Process Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. The output of any system will tend to be informed by the quality of the foundations laid and the instructions followed. There is no recipe for success, but there is a formula for giving you the best chance.
Peter Marshall is Chief Operating Officer & Senior Vice-President of Monash University – one of the leading research universities in Australia, and the second longest-established in the state of Victoria.
He has led a major overhaul in the processes of the university’s admin system, so we asked him: what’s the one thing you’ve learned from making these changes happen in the real world that you wouldn’t have predicted before you started?
Factor 1: Give people power
Give competent people power and authority. I was surprised at how significant and beneficial their changes can be.
If you can get the power and authority right, you can get the technology and the platform right. You can generate significant cost savings and quality improvement if you can get the people who are in charge the tools they need to deliver process excellence. That’s the major challenge because universities are a very consultative and giving power and authority to make process changes always requires consultation and work.
Factor 2: Efficiency = speed
You need to know whether you’re delivering real efficiencies and savings.
We used to do the payment of our accounts in more than fifty processing points across the university over a period of time.
Using process redesign reform – we ended up with one singly-managed processing of accounts payments under a single leader using technology.
We also apply self-service to the payment of accounts as much as possible, in terms of preparing the account, matching the invoice, matching up the purchase orders, and them making the final payment.
We more than halved the number of people accessing the accounts payable system from five hundred, down to about 120 people. With fewer people touching the process, we sped up how quickly we processed standard transactions which proved to be less expensive.
The fewer people touching the process, the better
Factor 3: High speed, low cost
When you make the processes faster from initiation of the transaction to completion of the transaction, you can strip out unnecessary processes and therefore reduce cost.
Factor 4: Don’t sacrifice service for efficiency when you can achieve both
In regards end to end process reform for an IT help desk, it is all about moving from independently managed IT support to a service hub. The benefits are numerous, you gain a standard system where you can measure the jobs that are created and discern how long the resolution time is, and general service standards such as ‘if you can’t fix the computer in about twenty minutes, get the user set up on a new computer.’
Since switching to a hub system, we have made service cost savings s of around 30% and we’ve sped up the response times from 48 hours, to solving their problem in thirty minutes.
We also extended this to standardised machines.
The more skilled you can get your support staff on a particular type of machine and the quicker they will be able to service the help request.
Factor 5: Make change part of the process
An optimum process – in terms of services and cost – is one that empowers an employee to manage a process on an end to end basis.
The camel is a horse designed by a committee. You can’t have a committee determining how the process should be performed. At the end of the day, an individual has to be held accountable for the process and be given the power and authority to make changes to that process to make it more efficient and more cost effective. Adding to that, the quicker the process is performed, the likely more efficient in terms of cost and quality it is likely to be.
You’ve heard Peter’s top factors that drive process excellence – Here are our own
Factor 1: Have clear goals and an end in sight
A process-oriented organization must have a clear view of the benefits that need to be achieved. It is important to have a clear goal in sight. Not only does this give businesses salient information to measure performance against, but it also enables a culture where analyzing, reviewing, and improving processes becomes second nature where new goals and milestones can be determined.
Every employee involved in process improvement should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the primary goal of this process is it about driving up revenue or lowering expenditure?
- How can I determine if a process is optimized?
- In what ways is it being monitored?
- Why this process here is in the first place?
Factor 2: Give clarity to your flow and make it visual
Give employees constant feedback by making process flows visual. Each employee should be able to see how processes are connected to one another and how they improve service. Not only does this reinforce a culture of progress, but it also shows how the process affects the customer.
It is not a good idea to optimize a process for the sake of it. By adding visual elements, you may discover if a process is necessary at all. However, mapping a process is just one part of the solution. There is a risk that an organization maps out all of their processes and over analyses to such an extent where it can become too difficult to focus on an area to improve.
As such, it is equally important it knows when to stop modelling and when to start working on solutions.
Factor 3: Get new starters involved right away
Creating a culture doesn’t happen overnight, it happens over generations. It is all well and good if your veteran employees are following all of the best practices, but new employees will need some pushing.
That is why it is pivotal that an organization documents processes and retains the knowledge of employees even after they leave.
A process repository is always a good idea to consider.
A repository that enables your organization to publish processes so that they are salient, easy to access for newer employees, and easy to update. They should provide an overarching view of the processes, how they work, and how to use them. Simple, helpful process guidance makes a big difference and often results in less time spent looking for a solution, and more time on self-improvement.
Factor 4: Communication and more communication
All employees should have a deep understanding and a universal commitment to the mission behind. You need to spread awareness of your program and introduce processes and how they are being improved.
Benefits have to be demonstrated as they occur, for example, monthly reports or dashboards with aggregated data will let you assess the performance of your processes against your key performance indicators.
Good communication is a two-way process and listening to feedback and incorporating lessons from feedback is key for continuous improvement.
Proactive feedback processes can include post-mortems, training feedback, global satisfaction levels, management surveys and more – anything that will encourage employees across the organization to participate in communication and float new ideas with process managers.
This is often up to management. A generic metric such as “good delivery time” needs to have a quantifiable metric attached to it.
Factor 5: Don’t launch a BPM project for the sake of it
Any BPM project has to be based on facts. You should never ask yourself how BPM can improve a process; you need to find out what the problem with the process is first. For example, if your solution is to automate a messy process, the process will you end up with a messy process that is automated.
This is important to remember, as the solution isn’t always technology. Additionally, the improving and tweaking a process is often better than completely replacing it. It is a good practice the view a process from end-to-end and considers how the delivery affects the client – If reinventing the wheel brings teething along with it, it may not be the best course of action.