Albany/Capital District Chapter
2007 Operations Management Excellence Award
Winner: EXEControl Global Solutions
Sixteen months ago, President & CEO Allan D. Robison, CPIM made a strategic move to purchase EXEControl Global Solutions from his two partners Sam Hazleton, former Vice President, and Scott Ebeling, former Secretary. This strategic move was in an effort to implement operation management techniques that Allan has learned over the years and for the future growth plans of the company. Some of the management techniques used came directly from Allan’s involvement in APICS. The following outlines many of the operational management techniques that have been implemented in order to transform EXEControl Global Solutions from a small, specialty software solution provider to an internationally recognized ERP player. While the ultimate goal has not yet been reached, much progress has been made toward that goal.
EXEControl Global Solutions’ management team has worked hard to identify what they feel are the key aspects of their company where change is critical toward EXEControl Global Solutions’ and the EXEControl Community’s future success. The key aspects identified are: Security, Training, Implementation, Technical discussion, Delivery methods, User interface, Automated interfaces, Specific functions, Consulting, Networking and hardware, Documentation, Support services and Communication methods
During EXEControl Global Solutions’ User Conference, the EXEControl Roadmap was presented to the EXEControl Community. Survey forms were provided to all customers in order to get feedback from the users as to how they perceive the importance of the road map items identified. The survey was a four page document (see attached).
Results: Every employee in the company is aware of our initiatives and finds it easier to focus their efforts on those items that will bring the most benefit. It has also strengthened the EXEControl Community through bringing our customers into the process. The embrace and level of feedback provided by our clients was more than expected. When our staff visits clients, we often hear them making reference to items within our road map.
Meeting guidelines: In an effort to establish meaningful meetings that are worth the time and effort, EXEControl Global Solutions established corporate meeting guidelines (see attached). Some key aspects of the meeting guidelines are:
- Meetings are scheduled months ahead of time.
- Agendas are provided in advance of the meeting date – In most cases the agenda is provided several days in advance. Only once since we instituted this practice has the agenda been provided the day of.
- Documents to be discussed and/or information about discussion topics are provided in advance – Instead of trying to discuss topics or documents that no one has seen or had a chance to investigate, EXEControl Global Solutions provides this material in advance of the meetings.
- Start and end times are made clear and adhered to – Most of our meetings are four hour meetings running from 8:00am to 12:00 noon.
- Regular breaks are provided – Breaks are provided every hour to hour and a half throughout the meeting time. Breaks usually last for about 15 minutes.
- Minutes of the meeting is provided to all members – All minutes are stored in shared folders. Members receive a hard copy for review. All other employees are granted access to review the content of unattended meetings.
Meeting concept: Meetings are broken down into four groups. They are as follows:
- Strategic – Management team
- Tactical – Department groups
- Operational – One-on-one coaching sessions
- Visionary – Entire staff
Management Meetings: EXEControl Global Solutions has established monthly meetings where a representative from each department (work center) meets to discuss corporate initiatives. The meeting is strategic in nature. Discussions center on what we are doing and what we should be doing as a company. The management team has gone through the classic SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threat) analysis. The management team has succeeded in meeting every month since its inception sixteen months ago.
Departmental Meetings: Each department meets internally within their department on a regular basis. Departments are given the freedom to select the frequency level, not to exceed more often than once a month and no less than once every three months. The departmental meetings are tactical in nature. Although each department has performed a SWOT analysis on their department, the focus is more regarding the tasks for which they are personally responsible and how to effect change for the better. This change can come in many ways, including efficiency improvements or better communication with other parties.
One-on-One Coaching Sessions: EXEControl Global Solutions has elected to use one-on-one coaching sessions to handle our operational needs. When employees are in need of knowing how to perform selected tasks, the training or education is provided usually by their supervisor.
Staff Meetings: Staff meetings are performed two to four times a year. These meetings are visionary in nature. The objective is to keep every employee excited about working for EXEControl Global Solutions. This objective has been a challenge because people can get tired and burned out during periods of rapid and massive change. EXEControl Global Solutions is sixteen months into an eighteen month transition plan that has not let up on a day-to-day basis. Most of the items in this document are part of this transition plan.
Results: Each initiative is followed through month after month until completion. Employees are assigned specific tasks with specific due dates ensuring that operational steps are completed on-time. The meetings have also increased a sense of team spirit within the company along with a sense that employees’ individual ideas are important and will be given genuine consideration.
No transition can go smoothly without the proper training of corporate staff. EXEControl Global Solutions provided the following training for their staff during the 2006 calendar year:
- Management Training – EXEControl Global Solutions sent their President & CEO, Allan Robison, to a year-long management training program. The program was called “Bulletproof Manager” and classes ran once a month for four hours each. Topics included: “How to Provide Gold Standard Customer Service”, “Establishing Goals and Priorities”, “How to Win the Negotiation Game”, “The Visionary Leader”, “Strategies for Effective Meetings and Presentations”, “Managing the Velocity Factor”, “Managing the Challenge of Change”, “Solving the Management Puzzle”, “The Quest for Excellence”, “How to Survive and Thrive Under Stress”, “How to Conduct Performance Appraisals”, “Eight Keys to Developing Leadership”, “How to Avoid Hiring and Recruiting Mistakes”, “The Attitude and Altitude”, “Personal Communication Skills”, “How to Deal with Workplace Mistakes”, “How to See Your Company Through Your Customer’s Eyes”, “The Leadership Secret”, “Creative Leadership or Thinking Outside the Box”, “Building a Personal Success Foundation”, “Motivating for Peak Performance”, and “How to Use Your IQ to Increase Your EQ”.
- APICS Certification – Two EXEControl Global Solutions employees set course on their CPIM certification. Both recently passed their certification and a third employee has now begun his quest.
- LEAN Enterprise Classes – Two EXEControl Global Solutions employees participated in the LEAN training provided by CEG (Center for Economic Growth).
- Sales Training – One EXEControl Global Solutions employee went through all four levels of the sales training courses sponsored by CEN (Chief Executive Network for Manufacturing). Coursework used the Sandler Sales Course work.
- Development Training – EXEControl Global Solutions sent the entire staff, minus our office administrator, through Level I .net training. Coursework was spread over five weeks with two four hour classes each week. The Level II .net training was attended by 50% of EXEControl Global Solutions’ staff. The format was the same format but focused on putting into practical application the foundational learning discovered during the first round.
Results: There were many benefits yielded from the training classes. The most significant benefit is the new opportunity we now have for our product. Our desire to become a leading ERP provider requires that we utilize current technology and the training has made this happen. The training classes have also provided team building, new learning and new skill sets. Many of the items within this document were either birth or built upon due to the training received.
In order to understand the ERP marketplace, EXEControl Global Solutions sent the Director of Development to California for a week to look at other software solutions and identify opportunities for EXEControl.
EXEControl Global Solutions also worked on updating and adding to their current marketing material.
Results: EXEControl Global Solutions has introduced new product features and has accumulated a list of other features to consider.
Articulation of Expectations
Not only has EXEControl Global Solutions articulated their expectations concerning meetings, but EXEControl Global Solutions has also tried to make this an overall objective. Focus has been placed on written explanations/expectations for as many aspects of our business as possible.
Several areas where written explanations have been provided are discussed throughout this document. Others include the enhancement of the EXEControl Global Solutions’ Employee Policy Handbook and the in-progress “Code of Conduct” documents.
Results: The most significant benefit is consistency. This is what McDonalds is known for. No matter where you go throughout the world, you know that a Big Mac will always taste the same. We have brought greater predictability to the experience and process one goes through for various tasks.
EXEControl Global Solutions has reviewed every position within the company and has established new job titles, new job descriptions and KPI’s for all employees (see sample attached).
A knowledge base checklist has been established for some of the departments. The document (sample attached) identifies the key skill sets required to succeed in the position. This document is used during the employee’s semi-annual review.
Regular performance reviews have been established for all employees. The reviews use a standardized review form and some standard questions. The format of these reviews came directly from the management training taken in 2006.
Standard interview questions and homework assignments have been established for each department to provide a better method for attracting the right talent (see attached).
For new employees we have put together a standard document that outlines what their first week on the job will be along with a standard welcome aboard letter (see attached).
Results: Employees know where they stand in the company at all times.
EXEControl Command Center: As a result of the .net training classes and investigation of other software solutions, EXEControl introduced a new business intelligence tool. Prior to ever selling the product to a customer, EXEControl Global Solutions implemented the tool internally to aid in the tracking of information.
Employees now use the EXEControl Command Center (our business intelligence tool) to monitor their KPI’s, workload and other day-to-day business insight.
Now that we have our own operations running on the Command Center, we have introduced the product to our customers. We received an order for the product every day for the first three days. We expect 80% of our current customer base to purchase the product within the next two months.
Reporting: New executive reporting has been developed to help the management team move the company forward. The reports include our client statistic report (sample attached) and many work center reports.
Results: Employees are focused on KPI’s and other measurements from the moment they start their day till the time they go home. Sales have increased and our product has moved closer to the standards we expect.
One of the areas on which EXEControl Global Solutions has focused the most attention has been in the area of customer relations. The need to build a strong Community environment is essential to our survival.
Forum: The first communication tool we set up for our customer base was our online Forum. EXEControl Global Solutions provided a free webinar training session to their clients on how to use the Forum.
Newsletter: The quarterly EXEControl Newsletter has been put together to keep our customers informed with the advancements at EXEControl Global Solutions (see attached).
User Conference: EXEControl Global Solutions ran its first day long user conference just last week (see attached). The conference was a huge success with all but just a couple of clients attending. The response of the user conference was an overwhelming request by our clients to have more conferences.
Customer Training: EXEControl Global Solutions has started putting together formalized training for their clients. Two training classes offered during the user conference was “The Importance of Maintaining Data Accuracy in an ERP System” and “The Technology Showcase”.
Customer Feedback: As mentioned above, EXEControl Global Solutions has requested feedback from its client base. This included the presentation of the EXEControl Roadmap and the four page survey given out during the user conference. A great source of feedback also comes from our annual client review meetings.
Annual Review Meetings: EXEControl Global Solutions has set up a schedule to meet once a year with each client to review the completed year and strategize on the upcoming year.
Results: There has been a marked increase in unsolicited clients complementing our company, product and services. Our clients speak of the Community and have expressed a great desire to be a part of it.
Along with customer communications comes the need to provide “Gold Standard Support.” EXEControl Global Solutions has made many changes to our support services. The objective is to go from a silver standard to a gold standard. We have used the principle of “From Good to Great” as discussed in our Winter 2006 Newsletter (see attached). Some of the changes include:
- Converting Our Support to Use a Queue System – This is where each call is placed in a queue and support is provided on a first come first serve basis.
- Call Emails – Emails are automatically sent from the EXEControl system each time a call is placed, put on hold or completed.
- Emergency Support Call Reduction – Every month EXEControl Global Solutions’ management team is reviewing every emergency support call that came in for the month and discussing what could be done to make sure a call of that nature is never received in the future from any of our clients. The results have been good with over a 50% reduction in emergency calls each month.
- Remote Monitoring of Client Services – EXEControl Global Solutions has set up tools to monitor remotely our clients’ systems. We can tell when an ISP connection is down; a server is running a max capacity, a hard drive is failing or a number of other situations. Often times we are able to resolve the issue prior to the customer even knowing that the problem exists.
- Assisting Our Clients with Password Management and Security Management.
Results: We have seen a reduction in the number of support calls, a reduction in the time required to resolve support issues and greater customer satisfaction.
In order to see real growth, efficiencies must exist within the company; otherwise the company will be forced to throw more and more staffing into the mix to meet the challenges. Efficiencies are also critical to compete in this ever increasing global economy. EXEControl Global Solutions has put in place many process improvement techniques to obtain the required efficiencies required. They include:
Group Training and Implementation: In the past, EXEControl Global Solutions provided most all training and implementation efforts to clients one-on-one. This approach is great for the customer but is also the most expensive way to provide the service. This inhibits the amount of training and implementation EXEControl Global Solutions can provide to their clients due to the costs. With group training and implementation, clients will be able to receive more training and implementation for less money while EXEControl Global Solutions realizes a higher per hour return. EXEControl Global Solutions has just started refining the method in which it will provide such training and implementation.
Standardized Configurations and Procedures: EXEControl Global Solutions is working hard to establish standard methods that can be used by all clients to perform either same or similar tasks. This too is early in the refinement process.
Standard vs. Actual Management: EXEControl has established new labor tracking policies which have enabled us to compare estimated hours on projects to actual hours applied. Analyses have been performed which have been used to improve our estimating processes and identify wasted steps.
Modernization of the Product: EXEControl Global Solutions is seeing daily changes to the EXEControl product toward utilizing modern software techniques.
Results: EXEControl Global Solutions is better positioned to compete head to head with the larger ERP players and to go after larger corporations.
EXEControl Global Solutions has put in place new labor management requirements. The main requirement is a strict logging of all time to better understand where energy is being exerted and how long it really takes to perform selected tasks. The other area has been in the area of quality. EXEControl Global Solutions has improved their quality control sheet and brought greater attention to its importance.
Results: Better understanding of efforts.
Security in Everything
As part of the transition a focus has been given to security concerns. The company has not focused on these concerns just because of governmental laws such as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. Nor was the decision driven by the penalties if found in violation for the company and individuals. The reality is that the success of the EXEControl Community requires that confidential information remain confidential. EXEControl Global Solutions recognizes that this effort needs to start with us.
Focus has been given to ensure recommended security practices are in place for EXEControl Global Solutions and the rest of the Community. Focus areas have included:
- Passwords – Proper formatting of passwords, forced changing of passwords, inability to use the same password over and over, standard methods to reset passwords, separation of logon IDs and passwords for users and administrative tasks.
- Written Policies – Written policies have been established for the handling of confidential information.
- Training – EXEControl Global Solutions’ entire staff has undergone training in how to handle confidential information.
- Data Restrictions – Hiding of confidential information, masking of information such as credit card IDs and social security numbers, password access.
Results: Protection of the company’s interests and those of the Community.