CXO

IT Consultant Journal: Managing multiple tasks

Former-CIO-turned-IT consultant Mike Sisco has a busy week ahead: meeting with his client on migration projects, marketing his services to companies, and networking with potential customers. Read on as he shares his experiences and advice.


This week, IT Consultant Republic will feature a daily journal of Mike Sisco, an IT consultant, author, and former CIO. In this installment, Sisco describes his Monday. See how you can apply his knowledge and experience to your career.

I’m an independent IT consultant and have been for the past year. After managing IT organizations for more than 20 years, I decided that it was time for me to try to establish a consulting business of my own: MDE Enterprises. I’ve also begun publishing my “IT Manager Development Series” manuals via my Web site to help IT professionals with strong technical backgrounds make the leap into management.

Here’s a look at a “typical” Monday for me. I’ve included descriptions of each task next to the time.

8:00 A.M. Administrative
Begin the day reviewing the goals for the week:
  1. Network for new contract work, anticipating that my long-term contract will end by the end of the year.
  2. Manage the two assimilation project activities (for my IT contract with U.S. HealthWorks (USHW), an occupational health service).
  3. Finalize a joint proposal with MRI, a 3-D imaging company, for USHW.
  4. Finish writing my sixth publication, “IT Staff Motivation and Development,” in the IT Manager Development Series.
  5. Flesh out plans for the joint venture start-up of Cash Flow Innovations, a business-in-planning between myself and four other consultants. (We plan to offer billing and collections monitoring, as well as analysis, and consulting services to help healthcare providers maintain high levels of cash collections.)
  6. Write my monthly MDE Technology Tips and Techniques newsletter article.

Note: My productivity is always increased when working from a specific set of goals.

8:30 A.M. Contract and administrative
I start by checking my e-mail to determine if anything new is brewing on the two assimilation projects I'm managing for USHW. My first focus every day is to determine whether there are any issues that need to be addressed or resolved to push either of the projects forward.

One project is to migrate three acquired Dallas clinics and their Regional Billing Office (RBO) to USHW's proprietary AS/400 systems. This project is scheduled to go live on Nov. 1, 2001. Clinic training starts today.

The second project is to migrate seven Florida clinics and their Atlanta RBO to the USHW AS/400 billing and collection system. This project was formally kicked off two weeks ago, even though the infrastructure activities were started two months ago. This project is scheduled for a live date of Dec. 1, 2001.

Every Thursday afternoon, we have separate conference calls to go through each project plan to determine the status of project tasks, discuss key issues, and to coordinate upcoming events. Both projects are tracking as needed to meet their due dates.

My e-mail check indicates a pleasant “all systems functioning normal” status. No news is good news, they say. While that’s true most of the time, as the project manager, I have to determine if no news is really a good thing.

9:00 A.M. Contract
Time to call the lead programmer for the USHW assimilation projects. He had a meeting with the Florida RBO manager on Friday to follow up on two items from last week’s project status meeting. The conclusion from the call is that one issue will require a workaround that was discussed last Thursday. I send the USHW Operations Manager an e-mail letting him know.

The second item is a data requirement and printing issue for billing claims that is unique to the Florida clinics. The programmer has to do more analysis, so we leave this task open on the project plan.

9:30 A.M. Marketing
MRI is a company that creates three-dimensional images from moving objects. They can build exact 3-D replications of anything from your golf swing to a violinist playing Mozart. The possibilities are tremendous.

When I saw the technology three months ago, it seemed to offer great benefits to USHW: opportunities for new revenue, lower cost of internal training, and an ability to create a preventive services strategy that differentiates the company from its competitors.

As a former CIO, I have always had a strategic view of the business: Increasing same-store revenue, creating competitive advantages, or reducing costs to increase earnings per share are always in the back of my mind as I work with situations. This kind of thinking is fun for me.

This morning, the COO of MRI and I are finalizing a proposal to USHW. I have been providing input to MRI on strategies that will help the company enter the healthcare market. They already have footholds in the entertainment and sports industries, as well as with the military.

If USHW signs up for the project, I will most likely be contracted as the product director to develop the business model.

11:00 A.M. Business development
MRI was interested in my thought process earlier, so I’m pursuing a joint venture between them, my company (MDE), and a licensed physical therapist that could benefit from such a partnership.

As a follow-up to the MRI proposal discussions, I call the physical therapist—whom I know because I developed her Web site after a therapy evaluation she provided for my son last year—to present her with this business opportunity. In addition to providing physical therapy services, she also conducts training classes and seems to have a knack for generating an audience for her classes. She does quality work.

MRI’s technologies could allow us to conduct her classes across the Internet in a live, 3-D imagery environment. With this in mind, we can reach a much larger audience with high profit margins and no travel required.

Note: One of the greatest values you can provide others is unique insight into their business that could help identify opportunities for them. It’s often easier being on the outside and looking in. There isn’t as much “clutter.”

12:00 P.M. Administrative
I break for a bite of lunch (at my desk). Baseball season is at its peak, so hot dogs hit the spot. During lunch, I check e-mail and do a little research on the Internet. Working at home has a big advantage: the two-minute commute.

1:30 P.M. Marketing
I meet the COO of MRI to pick up three proposal copies for USHW that I will deliver tomorrow. We discuss key points, and I’m headed back home (to the office).

Note: If you plan to work at home, make the investment to set yourself up with the right equipment to enable you to work effectively. This past year, I’ve validated the need for the following:
  • Two phone lines (one dedicated to business), each with an answering machine
  • Fax machine (I use a free fax service for incoming faxes through eFax.com. An incoming fax comes into my e-mail, which is a great benefit when I’m on the road.)
  • DSL line for fast access to the Internet
  • A dedicated desk with ample file storage in a quiet area
  • A personal copier
  • A PC and a quality printer

3:00 P.M. Networking
Time to call someone that might be able to help me with my marketing challenges. He lives in Nashville, which is close to my wife's and my hometown. She and I would like to get back to middle Tennessee someday. In trading e-mails with Tom last week, he and I figured out that we may be able to help one another, which would be great for me, since MDE’s marketing budget is small.

The call goes well. He agrees to introduce me to several Nashville companies and to review MDE marketing materials. I agree to help him with some graphics work for his Web site and to show him a shortcut for adding shopping cart and credit card capability to his Web site. (I did quite a bit of research last year to build my own Internet selling infrastructure for the IT management training tools I sell on my site and for my wife’s Internet Shopping Site. I’m also very happy with the company we use, Goemerchant.com.)

4:00 P.M. Business development
I have a meeting with Cash Flow Innovations (CFI) tomorrow night. As I noted above, I and four other consultants created CFI, a small company that will offer billing and collections monitoring, analysis, and consulting services to help healthcare providers maintain high levels of cash collections. Healthcare billing and collections is complex, with many obstacles that make if difficult to collect payment for medical services.

All of us have many years of experience in this area and have worked together in one or more companies. We are creating marketing materials and deciding on key issues to help us attract new clients. I have to finalize the marketing brochure and update the business plan for the meeting.

6:00 P.M. Downtime
Time to take a break and to catch up on baseball. The Atlanta Braves are already in the National League Championship series, which is really my main concern.

11:15 P.M. Writing
Time to do more writing on my sixth IT Management publication, “IT Staff Motivation and Development.” Most of my publications are written after the day settles down and I can concentrate. With five publications completed, I’m halfway to completing the series.

How do you juggle tasks?
Do you have tips for managing your time as well as Mike Sisco? Share them with us: post your comments below.

 

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