You are here
It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
Recently we have been discussing emerging trends in Microsoft Dynamics. Of these, one of the more popular ones is for businesses to join with a “Master VAR” (value added reseller) to help sell Dynamics and affiliate software. However, there are some downsides. While businesses that choose to integrate in this way maintain control of the company, they often lose their name in the process. Obviously, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. Established businesses will be hesitant to give up their unique identity to sell under a different title entirely. So, in what situations does it make sense to give up a name?
When The Field Is Convoluted
What do I mean by convoluted? Turning back to the Dynamics example, it might seem as though there are only so many varieties, so a business might choose the one that works best and move on. Companies are usually pretty aware of their business needs but rarely know their software needs. Therefore, if a small business owner calls a consultancy that specializes in Dynamics AX implementations, he is likely to be overwhelmed by the extraneous complexity of the product relative to his needs. Within a Master VAR ecosystem, however, that same customer could contact the Master VAR, who would supply them with the appropriate sub-VAR to meet their business needs. This breaks down the confusion and matches customers with businesses that are tailored to their niche, resulting in greater satisfaction and more money for everyone.
When The Home Environment Is Dry
Sometimes a well-equipped business is confounded by a lack of need in its immediate area, even if there is a great need for its services nationwide. This could be because of localized economic strain or simply a lack of sustainable customers in an area. However, this issue can be largely alleviated by joining a Master VAR. Essentially, these large business groups can spread over a massive area, exposing a business to a much larger customer base than previously possible. Because many implementations are done remotely, this can breathe life into a struggling business regardless of its immediate environment.
Obviously there are too many considerations regarding the value of a name to cover in one blog post. Both personal and business reasons may impact the eventual decision. However, if the choice is to join a Master VAR or struggle, businesses should realize that there is a very real advantage to joining a large group, particularly in the current Microsoft Dynamics environment. In many cases, it is better for both the company and the customer.
Software applications are somewhat notorious for either being too complicated or too expensive relative to the value they provide, particularly in the context of business functionality. Software companies, retailers, and partners often catch the majority of the flack for this, and may face criticism in the form of bad reviews or negative word of mouth. However, the problem does not always lie with the provider itself but with the customer, and more specifically, with the customer’s understanding of his needs.
To be fair, it is not necessarily the customer’s fault. Often, they will be influenced by current trends in technology that they think provides them with a clear choice of product. If a business is pouring money and advertising dollars into a program and promoting it heavily, it is easy to believe that it serves as the flagship for that particular toolset, and will address any and all company needs. Even those savvy executives who feel that they have the ability to cut through the sales pitch can be influenced by consultants and resellers who are aware of a certain product’s push to the front of the pack.
It can be difficult to understand where to turn. Assuming a business is hiring a consultant, or discussing the purchase of software with a vendor, they are most likely doing so because they do not know which software will best suit their needs. For what it’s worth, most sellers want the customer to be happy, and do not intentionally try to sell software products that will be useless. Remember, today’s communication channels mean that poor experiences can very easily lead to massively reduced sales. So, if resellers and consultants want to help, why the proliferation of shelfware?
Let’s turn back to the issue. A customer needs software but they don’t know how it works. However, that is almost never the real problem. The real problem arises when a customer does not know exactly what his needs are. In order to get a software solution that is not extraneous in implementation, use, or cost, vendors need to know exactly which processes a customer needs help with. The more specific, the more helpful they can be. If a customer simply states that they want a solution to their problem, but cannot describe the processes that are causing that problem, a vendor really has no choice but to recommend an expansive (and usually, expensive) solution with functionality that the business does not necessarily need.
If you are in the market for a software solution, before looking for outward support from vendors or consultants, spend some time looking inward to identify which inefficient processes are causing your problem. That may mean spending a few weeks, or even a few months, analyzing internal activities. The money saved from purchasing software with high costs, needless complexity, and useless features will be more than worth it.
I’ve been working on developing our Pinterest page as a way to communicate the Journyx company culture and values. We have a great office lifestyle so of course I was more than happy to communicate this when I was invited to expand Journyx’s presence on this exciting platform.
The best thing about Pinterest is its ability to inspire. We can share ideas and success stories through the creative use of images. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
One of my favorite boards is our “All The Time In The World” board. At Journyx, we help people and companies thrive on recognizing the value of time as their most important resource. This board demonstrates the incredible possibilities derived from innovative time management strategies. If you had this type of freedom, what would you do? I want to invite you to share your ideas with us through Pinterest or email me at email@example.com -- we might even add your image to our board!
Our “Let’s Get Together" board showcases fun events we’ve held for our team in the past. I’m a huge advocate for improving company culture and strengthening bonds with people you work with everyday. Our “TED Talk and Torchy’s Tacos Tuesdays” was a hit with the team! That’s just one idea we want to share in making the office more happy and efficient!
We’re thinking about showcasing the fun side of our employees to add a more personal appeal and to help our fans get to know us better.
What would you like to see on our Pinterest page?
John Pell, Senior Account Executive at Journyx authored the following post. He has been providing creative solutions using Journyx products since 2000. He has helped thousands of clients worldwide solve problems unique to their businesses.
When discussing functional requirements with prospective clients, I always ask them to envision the perfect product for managing all of the items their employees need to track and that management needs to report on. Predictably, this leads to some interesting and unique responses, and most of the time our product can be configured to solve issues they never thought a timesheet solution could possibly address. One example is equipment or material management for costing and billing purposes.
Journyx has saved one major automobile manufacturer vast amounts of money by automating the chargeback process for defective parts sent to them by their suppliers. Previously, defective parts were literally stacked in empty spots on the factory floor and were rarely charged back to the vendor. Now, when employees complete their timesheets they also log the part number and quantity of defective parts as well as the storage area where they are located, where they stay until picked up by the supplier. The supplier is then billed back for both the value of the parts as well as a storage fee for the time the defective parts remained on the property.
We can use the same functionality of our product to capture production metrics. For example, one client uses Journyx to track quantities of units produced and tasks accomplished for payroll bonuses (as well as reporting purposes) in order to gain a better understanding of which workgroups, shifts, and employee types are best suited to certain types of work. This allows them to assign the correct people to future work of a similar nature.
Several other clients use Journyx for equipment tracking for billing purposes. For example, they might bill a truck at $2.50/mile, a bulldozer at $200/hour, a crane at $1500/day, and an explosive charge at $300/use. When an employee or their manager completes a timesheet, they also log the equipment used as well as the quantity and measurement associated with the equipment. Behind the scenes in the Journyx system, there is a conversion table that applies the appropriate monetary value to the equipment so the finance department can bill the client accurately. Feedback from these clients indicates that they are capturing a much larger volume of billable fees than they were using their previous methodologies.
Just in time for my Friday blog post updates, here are some highlights from the weekend in San Antonio, TX at the AACE International Conference for cost engineers:
- First and foremost, I want to thank the attendees for stopping by and the vendors for being great booth neighbors. Great show!
- We had 14 very patient winners of our “Time Is Money Challenge”! Attendees were given six minutes to open a puzzle maze for a $20 prize enclosed inside. See photos below.
- Congratulations to our Enterprise Account Manager, Brian Maxin for helping his team win 1st place in the charity golf tournament.
AACEvolunteers and everyone else who made a difference at the show- we’ll see you all next year!
If you’d like to find out more about why cost engineers like our software services, you can check out this demo we’ve got lined up for next week.
Now for some photos captured at the event:
Booth visitors taking our money maze challenge.
Conference room with keynote speaker.
The conference was within walking distance to the Alamo.
Congratulations to Chris Laws, the winner of the 2011-2012 Journyx Scholarship!
Laws submitted the winning essay to the 2011-2012 Journyx Scholarship, where he discusses how better resource management processes can improve a company's bottom line. Laws is currently pursuing his M.B.A. degree at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. As the winner of the Journyx scholarship, Laws receives $500 toward tuition and fees.
Below is Laws' full essay. Additionally, if you'd like to enter the fall 2012 Journyx Scholarship, see complete information and rules here.
Before returning to school, I never appreciated resource management processes. I formerly worked in consulting where the main resource to manage was human talent. The way in which this was tracked was with timesheets. These timesheets used to be the bane of my and my colleagues’ existences. After taking a managerial accounting class, however, I now see the tremendous impact that proper accounting can have. This essay describes my journey from ignorance to enlightenment, describing one case in particular that illustrates proper timesheet accounting.
I used to hate timesheets. My old position at a major consulting firm required filling them out dutifully every two weeks. The timesheets required that we keep track of every hour spent in those ten workdays. Every client, every project proposal, every pro-bono effort had to be tracked and timed. Everyone with whom I worked viewed timesheets as an annoyance. We knew they were aggregated and our office’s performance compared to other similar units on the basis of the timesheets. Despite eventually serving as a leader of another office, I never appreciated the value of project accounting until business school.
One case we studied in my managerial accounting class opened my eyes to the power of timesheets and how they could directly impact a company’s bottom line. The case described a lawsuit against the retailer Nordstrom. Some of Nordstrom’s employees argued that Nordstrom’s accounting principles forced them to work uncompensated hours or face termination. Nordstrom argued it was simply rewarding high performers and that it did in fact compensate employees for all time working. In Nordstrom’s legendary culture of service, however, defining time spent working was difficult.
The root of the issue in the case is the way in which Nordstrom floor employees account for their working time. Nordstrom employees are measured on their sales per hour (SPH). The compensation system provides higher commission rates to those employees who have a higher SPH rate. This system incentivizes employees to not record time spent on non-sales generating activities. Doing so leads to a smaller denominator and therefore a higher SPH.
Legal and ethical issues aside, Nordstrom’s accounting missed a major opportunity for better (human) resource management. Nordstrom should tweak its compensation and accounting systems to improve their employee satisfaction and bottom line performance. My recommendations are to 1) make employees salaried and 2) track non-sales time. Making employees salaried would eliminate overtime and the feeling of not being compensated for non-sales work. This move fits better with the company culture of having sales staff feel like owners. Nordstrom could still maintain an incentive-based system by paying a fairly low starting salary that ratchets up based on performance.
More important from a resource management perspective, tracking non-sales time will provide better insights into employee activity. Having employee timesheets incorporate both selling and non-selling hours tracked will give a more complete picture of activity. Nordstrom will be able to use these data to arrive at some optimal mix. They can then establish a uniform standard rate around the company. After that, Nordstrom will be able to track where employees or stores are out of line with some ideal. This will allow management to tweak their policies and processes to minimize the burden or change directions entirely. Having a recognized expectation (e.g., 75% selling 25% non-selling split) will help to shift the culture so that employees feel comfortable reporting their non-selling time. Employees with higher morale and improved management practices should undoubtedly lead to higher profits – a win for everyone, not just the accountants!
Here at Journyx, we love listening to customer feedback. We've discovered, among other things, that our customers would like to learn more about the cool features that come with our reporting function. Reporting is one of the main reasons why Journyx Timesheet is so attractive to companies. It’s no surprise that people like to know where their money, time and resources are going. And it's important to us here at Journyx that customers get maximum return on their Journyx investment.
This is why we are launching the new Journyx Customer Training Webinar series. Beginning in July, we will present free monthly webinars on a variety of topics to help you get the most out of Journyx. Our first webinar is Wednesday, July 11, at 2 p.m. CST on the topic of Journyx Timesheet Reporting.
In this 30 minute webinar, we will review the standard reporting tool in Journyx Timesheet to make sure that you understand everything you need to know to run any type of report. Specifically, we will cover:
- The various reports and formats available
- How to modify and export reports while sharing them with other users in the system
- How to track project information at the program, project or task level
Determining a fair price for a product or service can be tricky at times. Indeed, we see just as many companies get it wrong as get it right. Netflix is one such example, for even though the service remains popular today, their price change fiasco last year tarnished a once unblemished reputation. But why were people so upset? Netflix is hardly the first company to raise prices on a product.
Actually, the issue was not so much the price change, but the fact that the price was increasing without the end user seeing any additional value. Customers didn't need a tracking tool to see this. You spend more money, you get less for it, and the value of your resources goes down. Add in the fact that Netflix altered pricing and even tried to introduce a new service in a relatively convoluted way, and it is clear why customers felt at best confused, and at worst betrayed.
To avoid a situation like this, it is always important to realize that competing on price is not so much of an issue if you compete on value first and foremost. Of course no business should operate at a loss. There is no argument for that, and rarely do businesses wish to anger customers by arbitrarily raising prices. So, before that decision is made, it is important to determine what the customer will get out of a price increase.
By tracking and managing resources, it is possible to determine the precise value of any additions to software, physical products, and mobile applications. Insight into how much time, manpower, and money goes into it will allow businesses to make a fair decision that makes sense for them financially while still presenting the customer with a valid reason for spending more money on a product, without simply resorting to some vague appeal to economic woes.
Be fair to customers, and be open as well. If you have to increase prices, make sure that they understand why, and also make sure they know that it is good for them, as well. Sure, you may still lose some of them, but for those that stay, you will have retained an important recurring resource: loyalty.
I'm very happy to share some exciting news: we've recently launched a mobile site for Journyx. This means that when you view our website from your smartphone, it will automatically redirect you to our mobile optimized site. Easier navigation of the site and faster download times were the top two reasons we pushed for this initiatve. Below is a Q&A that I conducted with Stephen, the head of our mobile site launch, on this matter:
What is the number one thing you want someone to come across when visiting the site?
I don’t know that I would necessarily say that we want one thing to come across more than others. Rather, the design is focused on getting necessary information into the hands of potential customers, whatever that may be. If someone is using a mobile device, particularly on a slower cellular network, it is imperative that they know where to look for information. Searching around a site with lengthy page load times is sure to turn off even the most interested consumer. We give customers the ability to try our product for free from every page, because once they have all the information they need, we want to remove all obstacles for them to get to the product.
What sort of features would you like to include in the mobile app in the future?
Ideally, it would be nice to include some level of interactivity directly through the mobile app. For instance, if users could sign up for and view a webinar all through the mobile site while at lunch or commuting on a bus, for example, that would be beneficial. When it comes to mobile, it really is all about convenience.
What did you use to build the site and how long did it take?
I used Dudamobile, a new service that allows users to customize mobile websites based on their existing sites. I found the service very beneficial in terms of getting a mobile site optimized quickly, and it allows for customization options including HTML and CSS coding. From start time to the first iteration of the mobile site, it only took about two weeks. The staff at Dudamobile was very responsive to all of my questions. Without their quality of customer service, it would have taken longer.
During the economic recession, the concept of growth seems to have taken a backseat to the reality of survival. Perhaps no industry has faced more challenges than travel, and within that subset, travel agencies have it the worst. The internet, with its wealth of information and constant availability of online deals, has struck a major blow to agencies worldwide, rendering many of them extraneous. The devastating tragedy of 9/11 led to mass trepidation for travel. Now, the economic recession has caused even further cutbacks in travel related expenses for many individuals and organizations. With all of these devastating factors working against them, it is amazing that the word “travel agency” even exists in our modern vocabulary.
However, Anthony Travel has managed to not only survive all of those adverse conditions, but to thrive. Of course, savvy business acumen is responsible for this success. Though the portfolio of techniques that Anthony Travel uses is no doubt incredibly diverse, their use of the two following time management techniques has helped them avoid unnecessary pitfalls and make intelligent decisions.
Track Time to Projects
Anthony Travel initially tracked time simply for payroll, using a relatively unsophisticated system that did not give much insight into anything but employee hours worked. However, once they made the decision to switch to an automated solution, the opportunity to track time on a per-person, per-project basis opened up, and it allowed many benefits that were impossible with their previous solution. For one thing, they were able to get specific insight into where and when employees were completing assigned tasks and compare those to ultimate profitability. They were then able to reallocate resources and people in ways that made sense for their business. In addition, they could determine if employees were being put on too many projects, or if they were available for a new venture. This level of clarity allowed for precise decisions that increased the efficiency of everything from project completion to time-off requests.
Fire Problem Customers
Anthony Travel does business with several reputable college athletics teams in the United States, helping players get where they need to go. They track time to schools and even by team, approaching each as a separate project. With this information, they began to see some trends in the profitability of each of these, and eventually reached a somewhat surprising conclusion: some projects were tying up too many resources to maintain profitability. This insight allowed them to focus on the most profitable customers and projects. Insight into the time and resources spent on customers allowed them to make intelligent -- and profitable -- decisions.
These strategies worked well for Anthony Travel, but what tools do you use to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances and to increase profits?
Last Tuesday we exhibited at Decisions, a virtual conference showcasing the family of Microsoft Dynamics GP solutions. Attendees asked us some very important questions mostly regarding what our magical powers are with Microsoft Dynamics GP. A magician never reveals his secret… but the reason why businesses that use GP love us is just no secret anymore. We’ve been doing it for 16 years. Here are a few inquires that I’ve pulled out of the hat:
Q: I would like to know how you gather the time, and if your project integration is to project accounting?
A: We can integrate in a number of ways. Our solution tracks time and expense via the web and can send it to Dynamics GP through Project Accounting. We also act as stand-alone solutions for time and expense tracking.
Q: We have a need to collect time in our outlying locations, but since most of our work is done outside (no computer available) we will need to collect time in different parts of our plant without much employee involvement. Does your product fit this situation? We already have Dynamics GP PR in place.
A: Supervisors and team leaders can enter time of behalf of their resources or we can pre-populate the time based on what work is usually done, which would be a simple login-and-approve interaction. Employees would be able to make changes as needed
Q: Do you work with Thinkware?
A: We can integrate with most systems, specifically if it can accept .txt or Excel files. We are definitely familiar with the PEO space so integrating with Thinkware would not be a problem.
Q: Can you have three different approvals on the same time sheet going on at the same time, i.e. one for the PM, manager, and program manager?
A: Absolutely that’s one of our product's biggest advantages. We provide flexible approval paths that allow you to control who has access to timesheets at the per-person level.
Timesheet software is often associated with looking at past projects, evaluating their success, and using that knowledge to plan for future projects. It can do all of that, of course, but surprisingly, timesheet software can also enable businesses to “turn on a dime,” so to speak. The software can help businesses redirect resources as necessary to procure new projects or repair struggling ones.
How does this work, you may ask? Well, advanced time tracking solutions have the ability to make leave requests, demonstrate what tasks a person spends the most time on, and show who is available and when. If the opportunity to take on a contract with a fast turnaround time arises, it is absolutely critical to know this information. If you don’t, it could mean that you leave profitable business on the table, or worse, take on a project only to find out that its scope is outside of your control.
Further, we have already discussed the advantage of keeping a record of previous projects, and this is a perfect example of why it is good to do so. If you can draw on past information about completion rates, employee efficiency, and availability of resources for past projects, then it is possible to make educated guesses about requirements for new projects. If a project is performing poorly, it is also possible to compare that project with successfully completed ones to determine if there are any requirements or resources incongruent with the current project.
So, just remember that Journyx Timesheet has advanced functionality that can be unlocked by the savvy and creative business professional. What sort of innovative uses have you found for time tracking software?
I’ve talked about trade shows before. I’m lucky that Journyx sent me to the Texas Payroll Conference and to the behemoth of a show, Microsoft Convergence. I'm even currently planning for AACE International, a five day conference for cost engineers. But this is different. Really different. This is something that neither Journyx, nor myself, have ever done before. It’s called Decisions, and it’s for the members of the Microsoft Dynamics community who want to keep up to date with the industry’s opportunities and challenges. What’s so innovative about it? It’s a virtual tradeshow.
This trade show is just like any traditional one except that it's online. I will man our virtual booth and assist any visitors with questions they have. My cohort, Erin, will make sure that interested attendees get the information they need to learn about us online. She has also created tailored collateral for attendees seeking more information. And just like at a conventional exhibitor booth, we will provide a giveaway! Check out the photo below for a sneak peak of the booth.
Even though we lose the face-to-face interaction, the price of a virtual trade show is minimal since there are no expenses related to flying staff to the site, staying in a hotel, providing food and gas expenses, etc. Not having to purchase booth essentials such as carpeting, tables, printed collateral, and lighting also drives down the cost.
Perhaps as soon as 5 years in the future, we will look back and think, "Wow! Why did companies spend so much money on those old trade shows!" What do you think?
How many times have we heard the phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff”? Some people really focus on minor, inconsequential things, allowing them to take over their minds and ruin productivity. While one or even a couple of these tasks might actually be small things, when combined, they can leech productivity and cause stress as employees must multitask and shift focus rapidly. This means that sometimes they will not be able to give proper focus to a specific problem.
Fortunately, properly configured time management systems can give insight into these small tasks that can cause big headaches. It does, however, require a little more attention than many managers give employee timesheets. When reviewing employee timesheets, managers typically look for major trends and might disregard one-off or minor tasks that employees complete. This can be a major oversight.
Instead, it pays to look at the number of minor tasks that employees complete and reference that against the workload of other employees. If one employee has too many minor tasks, it might be wise to consult with that employee and see if he or she feels too much pressure. Maybe it would help to spread those tasks over several employees. A good sign that this could be necessary is when an employee begins spending less time, or delivering less value, on their primary tasks with the most importance.
While some may say don’t sweat the small stuff, the sad reality is that many employees do not have an option. Instead, I would offer the following advice to supervisors looking to optimize their organization: keep watch only for giants, and you may be eaten by ants.
This month’s get-together was a Family Feud competition between Journyx and our business partner and next door office neighbor, AimSourcing. I wanted to share this as just another idea to get the team together in the spirit of competition.
The photo collage below showcases the flier we posted around the office to remind the staff of the event. In the shot, my mustache is a printed paper replication of the one Steve Harvey sports as the current Family Feud host… in case the resemblance wasn't too obvious! Top right is a photo of our conquering team beaming proudly about their recent victory. Bottom right, I’m congratulating Stephen, the winner of the gift card prize drawing only offered to the team who came out on top.
If you haven’t heard the story of Caine’s arcade then stop reading now and go check it out.
Back? Ok, we can get started.
This story has gripped the internet for so many reasons. Young Caine is inspirational, a story of childhood dreams realized. Caine also represents pure, unblemished entrepreneurship freed from the bounds of conformity or the realization that maybe this is just too difficult to accomplish. We are impressed by his drive, the fact the he sat outside that arcade day after day after spending an entire summer building it out of old boxes. His ingenuity and problem solving is similarly impressive; he solves problems with elbow grease, and has “bootstrapped” every aspect of his business.
Interestingly, there are many takeaways from this story that aren’t of the feel good variety. Namely, young Caine has built repeatable processes into his arcade from the beginning, and has automated time consuming tasks wherever he can. For example, take a look at the ingenious way that he validates fun passes. While it would take a cruel-hearted individual to try to scam him, Caine has nevertheless taken the initiative and developed a security system for the fun passes. He has done so by placing calculators on the games and requiring the entry of a number that must then match the square of the number on their fun pass. I’m making this sound way more complicated that it is, (Cain just says, “Enter the number then press the check symbol!”) yet the fact that he already accounted for an issue and instituted a repeatable process to prevent it shows foresight that some million-dollar businesses lack.
Further, Caine shows acumen by taking customer comments into account. He discusses the fact that one of his games was deemed too easy by one client, and shows how he upped the skill level to match demand. This iterative thinking permeates business theory and serves to remind us that, ultimately, we must pivot or fail. Again, if every startup business were to take this idea to heart, they would likely have a much greater chance of success.
So, with all the best wishes in the world to Caine, I hope we can tip our hats and learn something from this clever entrepreneur. He has certainly had his day, and if he continues with the intelligence he has put into the first project, he will almost certainly find success in his future endeavors.
One of my main responsibilities here at Journyx is working with presenters on their contributions to our webinar series. The June sequence is comprised of top-of-the-line presenters who offer tips and techniques SMBs can use to address common business issues.
I would like to spotlight our newest presenter, Dave Brown, Partner at Foundation Finance. He’ll talk about how businesses can shield themselves from the next financial downturn. If you want to hear specific, actionable advice about minimizing risks from external forces, this is one you definitely need to see. Dave will also share how to leverage existing finances for maximum benefit to everyday business. We are excited that he is willing to impart his value-producing knowledge in his webinar this month! Be sure to sign up and see for see for yourself.
If you haven’t yet scanned our upcoming events for June, make sure you do. They are a great way to learn and connect with industry professionals. Attendees have reached out to let me know they have derived real business value from our series and have used the knowledge to improve their own companies. It's a partnership effort between our presenters and us here at Journyx to help businesses truly understand their resources and capabilities.
Journyx has always known the importance of tracking time and money on a per-project basis. Using this data, it is possible to build up a backlog of projects that can be referenced for future endeavors. Whether they are successes or failures, knowledge of past projects can greatly enhance the odds of success with similar jobs in the future. However, comparing individual projects to other similar projects is only one way of using prior time and expense data. The other comes in the form of a project completed under normal working conditions; in other words, a “measured mile.”
For those unfamiliar with the concept, it works like this. Projects attempted under ideal conditions and those undertaken during adverse conditions may vary significantly in adherence to budget and schedule. To a certain degree this factor can be blamed on external conditions, however it is important to isolate those conditions from individual productivity. Therefore, by examining a project completed under “normal” conditions, it is somewhat possible to isolate external variables by comparing that project to a project taken on during a certain period.
So, as an example, let’s imagine that a stadium needs to be constructed in a city. Fortunately, a comparable stadium was built a few years back in a city with similar terrain and ecological conditions. No major catastrophes befell that stadium, manmade or natural, and so it could be described as having been completed under normal conditions. Thus, this project could be labeled a “measured mile.”
Conversely, the new stadium faces numerous problems. In addition to strikes by public workers in the early months, a swathe of terrible thunderstorms strike the area. Ultimately, the new stadium takes longer and costs more to complete than originally estimated. By comparing the time and cost to completion against the “measured mile” project, it clarifies more succinctly the effect that these adverse conditions had on the project.
The benefits for this type of data, particularly in productivity analysis, are fairly evident. It becomes possible, by measuring projects relative to a baseline, to understand what a “normal” completion schedule would look like assuming there are no complications. In this way, the more detailed the previous data associated with the project is, the more accurate a view businesses can get into future projects that may face issues. As always, greater insight yields greater results and a closer adherence to forecasted costs.
One of the top viral videos on YouTube right now in the technology space is Leap Motion, with almost 2 million views in two days. Why has this San Francisco startup's video received so much attention? Let's disregard for a moment the hip, visual appeal of minimalistic design reminiscent of Apple and Google products, paired with trendy, relaxed background music. Leap boasts “motion control technology that is radically more powerful and also significantly less costly than existing technology” (ahem, Kinect!). What I've found most impressive is that Leap’s accuracy is so precise that it tracks movement to 1/100th of a millimeter. You’ll witness this in the video- it’s impressive!
Microsoft’s Kinect is the rival motion sensor technology used as an add-on in the Xbox 360. We actually had it at our booth during the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence trade show and it was a hit. Let’s also not forget the Wii, the first video game with wireless movement detection launched back in 2006. It uses a player hand-held device in tracking. But, the difference here with Kinect and the Wii is that they are currently solely used in gaming (although exciting news has been announced about Kinect R&D extending into retail space).
Leap Motions’ sights are set much higher since the device is used to control computer behavior. This will lead to endless opportunities that are certainly something get excited about. Have you heard or thought of any ideas that would benefit from the Leap? I'll tell you my personal favorite idea: exercise workout videos! I’m sure they’d be a hit here in Austin! It would be a great marriage between tech and health!
A common thought people have when considering a time-tracking application, or any time management system, is how to keep track of those intangible goals. By that I mean those goals that don’t have a clear beginning and end, that are ongoing but for an indefinite period of time. Obviously, it is simple to determine how much time we spend engaging in these activities, but how do we track time against them to determine efficiency? Unless you can do this, it becomes easy to spend either too much or too little time on a task to produce a benefit. All this considered, the issue actually lies with the goals themselves, not the time management methodology. Here are three ways to set achievable, trackable goals.
1. Become S.M.A.R.T.
This advice is fairly common, and for good reason. S.M.A.R.T. goals are, by definition, simple to track and determine progress for. What is that definition, you ask? S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Thus, if you can convert all your goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals, they will lend themselves well to any time management system. By introducing a time constraint, it is possible to measure progress as a function of the overall time required to complete the goal. In other words, you can recalibrate efforts to an appropriate level if you are progressing too slowly or expending too much energy on a goal that does not require it.
2. Clearly Prioritize
Whenever you set a new goal (or begin setting goals in the first place), developing a hierarchy of priority can help immensely. There are many tools for this, including the popular app iOS “clear.” By contextualizing goals in terms of relative importance, it is easy to determine allocations of time and energy. If they are S.M.A.R.T., you can also determine whether or not you are spending the right amount of time on a lower priority goal. At first glance this seems obvious, but the reality is unless we take the time to actually sit down and prioritize, odds are that we don’t actually know what is most important at any given time. Particularly when you are working on multiple projects in different areas of a business, prioritizing will save a lot of hassle and will give you the ability to say “no.”
A goal that is not communicated faces a bigger hurdle to success than one that is. As humans, we often need to have our feet held to the fire before we can produce our best work. So, whether it be in a team meeting or simply in a quick email to a co-worker, let someone know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Even if they do not have a stake in the outcome, the knowledge that someone else is expecting you to complete a goal will increase the pressure (in a good way), and also the likelihood that you will finish. Disappointing yourself is one thing, disappointing a co-worker or manager is something else entirely!