Guest Post by Cassidy Smirnow
Do more with less.
If you’ve got any experience in the business operations world, then you’re probably extremely well acquainted with this mantra. In fact, Operations Managers are not only expected to do more with less, they’re expected to do it more efficiently and with a higher degree of quality. Sound familiar?
Enter visual communications, the veritable white knight to operations professionals everywhere.
I joined FWI about 4 years ago and was tasked with delivering on those time-tested tenets of Operations. The expectations weren’t foreign to me, and as the new Senior Vice President of Operations for FWI, I dove in.
My primary focus revolved around improving and then growing our professional services business. Our Professional Services team is KEY in helping our customers adopt our platform across their organization. It’s an extremely important part of our business, and I was lucky to inherit such a passionate and effective team. However, when I started, there were some issues in efficiently tracking time and ultimately, utilization—the key measurement of productivity.
After identifying and correcting our time tracking issues and updating the software interface, I was able to focus on analyzing the available data. It took some time, but I established a baseline and determined that our utilization was at 45%. The industry standard for a professional services team of our size is 70%. With the target utilization easily identified, I employed goal setting theory to help improve productivity.
Then came the fun part. Obviously, FWI specializes in making data visual in order to drive results, so I took our software platform and used it. It worked. So well.
I shared my overarching goal with the team and then we established what, exactly, each team member needed to do to contribute to that goal. I then engaged an internal team to build an application that integrated with our time tracking system to display—real time—each person’s current utilization numbers as compared to their goals as well as their co-workers utilization numbers. I had this KPI metric rotate throughout the day on 10 screens in my department.
Guess what happened. Our productivity increased. Within the first 2 weeks of implementing this visual, data-based approach, we increased 200 billable hours over the prior 2 weeks. Astonishing, I know. Given specific individual goals and actionable, transparent metrics; my team started delivering unbelievable results. They even came to me with suggestions on how to adjust the KPI display in order to improve their productivity even more.
The increased productivity was fantastic, but what did it mean? I took a conservative approach and projected that my team would only increase 200 billable hours a month for six months, bringing us to our 70% utilization goal in relatively no time at all. With the team firing on all cylinders, our increased billable hours were projected to contribute $1.3 million in revenue invoiced. Assuming we don’t exceed our utilization goal, within 3 years, we’re expecting to realize a $4.8 million increase in revenue derived from the professional services team.
In order to truly gauge this project’s success though, we need to look at all of the numbers. Including hardware costs plus the effort it took to integrate with our time tracking system, I incurred a one-time expense of $55,000. The monthly licensing fee for our software powering these 10 screens is roughly $1,000. Drawn out over a 3-year period, my total monthly costs are $2,527. For those of you who care about a little thing called ROI: our return on this project was 4,700%.
I’m sure most Operations Executives are very narrowly focused on the bottom line. We have to be. It’s why we utilize every tool possible to improve processes in order to get the most out of our teams. Let me tell you, I found the best tool yet. Do more with less? Done.