Jul 24

Dimension “Time” on Business Process Improvement

Swamped with orders, papers, files, reports, tasks, records, meetings? Traditionally in a process improvement initiative, the approach has been to what people do in a process, how we can speed up their steps to assist in increasing people & process efficiency. The all important question is: Are we really competitive in the market? Do we have *the* differentiating factor to better serve our customers?

Companies should be fast, flexible and responsive to customer needs. We’ve always focussed on “people”, but the reality is that, people are not the problem.

Many BPM specialists would agree that one can easily take 70% time out of the processes. It may sound very extreme, but we could easily share our experiences where this has been achieved across various industries & products. By making people work harder or do things faster does not cut process times drastically. Hence, in this post – I’d like to give an intro into one of the key ingredients of a process: “Time”.

We (Bankers in particular) have all heard “Customer is King”. Well, defaulters excluded? That’s for another time!!!
Prior to moving further, I’d like to credit few of my past colleagues for their efforts of building processes around customer satisfaction – Patrick Byrne, Kylie Dennis, Shakun Mohnani, Sean Burns, Satheesh Kumar, Vaheed KO, Ahmed Saeed Nasser Al Khuroosi & V P Abdullah.

The BPM community categorises a value added step if it meets the following three conditions
1. Customer considers it important
2. Physically changes the subject flowing through the process
3. If the step is performed right the first time

In another post, I’ll talk about techniques in detail to assist you in identifying if the step is value added or not. Once you’ve deployed an apt technique, you’ll notice that hardly 25% of process steps will qualify as value added steps! If this number scares you, read further- these would constitute less than 5% of the time that it spends in the entire process!!!

I don’t have to tell you about the possibilities / opportunities of improving the process, leave alone – shrinking the process time by 70%!

All of us would agree that in order to stay competitive in the market, we have to serve the customer better. I hope this post has helped you think a little differently and brings about a positive change. Think different! Think smarter!

Whilst a lot could be written on this topic, I’ve summarised it so as to raise some thinking prowess. Feel free to post comments in case you need more detail on any abovementioned content.


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  1. Anas

    Assuming you are open to questions/debate, could you elaborate on how something is considered a value add If the step is performed right the first time?

    1. noaman

      The step is considered value add if it meets – all those three conditions. Performing the step right the first time is considered a key ingredient of the three. I shall explain it with an example:

      You (a customer) visit me (a bank) to open a savings account. I should endeavor to collect “ALL” the required documentation / information the first time itself. I “supposedly” collect “ALL” the information / documentation, only to end up calling you after couple of days to inform you that I have forgotten to collect a certain document. Needless to say, you would not be a happy customer. You will not be willing to consider spending your effort / time / money on the bank’s mistake.

      The example is perhaps simple, but it shows how imperative it is to do things right the first time.

  2. Anas

    Got it.. the first time around I read it as ‘any of the three steps’. Makes sense now.. thanks.

  3. Imran C.

    Devil’s Advocate:
    Is this post intended for a specific business focus?
    This doesn’t necessarily apply to every single business does it?
    Step1 without doubt is important but its too general. (Conflicting customers needs => Conflicting Importance factors ). Which one do you keep? Do you keep the masses?

    Wait…before the Noaman band wagon hates me…lets take this offline…

    I think your post should have some caveats/if-thens/negative assertions.
    Just a thought…

    1. noaman

      Good points Imran.

      Based on my experience, it does apply for every business scenario. The interpretation could differ though. The devil is in the detail and hence one should try to get the specific task to identify whether it is value add or not. Having a generic step would not necessarily help.

      With regards to conflicting needs, conflicting importance factors, etc. – there are techniques to gauge responses. One of the ways is to let your customer differentiate between MUST-HAVE and NICE-TO-HAVE needs. The NICE-TO-HAVE can be rated by the customers from a scale that you can define (eg. 1 to 5). You could then perform a weighted aggregation based on responses that you’ve received to decide your next step. Ideally you’d like to keep everyone happy, however that is not always possible (various reasons), this mechanism may alleviate few of the issues.

      On your suggestion regarding having caveats/if-then/negative assertions – I’ll note it. I envisage my posts to be a teaser to encourage discussion and comments for me to write detailed posts on what the audience wants.

  4. Krista Legum

    Great information :)

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