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Thought leadership from SAI to accelerate your performance

Systems Alliance Blog

Opinion, advice and commentary on IT and business issues from SAI
Date: 2015

SAI's Josh Crone, Vice President and CTO, Software Productsand Mark Dabrowski, Vice President, SAI Digital Practice will be giving a workshop at PEX Week 2016. In “Transformation that Sticks: Using Mobile-Optimized Tools to Accelerate Business Transformation,” they’ll be talking about:

  • Accelerating process improvement and ROI with on the spot/any device access to best practices, procedures and work instructions
  • Achieving better performance by identifying, creating and conveying optimized processes—and ensuring that employees understand and execute those processes
  • Measuring the impact of process improvement efforts by identifying gaps and making needed adjustments​
  • Enabling efficient employee feedback to foster continuous process improvement​
  • Measuring employee interaction with expert content and correlating it to business results​

PEX Week is a cross-industry showcase of the most forward thinking programs and case studies in Business Transformation, BPM, Lean, Six Sigma, Operational Excellence and Change Management for information sharing, networking and benchmarking. The conference is taking place January 18-20 in Orlando. In their Biennial State of the Industry report, a survey of more than 500 process and operational excellence practitioners, the Process Excellence (PEX) Network editors revealed that the biggest pain points for organizations in 2016 will be cost/budget limitations, overcoming resistance, sustaining change, linking process with strategy and, topping the list: securing and maintaining buy-in.

Cost/Budget Limitations. Organizations are expected to do more for less, which is pushing operational excellence programs higher up the corporate agenda to-do list. Budget limitations are heavily linked with attaining executive buy-in and ensuring that changes are aligned to the business strategy, in order to attain investment.

Overcoming Resistance. Any change in any organization will be met with a certain amount of resistance and skepticism. Overcoming barriers when fostering a new program, transformation or culture is a natural core challenge that all organizations face.

Sustaining Change. Change management and continuous improvement techniques, such as encouragement and ownership of programs, and learning how to monitor maturity should come into play.

Linking Process with Strategy. Organizations and top-level executives are placing more importance on driving business performance though operational excellence and strategy.

Securing and Maintaining Buy-In. Maintaining buy-in was highlighted in the report as slightly more critical than securing buy-in will be in 2016, underscoring the fact that organizations have already started to drive forward but need to stay on course.

Has your organization looked at ways to accelerate and measure the impact of process improvement? Do you have a feedback loop in place to gather suggestions for improving documentation or procedures? Are you able to measure the effectiveness of your training? Gauging what’s working and not working in your organization—and gaining the participation of employees at all levels—is critical to delivering sustained growth and remaining competitive. After all, front-line employees, whether in manufacturing, retail, healthcare or IT are where your best ideas come from. Supporting them with information when, where and how they need it, and providing a way for them to communicate in real time means that they will be more effective partners in organizational success. Stay tuned to the SAI blog for more on how you can create lasting transformation in your organization.

We hope to see you in sunny Orlando—our workshop is scheduled at 11 a.m. on January 18!

Once upon a time workers joined a company and stayed for life. Those days are over and will probably never come back, but many companies today have yet to embrace this fact. Their structure and HR processes treat turnover as the exception rather than the norm. Operating as if employees will stay for decades sets everyone up for failure when they inevitably move on.

As the economy has improved, voluntary turnover has grown by nearly 2% across all industries since 2010. While specific data on turnover in the technology sector is as clear as mud, what is well understood is that top talent can move around at will. The best knowledge workers are highly mobile. You should recognize that your star players are being hit up on a regular basis with offers to jump ship. Everyone with a LinkedIn profile is a passive candidate, making it easy for recruiters to find them. As one recruiter put it: “If you’re not a client, you’re a source.”

Turnover Trends GraphDuring an interview on the Tim Ferriss Show, Evernote Co-Founder Phil Libin talked about the trend:  “Basically everyone is acting like a freelancer. Everyone is doing a job, they don’t think they’re going to do it forever, they think they’re going to do it for a couple of years and then they’re moving on to the next one. That’s happening like crazy here in Silicon Valley and it’s starting to happen everywhere.”

Fighting this trend is a waste of effort. If tech titans like Google, Apple and Amazon can’t retain employees even with high salaries, highly visible projects and lavish benefits, thinking that your company will be the exception is foolish.

A more realistic goal is to embrace the trend and try to benefit from it as a company. Here are three ideas to think about:

1. Make a Turnover Binder and Keep Current Documentation

You need to be ready for any employee to leave at any time. For anyone coming from a military background, this type of thinking is second nature. A specific set of orders typically only lasts for 2-3 years. Turnover within the organization is a part of life and thus you are always preparing to hand over the office keys to your successor. The best turnovers give you a few weeks of time to work together and gradually come up to speed. The worst are “high-five turnovers” where you show up, your predecessor throws you a high-five on her way out the door and now you’re in charge without any chance to get acclimated.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have documentation ready to go for the day to day duties of key employees. Policies and procedures should be accessible to everyone all the time. Onboarding new team members will accelerate if they have key pieces of information at their fingertips on day one.

At the same time, maintaining documentation on your infrastructure, licenses and other technical information is critical. There is no excuse for this information being disorganized or out of date. Doing so puts you at major risk if a key player suddenly leaves. Keeping this information organized and up to date may be a bigger challenge than just gathering it in one place. You need to think of this as a perpetual effort to maintain accurate documentation.

As an added bonus, getting all of this information in one place will assist you in the event of an outage or major incident. Having this at your fingertips may make a huge difference if you ever need to break out your business continuity plan.

2. Embrace the Opportunity to Make Changes

Employee turnover presents a natural opportunity to introduce changes in your organization. There is no “we used to do it this way” when you don’t have a lot of long-term employees around. Change is not a bad thing; you should see it as an opportunity to improve your business and incorporate new ideas every time you have a new hire coming in the door.

In the same interview mentioned above, Phil Libin explained some of Silicon Valley’s success being tied to the freelancer culture: “This explains why things happen at such different paces in Silicon Valley, versus on the east Coast, versus in Europe, because the average tenure of knowledge workers is really shrinking and is much shorter here than in other places. The average tenure of a Google employee is something like 1.1 years. The average person at Google has only been on the job for a little over a year. They’re changing jobs all the time.”

Whenever you have turnover in a key role, you need to think about where improvements can be made in that part of your business. No organization is perfect and accelerating your evolution as a company gives you an opportunity to better adapt to the world around you.

3. Consider Adopting “Tours of Duty”

If you are ready to truly embrace the freelancer mentality, then it is time to start thinking about how to build roles that attract the best knowledge workers. Here’s where you need to get HR involved.

In their book The Alliance, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casanocha and Chris Yeh discuss an in-depth model for how to deal with a world in which everyone thinks of themselves as a freelancer. Their core concept of hiring folks to accomplish specific tasks involves thinking about each role as a “tour of duty”. This allows you to think about how each team member can contribute to the company while also growing their skills and meeting their personal objectives over a shorter period of time than a career. In a 2013 Harvard Business Review article they explained this succinctly: “You can’t build an agile company with lifetime employment contracts but you can create a better compact than every man for himself.”

One of the best ways to start thinking about this is to study your organizational design and update your job descriptions. Are the roles you have aligned with where you want to go?  Do the descriptions accurately describe the work your team is doing today and signal their strengths?  Are you providing a growth path for follow on tours in your organization?  Maybe it’s time to sit down and consider what could be done differently.

Everyone who is responsible for an organization’s web presence knows that creating, maintaining and updating content is one of the most critical and complex challenges they face.  Timely, relevant and exceptional content will keep users on your website longer, encourage repeat visits, improve search results and contribute to a successful long term web strategy. This approach is universal to just about any industry, but for an association, valuable content is critical for member retention, recruitment and continuing engagement.

At the core of membership organizations is the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  With strength in numbers, a collective voice can help influence policy, advocate for change and generate momentum for a cause.  And those are only the external advantages.   A collective voice can also create relevant and engaging web content that will demonstrate the value of membership – and strengthen the association’s own impact in the process 

Associations that are successful at curating content wisely tap into the expertise and achievements of their member base to highlight advances, spotlight ideas or efficiencies and deliver recent news in the industry. Leveraging members’ common goals not only provides engaging web content but also validates your impact and expertise. 

member spotlights

Be sure to tap into your member network for content. Their work can be a goldmine of images, videos, news, projects and best practices. When our client, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) was collecting images for their new website, they reached out to their member network which resulted in not just images, but a collection of hundreds of quality stories of students and faculty in action. APLU recognized the exciting opportunities that come with leveraging member content by providing prominent real estate on their new homepage to feature member profiles. These “Member Spotlights” are made memorable and inspiring through storytelling. The spotlights are also used as calls to action on key website pages to add dimension in the form of real-world examples to each respective cause.​

Your members are probably equally eager to share their stories and achievements. And there are advantages on both sides. Your members’ work is validated among peers and influencers, they become more invested in the cause and at the same time, you’re increasing membership value by sharing relevant content among your constituents.   It’s a win-win proposition for all involved.

To learn more about how you can add value by creating a member-centric approach to your web presence, join us for our next webinar

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced a $218,400 settlement with St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, MA relating to a HIPAA compliance violation. 

This enormous fine wasn’t the result of employees deliberately leaking information.  It didn’t come as a result of a major data breach caused by criminal hackers.  It came about because hospital administrators didn’t have adequate controls in place around their IT.

From the Boston Globe:

“The settlement… comes after federal regulators investigated a 2012 complaint that employees at St. Elizabeth’s used an Internet-based document sharing program to store health information of at least 498 patients.”

Employees who likely meant well started putting sensitive data into the cloud.  That’s a major shadow IT headache for any organization.  For those businesses that are subject to HIPAA or other compliance requirements, it’s also a very expensive headache.

Back to the Globe:

“Organizations must pay particular attention to HIPAA’s requirements when using Internet-based document sharing applications,” Jocelyn Samuels, director of the HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “In order to reduce potential risks and vulnerabilities, all workforce members must follow all policies and procedures, and entities must ensure that incidents are reported and mitigated in a timely manner.”

Think this can’t happen to your organization? Wrong.  According to the AMA, even if you’re in the dark about the rules you can be fined up to $50,000.  That’s a lot of money for an honest mistake.

hipaa requirements

Acadia healthcare policies



If you’re handling any kind of sensitive patient data on your network, now is the time to take notice. Here’s where you should be focusing your efforts:

Training, Training, and More Training: Compliance issues are a people problem, not a technology problem. Having organization-wide understanding of compliance obligations is non-negotiable.  Eradicating shadow IT and making sure that all of your employees understand why they can’t use the latest fad cloud application without permission is vital.  Stop letting users make mistakes out of ignorance.

Policies and procedures and tools to share them matter.  Doctors may take an oath to do no harm but if they or other staffers don’t know the rules, how could they know if they’re hurting patients through noncompliance?



policy tip

User Proofing Wherever Possible: Having active control around where sensitive data is stored and how it is transmitted is crucial.  That means you need a technical solution in place to enforce control obligations.  Systems that don’t enforce the standards by default will burn you.  This could be anything from automated filters to watch for particular content in emails, to encryption software that secures data at rest. 

Robust IT Governance Processes: Is your IT department disconnected from the strategic direction of the business?  How well aligned are IT’s priorities when compared with the end users?  Fixing gaps like these discourages users from trying to implement shadow IT.  If stakeholders are engaged through an IT Steering Committee or other governance structure they have the power to keep IT aligned with their needs.  There’s no reason to go it alone if you’ve got organizational partners who are focused on enabling the business.

Not sure where to get started?  SAI can help.

Working on the business development side in the web & digital space, it seems as if every other week I talk to a marketing executive who knows their website needs help, but doesn’t really know what to do about it. If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. It can be challenging to convince senior leadership and other internal stakeholders that your web presence needs attention, particularly if “attention” equates to “spending a lot of money” in their estimation.

Getting internal support for a big project is going to be harder for some organizations than others, and there are a lot of variables to consider. And depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your website, you could be looking at a fairly sizable investment for refreshing your online presence....Read More

Dec 2015