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How To Enable Process Improvements As Part of Digital Transformation

 

Process improvements might be self-evident as a practice, but it is a more challenging discipline to perform than you might realize. Without a structured, continuous approach to process improvement, it becomes difficult to keep the process moving in the desired direction.

That is why I invited Brian Smith, Growth and Transformation Consultant at TCS, to discuss key considerations to enable process improvement as part of digital transformation.

Brian outlines how to start a process improvement program, describes a problem lifecycle, then goes deeper into how you can transform your current state to your desired state and how essential it is to encourage people to think about solutions in a non-constrained way.

The complete episode is found below in this article. You can also watch the complete episode, Key Considerations to Enable Process Improvement as Part of Your Digital Transformation, on YouTube.

 In this article, I have captured a few highlights from our conversation.

 

“Can you go implement configuration management in this PDM system?”

One of the first process improvement projects Brian got involved in was to improve collaboration between different sites. Part of that task was to implement configuration management (CM) functionality in the existing PDM system. That kicked off Brian’s CM-journey, including consulting jobs as well as transforming a team from CM to CMII principles in a defense organization. Eventually, that same defense organization started a PLM initiative, to address not only CMII but additional process improvement objectives, where Brian was put in charge of the development.

Being in the frontline fighting for continuous improvement processes has therefore been a key thread in Brian’s career. With 20+ years of identifying problems and areas of opportunity for improvement followed by how technology can be used to fix some of those problems and drive value back.

 

How to start a process improvement program?

Brian suggests starting from the top and looking at business problems coming from:

  • Business KPI’s
  • Delays on programs, recurring quality problems, or other issues that tie back to normal business KPI’s
  • Business strategy for the future, like changing from point sales to service-based solution sales
  • Look at what competitors are doing.

KPI’s that are close to strategic business goals are a good place to start investigating whether top management wants to put effort in improving these areas and start an improvement process program.

With that in mind, companies should always be aware of the fact that every company has to adapt and improve to become more efficient to remain both innovative and competitive.

From this point, top management should act appropriately and think about prioritizing where to focus improvement efforts.

 

 The Problem Lifecycle Explained

Brian uses tools to help identify problems in the business and which ones should be fixed first. One method is The Problem Lifecycle.

  • 1. The first step is to identify the problem
  • 2. The problem gets triaged, meaning that if the problem is real, it needs a resolution
  • 3. A change request is raised
  • 4. An impact assessment is made
  • 5. Costs for business impact are approved
  • 6. The solution is implemented and the problem is closed

One of the most critical factors to ensure a successful start to using The Problem Lifecycle – and any process improvement process – is to bring the right team in to assess the process. This means you are not just relying on your business process subject matter experts but also people from the other side of the table, working with these processes on a daily basis. They are the ones who most likely feel the pain from the unresolved problems that need to be fixed.

 

Additional Points of Consideration

Consider these key activities when starting the process improvement journey.

  • When you map out the process, break down each step
  • Understand the inputs and outputs for each step
  • Understand what happens inside each process step
  • Identify what tools are used or could be used
  • What are the possible constraints on the process, like
    • Regulatory
    • Information as-required
    • Business as usual, e.g. “is this the way we have always done it?”
    • Are legacy tools mandating you to work in a specific way(s)

In some cases, you have to dig quite deep to get to the real root cause of the problem area. History is full of examples, where problems have been fixed without identifying the root cause of the problem. The “5 Why’s” methodology can help you arrive at the root.

 

Keep the Conversation Going

What are your takeaways? Have you used some of these pointers in your process improvement initiatives? What other strategies have you used?

Share them with the community and keep the conversation going.

Want to share your story? Drop me a line or send me an email at jmo@minerva-plm.com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

About the author

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore has more than 15 years of experience in Business Transformation across different industries. Her extensive experience includes helping companies navigate complex regulatory requirements through software solutions. She has been developing and deploying large, multi-faceted enterprise software project, driving revenues as well as market adoption.

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