Welcome to the second part of this series on process optimization challenges. Last time we went over the importance of simplicity in process, and more specifically how looking at the big picture when affecting change can ensure that you make a more significant improvement.
Today we’re focusing on another important aspect of process redesign and that is the people, the stakeholders that are involved in the process – or rather that you should make sure are involved if you’re in charge of the initiative. You can’t expect to deliver on your optimization promise if you aren’t well acquainted with the relevant audiences. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at these and see what you should pay attention to along the way.
Listen to Your Audiences
The first of the groups that you need to listen to are customers. Their feedback is crucial in determining the direction of a process optimization initiative, so tap into any recommendations/complaints repository you may have at hand. If that doesn’t exist, go ahead and run a poll. It’s not extreme to ask the people who pay for the lights to stay on what they think of your services and whether you could do a better job. It shows you care. It’s precisely targeted, insightful advice that’s also invaluable in prioritizing initiatives or getting buy-in from different actors within the organization. It’s ideal, really. So don’t push it aside as frivolous exercise, you will undoubtedly find some gems among the cynical remarks.
The second group of stakeholders that needs to have their say are the actual staff that directly run the process. These are the people on the ground, so to speak, and they are intimately acquainted with the innerworkings of how value is delivered. As such, these employees are most likely full of useful practical insights and advice on how to make things better. Value their feedback for the treasure trove that it actually is and leverage it because what they have to offer is the equivalent of thousands of hours of real-life quality testing.
Throughout their time in the role, these stakeholders will have seen the process in so many unpredictable circumstances (and will have made it work, somehow) that you could hardly ask for a more knowledgeable crowd. Be careful, though, often times the problem as stated by them at first is actually just a symptom. Or a link in a chain that goes further up the value stream, and up the chain of command too. Follow this in order to get to the root cause and then you might actually help them more than just focusing on the very visible things they pointed out to you in the beginning (for more information on this last bit, check out Part 1 of this series). Also, keep in mind, this is the group that will carry out the process going forward. So, it only makes sense to ensure they’re buying into this redesign initiative and its results.
Finally, what is management’s take on the problem? It would be prudent to have a high-ranking executive take part in the optimization process because certain high-level directives may actually shed much needed light onto the situation. For instance, you may learn of strategic plans being formulated that would actually give a big boost to one of the options you were considering for simplifying a certain stage in the value delivery process. Or indeed that the company will be moving away from a certain service, which spells doom for a solution that you had on the radar – back to the drawing board, then.
To further support management decision making, you may also want to measure aspects of your process, and not just rely on people’s opinions. For instance, in industrial production processes they extensively measure things like defects and rework. It’s potentially contentious though – people don’t like being measured – and it may smell like Taylorism, but having some facts is helpful. Of course, the customer feedback we mentioned above is also a form of measurement but that may be influenced by their general happiness, the weather, and other extraneous factors.
Engaging with Everyone to Find the Truth – a scenario
Now let’s tie everything in with a simplified real-world example. Consider a mainstream bank. Their app provides a poor user experience – slow, lacking in functionality etc. Other high street banks fair a little better but newer fintech companies really outclass them. Now, the indisputable fact is that people like and want to have their bank in their pocket. And when we say ‘bank’ that encompasses salary, overdraft services, currency exchange, possibly insurance, mortgage, cryptocurrency – the whole range of services. Nowadays customers want it all and they want it beautifully delivered.
The first step in tackling the problem is to see what the customers are saying. What aspects do they mostly complain about? Well, it turns out the items that are most often mentioned are the ability to produce e-statements on the go in order to prove their ID/address to other companies, and accessing great rates for currency exchange. The predominantly young audience who mostly uses their app is moving home a lot, trying out new services, and traveling abroad a few times a year, so the two issues they’re highlighting disproportionately affect their lives. At the moment, there is no way to produce an official eStatement on the spot and exchanging money involves a laborious process on the website, followed by an actual envelope holding the cash being sent to a desired address. Overall, the experience is unwieldy and outdated.
Interestingly, when consulting with the customer support team, these issues don’t come up almost at all – clients are mostly after general information. In a way it makes sense – if the functionality isn’t there, it’s unlikely people will have questions about it. A blessing? Well, actually the opposite. The poor experience compounded over time makes customers very ‘trigger-happy’ so when they learn of a new fintech product that, say, provides an easy answer to all their woes they’re all too eager to migrate. There are a number of (primarily) currency exchange companies whose customer bases number in the millions only a few years after launch. Surely the big banks’ hundred-year early start would have made them a prime candidate for coming up similar services first? You’d think so, but history shows otherwise. So, after consulting with the CS team the main headline is the need for a self-service desk to take low-priority miscellaneous tasks off agents’ plate.
Last but not least, consultations with management reveal that a major strategic component of their plan forward is getting in touch with the 18-34 audience and doing a better job of catering to their needs. This is good news because under the umbrella of this plan, new processes can be developed to tackle the problems highlighted by customers. This will eventually lead to entirely retiring, for example, the currency exchange process. It will be transformed from a slow analog experience to something that takes place exclusively within the app. This way, young customers get what they were looking for, they feel more of a connection with their bank, and the result is management’s desire to get closer to that market segment is ticked off as well. Naturally, prioritizing means that some aspects (such as what the employees mentioned) will be addressed later on. Still, this a good start towards streamlining the process landscape and making sure it actually delivers for customers while also consolidating the organization’s future.
In conclusion, in optimizing a process landscape you need to be keenly aware of the relevant stakeholder groups and the ways in which they can help you successfully carry out the job at hand. Make certain you don’t exclude any of them. Their differing points of view come together to create a
more cohesive big picture of the process landscape and how it needs to change in order to drive things forward. Thanks for making it to the end. For a more in-depth look at the topic, download our free eBook, Thinking in Processes. See you next week for Part 3!