Process improvement tips from Raewyn Ellison, Matamata-Piako District Council. Issue #9.

A BPM platform will not look after itself. You need someone who is willing to drive the tool and keep encouraging staff to use it, training teams on how the platform works and how to use it will keep it alive and drive engagement. Read more

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 Raewyn Ellison of Matamata-Piako District Council.

Raewyn Ellison’s role as quality coordinator means she has responsibility and authority for the council’s quality management system. In the role of lead process champion, her responsibilities range from all matters related to quality, to providing training, to reporting on progress to the executive team.

The Matamata-Piako District is a local government area in the Waikato region of New Zealand. The Matamata-Piako District, which covers 175,000 hectares in the central Waikato, is well known for dairy farming and its thoroughbred racing industry. The district has a population of 33,000 people, over 56% of which live in one of the three main towns namely Matamata, Morrinsville and Te Aroha.

Why is process important to your organization?

The people at Matamata-Piako District are experts in their field. They have a huge amount of knowledge stored in their brains, and processes help us capture that know-how which is critical to the organization.

By capturing the information, it is effectively shared with others on the team and when staff are away or decide to leave the council, there is no interruption to the organization when someone else has to pick up the job.

The one question that I am always asked is: “Why do I have to have processes when I know how to do my job?” Once I explain that the processes are not in the system for them to follow but are there so they can be used if staff members ‘fall over’ and are unavailable to do their job, then people understand why processes are important to our organization.

What’s your biggest process management challenge?

We have two issues that have demanded our attention, namely:

1. Keeping staff engaged

We know that people are critical in driving and maintaining the effectiveness of our business process mapping. We continue to focus on engaging them and involving them in our BPM projects.

2. Staying on top of processes that are due for review

The job isn’t done once the processes are captured. Regularly reviewing them is equally as important so that we ensure they remain our one version of the truth that our teams can depend on.

We do this by ensuring staff are fully trained to be able to use Nintex Promapp so they take ownership of their own processes. Also if staff understand how the system works they are more likely to use it.

What works well at your company?

We include feedback at our monthly management group meetings where we report on which processes are overdue for review, which feedback requests have had no responses, and which corrective actions are overdue in our improvement module. Our CEO backs our BPM efforts, and also attends this meeting.

Failure to discuss overdue processes, feedback and corrective actions at these meetings would result in the system soon becoming outdated and not worth using.  This could lead to the risk of non-compliance with audit and also risks/actions not being accessed, which could lead to the organization not achieving its objectives.

By keeping everyone aware of where we are at with the platform, our people are engaged and more likely to collaborate.

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

Implementing a business process mapping tool is the action that has changed our process improvement efforts the most.

Our original system, which was established in 1996, consisted of html pages for each department which were stored on our intranet with hyperlinks to the processes. The problem with this was that hyperlinks could drop off at any time, and one person was in charge of updating these pages when staff wanted changes made to any of their processes. We also had a corrective action database that was used through Microsoft Access, which became outdated.

Some of the benefits for Matamata-Piako District Council since changing to Nintex Promapp are:

- No longer dealing with hyperlinks that drop off

- Staff taking ownership of their own processes

- Staff updating processes at any time

- Notification of when processes are due for review

- Searching for processes is much easier

- Corrective actions are now recorded in the improvement module.

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

A platform will not look after itself. You need someone who is willing to drive the tool and keep encouraging staff to use it, training teams on how the platform works and how to use it will keep it alive and drive engagement.

One of issues that was raised not long after we got Nintex Promapp was what I would do when all the information had been transferred from our intranet-based system to Nintex Promapp. I could not believe I was asked this question.

For a start, we still had to get everything transferred from the intranet-based system into Nintex Promapp.  I had to train all the staff on how to add existing processes into Nintex Promapp, and help staff who were unsure about whether they were on the right track with understanding how Nintex Promapp works once they started adding in processes. Processes that had been added into Nintex Promapp had to be checked to be sure they are useable and made sense, and the intranet-based system had to be updated to remove the processes that had been transferred, so staff did not use an out-of-date process. Corrective actions that were logged to advise that processes had been transferred, needed to be closed. And all the while, we have to stay on track to ensure we remain ISO 9001 certified.

By allocating a resource to focus on looking after our business process management, we know that the system and the people who use it are well-supported and in a far better position to succeed.

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