a similar situation, a lot of times you just don’t have enough to supply much beyond the kernel of an idea because technology and capabilities are changing so rapidly. With this fast paced change going on you have to be more reliant of people on staff to supply the real nuts and bolts of how anything will actually work.  It’s been a really big challenge for me and I’m curious to know how other people have dealt with that. Has it come easily or did you struggle in making the transition from a subject matter expert or a technical resource into a management resource?

Photo By _Max-B

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.

Incentives: Making the world go round

Incentives

I think most managers are familiar with the phrase, “what gets measured gets done,” and I think our  common sense tells us that we ought to be careful about the things that we incentivize because it will affect the types of behavior that occur.  A lot of people will wonder why it doesn’t always work so well, why the performance management structure that they’ve set up isn’t getting them to the results that they want as quickly as they want. I think it’s because while the things I said previously are true to a large degree, people do the things they are incentivized to do and if you measure specific activities you’ll generally end up with better performance. When there are incentives, people are focused on getting them accomplished. On the flip side, I think you have to be careful about the general application of that rule. You have to identify some smaller steps to getting you to that big picture goal.

One of the problems that organizations have is that the goals may be set at such a high level that people don’t have insight into what activities they need to do to help the larger organization get there. Or they may not understand what the connection is between them and that goal so they lose the ability to correlate their day to day activities with advancing the organization towards that goal.  So it’s important for incentive structures and those types of large organizational goals to be decomposed enough so that the people that most effect change are able to do what they are incentivized to do.  An easy example of this is if you look within a sales organization, or if you are a company that incentivize on the biggest corporate wide revenue targets.  Those types of goals are great and most organizations target some amount of growth across the top line, but it may be worth looking at incenting specific behaviors among customers and basic activities that you, as a management team, believe are going to drive that sales team forward to success. A similar approach can be applied to anything, for instance, if you have a help desk, or really any activity that you have in your organization. If you haven’t created a tiered structure, you may be providing all the big picture guidance in the world of what you want to happen and have a line of how you’re measuring the things that you want done in your organization, but if you haven’t decomposed them enough to enable people to see how it applies to them, you probably won’t get the type of performance that you had hoped for.

I’m also aware that on the other side of that is this desire to break things down to such a level that so much time has been spent measuring that there’s no time left to spend performing. So there is a fine line there between breaking it down so much that the measurement activity gets in the way of achieving the measurement, but in general, you need to make sure that your incentive and measurement structure reaches far enough down so people can see how they’re connected to it.  I’m curious to know what other people think about this. If you’ve had experience designing incentive structures or performance management structures, please weigh in.  I want to how people try to make that tie back, or even if they do at all.

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.

Battle Royale: Talent vs. Determination

Battle Royale

I think everyone has heard the saying, “Hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  In my experience, this statement holds true.  I know that personally, I’ve always felt confident that I could outwork the other side through sheer force of determination and will alone. Whether it is athletics, academics, or work, there is almost always a way to get through a problem.  As I look back at the times when I was hiring somebody, especially when I first started looking at different people, I was hiring a lot of people based on talent and potential alone which hasn’t always worked out as well as it seemingly should have.  I recently addressed this conundrum in a blog post after I read a great interview in the New York Times with Kon Leong. He mentions that one of the things he most tries to identify in the interview process is not only smarts, but drive too.  He wanted people that were going to work hard because with those two things you could solve almost everything else.   It really changed the way I think about things.  Have you spent a lot of time being frustrated with people who you just know better than their performance shows? You know how talented they are, how smart they are, but you just aren’t seeing the results you expect from them.  I’ve sat there and wondered why this is.  Maybe they just don’t have the tools you thought they did, but I don’t think that’s the case.  I think the tools are there and maybe it’s just a lack of drive. Maybe it’s my failure to motivate or find the right way to get through to them but either way, as a manager you should position yourself to recruit for drive as well as intelligence in hopes of alleviating this problem.

I know that this may seem obvious but I think the part that we often miss is asking the questions that let you evaluate their drive.  That’s something that I’ve changed a lot and is going to be a much bigger focus in terms of trying to determine how to elicit those responses that give insight into whether people are truly driven.  I don’t know if everyone has a general drive to succeed.  Ideally, you want to find people that are passionate about solving problems and the things that you do at a minimum.  So it’s important to figure out what the right questions are and how do you make that determination early.  It’s never going to be a perfect evaluation. You have to recognize that you’re going to end up with some folks in your organization that are really smart and really talented but no matter what, you’re just not going to be able to get them to perform the way that you feel they should.  At some point you’re going to have to move those people out because if you’ve got a collection of people that have that drive and that ambition and you have a couple folks that aren’t on the program, you will not reach your potential as an organization.

This is just like being on a team when you’re a kid and your coach would say things like, “Everyone is a team here and we need to pull together,” or “We’re only as strong as our weakest link,” and I think these clichés among others are just as applicable in your work life as they were in athletics as a kid.  If you have somebody that doesn’t have the desire or the drive to push, they’re not there for the same reasons, or they’re detracting from everybody else’s efforts then you need to really question how long you want to wait for that drive or ambition to appear; and how many times are you going to attempt to motivate them before you make a decision that you are going have to part ways. If someone isn’t living up to the set standard and you can’t get them there fairly quickly, I think you need to make a decision about their future in your organization.  You can be as kind as you possibly can be about it but after I’ve tried a few things such as having a discussion with them about level of effort and it’s still not working out, it’s time to let go or otherwise you’re jeopardizing your whole team.

I’ve also come to the belief over time that it’s a lot easier to teach technical skill or soft skill, or interacting with the client than it is to teach drive.  So if you get somebody and you start to wonder if the effort just isn’t there or maybe something is distracting and it persists over a long period of time, you are never going to get that person out of that behavior.  At least that’s my general belief with the rare case that is the exception to the rule, but that type of behavior casts a pall over the rest of your organization and is just not worth whatever talent that one person may have.  I’d be very curious to hear what other people’s experiences are.  Have you had a happy ending to a story where you had somebody with a lot of talent but you just couldn’t get them to work and you found a way to motivate them?  I certainly don’t want to discount a manger’s ability to motivate or find the right way to get somebody to do things but I sometimes think there is too much emphasis on mangers and leadership getting people to excel.  Sometimes you just need to understand that you will not be able to motivate that person and you have to just cut them loose, but I’d love to hear other people’s takes on this issue.

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.

Is the clock still king?

Is the clokck still king

Writing about remote work yesterday got me thinking about leave policies in general. I’ve read recently about boutique and tech start-ups that have no defined leave policy and it really resonates with me. My assumption is that in many knowledge work oriented professions that if you are smart enough to work there, you are smart enough to figure out when you should be there. I understand that this may not be a scalable model, although I believe that some pretty large companies including several big game makers have gone this route. The idea resonates with me because one of the things I’ve always hated and tried not to be is a time clock boss. I assume that people are responsible enough to get things done until proven otherwise.

Sometimes in our business things get hectic for a few weeks and the expectation is that people will rise to the occasion and help us meet the deadline, etc. On the other hand, there are times where things are a little looser and I don’t ever get mad if someone is a little late coming in or a little early leaving. I assume that they must not have something they need to get done. On some level I think the idea of paying for time is old fashioned and tends toward managing what we can measure rather than what matters. Even if you are working an assembly line, wouldn’t it be more effective to manage or measure around quality and completion rather than simply time spent on the line?

The bottom line is that time spent on something is probably the poorest means of measuring its value. I won’t lie; I’ve given plenty of thick binders to clients at the end of engagements. However, this only happens when I’ve felt I’m being measured by output and not by outcomes. I always feel a little bit bad about it because it reflects a failing on my part to convince them of what really matters. Essentially, this means I had to punt and convince the client that because we did a lot of work they got great value. This is a clear failure on our part to ensure the client understands the value of the outcome we are delivering. I’m curious of what others think on this topic. Do you feel your boss measures you more on perception of effort rather than results? Have you tailored your delivery to meet these expectations? I think that a lot of people put effort into developing fluff because it represents more, which is perceived to be reflective of their effort which is what is valued rather than putting in the time to build concise value.

© Photo Copyright Chris Downer

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.

Webinar Recap: Here Comes the Next Big Thing: Adopting New Technologies is Inevitable, Doing So Successfully Isn’t

I’m so excited that my company’s Webinar Series is becoming more established. We received a lot of positive feedback on our last one.  Instructor Bob Daniel gave an extremely perceptive explanation of why “Adopting new technologies is inevitable. Doing so successfully isn’t”.  Every day new, “latest, greatest” technologies are announced and organizations, whether from within or without, are driven to adopt them. Unfortunately, the all-too-common experience is that the anticipated benefits never materialize. Typically, the focus is entirely on “successful” installation and vendor training. While important, these steps simply aren’t enough to assure you’ll get the return on investment you want (and need). Bob began his Webinar diving into these issues.

In this Webinar, Bob Daniel discusses the motivations driving the adoption of new technologies, the factors that disrupt adoption, and what you really need to do to be successful. Drawing from decades of experience in new technology adoption with both private and public sector clients, Bob will highlight real-world adoption pitfalls and provide practical means to avoid them, as well as to recover from them.  At the end of the hour, you’ll have a framework and set of tools you can use to build success into your technology adoption programs.  Check out the following clip to get an idea of the full range of advice covered in this Webinar.

If you missed Bob’s Webinar and would like access to the full video please e-mail me at josh.millsapps@mbaoutcome.com. Also, don’t miss out on our next Webinar where the Honorable Dale Meyerrose will give us insight into his problem solving techniques honed over years of experience in leadership, cyber security, information technology, intelligence and military matters. Click here to sign up!

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.

NY Times: Interview of Kon Leong: Interviewing for Brains and Drive

NY Times Interview of Kon Leong Interviewing for Brains and Drive

Brains and drive are the real prerequisites of future successful hires

The New York Times had a great interview with Kon Leong co-founder, president, and chief executive of ZL Technologies, an e-mail and file archiving company. One of the things that really struck me in the interview was the way that he spoke to his interviewing process. I know that in my line of work we spend a lot of time trying to identify people who are “great fits” for the job. In our case, this often means Systems Engineering and other technical backgrounds. I thought it was interesting that he never once mentioned this in his coverage of his interview process. He was truly focused on what that person wanted and where they wanted to be. Basically, he said he was looking for people with “brains and drive” because those are the real prerequisites for the job. I don’t know that we will completely do away with our vetting for technical skills but the interview definitely made me re-think some of what we emphasize.

We have lucked into some great people that only made it onto our team because they came recommended by someone we respected or we had a chance to work with them before hiring them. It makes me wonder how many great candidates we miss because they don’t fit the precise technical background we are looking for in most of our positions. In fact some of our positions do require very specific technical skills. However, we look for these technical skills across a far broader number of roles than we probably need to and for every role in our company the most important skills or prerequisites are really those he mentions, drive and brains. As long as you have those we can probably teach you the rest, without them it doesn’t matter what type of technical chops you have—you won’t be successful.

In short he asks a lot of soft skill questions, which makes me think of the blog post I wrote about the “5 skill areas needed to transform your organization,” which includes personal productivity as one of those areas of focus. Kon Leong broadens the lens to focus in on the core beliefs, work ethic, and raw materials a person is bringing to the job. He also focuses on their ability to think outside the box and make their own judgments. These are critical skills in today’s business world because so much of the work that we do is fluid in nature. Technical experts and other specialists are becoming rarer except in the largest organizations as middle management shrinks and the day-to-day business of doing business changes to accommodate the rapid pace of innovation and evolving operating environments. Kon Leong seems very focused on getting people who can evolve, scale, and make their own decisions—perfect for the rapidly changing environment I describe in Why do I need to “Transform” my organization?

Here are some of the specific questions Kon Leong mentions using in the NYT article in interviews:

  • I would want to know your goals for the job. Is it money? Learning? Fulfillment?
  • How willingly do you accept stuff, and how willing are you to question things?
  • How creative are you in finding your own answers?
  • Are you willing to learn from your mistakes? Do you do that automatically?
  • Are you willing to set the bar higher?
  • Are you able to deal with failure? Can you bounce back from it?

What do you think about this sort of open ended approach to interviewing? Where do you focus your questions within interviews?

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.

SAAS and a tropical vacation- Their surprising similarities

SAAS and a tropical vacation

SAAS-Like a trip to the beach without the travel headaches

Over the past few years Software as a Service (SAAS) and cloud offerings have become more and more prevalent in our recommendations to our clients, particularly when clients are coming to us to help them look for cost savings. In both the public and private sector cost has become the single most cited reason for clients requesting our services.  However for clients, particularly those coming to us from the “business” side of the house as opposed to the technology side of the house, there is something especially scary about capabilities that reside “off-site.” I think for many people there is comfort in knowing that they own the hardware, software, and even the building in which their capability resides. To my mind, this is representative of old-world thinking that simply won’t be sustainable as we move forward. The economics of multi-tenancy “where a single instance of the software runs on a server, serving multiple client organizations (tenants),[1]” is simply too powerful to be ignored for long. I’ve told clients that it’s like taking a vacation to Jamaica without having to endure the travel time. You get the same results. You end up in a nice sunny, warm place with great beaches—but you get to avoid the travel time, skip the long lines and bypass the cramped seats. SAAS and cloud offerings give you all of the benefit minus many of the headaches. You don’t have to procure and manage the hardware/software, in fact you avoid most of the “other” distractions and costs that come along with owning your software capabilities.

Of course you don’t really avoid the costs, they are simply bundled into the solution you are receiving. Ideally this is happening in a manner that enables the vendor to take advantage of large economies of scale resulting in better performance at the same or a lessor price point. Of course it isn’t all benefit. It does require some reskilling for IT professionals in order to enable your organization to get maximum value. You need to be able to “shift from delivering IT solutions to brokering business capabilities.[2]” You also need to be able to understand the security, data implications, access and other factors that will affect your corporate data. This area deserves a much richer treatment than I can give in this blog post but for those interested a great place to start is with the recent MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) paper “Embrace the Inevitable: Six Imperatives to Prepare Your Company for Cloud Computingby Mooney, Ross and Phipps. For the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that the concerns most people have center around security, access to data, and flexibility. These are all real concerns, which is why you still need great technologists available within the organization in order to help you develop solutions that meet your specific business requirements. However, I will say that sometimes these concerns are overhyped.

I will use security as my example. I believe that with many SAAS and cloud vendors capability in this area probably far exceeds what you may currently have in house simply because the impact of a breech would have such negative consequences. Salesforce CEO Benioff talks about the importance of security to his offering because companies like Dell and Cisco are putting some of their most important data, their customer data into the solution. The ripple effect of a loss of confidence in their security model would have enormous ramifications for the business. Therefore they are incredibly focused on delivering in a secure fashion. I personally find it hard to believe that given the combination of the reduction of the importance of security to the business model and the more standardized technology architecture that SAAS and cloud vendors don’t have an easier time securing their solutions. Think about it like this—the Department of Agriculture has more than 700 applications all with different architectures. How much more difficult is this to secure than a SAAS vendor with 700 clients all using the same application on a standard architecture and with an overriding business imperative to be secure or risk losing all of those clients in rapid fashion. I’m not saying the SAAS vendor will be more secure, I just think the design forces favor them. What do you think? Most of us have gotten used to the SAAS service delivery model in our personal lives and transact business and interact via social media using these services everyday. Are you ready to make the leap to take your organization there?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitenancy

[2] Embrace the Inevitable: Six Imperatives to Prepare Your Company for Cloud Computing, Mooney (2012)

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.

Is that tile crooked? How to decide when its time to hire a pro

how to decide when its time to hire a pro

Part of being a leader is knowing when to ask for help

I wish everything could be solved in house. There is something satisfying about getting the job done inside the team. If you can pull it off, it’s cheaper too. At work here at MB&A, we have over time pulled creative design work and some other things we originally outsourced, simply because we needed to have the skill in house. At home, I’ve gone the other direction with a few things including hanging up my tool belt for projects I just can’t do as well as the pros. Knowing when you have moved into an area where you need outside help to succeed is a skill that both individuals and organizations should learn if they want to be successful. I’ve come up with five questions I ask myself about projects I undertake at work or at home to help ensure I get the outside help I need, when I need it.

  1. Have I done this before? This is probably the toughest one because it’s not so much about asking the question. Most of us are aware that we are trying something new. The skill is in ensuring that when you are about to attempt something new, that you take the time to ask yourself the rest of these questions. Just jumping in can have disastrous consequences. I learned to ask the rest of these questions because I lived the results of not asking. Take the time to think things through.
  2. How good does it have to be? What are the consequences of failure? I think the easiest example here is legal. I’ve had some fairly dire consequences from playing amateur lawyer and not understanding how to protect my interests. If its important enough that you think you might need a lawyer, you probably do. I’ve also destroyed a MacBook Pro trying to swap out a hard drive. The point is that not getting outside help can cost money too. I’ve probably saved more money by being honest about how hard something is to do and how bad the consequences are than from any other single thing.
  3. Are there people who do this for a living? Most people have done some home improvement in their lives. I’ve painted and tiled a lot of places in my time. I don’t do it anymore. Not because I can’t. I now have a few of the skills and all of the tools (Home Depot is my friend). I don’t do it because as a weekend warrior home improvement guy, I’ve never been able to get it as good as the pros. This was fine before I knew just how good and fast they are at doing it. I’m still proud of some of the work I’ve done, but I know it simply isn’t as good as someone who does it for a living.
  4. Is this something I will do again? How often? If its something I’m going to have to do regularly it may be worth learning how to do. If it’s something I only do a few times a year or every few years, it may be worth leaving to the experts. My Dad used to always say about plumbing that it is pretty simple—basically water runs downhill, but you usually had just about forgotten everything else you knew about it by the next time you needed to know it.
  5. Can I learn this? Do I have time? Even simple things take time to learn. I’m sure I could over time develop into a pretty good painter or tile guy. Unfortunately, at the rate of one bathroom every five years I’m not likely to get the time invested that I need to get to a high level of skill. See my post “5 keys to mastering anything,” for more on why repetition plays a role. For the purpose of this post I would say that anything you don’t do pretty regularly is a candidate for outsourcing. There is only so much you can be good at.

How do you make the decisions to do it yourself or hire outside help?

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.

The Thin Layer: Why Less is more…

Lego-train

More complicated doesn’t necessarily mean better

Today we have more data than yesterday. This is simple fact and the trend is only accelerating. Facebook alone adds more than 500TB of data every day, including more than 300 million new photos. Many Fortune 500 hundred companies employ thousands of servers with technology companies like Akamai, which is reputed to have more than 100,000 servers. As executives, the world has also become more data intensive with a distinct trend towards data oriented decision-making. I am a big believer in this trend and absolutely applaud the move towards a data centric approach to decision making. However, somewhere along the way a few important things got missed and most executives became overwhelmed by data rather than aided by it. The mad rush to back decisions with data led to the implementation of reports, dashboards, and other analytics without much thought as to what went into them. Where the data came from, its quality, and value became afterthoughts. In the end, many executives were not much better off then when they started.

 

This is exactly why I believe in the power of “The Thin Layer.” Whether it is architecture, engineering or business data—there is only so much we as humans can process. Gathering more than that is simply not worthwhile and worse, it can lead to poor decision-making because of a lack of focus on the components that are truly important. For most executives, there is a thin layer of information that truly makes a difference in their decision-making and that it is worth taking the time to distill this information into analytic components that can be routinely re-built and help you to standardize your decision making process. There are a lot of factors that may be involved in developing The Thin Layer required to support your decision-making including data quality, refresh times, authoritative sources, etc. However, at the end of the day a successful decision support system should not be just by the number of data sources, reports, or size of the source database. It should be judged on the value it provides in supporting decision-making.  If you absolutely must think of it as a metric or ratio, try the following equation:

Value to business/Cost to Develop & Maintain

As someone who loves developing analytics and reports, I know the temptation to show something because you can or because you have the data. Why use a table when you can have a spider chart? It takes all of my self control sometimes to reduce things down to just what I need for the decision. I’ve found from years of experience that in the long run, more data often will simply cloud the picture and increase the size of the haystack. You may need to go back and pull more data for specific decisions, or revisit the minimalist approach and add data over time; but by starting with less, I think you’ll find over time that you are able to make better decisions faster. It is also much cheaper to maintain.

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

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