Finding Process Improvement in Service Functions

Is your business internal service related? As in things like Human Resources, Information Technology, Facilities Management, Contracting, etc?

If it is, then you probably are having difficulty identifying process improvement benefits within your own area. Sure, you probably have some waste in your processes that require trimming, but more than likely you already operate with a pretty lean staff. This is because you are a 100% cost to the business–you are not a revenue generator.

If this describes you, then this blog was meant for you. You might already know what I am about to say, but if you don’t then I hope this information helps. If you already know this information, then please share your experiences.

As a service provider to internal customers, the benefit you provide is to the customers themselves. Yes, you want to focus on eliminating as much waste in your processes as possible and get to standard work, but you should be focusing on eliminating waste and improving processes that reduce work on the part of the customer.

Let me provide an example using a medical office–they are always ripe targets for this discussion.

My wife recently went to a medical imaging center to get an MRI done on her ankle. Her doctor set it up, she had to provide information online before going, and then they required her to be there 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork. This paperwork was the exact same information her doctor could have provided and that she filled out on line.

She was called upon only a few minutes past the appointment time, so that was good. However, the put her in a room and she waited for several minutes doing nothing. Normally this type of activity allows the function to believe they are meeting their set appointment time by shifting you to an internal waiting room.

Obviously this was for an MRI, but if it is a normal doctor’s appointment, she probably would have some tests run, like blood pressure and temperature and someone would ask her what was going on and write it all down.

For her, she didn’t really see a doctor, they just took her in and did the MRI when the space was available. If this were a doctor’s office, there is a good chance that the doctor would come in and ask the same questions all over again and then leave for a good 30 to 45 minutes to see other paitients.

The operation probably has specific process reasons for everything they do. There is a good chance they are trying to meet some internal metrics that they feel are important to the business–just like you.

The problem is that their processes are wasting the customer’s time.  Think of the time my wife spent filling out paperwork twice, when the doctor could have sent over the information and all she would have to do is validate it. Think of the time she spent waiting around for the open waiting room and then to get the MRI done. This is a waste to the customer,  but often invisible to the service.

Remember, the customer’s job is not to do your job. The more time they spend in your process, is time they are not doing their job. Consider an average employee that has a burdened (all-in) hourly rate of $50 and you consume an average of 30 minutes of their time in your process every time they deal with you. Consider that you deal with 100 internal customers a day. Every day you are costing the business and average of $5,000 on processes that have no value to the business. That’s approximately $1.3M a year your process is costing your business!

This is how internal service providers find value. Remove waste and make processes easier and more effective form the customer’s point of view. Reduce the amount of time they spend in your process and make it a “one and done” experience. Obviously they are not going to cut manpower as a result, but they now have more time to spend in their core competency than in yours and that means they can earn more revenue for the business than waste on a process that just costs money.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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