The First Step to Optimizing
We have so much technology and data, but are we doing things any faster or better? By one recent estimate, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created daily. That number is likely to grow even more given the focus on artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things. So, how much of this is really useful data and how much is noise? It seems like we are doing things faster, but may not necessarily being doing them better.
This situation begs for a solution that allows companies to see “inside the machine” and figure out where things may start to go South. It’s called Process Discovery & Process Mining.
The most important step to understanding what’s happening within your business is understanding all the activities that make things happen. You can call it process discovery. It’s the work behind knowing and documenting all that happens so that it is completely transparent, well understood, and provides a common view to all about who does what. In short, you are “learning to see” what your process really is.
This discovery work is typically done with a team of people who do all the steps within the process and who are expert at all the nuances, what can go wrong, and most importantly, what it takes to get things right. It’s this expertise that’s going to help your improve your processes so that they work right the first time, every time.
Another benefit of process discovery is getting everyone on the same page about that process. So much day-to-day work is done in our heads or happens inside a computer system or just shows up in our Inbox. Putting it down on paper and then sharing it with others allows us to:
- See what’s happening
- Confirm that those are indeed the steps that take place
- Look for opportunities to avoid mistakes in the work, bad handoffs, or ways to make things move faster and easier
An easy way to do this is to come up with the “recipe” for your process. Just as in cooking, a recipe provides a set of instructions for what happens first, second third, when preparing a particular food dish. Simply take a moment and write down the sequence of steps you or others take to get an activity done. You can then take that list and turn it into a process flow.
Technology today is allowing us unprecedented insight into all that activities that go on around us. Whether just shopping at at the stores and getting a credit card bill that shows us all the places where we’ve made a purchase or to a record showing us the progress our particular FedEx or UPS shipment has made. The same is true for all the activities within most businesses. A computer, sooner or later, supports so much of our work these days. Guess what, that computer system is literally taking and recording every activity occurring in its software.
Think of that as the “gold” in the mine. If we go after it in just the right way, we can get all kinds of useful insights. This is the benefit of process mining. Literally the ability to mine the “digital fingerprints” within a system and then tell a process story with it. Added benefits are that, once set up, you can more quickly dive into a process flow to gage bottlenecks and other issues in near real time. This has the benefit of closing the feedback loop on process changes quickly, to see if they are indeed working as expected.
Key outcomes you want to optimized in a process are:
- Time Sinks
- Rabbit Holes
- Rework Loops
Process Analytics provides you with this information in an easy to gather and interpret format. Any more than checking your favorite websites for last night’s sports scores, the idea is to come into the office each morning and have a good idea of how things are working.
With the availability of data, so comes the opportunity to provide complete dashboards filled with insights on how our process is performing. The best run businesses in the world rely on not only outcome metrics, but also input and process metrics. This provides the business operator with the best end-to-end view of the process in scope.
Here are some examples metrics across inputs, process and outcomes.
- End-to-End Cycle Time
- Error or Defect Rate
- Cost per transaction or unit going through the process
- Number of Steps to Complete an Activity
- Number of items sent back (also percent of total by time period)