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Hard work equals impact, right? Jace Moreno thought so, but his personal productivity metrics told a different story. Microsoft employees are using a little data from MyAnalytics to go a long way toward maximizing individual and team effectiveness.

March 13, 2017

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

-George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Major League Baseball player

Part I: The gut punch

Jace Moreno scanned his new productivity dashboard the same way he studies the dials on his fitness tracker. Except unlike his fitness tracker, these numbers were shocking. His stomach sank.

It was his first time using Microsoft MyAnalytics, a dashboard displaying a week’s worth of his personalized productivity data. His eyes lingered on the number 23.4. That was how many hours in a week he’d spent reading and writing email in his Outlook inbox. He was astonished.

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“That’s roughly half my week I was spending in email,” he thought. “Half!”

Then he noticed another startling number: 46, the percentage of his emails recipients had opened and read.

“I felt nauseous, especially when I realized I was spending more than half the hours in my work week in email, and less than half of the people I was sending mail to were reading it,” Moreno said. “As a result, I was also spending way too much time in meetings and working after hours.”

MyAnalytics provides employees with weekly summaries of data and insight about productivity, including how they spend their time, who they spend it with, and details about time spent in meetings, email, focus hours, top collaborators, response times, and email read rates. Each person and each job is different, so you can use the dashboard to set custom productivity targets based on personal goals and what success looks like in each job.

To fully understand Moreno’s visceral reaction to his first batch of personal productivity metrics, you should know a little something about him as a person. A former high school quarterback and college baseball player, Moreno is well accustomed to performance feedback. He’s collaborative and hard-working. He is gregarious and growth-minded. He’s responsive and communicative. In his first year at Microsoft after earning an MBA from Duke University, he had every reason to believe he was being highly effective in his role leading Skype for Business in Australia. Yet to his surprise and dismay, the numbers told a more complicated story.

“It was a gut punch of self-realization,” Moreno said. “That was the day that changed the way I work. I decided at that very moment that I had to, and would, change.”

But how?

Baseball would be a quite remarkable activity if it was the one place in the world where your co-workers didn't have any impact on how productive you were. But in fact, baseball is a high-stress occupation, and those sort of stress-inducing activities have a huge impact on how the team functions.

-Bill James, baseball writer, historian, and statistician

Part II: Analytics, the game changer

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In Michael Lewis’s book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” the author followed the rise of the Oakland Athletics circa 2001. With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the California baseball team had trouble attracting and retaining top talent—and therefore, they also had trouble winning enough games to make the playoffs. The team’s manager decided to use an unconventional method to field a more competitive team: broad statistical analysis. After all, what did they have to lose but games? By focusing on each player’s extensive personal performance data, the A’s assembled a mish-mash of talented but traditionally undervalued players who—at least on paper—would win games. The strategy worked, and it led the underdog team to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003. Oakland’s data-centered approach flew in the face of baseball business as usual, but the data-heavy “Moneyball” approach went on to change the way many teams operate.

More than a decade after this experiment in Oakland, data analytics are now helping people win in nearly every aspect of life. We have technology to track our footsteps, sleep, calorie intake—even moods. The democratizing of data analytics changed the game of baseball, and then our personal lives, and now the workplace stands to benefit in much the same way.

Like Moreno, many Microsoft employees have started tracking their personal productivity and changing the habits they don’t like.

“I had too many meetings where I was multitasking, which told me I should reduce my meetings and increase my focus hours,” said Israel Arribas Santolaya, a technology solutions professional in Madrid, Spain.

The formula for success is pretty simple. Sticking to it is the hard part.

~ Jace Moreno, Skype for Business Product Manager

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Berfin Gökoglu, a solution sales professional in Istanbul, Turkey, said she uses MyAnalytics as a reminder to stay present and focused during meetings and to leave the emailing until afterward. She also uses it to track how much she’s collaborating and communicating with key partners.

“It changed the way I work totally,” she said.

James Turner, an account executive for Bing Ads, uses MyAnalytics to help track the effectiveness of his communication.

“I always felt that my relationship wasn’t as strong with one of my account managers. We didn’t meet as often, nor did we communicate often via email or Skype,” Turner said. “One day I logged into MyAnalytics and saw the ‘top collaborators’ view and it confirmed my suspicion. I only worked with this person about 10 percent as much of the time as the others.”

MyAnalytics data is only available to individual users, but Turner decided to share this metric as a conversation starter with the account manager, and together they created a plan to improve their communication and collaboration.

“Since then, our relationship has more trust than ever,” Turner said.

One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.

-Nolan Ryan, Major League Baseball pitcher

Part III: A whole new ball game

In high school, Moreno caught the eye of baseball scouts in search of talent to play in the big leagues. He was a fearless third-baseman (and a double threat—he was also the quarterback of his high school football team). He had a penchant for hard work that could, at times, border on obsession as he pursued and achieved his goals. Plus, he was tall and muscular. He had the look.

“I’m a bigger dude, and when I met with the scouts they said I had what they called ‘the baseball body.’ I thought it was hilarious,” Moreno said. “These guys are old school. Success is aesthetic for them—what you look like, how tall you are, how fast you can run.”

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Moreno may have had the look of a baseball star, but it was his work ethic that would earn him his success—a spot on a college baseball team, an MBA from Duke University, and his job with Microsoft managing Skype for Business in Australia.

The Oakland A’s revolutionized the sport of baseball with data analysis, superseding the scouts and their old-school, subjective ideas of what an ideal player looked and acted like. Likewise, Moreno would revolutionize his entire approach to work.

Out were the old hallmarks of what productivity was supposed to look like—stay planted at your desk, accept all meeting requests, respond to email immediately, keep your status light on and available all day, multitask when possible, and carry a phone or tablet to stay tethered when you must step away from your desk.

Moreno did extensive research on modern productivity best practices (recommendations on building goinformation that will soon be incorporated into MyAnalytics). He considered his goals, his typical work day, and how he might change his habits.

“The formula for success is pretty simple,” Moreno said. “Sticking to it is the hard part.”

He now tries to spend a couple of hours each day—usually first thing in the morning when his mind is fresh—focused on his highest priority projects, and while he does, he closes his email and signs out of instant messaging.

“I can say this, even as the Skype for Business product manager—there should be times of day you’re not online,” Moreno said. “You’ve got to have time to focus and get work done, and interruptions can take you out of it. Productivity is not about doing a million things at once.”

Mid-afternoon, when he hits his typically lowest energy point of the day, he spends an hour “knocking out” emails. He is careful about the meetings he accepts. He uses IMs, rather than email, to quickly resolve tactical issues. He tries to not check email after 8:00 p.m.

One of his most important realizations? That his responsiveness to emails is not tied to his productivity at work.

“In fact, it’s exhausting. I felt tied to my email account and got anxiety at times when I couldn’t be checking it—in some meetings, during personal time, even on leave,” Moreno said. “I’m not saying it’s not important, but it shouldn’t be the crux of what I do. My productivity is tied to how much value I’m adding to my organization, customers, and channels.”

As Moreno started to change his work habits, his metrics improved. Now, he doesn’t spend more than 13 hours a week in his inbox. The percentage of his emails being opened and read more than doubled. He decreased the amount of time he works after business hours.

“Everyone wants to be productive. The trick is not for everyone to work exactly like me, but to consider their own best practices,” Moreno said. “This self-realization is valuable on a personal level, but the impact it can start to have on a team, organization, and culture is extremely powerful.”


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