Being an introvert is not easy sometimes. As an introvert, I love to focus intensely on whatever I’m doing and get completely absorbed in the task at hand.I can work night and day non-stop on an algorithm to make it not only work perfectly but also be elegant in simplicity. I love to problem solve and I am very good at it. Unfortunately, there is more to business than simply doing the work. I have to interact with clients and manage expectations. Learning to do this as an introvert was difficult in the beginning.
At the beginning of my career, one thing derailed me constantly, telephone calls. Clients would call me constantly for things and it left me paralyzed as I tried to get work done. I hated phone calls because they abruptly yanked me away from my thoughts. A ringing phone demands my attention NOW! It broke my concentration that sometimes took hours to get back and as a consequence would push projects back.
In that time, clients calling me took up all of my time. I got upset because clients would call me to see if I got an email or to explain an email that was just sent. We would have meetings for things that could be sent in a simple email. I was going crazy. What could I do to solve this problem and get more work done?
It wasn’t that I dislike people. I love my clients. I don’t blame them for calling. But I needed to get work done and the telephone seemed to be my mortal enemy. I had to put a stop to it. So being the problem solver that I am, I analyzed the problem. What was my client really needing that wasn’t being met?
This put me on the journey toward automation. Automation is simply the process of giving a consistent result to my clients while freeing up as much time for myself to do other things. As I analyzed the problem I found myself defining 3 main steps for automation.
Step 1 – Define the End Goal
Poorly defined processes make automation impossible. The goal has to be finite and specific. In my case, I wanted to limit my time on the phone to 1 hour per day. There was a caveat to this. Could I limit my time on the phone while still giving the same level of service that my clients need?
I had to not only define the goal for myself, but also my clients. What were there needs? I was able to define this by simply asking them. They wanted 3 things.
- Daily updates of progress
- A way to collaborate with everyone on the project
- Scheduled meetings when milestones completed.
Other than those 3 things there was no reason for them to get on the phone. I was very happy to hear that because that would have cut down on my phone time by 70%.
Step 2 – Define the Process
With the needs of all the individuals in mind, I was ready to create the process. I created a website that facilitated those needs. I came up with the following process in definable steps.
- Each project is put into a project management system with milestones and tasks.
- Each task and milestone had the following capabilities
- Associated files
- Comments with files
- Ability to email comments and files and have them automatically added to the task or milestone.
- Calendar of events of when milestones are due and when meetings can be set up to review functionality
- Programmers can add their hours worked and comments of what they achieved each day.
- At the end of the day comments and hours are sent via email to the client in the form of an update.
I built the system and it went into production. The next step was to make sure it was meeting its goals.
Step 3 – Quantify Results
In my particular case, it wasn’t difficult to measure the results. I just need to know if my phone decreased down to 1 hour or less every day and if my client’s needs were being met. Measuring my phone time over 1 month I found that indeed I was on the phone an average of 17 minutes per day not including review meetings. One goal was
What about my clients? Were their needs met? In the beginning, there were some issues. Some clients were not as happy with some of the ways we implemented changes. After talking with my clients we found some better ways to do things that were easier for them. We had to go back and forth for a little while to get it 100%. That, of course, is the point of this last step. We had to measure the results and make adjustments where needed according to our desired results.
These three steps saved me countless hours and allowed me to work in the best possible way according to my personality type. My clients remained happy and I kept my sanity. Automation is not just convenience. It is essential for businesses to give a consistent result for their clients and this requires automation and process definition.