In the first decade of the 21st century, the collaborative delivery of work has increased to more than four billion man-hours per month. One of the consequences is what has become known as ‘office paralysis,’ i.e. the lack of timely collaboration across workplace boundaries.
This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in large organisations because this type of problem can have a significant impact on a company's bottom line. One solution to this problem is to alter the structure of organisations from a few large departments into smaller teams that work on specific micro-goals. Each team works plays a vital part in achieving the larger goal while having a clarity of what they are meant to achieve.
For this system to work effectively though, businesses must have processes and workflows in place for teams to follow almost like a factory production line. Unlike factory production lines though most professional services work isn’t a simple linear process. You will often come across the argument that each job, each client, each matter is unique and that step by step workflows just don’t apply.
While there is some truth to this argument, but there will also be common steps and milestones like raising an invoice or creating new client records that are required every time. Identifying and optimising the time spent on these milestones is the key to releasing untapped productivity in any organisations. There is where processing mapping can help.
Releasing resources with processing maps
The starting point is to decide who is responsible for the process mapping activity. This could be outsourcing to specialist process mapping consultants who are experts in this type of work or dealt with inhouse using business analyst.
If you are planning on handling everything inhouse we recommend you download our Ultimate Guide to Process Mapping whitepaper for step-by-step instructions.
An important consideration for any process mapping activity is to define goals for each process, which justify their existence. There may be processes within the business that are taking up time, but that do not actually work towards the overall goals of the business and could be removed as they are not adding any value.
Process maps should be developed to show employees what each new process will look like and clearly indicate any responsibilities that they have for each one. In some circumstances, only a high-level process map is required, for example, to show a brief summary of how the process works but where greater understanding of the process is required, a detailed end-to-end process map would be needed.
This will form part of the employee communications that are critical to the success of any transformational project. The new processes should be easy to access, possibly uploaded onto an employee intranet site, for example, so that they can be quickly found to use for reference.
What are the productivity benefits of processing mapping?
Process mapping and workflows can help reduce ‘office paralysis’ by removing the barriers that prevent colleagues from working effectively with each other. Effective implementation of workflows can help:
- Reduce unnecessary communication – If your sales team knows exactly what information accounts needs to set a new account, then that should eliminate a lot of back and forth between departments that leads to unproductivity.
- Cut down on meetings – the above can also reduce the number of cross-departmental meetings that place as with everyone following the same workflow there is no need to sit down to discuss outstanding projects
- Realign resources efficiently – During your discovery phase you will more than likely start seeing common tasks that are been handled by multiple teams. With this knowledge you can reassign these actions to more appropriate people / teams as well remove duplicate items.
- You focus on the important things – It’s quite easy when companies grow rapidly, and there are resulting changes to roles and responsibilities to lose sight of what’s really important. By analysing each task and assessing how it helps you achieve the end goal, you’ll soon see where you should be focussing your efforts and attention.
Taking advantage of technology
Going one step further than just realigning resources, there maybe be steps that can be completely automated such as removing the need to rekey information into multiple systems.
As well as more generic workflow software you will also find specialist software for specific industries. Our own conveyancing software platform Matter Centre has an inbuilt workflow tool that makes it easy for law firms to build efficient processes and uses automation to reduce repetitive tasks. We also offer integration of our searches and data directly into case management systems, eliminating the need to dig through emails and save attachments into the appropriate folder.
Automation isn’t about completely taking over a role or function. Little time saving features that make incremental improvements can save hours of time over a working week and days across a year. Radical changes are required to feel the full benefits of an effective workflow implementation.