You may already be aware that your team or business isn’t running as efficiently as you would have liked. Maybe it’s the long customer queues, long the hold times or there’s high error rates that are difficult to stomach. Perhaps it’s the slow turnaround time for sales to be process or it’s the constantly low staff morale that has tipped your off that something is very wrong.
If you are aware that things could be a lot better, are you struggling to find where the problem is or how to solve it?
Let’s look at six places to look for inefficiencies in your business and teams. Using this method in team workshops will help you to uncover a whole list of underlying causes of business problems, that could be solved quickly with intelligent automation technologies.
The method I want to share is a lean thinking technique call the Ishikawa or the Cause-and-Effect diagram. It also looks like a fish bone so called a fish bone diagram too.
The head of the fish bone this is the Effect, this is the problem or pain that you’re experiencing. Then the fish bones are the 6 areas where you will find the causes to the main problem. This powerful tool can be used in workshops to help the team focus when brainstorming around the whiteboard.
The goal is to get ideas on the whiteboard using post-it notes then you can group these ideas of possible causes into themes. Then you will have Each theme could potentially be a project or a clue to finding the root cause of your problem.
This looks at whether you’re actually measuring staff/business performance correctly and accurately, or are you measuring performance at all? Sometimes just measuring something can immediately uncover the problem. In lean thinking and process improvement, a common phrase is “if you’re not measuring something you can’t improve it”.
So you first point of call is to check IF and HOW you are measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). Measuring accurately may show that the problem is not as bad as it seems, or it only looks bad to you because you’re just measuring it wrong.
In the automation world, new automation delivery teams may just look at the time saved to calculate the benefit and value they are delivering; however they may be delivering significant intangible value (cost avoidance, compliance, staff morale and error improvements). They are missing the full picture. If this is your team, are these KPIs not being measured because your team hasn’t thought to do so, is it too difficult to measure or the data needed to measure it unavailable?
Another reason that inaccurate/incomplete measurement might be an issue is because teams lack the right resources or skills in-house to know how to measure these KPIs.
Materials is do with whether your teams have the right resources to do the task effectively. Does the team feel they don’t have the right skills and need further education on a new process or application, or potentially the company when through a recent brain drain and people who were skilled in that department have now left.
This is looking at the process design itself. Is it an awkward process which is unnecessarily bureaucratic, or old and inefficient? As applications and technologies advance, processes also need to be revised as an old process might not be fit for purpose anymore.
Just by redesigning and streamlining a process, and removing redundant steps can make massive improvements to a process, and that’s even before it’s been automated.
I remember when I was an analyst, a team I was working with were carrying out a which required they print off the document and file it away into a cupboard. Quickly we discovered that these documents were never used again, not even for audit purposes. It was an old process when documents where physically signed. The process had never been fully updated, even after all documents (which were now signed with e-signatures) were all stored on the computer.
This looks at the environment that staff work in. This could be a physical environment like their workspace or a virtual environment. Is comfortable? Are things in the right places?
A productivity study found that a team’s productivity can drop by four percent for every degree above 27 degrees Celsius. The virtual environment can have just as big an impact, if files are in messy unorganised folders with no logical location or naming convention.
Mother nature can be wider than just physical or virtual environments, but it’s also covers changes in economic or social environments. For example a market crash, COVID, or legal/political changes can reduce efficiencies and make processes more clunky. In Europe, the GDPR compliance mandate slowed a lot of processes down and required that processes were sped back up through process re-design and automation.
Manpower (Preferably People-Power)
This can lead to people to pointing fingers at different teams but it can expose the different politics and frictions between which is useful because most times friction and politics and disagreements between teams is just the misunderstanding between how different teams operate and the environments that they work in. This can highlight who else your team can speak to, to uncover more about this problem or pain.
Digital business transformation is People, Process and Technology, in that order. ‘People’ is normally the Number One problem in transforming your business. This friction and resistance is misunderstandings and misalignments, but this is exactly what Intelligent Automation can do for your business. It can be used to remove silos to align teams and to uncover these misunderstandings for more efficient future
Not to be confused with materials. Materials are resources, something you use to make or provide something. Machines are the equipment that we use to produce the product. Some businesses are inefficient purely because their staff are using legacy computers and applications which are clunky, slow and terribly un-user friendly.
Robotic Process Automation is a powerful tool to solve these technical blockers in a matter of weeks or months, which would take the IT teams years to develop fixes.
Once you’re workshop attendees have populated the board with all their reasons for what is wrong with these 6 topics, gathered metrics and KPIs (if available) for each issue raised, so that you have an indication of how serious each issue is and then you can start to prioritise them for Intelligent Automation projects.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) where I create videos every week to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who was the then-Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.