Process improvement tip from Liz Hegarty, Tasman District Council. Issue #4.

The Process Improvement Tips from the Trenches blog series shares process improvement tips, tricks and recommendations from process management professionals around the world. 

The Process Improvement Tips from the Trenches blog series shares process improvement tips, tricks and recommendations from process management professionals around the world. This week's expert is Liz Hegarty from Tasman District Council.

As Business Systems Analyst for the Tasman District Council, Liz works across a range of business units, helping them clarify their processes, advising on their use of Council’s multitude of systems, and representing their needs on IT projects.  She also works closely with the development team, managing data and business intelligence solutions, and helping to build new bespoke software when Council can’t find (or afford!) off the shelf solutions.

Tasman District Council is a New Zealand unitary council, which means it does the work of both a city council and a regional council.  Tasman District covers a large area from just south of Nelson, all the way over to Golden Bay and down to Murchison.  It has one head office and three dispersed service centres, and provides a huge and diverse range of services, including engineering, environmental services, building and resource consents, animal control, libraries, community services and so on.

Why is process important to your organization?

We have a combination of extreme diversity – some areas of Council are so specialised that only one or two people know the ins and outs of the business in detail – and a few very standard, very repeatable, very public processes that have to be delivered with consistency and accuracy.  Process capture is important for both those situations.  As a local government organisation, we have a responsibility to our ratepayers to manage our operations in an organised way that captures our region’s data effectively and makes it useful to future citizens.  Process is a huge part of that.

What’s your biggest process management challenge?

Time.  Local government isn’t well funded in the regions, and we all have to wear multiple hats.  Finding the time to stop and think about what we’re doing is never going to be easy – it just has to be managed. Luckily our BPM tool makes process capture really fast.

What works well at your company?

We run monthly process mapping training sessions, and have a group of four committed and enthusiastic trainers.  Every new employee comes through that training, and almost all our two hundred staff have been through it.  That has been really key to the success of our process management efforts.

What’s the most unusual approach to process improvement you’ve tried?

I think we’re quite unusual in that we encourage everyone to use our process management tool – not just for following procedures, but also for capturing their own information.  We decided early on that we’d rather have a busy, living, but potentially messy set of processes than a very clean, controlled set with limited ownership.  It’s a free-for-all in there – sometimes that means people get lost, but the ones that get in there and give it a go generally do really well.

In the training, we also focus strongly on the design of processes.  It’s not just about the software – the real challenge, and the real skill, lies in thinking about your processes cleanly.

What’s your top Tip from the Trenches, a process improvement recommendation for other organizations?

Make process and your process management tool the start of everything.  Talking about any sort of change in our work should start with the processes – whether it’s defining requirements for a new system, or figuring out whether we can do away with a specific form, or talking about how we’re going to tackle a new challenge.  Promapp helps us to work out the problem clearly from the start, and we use it as the basis for all our change management training.

Also, integrate with Active Directory!  Taking away that sign on challenge really helped bring a lot of staff on board.

Ooh, and also – we use process links as the “Help” on all the in house solutions we build for people.  I love the consistency that it brings to a diverse organisation.

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