5 ways BPM can transform council outputs: a personal story.

Councils can exceed consumer expectations with the help of business process mapping tools, while engaging their teams and improving their productivity.

During my six years at Council I worked in five departments which spanned across nine different roles, each with its own set of (unspoken) procedures and (undocumented) operational guidelines. 

Although all my roles were different, varying from the review of parking infringements to governance and process improvement, they all had one thing in common: I spent what felt like a lot of time, trying to find out who I needed to talk to, where I could find something or simply what I had to do next.

When I saw the positive impact on council teams once they captured, shared and reviewed their business processes I felt honour-bound to share the good news. In fact, I’m such a BPM believer, I left Council recently to join a BPM provider - now I get to help other companies reach process nirvana!

Here are the 5 things my personal experience at Council has taught me about the value of using a solid business process mapping tool

New staff become productive almost immediately.

Everyone wants to make the new council team member feel welcome and planned for. But it can be tricky to have someone available for the new starter to constantly shadow. Often we don’t have the luxury of training the newbie before the previous position holder leaves, so someone gets taken away from their usual work in order to conduct the training.

If only I had had some place I could go to look up all the processes that are linked to my position title! As a newbie, when I was stuck in the middle of a new task I could have looked at a clear, easy-to-read and engaging tool to find out exactly what my next step should be.

Accountability, that hot potato.

One of my biggest challenges moving from private enterprise to local government was that I never knew who was responsible for anything. Sure, my department manager was around, but often they were a team leader and a coordinator away from my level. When I needed to contact someone about an issue with a particular task, it took multiple phone calls and sometimes weeks to find someone who was willing to help me chase things up.

In the absence of clear direction and allocation of responsibility, teams can revert to the attitude of ‘it’s not my job’. Making the correct connections within Council and getting a functional network up and running became crucial. New staff don’t have this option from Day 1 – when they need to know how or why, or even what, options are available, it isn’t simply a matter of calling a friend or ‘a favour’.

Don’t even get me started on the process to follow when I wanted to change something.

Finding the right decision-maker when it spanned multiple teams or departments, was near impossible. This really impacted our ability to change and improve processes.

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 Data tells the real story.

Then it comes to budgets, Council tends to be all over it. Financial statements, reporting – it’s all sorted.  They have entire teams devoted to it! 

Talk about what we actually do, how we do it and how long it takes to do it - and then ask about actual statistics to support the answer - and you open a can of worms. Ask about how much something costs to do and people get very uncomfortable.

Ironically, there is often a massive push to do more with less, to deliver value for residents, and to make Council customer-centric rather than customer service orientated, yet the norm was to provide ‘gut feel’ information rather than actual data.

With a good business process mapping tool, at a glance you can see exactly what you do and how long it takes you to do it. Change something? You can easily view a comparison of current and previous version timeframes and costing.

Everyone has an opinion, but you need data to make an impact.

Share information: get it out of people's heads.

When someone leaves the organization after having been in a Council role for years, where does all their knowledge go? All those little tidbits about the idiosyncrasies of Council, how they do their job, where they go for information.

I know there were many occasions where I needed information in a time-critical environment, however the person I needed to talk to only worked part-time, so I was hamstrung until they came into work.

It’s important to think about how much knowledge is in people’s heads. Multiply the number of staff by the average time they’ve worked for Council and you start getting a scary number of years’ worth of knowledge that will simply walk out the door one day if it isn’t recorded somewhere.

I know of an Access database, used for an entire booking system, that was so old the person who had password protected it in the backend had left and no one was able to get in there. Staff lived with their fingers crossed that it never fell over – thinking about how much valuable data and knowledge was in that database made my head hurt!

Customers don't want siloed experiences.

Like a lot of other businesses, Council works in a functional, team- based, hierarchical structure. This makes a lot of sense when you are in a team and going through your day. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that most residents will touch multiple departmental areas when they contact Council with an enquiry or need a service. The issue is that one team generally has no idea what the other is doing!

Take the various permits that Council supplies – these applications often need input from various departments. Sometimes, if the resident is lucky, the person processing the request knows to create a workflow for the request. Often however, if a customer rang me while I was reviewing a permit application in Local Laws and asked if they needed to talk to another department, I would have no idea. 

Seeing the overall end-to-end view of a service is invaluable in breaking down those boundaries.

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Knowing how your contribution fits into the bigger picture can result in not only more satisfied staff, but also in a better customer experience for council residents. 

Having end-to-end process views and notifications automatically going to all stakeholders also means greater collaboration across Council. Invariably this also leads to process improvement, as all stakeholders are empowered to have a say in changes.

Councils face pressure to do more with less.

The importance of business process management for councils is becoming more and more evident. Learn why Promapp is the BPM tool-of-choice for 120+ councils.

Hear more stories from councils who have focused on process improvement. Get their tips on how they dealt with BPM challenges like driving a culture of change, getting team buy-in, securing the support of the leadership team, and much more. 

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