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MIT gives Pro 1 kudos for 'working smarter'

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A study by the MIT's Center for Information Systems Research gives Protection 1 kudos for Working Smarter.

At MIT, Working Smarter is a proper noun, a concept the group defines as having "an organization-wide habit of using a digitized platform to optimize each individual's contribution to enterprise business objectives."

MIT surveyed more than 200 public companies in 2010 and said that those who adhere to practices of Working Smarter "were significantly correlated with higher business impact from IT." Yeah, yeah, that's nice, but you'll be interested in this "and higher impact from IT was, in turn, significantly (and positively) associated with return on equity."

This is not a new study (it was released in February 2012), and Security Systems News has previously reported on many of the details of the Protection 1 operation, its daily scorecard, Tech Tracker, removing its IVR (getting a real person rather than a computer when you call) etc., nevertheless, I thought this report gave a nice snapshot of the operation.

Below are some paraphrased and quoted highlights:

The report says that P1 CEO Tim Whall "set out to explain how individual employees throughout the company could contribute to this goal [delivering outstanding customer service] —in other words, how they could work smarter."

Don Young, P1 CIO spent five months developing a daily scorecard on the metrics related to Whall's "five touchpoints that could make or break customer  relationships: sales, monitoring, billing , installation, and service response." Those metrics include: "Time to installation, time to service, number of sales activities, number of cancellations, retained monthly revenue, and new sales." The scorecard summary and detailed results can be accessed online by top executives, regional leaders and branch managers. They're updated every day and "Thus line managers have come to see it as a reliable guage of their daily operating performance."

The study says: "What's unique about Protection 1's scorecard is that it does not report financial data." This is particularly interesting to me. P1 execs have told me they do not talk to their employees about financial goals but about customer service. This study backs that up.

There's a quote in the study from Don Young: "The P&L will take care of itself if we make sure that the metrics on the scorecard are up to par." And, Joe Sanchez, SVP Operations, is quoted as saying: "There's no analysis paralysis going on here. You want to have a good day? You know what's on the scorecard."

The report says: "The power of the daily socrecard is that the underlying data can be traced back to the daily performance of front line workers."

In addition to removing the automated call system, Whall mandated that all calls be answered within 60 seconds, that service backlogs be eliminated, and that installers and techs show up on time for 8 a.m. appointments.

Technology improvements include Tech Tracker, and Sales Central, which automated the quote, approval, contract submission, record of sale, parts ordering and commission payments.

P1 execs, the report says, think of themselves as coaches rather than managers and offer leadership training to help develop coaching skills for all front line managers.

The report concludes: "In companies that are working smarter, leaders focus attention not on stock price or quarterly P&L, but on determining every day whether everyone is having a good day. Protection 1 achieves working smarter by: 1.developing and constantly enhancing the underlying information 2. articulating and, where appropriate, automating business expectations 3. clarifying individual accountabilties 4. persistently coaching individuals to ensure they understand how they contribute to business success. This is hard work. But if management doesn't commit to helping everyone work smarter, no company can expect its technology to lead to success in the digital economy."

Here's a description of CISR: It "conducts field-based research on issues related to the management and use of information technology (IT) in complex organizations. Established at the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1974, our mission is to develop concepts and frameworks to help executives address the IT-related challenges of leading increasingly dynamic, global, and information-intensive organizations."

The authors of the report are Jeanne W. Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research, and Cynthia M. Beath, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, Austin.