Why invest in a process improvement program?
One of our clients recently asked Anastasia Fountis, a Promapp Implementation Consultant, for examples of benefits users of Promapp and Lean have experienced. Here’s her response.
In this blog post, Anastasia defines two models for implementing business improvement within an organization and shares 5 benefits that can result from investment in a process improvement program.
Firstly, I see two distinct models for implementing business improvement within an organization. Both require different types of resourcing. This is not to say that they can’t be run simultaneously - however I think it is important to distinguish between the two.
1. Undertake process improvement projects targeting major pain points, high volume transactions and/or business critical services.
These are larger scale improvement projects that will involve in-depth analysis of specific service areas or inefficiencies and, through root cause analysis and prioritization, identify larger improvement initiatives to be implemented e.g. putting services online, streamlining electronic workflows, moving to a paperless workplace etc. Due to the nature of these types of improvement initiatives, implementation will likely require further resources and project management.
2. Implement an organization-wide process improvement culture program that engages and empowers all staff to see process and process improvement as critical to their BAU.
This model helps to sustainably improve the way all work is carried out across the organization by including all staff in the mapping of processes and in the identification and implementation of process improvements. Many ideas will be generated from this model, so it is important to have a structure in place to support staff in the implementation of changes to their everyday work (things that are within their sphere of influence); as well as a method for collecting, prioritizing and implementing larger projects that require additional resources e.g. IT assistance, cross organizational collaboration. The additional benefit of this model is that it sets up a strong foundation and process improvement culture for any larger transformational change that may be rolled out across the organization, such as a customer case management, shared services, and digital transformation.
Here are 5 benefits of investing in a process improvement program. These examples are based on what we have seen across our client base and my personal experience at City of Boroondara where the Process Improvement Program was focussed on embedding a strong process improvement culture throughout the organization.
1. Improved Knowledge Management.
A central resource for training and inducting staff.
- I have heard many staff complain about the time spent trying to figure out how ‘things are done’ when they start a new job. Often, few procedure manuals exist or, if they do exist, they are often out-of-date and difficult to follow. By documenting processes in a central repository you can significantly reduce the time and cost involved in staff recruitment and staff turnover. There is also a natural inclination for staff to improve a process as they are documenting it, so there will almost always be some small wins achieved from the documentation exercise.
- Heavily legislated service areas commonly have well developed procedure manuals that include communication templates and other resources. Usually these manuals are large documents consisting of hundreds of pages and it is difficult to find specific information within them. Additionally, supporting documentation such as letter templates are often buried deep within network drives and/or exist in multiple versions. Even if you do have a corporate document management system, staff may find it easier to store these templates on their own network drive or desktop. This causes issues with version control and standardization. Converting these types of procedure manuals into Promapp process maps helps simplify the content and makes it more accessible and easier to use for all staff. It also creates a much better asset for new staff induction and sets a great foundation for further process improvement.
2. Increased Collaboration Across Departments.
Showing end-to-end processes and notifying all stakeholders of any changes in the end-to-end processes.
- There is often little visibility, understanding and consideration of the flow-on effects of each team’s processes. This is particularly important for Customer Service teams, the front line staff who communicate information and processes to customers. I have seen cases where Customer Service have been responsible for their own SOP’s/scripts, taking the form of lengthy word documents. As standalone documentation, these SOP’s often struggle to keep up with changes in the service, which causes frustration for Customer Service staff, the team delivering the service and of course the customer. Putting these SOP’s/scripts in Promapp allows other teams across the organization to link the relevant SOP to their service delivery process, which significantly improves the communication between Customer Service and the teams delivering the service. The inbuilt notification mechanism within Promapp ensures that all related stakeholders are notified when changes occur and this benefit naturally flows on to customers.
3. Strong Process and Service Accountability.
Assigning Process Owners and Process Experts to processes who are then responsible for keeping processes up-to-date and accurate and responding to improvement suggestions from across the organization.
- The inbuilt governance in Promapp ensures that processes are owned and people are made accountable for ensuring they are accurate and effective. The more ownership teams can have over processes, the more likely they are to put time and effort into consistently reviewing and improving them.
Research shows that focusing on your organizational culture drives significant business benefits, and that these efforts are self-sustaining.
4. Increased Staff Engagement.
Involving all staff in identifying changes that could improve performance.
- Research shows that focusing on your organizational culture, including leveraging the knowledge and experience of your front line staff to improve service delivery, drives significant business benefits and that these efforts are self-sustaining. In addition, it reduces the investment required in a large CI team or the need to hire external consultants to undertake large process improvement initiatives. I have seen very clear examples of this, where teams have become strong advocates of staff-driven process improvement - valuing the opportunity to take ownership and influence the way they work. In my experience, this cultural shift has directly contributed to significant and measurable performance improvement – with no major service transformation having occurred, just small incremental process improvements driven by front line staff.
5. Increased Standardization of Processes.
Ensuring consistent customer experience and reducing risk to the organization.
- If processes in multiple customer-facing branches are not standardized, a customer’s experience will differ depending on the staff member and branch they interact with. Promapp has been used successfully within service areas such as Library Services bringing multiple ways of doing things together, enabling teams to determine best practice and giving them access to a single source of truth to guide service delivery.
- Many corporate services (recruitment, applying for leave, corporate reporting, raising a purchase order etc.) are poorly communicated across organizations. As a result, teams often take it upon themselves to create a process that works best for them. For example, you might find each team has a different way of managing their procurement rather than having one process owned by the procurement team that is followed across the organization (and set by the Procurement Policy!). This sort of variation can lead to a variety of issues and risks. Documenting these types of processes in Promapp so that they can be easily communicated across the organization, and allowing all staff to comment on the process if aspects of it do not work for them, helps mitigate risk. It is also a valuable time and resource saver for the organization, helps clarify the ownership of these processes and better aligns them with policies and legislative requirements.