+44 (0)7766-525433

Wednesday 12th December 03:45 (UK)

Get New Directions Newsletter

Archive for May, 2013

The power of mapping – for professional services

Monday, May 13th, 2013

j0443079

 

Process mapping has been around for many years – indeed it has been part of Work Study activities in industrial businesses for a good 50 years. The emergence of Lean thinking in the West in the mid 1980s created a resurgence of interest with the focus on ‘Value Stream Mapping’ to identify and eliminate waste activities as part of a Lean transformation. The ability of process mapping to draw a clear picture of how a complex series of tasks (such as the process from receipt of an order through manufacturing to delivery of a product) is performed has proven to be very powerful. Process mapping achieves the following:

  • Makes a process visible – showing the detailed steps of how it is performed
  • Involves those who perform the work – to produce a realistic picture
  • Is easily readable – much more so than a text-based document
  • Is an effective way to engage personnel to identify wastes in the process
  • Provides a good base for developing and the improved process
  • Is a key part of Lean or Process Re-engineering
  • Gives a good foundation for automating the process using workflow or other software

Mapping professional services
But process mapping had little use or impact in Professional Service firms until comparatively recently. Why is this? Simply because process thinking is not applied in most professional service firms. The culture in professional service firms is practitioner-focused and typically does not see the service provided as ‘a process’. However this is changing due to increasing competitive pressures over the last 5 years. Firms are under increasing financial pressures driven by price-focused clients and alternative providers (some enabled by deregulation as in the UK legal market; some by the internet and others by globalisation). They are having to improve their efficiency – ‘doing more with less’.

‘Doing more with less’ has often been a synonym for redundancies rather than any systematic approach to improve efficiency. Indeed an unstructured approach to redundancies in a service organization can backfire with service quality being impacted and professional morale lowered.

Process mapping makes the invisible, visible
A first powerful step to improving efficiency is looking at how work is performed today and to determine what improvements in efficiency could be made. This is the so-called ‘AS-IS’ phase of a re-engineering programme. In our re-engineering work with major UK professional service firms, the process mapping stage is a key element in giving a shared view of how things are done today. This is especially important in a professional service environment as the process (be it a client service or a back-office activity such as client inception or billing) is not immediately visible. In a factory a process can be viewed by simply walking across the shop-floor. However a tour through a law, accounting or consulting firm’s offices will not unearth much evidence of processes among the employees, desks, computers and (usually) lots of paper. Process mapping makes the ‘invisible’ processes in professional service firms visible. Once processes are visible they can be analysed and improved. So mapping is a key foundation for improvement.

Keep it simple
Effective process mapping is performed collaboratively using paper and pen  – rather than computer – as this enables easy collaboration. Effective mapping requires the involvement of representatives of those personnel who perform the process/service being mapped. The objective of the ‘AS-IS’ mapping is to capture the process as it is actually performed today. In a service environment it is important to identify key tasks, who performs them and the amount of chargeable and elapsed time consumed. It is also important to include those routinely performed activities which represent waste – such as delays, reviews, corrections, duplication and different methods used by teams and offices. Once the paper-based model has been completed, it can be captured by digital photo or better still converted into a software-based model using a tool such as Microsoft Visio – this enables easier modification, distribution, review and archive.

Realising the value from your  process maps
Process maps have little value  unless they are put to work to support improvement activities – such as a Re-engineering or Lean programme. Ways of using process maps in your improvement activities include:

  • Analysing them to identify and quantify waste activities
  • Quantify the time required for tasks to set ‘target times’ for work elements
  • Identify the documents & templates used within the process – to enable standardisation
  • Displaying maps in work areas, to engage other personnel and get their ideas & comments
  • Use the AS-IS map as the base to develop the improved TO-BE process
  • Use the TO-BE map for configuring workflow or case management software

Mapping brings real benefits
We have used process mapping with a number of professional service firms covering processes such as: Bid to Bill, Client Inception, Matter Management, Probate, Commercial Property Purchase, Insurance Claims, Inquests, Employment Tribunals and Commercial Due Diligence. This mapping has been a key foundation for a re-engineering or Lean programme. These programmes have delivered the following benefits:

  • Enabled direct cost reduction of between 20-40%
  • Supported the development of new client services
  • Enabled collaborative improvement with clients
  • Provided a foundation for implementation of case management systems

Process mapping is a powerful tool for business improvement and professional service firms need to add it to their improvement capabilities.

For further information on how you could use process mapping or re-engineering within your firm contact us at www.codexx.com

Energizing Change

Copyright © Codexx
All rights reserved