See beyond the process – designing optimised and simplified processes inspired by visually impaired individuals
Processes are at the heart of all business operations. Truly precise processes enable businesses to pinpoint and eradicate inefficiencies, manage risks, enhance customer experience, and ultimately maximise value.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the importance of effective processes for businesses as they adapted to a radically altered economy. With newly distributed workforces, and no singular approach to this new mode of working, businesses were faced with increased operational risks, as once successful processes became redundant.
Traditionally, processes are created with a concerted focus on visual diagrams that display key activities, steps and hand-offs. With the newly dispersed workforce, understanding these diagrams became increasingly complex, clouded by meta data and complicated instructions. They became almost impossible to navigate and failed to acknowledge one of our visually impaired stakeholders.
At NTT DATA, we place real significance on creating an environment where a variety of different voices are encouraged and heard. In order to create a workplace that nurtures everyone, it’s important to start at the very core of the business – processes. In doing so, organisations will generate savings, create efficiencies and improve overall operations, all whilst celebrating and benefiting from the talent of each and every team member.
Processes should be easily accessible and simple enough to memorise in a short period of time. From our work both internally, and with clients, we have identified key steps businesses should take in order to streamline their processes.
Set context and compartmentalise
Processes should start at logical levels that describe the context and should not consist of more than 9 broad steps - we call this Level 3. Following this, the Level 4 processes (next level of detail) should embellish on each of these steps to the point that they are still memorable and not overly complex. If a process does start to become overly complex, the designer should look into how this can be simplified, and further sub-processes created. This practice keeps the logical flow understandable at a general level, and where needed, the user can dive deeper into a particular step to understand more.
Activities should be described using concise language, without embellishment. As a general rule, if the text doesn’t fit in the standard sized box, it’s too long.
One actor per activity
When designing a process, it is crucial that there is only one actor (human or system) that performs a task. Whilst a human can most certainly perform an activity on a system, a note on the activity should be made, and this should only be done as an exception and not the norm, specifically when only going to the logical process levels.
Design to be efficient
Decisions and hand-offs can quickly create complexity and friction in a process, let alone make them difficult to understand. The design challenge is to reduce process complexity by questioning why a hand-off takes place and why decisions need to happen (often for the umpteenth time). By reducing hand-offs and decision points, organisations naturally become more efficient and increase staff ownership and accountability.
A logical numbering system should always be applied to processes. This serves two purposes, firstly the user is able to mentally draw a connection from the organisational construct and therefore relate the activities to an overarching business unit or experience, and secondly, it helps keep track of how the user is navigating between processes. This numbering should therefore form an integral part of the process catalogue.
Putting it into action
Executives are under constant pressure to reduce costs across the organisation to stay competitive and fund new investments. At NTT DATA we are committed to helping our clients achieve operational excellence through process engineering.
Our approach enables clients to implement tailored, continuous process improvements, simplify and transform processes, and deliver sustainable process management models. In doing so, we can generate savings, create efficiencies and help you improve the overall operation of your organisation.
This year, we supported one of our global telco clients to develop the capability to reduce annual costs for circuits by £10m, by identifying redundant telephony circuits and those still in use, for which pricing could be optimised.
The client had a history of multiple acquisitions which gave rise to a complex network that was costly and difficult to manage. On top of this, they were experiencing large operational costs in an increasingly competitive market and were suffering from poor customer service and inefficient use of resources. We performed end-to-end analysis of these processes, identified key pain points and areas of optimisation and automation and then implemented an end-to-end algorithm-based process, to find and close inventory data gaps across large and medium business segments.
Our Rapid Process Simplification approach improves business efficiency through incremental and continuous change.
More than ever before, creating these simplified and optimised processes is an essential step for all businesses. With remote working set to remain in place as we approach the New Year, simplified processes will enable businesses to survive and thrive, by maximising their value and providing excellent customer experiences.
Most importantly, however, these simplified processes are a gateway for diversity and inclusion. Each member of your team has valuable insights and opinions, and the right processes must be in place to facilitate their contribution. By respecting the diversity of your employees and maximising their capabilities, there are no limits to what your business can achieve.