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How to Drive Out Waste and Wait

Posted by Steve Knutson on December 21, 2017

We can have an app for everything these days in business. But that’s not necessarily beneficial. It actually can create waste and increase wait – neither of which are good for business.

From the initial sale to billing, it’s common for organizations to have a series of applications they use. Often, they are even industry specific. In our case at Marco, it all starts in Salesforce and then takes two different distinct paths with varying applications – one for our copier division and one for our IT division.

As organizations use more apps and cloud-based computing, they have more opportunities to leverage automation to get them to talk to one another and perform key tasks. Technology enables us to do far more than we ever could before, as I recently shared in a blog on DevOps. Automation is among the key defining trends in business.

Simply put, automation should drive out waste and wait in a given process, not just shift it. Before that can be achieved, we need to establish baselines for how we’re performing under the current process. What can you automate to better position your organization in 2018? Consider this:

How much time are you spending on tasks?
Start by determining how much time you spend doing specific tasks. We call it a process map and often bring a group of stakeholders together to evaluate what we’re doing and seek opportunities for improvement through Kaizen or continuous improvement events.

Where are people waiting in your process?
A recent process map led us to discover that every minute that we save on a support ticket not only makes for a happier user, but also totals one full-time equivalent (FTE) employee over the course of a month. Given the volume of tickets that flow through Marco, one minute does make a big difference. So, we started looking for what is taking time that does not need to be in our process.

What’s causing the wait (or waste)?
We learned that our team members may need to access multiple applications to solve an issue on a support ticket. Every time they left the main application to gain information from another program cost time. We needed to streamline the applications and the process to help our team members get the information they needed faster.

Where are the unnecessary repeats?
We stepped back and looked at the apps we use from the time of the sale to billing. We outlined what we used each for and found in one case that we enter the same information three times in three different applications. That takes time and can impact accuracy. So, we mapped out a new plan that enables us to automate that data entry after it is entered the first time. Data entry almost always provides opportunities in organizations. Start there.

What’s the return?
While automation will drive out costs, it typically first requires some investment. That often can be both in time and money. Determine what your tolerance is for an investment to automate a process. Knowing the potential return on the investment helps organizations determine where to spend their time and money. In the case of our support tickets, we knew if we could drive out just one minute in the process, over a month we would save one FTE and deliver better service. Those are real dollars that we can evaluate an investment on.

What are your opportunities?
Choose an important process in your organization and dissect it. It could be the most valuable exercise you do to ring in the new year. The gains could last for years to come. Automation is the future. As leaders, we need to continuously assess what we can automate and what we leverage our human capital for to achieve better outcomes.

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