When It’s Time To Replace That Thing

My son and his wife were in a car accident on their way to work yesterday morning. He called at 6:21am, and left me a voicemail. I called back 10 minutes later, and he was just talking with the police and paramedics. They were a little banged-up, but nothing serious enough, thankfully, for an ambulance ride.

No matter how old your kid gets, these phone calls are scary.

The police cited the other driver; the paramedics, fire, police left – and so did the truck with my son’s totaled car in tow. He and his wife had to go to work – too many commitments – so they made their way, and got in late.

Now the fun begins. Life is going along, then, bam!, something happens. You have to change your routine, time and money you didn’t plan on spending, and you just simply move ahead and adapt.

Most of us have been through a car accident and survived just fine. Even though not serious, it changes routines. We become more vigilant, irritated, inconvenienced, and have to pay out in time and money that is always so limited.

What was working just fine for my son – his car – now must be replaced.

Yeah, I know, it’s just a thing, but hang in there for a minute or two. . .

His car was 11 years old, looked and worked great, low mileage, didn’t need anything other than regular maintenance, and he didn’t have a car payment.

So what was a gem for him by all standards, isn’t worth much on the market. He’ll get his check from the insurance company, and most likely for the money, won’t find something as good as he was driving.

Therein lies the issue.

We have stuff, systems, processes – that have been working just fine, then bam!, something happens and we have to change. Adapt to something new. Make an investment.

Then there’s the time, and the cost, and the inconvenience of all that change.

Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

The irony in this was my son got a rental car, covered by insurance until he finds a replacement. Brand new rental car and he said, “wow, it’s so nice.”

Status quo is fine. I love predictability. But there comes a time where what was working stops working. It can be a catastrophic event, or simply a slow decline. At some point there is that bam! moment.

That’s when you take stock of everyone – you ask them, “are you alright?”

Then you construct your plan to move ahead. Replace the old system and map new routes. We find out that with the new stuff in place, we too say, “wow, that’s so nice!”

We can’t prepare for everything, but we can put ourselves in a place that when the unplanned happens, we have the tools to deal with it.

And, you can always call mom.

Time Changes Things

When we go through difficult situations, things change. Well, our outlook on things change.

We are heading home today after five weeks in New York, two of which spent at New York Presbyterian.

All those issues related to work, daily life, The Affordable Care Act – all that stuff – is just stuff - filler.

We come out on the other side with a better perspective, putting what’s important ahead of the insignificant.

Less reaction, and just letting certain things . . . go.

We have a long road ahead and couldn’t have done this without the massive support of family, friends, nurses, doctors, specialists, cabbies and the café down the street.

My husband will recover, I’ll keep on working, and eventually we’ll settle into our new routine.

I will continue to take care of my clients while remaining mindful of what’s really important. Because in the end, they too need to eliminate the daily ‘stuff’ that trips up their day.

Recovery just takes time. Allow it to happen.

Features Training vs User Training On Software - They Are Not The Same

Let me guess, you just got new software in your agency – to manage your agency. Everything from job forms, SOW, and briefs to project management, collaboration, accounting and billing .You were trained in a two- to five-day session and now you’re LIVE!

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Do you remember anything? Was there so much thrown at you that, now that it’s up and running, you don’t even know where to start with that great Agency Management and Productivity Solution?

Maybe you were trained on all the features, but not how you actually should use the software specifically for your workflow.

Way back when, there was someone in your agency who decided it was time to get out of email, Excel, Google Docs, Basecamp, a free timesheet app, and whatever accounting program you were using – and use one comprehensive program – that is more efficient by gathering everything in one database.

But to make the software really work for you, it has to be customized to your needs, and training absolutely must be tailored to your particular workflow.

That’s how training sticks. It needs to be relevant to your needs, the way you do things, and addresses the pain you endured.

In other words, it has to fix stuff. Make life at work better.

Every agency is slightly different, in structure, roles and responsibilities, culture and . . . compliance.

Merely buying, installing, getting an on-site (or online) overview (aka training) of everything the software does is fine – but that brief approach is the path to workarounds, maintaining old systems (just in case), low adoption and worse, software implementation failure.

Change isn’t easy. Giving up old ways is hard if the shiny new thing doesn’t relate in any way to the way you work.

Your workflow may be entirely screwed up, or non-existent – then you need a structured solution to get you on track. But that doesn’t happen via plug ’n play.

The best way to ensure success is to clearly define problems, review roles and responsibilities, map out your current workflow, review current documents, then find a solution that will work for your agency. Some tools are replacements, and some introduce new processes. It’s all designed to get you on track and make you more profitable. At the very least, you should emerge from training with a real sense of which tools to use, and how to use those tools for your specific workflow.

Need help? Contact me. The first call is free.


'Lean In' and All That...

I love this quote:
"Sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!" -- Bob Thaves

That’s right.

Well, with all this hullabaloo about Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer – strong, executive women doing it all – it’s time to come back to reality.

There are a lot of women out there who ‘have it all’, are ‘doing it all’, and didn’t exactly plan it that way.

Careers, kids, a husband or partner, house, car, student loans, a dry bar appointment at 6:30am and a quick detour to grab Starbucks before work.

That’s one scenario and not the one that is relevant…

Job, kids, mom/sis/aunt/other relative/friend, apartment, bus, student loans, and a mad dash to get her hair kinda dry before she rushes off to work.

That’s the common scenario.

I don’t want to be a downer here. Instead, let’s be realistic – the fact of the matter is that I really don’t care about Sheryl or Marissa because they are so far from what the 99% (or insert your percentage here) do, that reading articles about them is just a waste of time.

I have been in the ‘business world’ for, let’s see…75% of my life. And I’ve been reading the same crap since the ‘60’s.

So listen here, if you want women to be empowered:
let’s get the REAL unemployment figures reduced (the media and government stats are simply a joke);
let’s have a REAL conversation – no scratch that – REAL solution to affordable, safe daycare (all this healthcare talk would be irrelevant if we had jobs);
let’s cut through the crap where the good ol’ boy network still thrives, and women managers (for some reason) stick it to their female subordinates;
and don’t mess with working women’s hours so they can’t manage the routine they have carefully carved-out.

I’m sure there’s more. A lot more.

I don’t know if Sheryl and Marissa wear high heels while dancing backwards, but my guess is that they have a lot of assistance if they do. That makes it look easy. And evidently makes them experts.

Yeah, I know. They are successful execs, but how many women are actually in powerful positions in their respective companies? I rest my case.

I’m glad women are getting (some) executive positions, but this ‘conversation’ just isn’t going away. Therefore, I will not read anything about those two women at all – because they are the only women we’re hearing about. Sad.

More than that, they just aren’t relevant to any woman I know.

Let’s get back to work.

Fixing Advantage – or Just About Anything

It doesn’t matter what you use, from Advantage to Workamajig, I can predict that if the agency management software you are using isn’t ‘working’, there’s more at issue than the software itself.

Blame the software. Always the first response.

In my post a couple days ago, I asked for questions/issues that you are having with Advantage, in particular. I happen to know the software very well – that’s why.

But the lessons here apply to any technology solution you are using.

I received an email from a project manager in an agency who is doing ALL of her updates after work. And these updates take her two to four hours a night. She’s really sick of it, and looking for a different job because she wants her life back.

What? Advantage is a database program, and everyone in her agency has access...that is specific to their role. She should be able to see, from her computer, the progress of her projects and make adjustments during the course of the day.

So we chatted, got online and I took a look at how she was using the software.

In her project schedule, every line entry was unique and required direct input; tasks were assigned to some employees (not everyone was available to assign); no time per task was allocated (therefore no automated resource planning). She input due dates only – manually. And only key dates.

Everything was straight data-entry.

Then she prints out her schedule every morning and during the day, hand-writes changes. After work, she spends her evenings updating everything from her hand-written notes.

This is one person in a 200-person agency. There are eight PMs. Each uses the technology differently.

They reduced a comprehensive database to an Excel spreadsheet.

Training on the appropriate use of the technology; developing a process to use it; and compliance in its use. That’s the magic formula for successfully using agency management software. 

someecards.com - It's more work to complain about having to use the new software than it is to actually learn how to use it.

We then went where she had never gone before – how to use the software – appropriately.

Schedule templates, allocated hours for tasks, assigned employees (this required getting HR to set up everyone in their proper role). Pushing tasks out to employees – and requiring them to use their task list – plus having staff update it themselves (Gasp! which means they mark it ‘complete’ – no, that is not hard). Now, this PM wouldn't have to update everything. Herself. Every night.

Wow, they’ve been paying for this technology for years, and never used it as it was intended.

Here are their next steps: Review the setup – which really needs an overhaul. Nothing had been done since they installed it – seven years ago. Review roles and designate them appropriately. Set up appropriate tasks for the schedule (and condense it down from the 700+ that had been created) and build templates. It makes for fast work of getting all projects (large or small) in the system.

Then last, but not least, train and enforce compliance. You need management’s full support here, because this is where the whining comes in. You will actually be asking your colleagues to be a part of the solution. It’s only a mouse-click for crying out loud. Not any harder than an IM to their friends about lunch.

And I only covered project schedules here. Think of what you can do when you get the entire agency on board?

Do You Use Advantage Software?

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’d like to know how it’s going. If it’s been great, please, share your experience.

Is it making you crazy? Well, any technology can do that to you - but this is about Advantage / Webvantage.

If your experience with Advantage been less than stellar, I’d like to hear from you as well. Because an investment – not only in hard-dollars, but also in the time it took to implement it, is worth fixing.

Or at the very least, review it before you make a big change. Change is tough - remember?

Your colleagues will love you for making their lives…easier.

We are happy.
So on to the questions…Did you implement it agency-wide? How did that go / how long did it take? Is everyone using it? Is it performing as you expected? Are you using Webvantage as well?

Yes to all of those? Awesome – tell us about your experience.

We are unhappy.
Okay, I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals, some of whom have had a not-so-great experience with Advantage / Webvantage. I’d like to hear from you. It will be therapeutic. At the very least, you can vent.

Questions for you…How long have you had Advantage / Webvantage? Did you have assistance during the implementation process? Were you prepared for the setup, testing, training, and roll-out? How has the follow-up been? Have you made adjustments along the way?

Is it just a raging headache and you’re looking to another solution?

I really want to hear from you. This post is a forum for you to air and share. Bring. It. On.

And by the way, I can help you.

Sometimes you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There I said it.

Let’s fix your issues so you can get to work!

Agency Management Software is not ‘Plug ’n Play’

Awesome Sparkly Demo. Sales rep’s promise of ease. Everyone loves it. Sign-on-the-line and install.

Your love affair with technology turns into a nightmare. And now everyone blames you.

That’s the basic trap of the perceived ‘Plug ’n Play’ agency software / technology solution.

I’ve worked with hundreds of beat-down, worn out, stressed individuals who were charged with fixing a problem with…software. They bought the package of their dreams and then found out that they actually had to do something to make it work.

Even the most basic, free, cloud-based program needs – at the very least – a process defined and parameters to follow. Otherwise everyone will do – or not do – what they want with it.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

If you go the more thorough route – not just placing a Band-Aid on the problem – and sign-on-the-line for an integrated solution, the commitment is greater. So is the exposure to the wrath of your colleagues.

I speak from experience. My colleagues survived and so will you. So pay attention…

Usually the hunt for a solution is born out of crappy issues that just keep swirling around. Everyone’s head hurts from the never-ending complaints about lost or incomplete information, errors, blown budgets, things falling through the cracks.

Just your average day at the agency. Sound familiar?

Software can fix it. But only if you do your research (include colleagues from each discipline the technology touches), and ask the “hard” questions of your rep…

a. What do I need to do to make it work for my agency?
b. Can I customize it myself for our specific needs? (without the need to ask for special programming which costs $$$)
c. How long does it take to install, customize, test, train and roll-out?
d. What kind of data conversion do you provide? (your current work / year needs to move to the new system)
e. What kind of support to you provide for free / for a fee?
f. There's a million more questions. Ask them.

Then start planning and prepare everyone for the positive change.

And keep in mind, to make this kind of change cast away those starry-eyes and be realistic - it takes a commitment from everyone, and total support from management.

But in the end, I believe that – when done right – agency management software is awesome. It can fix everything.

Except personalities. You're on your own there.