In the first instance we have the four core strategic dimensions of process design.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Optimise Process Outcomes
Reduce Process Execution Cost
At the layer below this we have a few very important tactical considerations that feed into these strategic objectives, none more important than process cycle time reduction.
Cycle time is the elapsed time between the start and end of a process. In processes where cycle time is important it is usually measured in days. Examples of these types of processes are mortgage application, insurance claim, grant application, finance application and complaints.
Cycle time reduction enhances customer experience for multiple reasons. The most common root cause of customer dissatisfaction is centred around ‘It took too long’. Reducing cycle time means customer expectations are more likely to be met. Another common factor in customer dissatisfaction is a lack of updates during the execution of the process. Expectation of updates increases with longer cycle times and as such lower cycle times reduce this negative perception.
Optimal process outcomes and reduced cycle times are often associated. In many scenarios the likelihood of an optimal process outcome decreases the longer the process takes; especially where the customer has a choice.
The link between lower process cycle times and reduced process execution costs are well known. A reduction in the number of updates and telephone calls, in addition to a lower occurrence of failure demand instances is all very well documented. High quality processes cost less to execute and have lower cycle times.
Compliance is often about cycle time. The FCA requires complaints to be dealt with according to explicit timescales as do many other regulatory organisations.
So, we have established that process cycle time is important. How do we reduce it?
Many of the improvement tactics for each of the core strategic dimensions overlap and improve multiple elements. Reduction in execution time through automation, process step omission and assisted execution all reduce cycle time.
Parallel execution of process elements using specialist teams will result in better cycle times than serial execution by single teams, although careful consideration has to be given to scalability and the additional overhead of coordinating the efforts of multiple teams as these can be detrimental to process execution cost.
Process execution transparency is also key to reducing cycle time. It is important to understand what stages a process passes through during its execution and the nature of each of these stages. One-and-done stages rarely cause inbuilt process delays. However, multi-element process stages are often the point of inherent delay and need to have cycle time controls inbuilt. Multi-element process stages can also be a prime candidate for parallel execution by specialist teams. One of the most common process patterns has an information collection/investigation stage and this is an ideal candidate for parallel execution with each sub process having its own process controls.
Increased communication speed reduces cycle time substantially. Utilising email and telephone rather than post based correspondence is obviously an improvement. In addition, data collection via structured, integrated, communication increases speed and reduces rekeying effort. FLOvate’s low code workflow platform utilises an ingenious subsystem called DCV (Data Collection View) that allows agents to send interactive data collection views to any party in a process (either automatically or manually) and then integrate their answer directly into the underlying database and/or workflow.
Automatic updates via text, email or app remove the effort required keeping a customer up to date and happen at the speed of light. An informed up to date customer is less likely to take up resource requesting updates; such resource being used to progress the process further reducing cycle time.
Defect monitoring and elimination can seem like an additional overhead to begin with, but it is vitally important in long term improvement of all the core strategic dimensions. Ultimately defect elimination reduces process execution and cycle times. Where an occurrence of a defect can only be reduced, it should be brought into the process to enable it to be systemised and staff trained to deal with it in the most efficient manner.
Finally, reporting of cycle times using real time dashboards supports improvement. It is often said that ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’ or ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Real time reporting of key metrics, including cycle time, is key to utilising measurements for improvement. The FLOvate low code workflow platform automatically records cycle times of each defined process, including the cycle time between each defined process stage.
Cycle time reduction is a key element of process improvement that can significantly improve all of the core strategic dimensions of process execution.