.... Innovative IT Consulting helps small and mid-size companies use technology to facilitate growth and increase profitability. We are specialists in the Process Industries.
October, 2007

Welcome back! If you're one of our many new subscribers, stay tuned for the best in useful ERP related best practices and commentary. In the September issue of Innovative Thinking, we provided insight into how the workings of your particular organization affect an ERP implementation. We promised to start looking at project obstacles. This month, we deliver our first installment with a discussion of FOCUS, a key to personal, organizational and project success.

Putting the focus on focus! By Paul Sita, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. Paul can be reached at 631-549-1685 or psita@innovativeitc.com.

Focus is a key to success, ERP projects and otherwise. As ERP consultants the #1 challenge that we see is helping organizations find the time to get an ERP project done. Regardless of the size of the company, implementing ERP is time consuming, requiring people to balance day to day responsibilities and operational issues with confusing and often very dynamic project related tasks that they are not that familiar or comfortable with.

So what is your secret?

Many clients readily admit “I’m just not that focused” “I have a tough time focusing”. Frequently they ask us-- What is the secret to getting things done? “How do you manage to juggle so many details?”

There is a secret – and we’re happy to share it. Focus is the key. But what is focus and how do you maintain it?

Putting focus in focus. Think of focus as a spotlight that you can shine on various tasks, activities, requirements. You can spread a wide beam and take in a lot, or you can make that beam narrow and really light up a few key things. That spotlight is your mental energy and capabilities. You can keep a lot of things “in view”, but not have much energy left for tackling them, or narrow the area and put a lot of energy into a few critical things. Too many business people find comfort and solace in a long list of things in their focus. It helps them feel important, and they think (mistakenly!!!) that having a long list of “to-dos” in front of them will spur them on to get a lot done.

-Maintaining your focus. The reality is just the opposite! The key is to find those critical 3 or 4 activities that lead to your next milestone or objective. Keep those in front of you. Everything else goes on a list, project plan or napkin. It really doesn’t matter. Once you have those other activities organized and written down someplace – THERE’S NO NEED TO SPEND ANY MENTAL ENERGY ON THEM. Pay attention to the 3 or 4. Now here’s the hard part. In time as you build up trust in the system and yourself, you will get better at this. “But the phone always rings and something always comes up”. That’s OK. Deal with the crisis and then come back to your 3 or 4.

You’ll find that simply by paying attention to the critical actions leading up to your next objective will by necessity cause you to block out the other hundred things that are part of the next set of objectives.

Practice. This is part of the art of focusing. It takes a simple discipline – paying attention to a few things that are critical NOW at the expense of a lot of things that may be critical later – and when you start doing this – it becomes a HABIT that can unleash productivity gains that are huge. Don’t forget it’s not how long you work at something that counts, it’s how much you accomplish.

The enemy is not just them, it's us. In our work we find that many of the IT professionals leading projects lament that the users can’t find the time to do what they need to do. However, IT professionals suffer from the same lack of focus as users. Many projects are derailed by the IT Professionals inability to “focus” on the activities that are critical to the task at hand. Analytical by nature, IT professionals easily get sidetracked and start spending time with activities that are not relevant now. In many cases they are issues that work themselves out over time.

    Self assessment and improvement.
So try this experiment. Tomorrow, after you finish writing down your to-do list – start over and segregate activities that are really critical to some project that is time sensitive from those that are not. Then organize those activities into what can be accomplished in the next few days. Take those and spend a few minutes thinking about what is required to get them done. Do you need to coordinate with someone else? What is their schedule? Do you need information and is it readily available? Then set aside a specific time to work on the project activities. Don’t leave it to chance. Schedule time with yourself – say from 2 to 4 PM. At that time, put everything else aside on your desk, and don’t allow yourself to be interrupted. I guarantee that by 4 PM, you will be well on your way.

Focusing is a set of skills that need to be refined and honed. Practice and you’ll see your results improve, not just in your ERP project or on the job but in everything that you do.

Tip of the Month

Facilitating the Status Meeting is the Project Manager's Job
By John Pellegrino, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. John can be reached at 631-549-1685 or jpellegrino@innovativeitc.com.

As I continue my tips on project status meetings, this month I will discuss some specifics about the running of the meetings. The project manager should be ready, willing and able to facilitate the meeting so that it runs efficiently and within a reasonable amount of time. Here are some tips for the actual meeting.

"Be prepared" is not just for Boy Scouts. Although every member of the team should be prepared for the meeting it is the project manager’s duty to make sure that he or she is prepared. The best way to do this is to use the previous meeting’s status report between meetings and note by hand any updates, changes or new issues that come up. Note these as soon as possible after you find out about them – don’t wait until just before the next meeting. Then, you can review this status report with the notes a few minutes before the meeting and you’ll be ready for the meeting.

Use it or lose it. You’ve taken time to produce a status report and noted changes on it during the interim so it is the logical document to use during the meeting. Go through it one topic at a time and let the whole team know the accomplishments or changes. You can ask the person responsible for any given topic to add to the update or provide more detail, as needed, but don’t let this get out of hand (see the next section).

Keep things "short and sweet". Keep in mind that this is the status meeting and make sure that the update to a topic or issue is kept to the status of the topic, not necessarily the resolution of it. Some topics can be talked about enough to come to a resolution, but for most of them it is better to decide what the next activity is towards getting a resolution and noting that as a new task to accomplish. This activity could be getting a subset of the team together to discuss the issue or it could be to have someone gather more information on it for further discussion.

"Something old, something new". Although much of the meeting will be on topics already known and discussed there will be new topics, issues or concerns to discuss and add to the status report. Our main article this month discusses concentrating on activities towards the next goal or milestone and leaving others for later. Eventually, these other activities make it to the status meeting as they become one of the 3 or 4 critical activities. And, of course, unforeseen items arise. Leave time to have team members state these and discuss activities around them, but don’t necessarily try to resolve them.

What's new?

The Question of the month!! Every month we field a question from one of our fearless readers! Don't be shy. Submit your hardest question and see how we do.

Word Scramble time.
“A process of evaluating your own set of skills and capabilities. " (2 words)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Answer to last month's word scramble.

“ Team of senior management providing high level project guidance". (2 words) (STEERING COMMITTEE)

Question of the month. This month's question comes from Linda N. in Edison, NJ.

Our company has many customized legacy systems and a whole staff of programmers. I'm having a hard time getting buy-in for an ERP project. What can I do? Linda, you need to accept the fact that the people who have built and maintain the legacy systems really believe that this is the best solution for your company - for the past, present and future. However, keep in mind that to drive an ERP initiative forward requires Vision, and a Change mentality. Change requires courage and leadership from the top. Getting top management to understand the benefits and practices that other leading companies in their space have achieved by standardizing on integrated solutions is a key step. Once top management has this vision, they will create the environment for change that you need.

A Look Ahead To Next Month

In November we'll our focus on obstacles to ERP implementation and success.

We want your feedback. Contact us

Innovative IT Consulting, LLC
(631) 549-1685