MBA Skills at Work: Part 1

I've been working at Linfox for almost two months now and I've hardly even noticed. Time really does fly when you're having fun and working your butt off, doesn't it?

Now that my major project at Linfox is complete -- we re-launched last week -- I thought it would be a good time to do a quick recap of how things have been at work and how the Melbourne Business School MBA is helping me do my job really well.

But before I get to that...

Actually, funnily enough, the thing I found most immediately useful at my new job was not something I learnt during the MBA but is something related to the work I did in MBS' Information Technology Solutions department earlier this year. That is: I knew how to use SharePoint really well.

In May, MBS launched its new intranet (called 'MBS Direct') based on Microsoft's SharePoint technology. Just a month before that Linfox launched its own intranet (called the 'Lintranet') also based on that technology. Having learnt a great deal about SharePoint at MBS -- and many SharePoint tips and best practices from our vendor, Bullseye -- taking over from the previous Online Coordinator was incredibly straightforward and hassle-free.

E-Commerce and Information Management

As you would imagine, stuff learnt in Pat Auger's E-Commerce and Information Management courses is coming in really handy in my new job. Here are two lessons I'm finding most useful at this time.

1. Making a business case: My boss understands how important both the intranet and public website are to the business; she is, after all, Linfox's Group Communications Manager. People in top management, however, are more focused (as they should be) on running a logistics company, a couple of airports, and a few other Linfox Group businesses. My boss and I therefore need to demonstrate -- in almost everything that we do -- the business benefits of maintaining these two sites (which I am in charge of and she is the champion for).

This is where something like Google Analytics comes in. My boss can now tell her boss that, just last week, over 1,000 unique visitors got to via a search engine (we also know the keywords they used to get there) and that, by far, the most popular section on the site is the 'Working at Linfox' one. Now the site's only been up for ten days so there's more data to collect before we take things to the next level (like further developing the recruitment section) but already it's clear what one of the major benefits of having a good website is: you can communicate directly with potential employees in order to get the best and most suitable candidates to apply for jobs that you advertise.

2. Internal communications: Having spent years in IT -- which in many companies is the one of the least communicative, least understood, and possibly least-liked departments -- I know how important it is to communicate internally the benefits of the work you're doing. Things are a little different in the Communications department but internal communications is still an important task for me.

For example, two phrases that I've found to be really useful are "it's on the Lintranet" and "search for it". These are important because the last iteration of Linfox's intranet took the usual route to uselessness: it had too much stuff on it (it had become a bloated file archival dump) most of which was irrelevant (no versioning, lots of replication) and hard to find (limited search functionality). This new iteration is lean, well-organized, and has versioning, no duplication, and excellent search functionality. However, not everyone knows this.

My job, then, is to (a) keep the intranet in great shape and (b) to tell everyone how great the intranet is. My aim is to make this a virtuous cycle: if people expect it to be great, they'll make sure it stays great -- with a little poking, prodding, and policing from me, of course! So when someone asks me for something, I usually say "it's on the Lintranet" (since it usually is) and, most of the time, they're able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily. If not, a simple search does the trick.

One thing that really helps me here is the direct support I get from my team. This mostly comes in the form of a line in every bit of internal communication that we do that goes something like "you can find (more information about this) on the Lintranet".

More in Part 2

There's much more I want to write so I'm going to split this into two, or maybe three, posts. I have yet to talk about:

  • Applying people skills learnt in the Managing People for High Performance, Negotiations, and Leadership courses.
  • Applying marketing skills learnt in the Brand Management and Consumer Behaviour courses.
  • General skills learnt while doing the MBA; such as how to handle multiple projects, deadlines, and priorities without breaking a sweat.
  • Observing how things are working at a more strategic level within the company; such how business and corporate strategy are playing-out, what leadership is being exhibited by senior management, what the company's environmental strategy is, and how intellectual property is being managed.

But more about all this next time.