If you have difficult task, give it to a lazy person: they will find an easier way to do it.
Every time I hear people mention Hlade's law it makes me smile, but there is an important truth behind it too. To me, Hlade's Law is just a variant of the more well-known aphorism: necessity is the mother of invention.
I am so pleased I actually have time to write this blog post AND in working hours AND not while doing 62 other things at same time AND without being nagged several times a day to deliver an overdue deadline. How? I am more efficient.
When you have to cut back on time, money, resources but increase your output - the status quo no longer works. You can't just work harder and harder ad infinatum - your thinking has to change. You get off the treadmill, step back and look at what you could be doing differently instead.
IAM Cloud has gone through a significant transformation over the past 6 months and we have had to re-evaluate every area of our business - from our development, infrastructure, technical support, customer success, marketing, sales, and our company's management. It's amazing how when you start to get out the fine tooth comb, how many inefficiencies you find have crept in.
When I arrived at IAM Cloud we went through a massive growth spurt to keep up with the growing demand for the IAM Cloud platform. Growth is great but if it comes too suddenly and you’re not prepared things can get complicated quickly. When you're focusing on growth, efficiency can often get deprioritised - but heed our warning, lose track of efficency at your own peril. While we had a bigger pool of resources who in every area of the business seemed super busy we didn’t seem to be moving forward. In fact even worse we were becoming unstable, inefficient and unproductive. A lot of busy people with no clear focus, direction, organisation or well defined processes can be very dangerous.
So over the last 6 months we have cut our overall operating costs in half. But, at the same time, our service actually started getting better! All our major performance indicators showed significant improvement - the speed of our onboardings, the response time of tickets, the resolution time of issues, service down-time, customer satisfaction. Major improvements for half the operating cost - that's the power of efficiency. Here's what we did:
1. Blue Ocean Strategy
In the 1990's Michael Porter, famed Harvard Business School professor, devised a concept called 'Three Generic Strategies' to describe, well, three generic strategies a business could take to gain advantage over its competitors. The key insight from Porter is that a business should focus on one of the three strategies (low cost, premium value or differentiation), and not attempt to achieve several at the same time, else risk getting stuck in a kind of commercial nomansland. They're a great guide for any business, large or small, but they have since been challenged by a number of people who believe that in certain industries it is possible to achieve both low-cost and premium value at the same time. This holy-grail has been termed a 'Blue Ocean Strategy'. We believe strongly that SaaS technologies, including IAM Cloud, have the very real potential to become Blue Ocean products. In the past 6 months, Blue Ocean Strategy has guided everything we do.
2. Noise Cancellation
I would often find myself at 8am with 16 unread Skype messages, 200 emails, numerous text messages, Whatsapps, post it notes on my monitor, pigeons dead on my desk – it was just out of control! Even worse I would receive the same message from several different people from several different communication channels. If we had any major issues with a customer I would spend more time reading all the alerts from various sources rather than speaking to that Customers or even more importantly getting a plan together to resolve it.
We did a total review of all our systems and processes and put some key rules in place for communication. Almost overnight I had 2 more hours in my day to be more proactive and so did everyone else. That is a lot of immediate improved efficiencies across the business.
3. I, Automaton
Customer relationships has always been really important to me so the thought of automating ANYTHING scared me to death. I really didn’t want to lose that personal touch with our customers. However we soon realised there was a lot of stuff people were doing which could be automated in both our communications and technology. Automation can be very effective as you know the touchpoints with customers are happening or you know a technical process is going to work as its free from human input or error. Deployed in the right areas (and we have been super careful to ensure we cover the RIGHT areas) it can transform the customer experience and output.
We looked at everything – how many people were in meetings, how many people were in emails – did we need all these cooks in everything we did? We started at the top by re-evaluating the executive team and how they spent their time. For a growing business we found that all the Senior Management team were getting involved in all decisions – was this really necessary? I used to be involved in finance decisions, legal decisions, what colour the new walls would be in our new office – EVERYTHING! Being me, I loved that but it wasn’t right for IAM Cloud and ultimately it wasn’t right for me or anyone else in the same boat. It was exhausting. My focus had to be the customers if we were going to give our customers the best experience with less resources. So we divided up the executive tasks and introduced a fantastic role – the COO. Our COO is the most detailed, pragmatic, fair and calm person you could meet. Leon perfectly compliments our energetic, passionate and highly driven CEO, Adam. The combination really works for IAM Cloud and it means we remain very innovative and forward thinking but we get the detail and stability with it.
Here are some of our operational KPIs from over the last 6 months. As you can see, reducing our operating costs by half - far from putting a strain of our service, have actually brought about major improvements.
Service Response Times
Number of bugs
We now have a much smaller, focused and organised team and I am really proud of what we have achieved in a relatively short period of time. We will continue to make sure we are constantly getting the most of all the time, people and talent we have at IAM Cloud to ensure our customers receive a continually improving experience with the IAM Cloud platform. I love hearing from our customers so if you have any feedback on your experience with IAM Cloud to date and what we can do to improve it please get in touch with me directly on: email@example.com