A little while ago I was reading the excellent book “Drive” by Dan Pink. If you’re a business leader or struggling to understand either yours or your staff’s motivation go out and buy it. Right. Now.

Motivation is something that has always struck me as something that isn’t well understood even about yourself personally, let alone those who you lead – it’s almost a black box and Dan Pink has done the best in bringing the principles behind it into an easily understandable format for all.

I think the most useful thing that I’ve learnt out of the book (and strategies I’ve employed subsequent to reading it) is that salary isn’t a primary motivation for the very vast majority of your staff as long as they feel they are earning enough to:

a) Meet all needs in their life adequately

b) Feel valued sufficiently salary wise in the organisation comparable to their peers

If you don’t take care of Points A and B in your salary packages for staff then realistically anything else you do culture or motivation wise just isn’t going to work.

But the main point of the book is that for most companies their setting of employee remuneration and motivation is fundamentally broken. To use Dan Pink’s 140 character twitter overview of his own book:

“Carrots & Sticks are so last Century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.”

I think the really interesting part for me is that drawing on a blog post from a friend and mentor of mine – Mark Ilott – http://hummingblue.com.au/2012/03/commission-plans-vs-customer-service/ – Most incentive plans using traditional carrot and sticks approach are both easily gamed to an employees advantage and usually end in an individuals goals being not aligned with an organisations goals, a quite silly position to find ourselves in after hundreds of years of paying people for work!

So, what’s the solution?! What keeps staff engaged, employed (with you!), happy and productive? I can only speak for what I’ve read about and what I’ve seen inside of teams I’ve led.

Firstly, you have to pay a market competitive salary that ensures people can take care of their immediate life requirements. If your employees are working two jobs because they can’t make ends meet just working for you then it’s a fair bet that you aren’t getting the best out of your employees when they’re working at your job. The “working poor” is a reasonably new phenomenon, but is particularly prevalent in the USA where staff can actually be working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. It’s a very destructive way of living, but is forced upon people for whom a 40 hour job just doesn’t get them by due to a low wage not sufficient for living.

Second, monetary incentives are NOT the be all and end all – 99% of staff would prefer $2000 worth of training than an extra $2000 worth of salary.

BUT you don’t actually need to pay any more to get happy staff, as long as you remember the PAM principles.

Purpose: Your staff need to believe in a vision and buy into it, if you can’t inspire them with a cohesive vision that encompasses not just them, but their customers, community and other stakeholders you’re going to lose out to people that can. I liken it to Army soldiers, in World War 2 the vision was the ‘protection’ of the way of life and men worldwide went, placed themselves in terrible danger and fought for next to no pay, in a country where they knew no one and hundreds of thousands had died before them in the same place – they did that for the vision, they bought into the purpose. Alternatively, you could hire mercenaries who would go there but at what price? And would they stick out the journey? Or would they collect their cash and go? Are they interested in protecting the way of life (or the culture of your company) or simply collecting cash on their way to somewhere else where they’ll be paid more cash?

Mastery: There are very few people who don’t want to be better at what they do every day they do it. Improving yourself is one of the great things you can do for yourself that brings immense joy as you improve at a task (or a sport!). As someone who has never picked up an AFL ball until 4 weeks ago, I threw myself into joining a team to learn how to play and subsequently have spent hours improving my kicking game and practicing in preparation for my first game – it’s a very rewarding process getting better at something and giving your staff the opportunity and investment (both time and money) to do so is immensely valuable to them. Praise effort – not talent.

Autonomy: People want and need to choose their own destiny and to be supported in that process. Generally you’ll find that the people that are given the freedom to excel will do so, those that are constrained will never find their full potential. This is the crux of the 20% time that Google has – give people the ability to have some self determination and great things happen.

For myself personally, I’m very intrinsically motivated out of the box, whether I’m working for a lot of money, or none at all, I want to excel and believe I can make a difference, I also need to have the ability to self determine and I think most of the leaders I know feel the same way – it’s generally why you’re a leader in the first place – so why wouldn’t you give your staff the opportunity to have the same sort of intrinsic motivation? What’s the worst that could happen?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Outsourcing

April 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

Working back on my 3 times a week blog posting and another topic I’ve been thinking a lot about is outsourcing.

I’m a little obsessed with ODesk.com at the moment to the point where I’ve pretty much outsourced every aspect of my life that I don’t like to do myself onto ODesk. It’s been both a liberating and somewhat scary experience and I believe that it’s a similar feeling of that which companies who outsource their IT for instance feel when undertaking that process.

There’s a few things which lend itself very easily to outsourcing on something like ODesk – anything that is people resource intensive but can be easily explained via email or Skype – such as Data Entry, Travel planning, secretarial work, web design or mobile app design, graphic design and translation services can all easily and cheaply be outsourced to people who wish to do it in their spare time, or wish to make a full time role out of outsourced services.

This really is the globalisation of resourcing and something which will become more prevalent once TRUST is established. In the current outsourcing or crowdsourcing models the one thing that is missing is trust assurance. Sure, you can check people’s reviews and their previous work, but would you really feel comfortable giving a stranger in another country all of your financial details to do your bookkeeping? Certainly there are some people who will take that risk once factoring in the reward, but many others will struggle to address the trust aspect before outsourcing some work. To those people, I would say exactly what I say to people who talk about the ‘cloud’ as a destination – there are some things that lend themselves to a model and others that do not, choose what you feel comfortable doing and when you’d feel comfortable doing it – dip your toes in and see what you think before taking a ‘trust’ leap.

I think a perfect first step is travel planning – if you have complicated and likely expensive travel coming up why not get an odesk.com account and ask someone to assist to find you the best/cheapest travel plans and hotels? It’s likely to cost you somewhere between $6 and $12 per hour, but isn’t it better that someone comprehensively checks out your plans for you for what likely amounts to less than $30 and could save you hundreds or have you staying somewhere with better reviews? It’s a great use of the technology and you won’t be sorry you try! They’ll even send you synopsis of the hotel reviews and airline reviews if you ask to make your decision process much quicker and easier.

Anyway, I love it, I’m off to work out how to Outsource my blog posts to a third party 😉

Sorry for the delay in posting, I’ve broken my 3 posts a week rule, but I’m back now!

As part of the Labtech rollout we’re in the middle of, I’ve spent a LOT of time with our automation team (thanks Peter M, you’ve been awesome!)reviewing the types of monitors that are important to us as MSPs and to our clients. It’s very hard to distinguish between what is truly important and what is ‘noise’ and if you don’t get the balance exactly right you risk missing an important alert for a client or a trend which may lead to a client issue.

Labtech has an interesting approach to the alerting/monitoring part which is new to me, as part of their “Ignite” functionality there are a number of monitors turned on out of the box – some of which are useful, some not so much.

For instance, we’ve had one machine create (and fortunately auto-close!) nearly 10000 tickets in Connectwise just from an alert which I think could be better tuned so keeping an eye on this during a rollout is very important. Conversely, other alerts built into the Ignite functionality like knowing if a client machine is on a RBL can help troubleshoot mail flow issues and virus infections, so you take the good with the bad I guess.

But I can’t help but think there’s a lack of higher level thinking on monitoring and I think it’s because we focus on individual problems (like a service being stopped, or a disk being out of space) and we don’t look at outcomes.

I’ve had a bit of a discussion with Tim Brewer about outcome monitoring rather than individual issue monitoring and we’ve come up with a list of things we think that individual monitors should be ‘trued up’ to reflect. The main one is:

UXM – User Experience Monitoring

We spend a lot of time wondering about whether our clients are happy with the performance of their network, but what do we do to actually ensure that they feel like their machines are responding in a snappy and expected way. I liken this to the type of Benchmarking that tools like 3DMark complete for gaming machines etc, you need to test real world applications and their performance on a PC/Server/Internet/everything basis to truly understand how a client is experiencing things in their world. Wouldn’t it be great to give an ‘experience score’ to a clients network? I believe that the below experience monitoring is required to be trued up into this figure to give a true cross section of performance across all elements of a clients network.

In our opinion, these are:

CXM – Cloud Experience Monitoring

If your client is using cloud services (and who isn’t nowadays) measuring the performance of these services is essential to understanding the “UXM” of a clients network. The performance of a clients network may be amazing, but if they’re using a poor cloud service provider, or there is a misconfiguration their UXM may be well below what is expected.

CEM – Client Endpoint Monitoring

This is traditionally actually something MSPs do poorly at monitoring, how many of you are using monitors to check the RAM usage, or processor performance of your clients workstations? I’d venture to say not that many, but this can more often be the cause of client problems than any other issue and is essentially money for jam if you are monitoring it – you can easily go to clients are say “these 4 machines are consistently being used beyond their maximum, can we quote you a new one?” – ready made demand generation!

MDM – Mobile Device Monitoring

Another area for growth, most MSPs aren’t monitoring mobile devices and this is a easy add-on for most MSP contracts. All of the major RMM vendors have MDM now with agents for most of the mobile platforms so why not get it out there as a ‘value add’ to your customers?

CNM – Client Network Monitoring

This is more in the traditional realm of MSP monitoring tools, but again I think we can improve in this area. Checking simple things like pings between WAN sites, or utilisation on internet/switch/router links can identify issues before they happen which are often blamed on other aspects of the network or are difficult to identify.

CAM – Client Application Monitoring

This is one of those key things that need to be monitored to give you a holistic view of the network – what if a client has blazingly fast internet, cloud services and server/network but still has the pain of every time they open Office on their PCs it takes a long time because they have a plugin for a legacy application installed which is slowing it down markedly? This can be heavily affecting a clients productivity and happiness but these are the sort of things easily missed that can be blamed on other aspects of the network if not carefully monitored.

IEM – Internet Experience Monitoring

I’ve seen this happen 100s of times for a variety of reasons. A clients internet seems fast, they’re never actually using any more than 10% of their bandwidth but accessing a particular site is slow for them because of it’s design, or routing, or any number of a dozen reasons for a particular site to be slow. I think this could be tailored per client for an MSP to ask “what are the top 10 websites your staff use for business purposes?” and monitor these with rigor to give an experience score.

CSM – Client Security Monitoring

This is one that we actually do pretty well as MSPs because we know the consequences if we don’t – but a simple ‘score’ based on Updates installed, Antivirus installed (and up to date if you’re still using a Signature based AV), and open ports/network scans clean would be helpful to give a holistic view of the network

Maybe as an industry if we move away from the “C Drive is down to 10% of available disk space” and onto “Client XYZ has a poor Internet Experience Monitoring score” monitoring might be a little more valued by our clients.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Performance Report

Partnership

February 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

The most important aspect in any MSPs business is establishing partnerships – there’s absolutely nothing more important if you wish to be successful than understanding the reasons why you should partner and then deciding who you’ll partner with.

There’s a number of people MSPs should look to partner with and I’d like to make a suggestion on who they might be and why:

  • Customers: This is obviously a no brainer, but a lot of people overlook this and simply become service providers to their customer base. That isn’t enough if you want a mutually fulfilling relationship – you need to be partners in every sense. Your success should be tied to the success of the customers business; if you can provide them with the technology underpinnings to outperform their competitors, price becomes irrelevant and you start to deliver true value to customers. In saying that, customers need to WANT to partner, some are more than content with a service provider relationship and never want you to do anything else than deliver a good service – there’s nothing wrong with this, but demonstrating value to customers in this scenario is very difficult and you could quite easily be replaced by someone else who is doing it cheaper, or promising better service (whether or not that is true, is another story).
  • Industry Groups: There’s a number of industry groups for MSPs which are great environments for networking and for improving every aspect of your business – some examples would be HTG, Service Leadership, local business chambers etc. There’s a difference though between ‘attending’ these groups and ‘partnering’ with these groups and I’d suggest the difference is intent – if you’re going there with the intent to share, participate, learn, give back and grow together then you’re partnering with them – if you’re there to just improve yourself and be passive, I’d suggest that you’re not partnering – both are valid approaches and there’s no judgement here but I truly believe that one has tremendous payback associated to it
  • Vendors: This is a tricky one and can be fraught with difficulties – some vendors understand partnership and want not just for you to sell their products, but to do better business and offer you the support and guidance to do so but in return they may expect more from you than a traditional vendor – a greater share of your business, a case study, assistance on steering committees or advisory boards etc – but if you’re not prepared to give, how can you expect a vendor to do so?. Other vendors just don’t get (or value) partnership and want nothing other than for you to buy/sell more of their stuff – again, both valid and common approaches but their value differs greatly. At Anittel we try to not go as wide but go much deeper with the vendors that we work with and try greatly to partner with each organisation that wants to partner with us and can see the value in doing so – we’re very fortunate to have great partners in industry as a result of this open approach and look forward to those relationships being long lasting and mutually beneficial
  • Your staff: another one that sounds pretty self explanatory but is overlooked regularly. Your employees are the front line of your business, they’re who your customers see every day and who they form relationships with. Partnering with your employees is not as simple as offering them a job and some occasional training or a perk here and there – it’s about understanding what they want out of their career and supporting and developing them to get there, whether that’s inside of your business or elsewhere. I’ve been very fortunate to have some great people supporting my career inside of Anittel and they’ve chosen to partner with me to increase my skills and leadership ability not just by offering courses, or career opportunities, but by sharing their wisdom and being patient with me lack of wisdom. Should I ever choose to leave Anittel I believe that it will be with the full support of those people who have nurtured me – my friend Tim Brewer says it as “It’s not being cast off, it’s being launched out and having those people tell everyone how great you are” or something like that, I may be paraphrasing and he probably used more words!

I hope you can see the value in partnership and choose to pursue that with all around you, the personal and professional value is inestimable – I also hope that when you come across vendors or people that don’t value partnership that you choose to attempt to persuade them and if not, find an alternative because you are forgoing a lot of value and rewarding poor behaviour by working with people or organisations that don’t understand partnership.

OK – Back to talking about technology things! 🙂

I feel like again I should state this – I’m not a shill for any product, If I’m talking about it, it’s because I use it (or my customers do) and love it or I hate it.

With this particular product line, I can also say that I’ve sat on the Quosal advisory board for a meeting so have a little more view point to the future of the product than some other people. But I have no financial interest in any of the customers, nor do I get paid from any of them!

Now, that’s out of the way, I want to spend some time talking about what I consider to be the Dream Team of the MSP world.

Anittel utilise what Connectwise calls “The IT Office bundle” of Connectwise, Quosal and Labtech. We have used Connectwise for all 3 years of Anittel, Quosal for probably 2 and Labtech for only 4 months or so.

Firstly, Connectwise is the secret sauce, this is our ‘source of truth’ and where all of our data resides in one format or another – configurations from Labtech, Quotes as Opportunities from Quosal etc – everything goes into this system and it’s where we pull and push data to and from, for instance to our reporting tool for MIT customers (shoutout to Brightgauge!) and to our accounting package. It’s utilitarian and built as a robust PSA for MSPs – you’re limited by your imagination only with what you want to do with and all of our 210 staff use this on a daily basis for everything from documentation to time sheeting and invoices. This isn’t a basic service desk bolted onto a RMM tool – this is a ITIL based full featured PSA tool.

Quosal, well, what can you say about Quosal. We purchased it basically to get uniformity to our sales proposals – but it’s so much more than that today. Kent, Steven and Sam are pretty much geniuses and this is actually my favourite product of the three. Quosal will do opportunity management for you (in conjunction with Connectwise), has a fully featured web and mobile client, picture based quoting (ask them for a demo of this) and enables you to protect sales margin in a way unseen in any competing products. We have seen a significant improvement in hardware and software gross margin from the implementation of this product and it has more than paid for itself many times over.

I’ve also been fortunate to see the ‘next’ version of Quosal and you’ll just have to take my word for it, it’s awesome.

What I like a lot about Quosal is that it’s designed for sales people, it’s not designed for highly technical people, so it’s very simple to use and will save sales people time which means adoption is a breeze.

Finally, Labtech – we recently transitioned from Kaseya to Labtech and it’s probably the best decision I’ve made over the last 3 years. We were using Kaseya as a simple remote control tool and not really unlocking the true value of the product, one could debate whether it was the Kaseya product, or our adoption of the Kaseya platform – but the Labtech product itself more than stands on it’s own two feet as a stand alone RMM tool whereas Kaseya was a RMM and PSA tool built into one (with more development work being done on the PSA than the RMM), it’s value therefore was limited as we already had a investment in Connectwise. Our staff are loving Labtech thus far and the work that it’s done on minimising our alerts, maintaining our clients PCs and Servers without as much intervention has done wonders for the improvement of our productivity.

But the main reason we transitioned to Labtech because we saw a lot of value in the integration piece between Connectwise, Quosal and Labtech which holds a lot of promise to us due to our size and the synergies we can obtain by having tight integration between the three products.

I know Arnie at IT Nation 2012 demonstrated a similar scenario I’m paraphrasing here, which if you saw should have made you run out and buy all three products but if you didn’t I’m about to blow your mind with awesomeness

Arnie demonstrated a PC installed with Labtech, a Quosal client and a Connectwise Client – the PC was underspecified with resources and required additional RAM. Here’s the information flow which mostly occurs AUTOMATICALLY!

  • The Labtech agent showed too little RAM for the users performance requirements
  • This pushed a configuration into Connectwise
  • A quote was then raised for RAM options automatically in Quosal and emailed to the Account Manager for their review (maybe 1 x 8Gb or 2 x 4gb with options for both)
  • An opportunity was created in Connectwise for this opportunity
  • The customer receives an email quote via OrderPorter and gives their approval electronically
  • This approval closes the opportunity in Connectwise and posts an order to your accounting package (if setup)
  • A ticket is created automatically for the install of the RAM into Connectwise
  • Once the ticket is completed and closed, the configuration is updated in Connectwise and a ‘before and after’ configuration email is automatically sent to the customer showing the amount of RAM they had before and what they have now

How awesome is that?!?!?! Did your head just explode?!

This is true demand generation from your RMM tool out to your quoting tool and delivers value through your tools to your customers that you couldn’t have with really any other tools in this same format.

All of this stuff isn’t future technology or pipe dream stuff, it’s here and now. If you want to talk about how we leverage these tools, please feel free to call, email or message me below!

 

There’s been a lot of press lately on people abdicating leadership following on from Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to hand over the reigns of the Catholic Church.

It got me thinking a lot on the abdication of leadership and when it is acceptable to abdicate leadership, what prerequisites should be met before one chooses to leave a role of leadership and what is an acceptable reason to do so?

The Pope left for ill health, Edward VII abdicated for love, Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated for family – all I’d suggest are good and valid reasons to give up leadership – particularly the demanding leadership of church or country.

But I’d venture to say there’s another solid reason for abdicating leadership and one which more leaders could potentially consider – the abdication of leadership when remaining in leadership could cause significant damage to those that you lead.

A prime example of this is the current Australian Prime Minister – polls are showing a disaster for the Labor party but PM Gillard appears bent on staying even if it means the literal destruction of the Labor party brand in Australia. Is this an example of where ‘taking one for the team’ is the right thing to do?

I can’t say either way but on a personal note, this is something that I’ve actually had to live through myself, although certainly not on the scale of a Pope, or royalty, or a Prime Minister!

There has been and will be a number of changes at Anittel over the coming weeks and I have found it incredibly difficult to be supportive of some of them as I previously diametrically opposed the objectives they were aimed at. Staying in my current role while holding those opinions would have been detrimental to the people who I lead and invariably to the success of Anittel. I have however, come around to the opinion that it is the right and proper thing for the business to do should they want to be successful in their chosen approach and so it’s appropriate as a senior leader of the business that to our staffing group we are uniform in our support for the proposed approach.

This has taken a lot of personal growth and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve learnt a lot out of the process – but what I think I’ve learnt the most is that sometimes, the best thing to do for the team you lead is to get out of the way and allow the future – future challenges, future leaders – to happen, even if that future is without you in their direct management structure.

With that – I’d like to announce that I am starting a new role as the Director of Consulting for Anittel – primarily that role will comprise of executive level engagement with our Tier 1 vendors, speaking at industry and supplier events, being Anittel’s brand ambassador and working with our customer base as a “CTO for hire” discussing specific technology trends which will help our customers outperform their market competitors.

I’m really excited about this new opportunity and thankful that Anittel has the scope and scale to allow this high profile role in the industry.

I’d also like to thank the hundreds of those who I’ve had the privilege to lead over the last 3 years – I’m confident that you’ve taught me much more than I’ve taught you and I’ll be forever grateful for the support and friends that I’ve made along the way. I’m excited for this next stage of my journey and I hope that those who I have led before will enjoy the transition to a new style of management and a new organisational structure.