Working IT: A scandalous waste of business money

Debbie Mayo-Smith

Working  IT

You’ve heard the saying: You don’t know what you don’t know until someone shows you.

Nowhere is this more true, or of paramount importance, than to understand the wastage involving every computer at your company.

I’m not referring to staff fiddling around with social media or Trade Me.

Measures can be put in place to curb that.

Let me give you three examples to illustrate the problem I’m writing about.

Scenario one: the managing director said no
I was finalising details for training the administrative team of an organisation with a very large member database.

I said to the managing director: “Since I’m flying in anyway, shall I throw in some training on database management with the email marketing while with your team?

“Oh no, it’s not necessary,” the MD responded, “we’ve got a great database.”

Later on site, I had a spare half hour so I innocently said to the ladies: “Your MD said you don’t need any help with your database. What else can I help you with?”

They were incredulous. Horrified. Their reply: “The director comes to us, and asks for a list. Then he goes back to his office and closes the door.

"It might take us a few hours, but most often takes us a few days. We do get the list to him. He has no idea what we go through to create that list.”

I asked them to show me a few of their problems managing the data.

It was my turn to be scandalised. I was immediately able to show them several different Excel functions that instantaneously could do what was taking them hours or days to complete.

Row by row. By row. By row. They nearly fell over in joy.

The hours they had wasted over the years. The hours they would now be able to save.

Scenario two: the executive team didn’t know
An inbox productivity workshop for 14 senior managers, including the MD.

As you expect, their time is valuable, they’re all highly paid and, of course, they all spend a considerable amount of time working with email.

I asked them: “Do you know you have your own private inbox secretary? Ready to automatically read all the emails you receive and the ones you send; then answer the emails, file, forward or delete them?" 

Not one of the 14 executives knew this inbox function called Rules. Just this one tip alone with creative thinking thrown in would save each one of them at least half an hour a day.

This equates to112.5 hours per 45 working week year. Per manager.

What an opportunity cost. What a waste of overhead – more than $100,000.

Scenario three: interviewing an office manager applicant
“I’m superb at the computer,” she said, and continued with all the ways over the years she has used software.

Proficiency with MS Office was one of the main job requirements.

When it was my turn to describe the Office Manager role, in an offhand manner I mentioned something about email.

“Oh, I’m just great with Outlook,” she replied.

Thinking my luck couldn’t get any better with a more suitable applicant, I innocently asked: “So, tell me, how do you use Rules?”

A blank quizzical stare was her only response. I was stunned. How could someone professing to be so good on the computer not know about Rules?

In my opinion, the Rules function in email programs is one of the most important items to know. Full stop.

These three separate true stories all point to the same fact.

Almost everyone works very inefficiently with their software. From the managing director down.

How does this happen?

Over time, efficiency and productivity are impeded by five factors:

1. Expectations that staff should and could use software without any experience or training.

2. Increasing volumes of email sent and received.

3. Software upgrades in the office without accompanying training.

4. The lack of books or resources available for staff to consult.

5. IT help desks focus more so on systems and solving problems – not on education.

Most people perform actions manually or ways they’ve eked out.

Why didn’t the managing director know to ask his team why a list took them two days to prepare when it should have been done in 20 minutes?

The solution to the problem is helping people, staff to discover the diamonds of productivity waiting at their fingertips if they can take the time to learn if there is a better way of doing things.

This can encompass formal training to the informal of books, manuals or even implementing a share a computer tip portion to regular meetings.

Debbie Mayo-Smith works with businesses that want more effective management and staff. www.debbiespeaks.co.nz


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4 Comments & Questions

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So true. In my experience, management tended to view the down-time associated with general training and/or upgrade-related training as lost productivity. How ironic, and shortsighted.

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Good Piece! I am constantly gobsmacked at how badly New Zealand businesses are run.. Management IT illiteracy is the tip of a rather huge iceberg.

Too few businesses have anything approximating a real strategy or gameplan that is even remotely forwards looking....

Keep up the good work!

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This dumb management unwillingness to spend on, or even just attend to, simple training seems to be getting worse rather than better. Good on you for pointing it out.

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I'll never forget the day my NZ boss was looking over my shoulder while I was working.

"How did you do that?" he asked, gobsmacked that I was running a short script to automate a tedious, repetitive task.

"It's in the manual" I replied. "I read it at home".

He turned and walked away.

Fast-forward 15 years. I'm in Australia now and I can tell you things are done differently here. Onsite training, up-skilling, and high levels of professionalism from top to bottom are the expectation.

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