Saturday, September 22, 2018

Anatomy of an IT Pioneer

In the early 1980's Brad Sloan was a recent University of Georgia grad trying to make a living in sales. He repped for a German manufacturer offering technology essential to production of US military aircraft.

A specialty of Sloan's German employer was operating efficiency. On an early sales call to a major defense contractor, one of the Germans with Sloan said to another, "This company is operating in the Stone Age. How do they stay in business?"

Little did the German know that a defense contractor staffer understood his language. After a brief pow wow one of the Americans called Sloan aside. "Get those (expletive) foreigners out of our building, and do not bring them back."

Sloan and his colleagues departed as ordered. Sloan later returned, with the comment. "They meant no harm. Efficiency is what they know best. What if we could show you how to eliminate several steps in your production process without sacrificing quality?"

That got the contractor's attention. Sloan followed up with different Germans in tow and presented solutions that in fact pared down productions steps as promised.

An IT pioneer was born.

Fast forward to 2006. Brad Sloan was selling operating efficiency for a different employer, calling on a different tech customer.

Sloan's customer had just been awarded a $600 million government contract to perform a time sensitive mission.

Sloan asked his senior level client contact, "How many engineers will you need to hire to execute this project?"

The client replied, "Hundreds."

"How long does it take you to recruit and hire a single qualified engineer?"

"About 9 weeks."

"If you multiply those 9 weeks by hundreds of engineers, doesn't the hiring process become lengthier and more complex? What if I showed you how to shorten that hiring process to 10 days?"

Sloan's contact pondered for a moment and got her CEO on the phone. She asked a couple of questions, and the CEO immediately called Sloan and her to his office.

Sloan asked a few more strategic questions. Soon the CEO's office was filled with every C-Level executive in the corporation.

Sloan continued to ask questions no one else had asked, let alone answered. Weeks later, armed with correct answers, Sloan proposed the strategy and tactics to hire hundreds of qualified engineers in under three weeks.

Brad Sloan studied management sciences in college. His grandfather and father were efficiency engineers, though certainly not by those titles. Sloan had the rare combination of MS training and sales instincts when he began his professional career.

Though he now holds over a dozen industry certifications and specialist designations, Sloan hardly calls himself an IT pioneer.

"What is an IT pioneer anyway? I am just a guy who got some training to think logically and ask the right questions. I guess I also benefit from having no fear of knocking on the right doors and posing those questions to C-Level executives."

"When I got started in this business no one called what we did IT. We spoke in terms of business process performance improvement. We understood that what got measured got done. So we learned how to measure stuff no one else measured. Then we figured out how to eliminate wasteful activities at many levels."

Sloan has impacted for more than production efficiency. At one employer he shortened a complex sales cycle from 30 months to one year. Sales efficiency begets production efficiency, distribution efficiency and more. The picture becomes clear.

"I often went in to client calls with a bag phone and early laptops almost the size and weight of a microwave oven. They were indeed clunky tools, but they offered technology few others had available."

"Even today we start by collecting data. We then do what I long ago dubbed S.O.A.R. Analyze the situation, identify opportunity, recommend action and measure results."

"In virtually every process we can enhance throughput. The result is not only significant financial savings, but also geeky bragging rights. My clients and I enjoy both almost equally."

More often than not, Sloan has presented solutions that profoundly impact his customers' performance across a broad array of measurable standards.

And at age 62, Sloan has just begun.

"I will work as long as I am able. What I do is immense fun. I never tire of a new challenge. Young wizards may have the latest academic training, but that can not match the depth and breadth of experience I bring to the table. That is not a boast. It is just fact."

Indeed. One would do well to trust the wisdom and experience of Brad Sloan.