I recently hosted a Lunch & Learn for companies in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was an opportunity to not just talk about supply chain, but to connect with people in a variety of industries from utilities to financial services, discussing some ways to derive value by gaining better insight into your process. Through a business intelligence lens, organizations often focus on metrics that only look at the outcome of a process, and our conversation centered on techniques to drive value throughout the process by understanding how the process itself is performing. This post will be the introduction to a seven part series that will take a look at each element of what we’ve come to term “The Magnificent Seven”.
First off, how important is process visibility? A 2012 Gartner study examined the barriers to achieving an organization’s goals and objectives. While #1 on the list was forecast accuracy & demand variability (a perennial favorite), #2 was the difficulty in synchronizing end-to-end processes, and #3 was lack of visibility. And while this particular survey had a supply chain focus, my experience is that integration / synchronization and visibility are two of the most common challenges, regardless of industry. The details are different, but the themes are universal. If you’re interested in the part that integration and visibility can play in increasing an organization’s agility, see this article from Supply & Demand Chain Exec.
There’s an old saying: “If it were easy, it would be done already”. So if process visibility is important (and achieving it is not so easy), what can an organization do to get started? In speaking with companies, some typical challenges with process improvement projects emerge:
- Programs take too long to get off the ground and it’s difficult to achieve the momentum necessary to impact operations. Often people just run out of gas.
- Efforts are too costly, with too much money being poured into projects that don’t have defined business benefits (or sometimes even adequate business success criteria).
- There’s no prescribed path, and companies feel they are blazing the trail on every project without adequate strategy and direction from vendors / partners.
- It just takes too much expertise. Imagine an army of ninjas descending on an organization, each with specialized personal skills, but few tools / templates / models to de-risk an implementation in the hands of someone with less experience.
And this is where “The Magnificent Seven” come into play. Listed below are 7 themes / approaches / philosophies that I’ve seen be successful in bringing visibility to business processes.
- Provide Content in Context: Develop a combined view of Process & the KPIs that measure process performance and process outcomes
- Deliver Right -Time Visibility (hourly, daily, weekly and monthly) – not everyone lives by the millisecond
- Leverage different kinds of metrics & Analyze Trends (Volume, Value, Velocity, Quality, Risk)
- Provide Alerts to Spur Action – get something done!
- Enable Operations Personnel to Get to the Action Level (dashboards are not just for execs)
- Know what’s going on outside your control
- Foster rapid implementation; resist “boiling the ocean
Just listing these ideas may look a bit like motherhood & apple pie, so in subsequent posts, we’ll deconstruct each of these and provide some insight into how companies apply these principles.
In the meantime, Mr. Townsend
might have a few thoughts on visibility to get you going.