Process Excellence means efficiency and effectiveness

20 August 2020 Consultancy.uk

Process excellence is a combination of process efficiency and effectiveness. Though not mutually exclusive, the latter element tends to be forgotten by Heads of Operation and Process Owners.

The reason for this is that efficiency is often considered an internal process factor (the cost and effort the process consumes), whereas effectiveness is often considered an external factor (the outcome of a process). This difference can be simplified as an input-led approach (efficiency) vs. an output-led approach (effectiveness).

It is tempting to focus on the inputs to a process in order to improve efficiency. Cost and effort are simple and visible metrics understood by all stakeholders, with a clear impact on the bottom line of the department or business. Effectiveness measures tend to be more opaque – customer satisfaction, stakeholder engagement, quality of output. By being difficult to measure, these metrics are often neglected as soon as they have been deemed “good enough”.

However, focusing on these elements is vital to unlocking true process excellence, where quality and customer and stakeholder experience are significant elements of process excellence.

Process Excellence = Efficiency + Effectiveness

Quality

Quality comprises the attributes and characteristics of the process output, and most importantly, what is done with the output. In today's connected business environment, no process stands alone. Instead, processes and their outputs are interconnected in myriad ways, and even internal processes reach and affect the customer eventually.

Quality needs to evaluate the usability of the process outputs, i.e. how easy is it to use by subsequent processes? Process excellence does not take an exclusive view, and by answering that question, it ensures that the impact and the opportunities of all processes is considered. Furthermore, higher quality outputs have significant knock-on effects by enabling faster responses and a reduction in efforts.

Customer experience

Process excellence encompasses customer experience. As mentioned before, all processes eventually reach and affect the customer. Hence, process excellence takes a two-prong approach to improving customer satisfaction: improving how the customer feels during the process and helping employees service customers. The first prong considers the way a customer interacts at a given touchpoint, and how they feel about the process and its outcome.

This is interconnected with the second prong of helping employees help customers. This considers the employee view of such processes. For example, a call centre operator may be required to log into three different systems to fetch a specific part of data for a customer. While the customer on the other end may be OK with the associated wait time (first prong), it is only when you consider the employee view (second view) that this problem is unearthed.

In this example, the employee is not properly enabled to do the best possible job for the customer. If this is remediated (i.e. eliminating the number of necessary logins), the natural consequence is a reduction in wait time and a more satisfied customer.

Internal stakeholders

The example of the call centre process also serves to illustrate another often-overlooked element of process excellence: the consideration of internal stakeholders. Employee satisfaction is rarely considered when improving processes. Considering the previous example, equipping the employee with the right tools to help the customer does not just increase customer satisfaction, but it also makes the employees job easier and more engaging. Again, that benefit can easily multiply throughout the business due to the interconnected nature of modern processes.

Gauging employee satisfaction with internal and external processes uncovers improvement opportunities that would otherwise be overlooked, as it may often be stakeholders not directly involved in a process (but rather working with an input or output of a process) that make meaningful observations.

All the above examples put real people at the heart of the issue. Of course, people metrics are less transparent and harder to understand compared to a straightforward revenue figure, but there are a variety of measures available to organisations to understand and unlock this potential. Examples include human-centred design or design thinking, both of which help in bringing a human focus to real metrics.

Process excellence encompasses all factors, whether internal or external, input-led or output-led. Combining established and traditional thinking on process improvement together with new ideas unlocks all the opportunities around a process. Such a 360° approach to process excellence will reduce the barriers to change and enable more efficient processes, maximising results across the organisation and achieve the best possible output for users and consumers alike.

An article by Christopher Schlode, a Manager at consulting firm Protiviti in its London office.


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