January 14, 2014

Start Your 2014 Process Improvement Initiatives The Right Way

The difference between success and failure is often a lack of expert guidance. 

With over 10 years experience in all aspects of business process improvement I can help your organisation get results quickly

Whether you want help for a day, a week or on a longer-term basis, I'd be delighted to have an obligation free discussion with you.

Please contact me on +61400731029 or craig@theprocessninja.com.

Details of my current services and industry experience are available on my consultant profile.


Craig Reid - The Process Ninja

P.S. I am also available for speaking engagements or writing process related content for your organisation.

December 17, 2013

Customer Onboarding - Your Most Important, Worst Process?


Improvements to customer onboarding are all the rage these days. Why so? Probably because most organisations do it so badly.

Firstly even by it's name we make the process of becoming a customer sound like something that will require herculean effort to achieve - boarding a ship with your luggage strapped to all limbs. Unfortunately for many firms the blood sweat and tears of the sales pipeline are washed away when the customer finds out that it's "just too hard" - and takes their business elsewhere.

So what do companies do that makes the process so hard? How should it work?

1. Single channel, not omni channel

In an age where we have almost limitless technology in our pockets customers are still plagued by companies asking them to fill out bits of paper and "send them back". Customers today expect to do business their way, not the way that suits the company - and that is omni-channel - phone, fax, web, smartphone, in person (or even on a bit of paper). What's more, they want it without delay.

2. Antique business rules and policy

"Our policy is that we need you to..." - words of death for a blossoming new customer relationship. Too many firms simply gather unnecessary information at onboarding because it was decided 20 or 30 years ago that it was required. Antiquated business rules need to be questioned, challenged, eliminated or they become a catalyst for complexity and errors.

3. The sales breakpoint

So your customer has been wooed and wowed, the sales funnel has given birth to a beautiful new baby and then you hand it over. And wait. And wait. "No-one has contacted me" cry the customers. The breakpoint between the sales process and the often laborious customer administration piece often creates delays, confusion and frustration. The cure? Wherever possible capture customer data in the sales process and re-use to minimise back office processing.

4. Duplicate effort

More often than not data will be entered several times by several people into several systems (and more than likely entered incorrectly). Each keystroke is time and money that could be saved and staff that could be directed to use their time more effectively (like getting new customers, perhaps?) Technology today has the capability of "glueing" systems together to pass data to disparate systems - so if staff absolutely have to enter the data themselves, they at least only have to enter it once. 

5. The Customer Experience

Organisations have a tendency to think that once the sale is made, the hard work is done. The truth is that the onboarding of a customer sets the tone for the relationship. A bad onboarding experience is a bit like getting married, carrying your partner across the threshhold then telling them to wash the dishes. The customer experience has to be nurtured for the longevity of the relationship to be sustainable.

The key to customer onboarding is minimal customer effort through the channel of their choice - data entered once and passed through the process. Customers don't care about being "onboarded" they just care about your products and services - so don't keep them from using them by putting process roadblocks in their way.



November 21, 2013

Ask The Ninja! What would YOU like to read about in my next whitepaper?

image from www.sxc.hu
I'm currently creating a list of ideas for my next set of whitepapers for Orbus. Given that I've been writing regular posts of my blog for the last 5 years it gets increasingly hard to come up with new concepts to write about that are related to process.

So, I'm throwing it open to the floor...What would YOU like to read about in my next whitepaper and why?

Please leave a comment or reply to the email with your suggested topic. I will publish all suggestions in my next blog post.



November 18, 2013

Business Requirements - The End is Nigh

image from www.sxc.hu
Documenting business requirements is one of those pieces of work that sends a cold shiver down my spine, particularly when preceeded by the word "detailed". Some of the worst work on the worst projects I've ever seen has been achieved primarily due to the laser focus on creating phone book sized documents of "detailed business requirements". Our reliance on them is a slavery to an old religion of business that needs to end. Thankfully the end is nigh.

Agile software development is playing a big part in that due to the high business contact of the method. Fact of the matter is, the more often you can show the business what the end result will look like, the more feedback you'll get and you'll get closer to what they need. Waterfall development kills all of that stone dead - high customer touch up front then the project dissappears into IT land only to emerge as some transmogrified beast that no-one wanted.

The other factor that will lead to the demise of the dreaded business requirements is the continued development of BPMS'. Most BPMS vendors strictly push an agile implementation pathway, with the focus on building the processes and screens. Having worked with both Pega and Appian in recent projects, this really is the best way to go and almost totally eliminates the need to write business requirements. In my experience, whole processes and screen layouts can be built in a couple of days, demoed to the business and an iterative, agile cycle follows. If it sounds simple, that's because it is.

Process isn't just about challenging the way the business operates, it's also about challenging our own holy cows. It's time to challenge the concept of business requirements.



P.S. Need help with your process improvement initiatives? Drop me a line to explore how I could help your organisation.

November 12, 2013

10% 20% 30% What's a "Good" Process Improvement?

image from www.sxc.hu
I'm often asked by clientswhat levels of improvement they can expect from my work. Clients are fascinated by pinning a percentage on each process so that they can show this to senior managers and say "We've saved 30% of the total cost of the process!"

But let's clarify a few things here...

Firstly - what time are we measuring? Is it elapsed time or actual effort time:

  • Elapsed time refers to the total time from start to finish of the process from the customers point of view.
  • Effort time means the actual amount of time your staff take to do work in the process

A classic example is that it may take 2 minutes for your staff to write an email (effort time), but if the email sits in an inbox for 2 hours that is adding to the time of the overall process (elapsed time).

Both types of timings are important depending on the goal - elapsed time has a greater customer impact ("OMG! Why is it taking so long!") whereas effort time is a more telling diagnostic for efficiency. Of course a reduction in effort time also decreases elapsed time - and it is still possible to have a process which is efficient in terms of effort time but a laggard in elapsed time (watch out for those sneaky ones). My tip is to measure both for whatever process you look at.

So what is a "good" level of improvement? Well it's not quite that simple. A 0.5% elimination of effort time can be a fantastic improvement - it all depends upon one very crucial ingredient: volume.

A small improvement upon high volume can result in huge savings - take the example of a company that receives millions of calls to it's contact centre - shaving even seconds off a call can be a huge cost saver. Converesly, if you can save 75% of effort time off a process that is only conducted 200 times a year, the costs of implementing the process change may outweigh the benefits.

So to answer the question, there's no such thing as "good" percentage improvement in terms of effort time - it has to be measured along with volume. But to quash the fires of curiosity I've achieved effort time reductions on processes up to 75%, but commonly from 30-70%. If we look at elapsed time, a percentage reduction on its own can be a useful measure - but again transaction volume should be taken into account as part of the cost / benefit analysis.



Looking for an experienced consultant to boost your process improvement initiatives?

Please contact me for an obligation free discussion.

October 28, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Process Documentation: Practical Tips to Get it Right

image from www.orbussoftware.com

My latest whitepaper "Process Documentation: Practical Tips to Get it Right" is now available for download from the Orbus website:

Documentation is part and parcel in the way we do business. From operations manuals, to procedures, to process maps and models, organizations are resplendent with a smorgasbord of pieces of paper and information systems. But, in today’s age of fast moving technology, is process documentation redundant or does it still remain “a necessary evil”?

In this paper, I attempt to identify whether process documentation still has any relevance and if so, how to get the best out of it. In particular, Business Process and Procedural Analysts, Business Analysts and Technical Writers can use this white paper to identify what is necessary to document and how to do so effectively.



August 27, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Big Data and Process

Big Data has become one of the most talked about trends in technology today. It has been pinpointed as a marketer’s dream – a way of targeting customers like never before – but there is little understanding about how Big Data could or should interact with Business Processes.

In this whitepaper paper, I attempt to identify how we can use Big Data and Business Process together to improve our organizations. In particular CIO's, Data Architects and Business Process Analysts can use this white paper to identify how to use the two together to provide benefits to the organization and to customers.

In summary, this white paper explains:

What Big Data is

Why organizations need to examine the impact of Big Data on Business Process

• The benefits of using Big Data and Business Process together

Examples of how organizations are using Big Data and Business Process to add value.

The whitepaper can be downloaded from the Orbus website by clicking here (registration required).



July 17, 2013

Free Whitepaper: How To Build a Compelling Case for Business Process Improvement

Often, the hardest part of bringing business process improvement (BPI) to life in an organization is in building a compelling case to get the initiative up and running.

In this paper I provide a structured approach to building a compelling case for business process improvement (BPI) that will get staff at all levels of the organization involved and motivated to make the change a success.

It is intended to be used as a practical guide for Process Analysts, Change Managers and Business Architects to get buy-in to a programme of organizational change.

In summary the whitepaper details:

  • Why you need a compelling case
  • A nine step pathway to ensuring business process improvement initiatives obtain the necessary commitment to ensure success.

Please click here to download.



July 01, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Business Process & The Customer Experience - A Quick Start Guide


My latest whitepaper is available for download from the Orbus website.

In this white paper, I introduce the fundamentals of how business process and the customer experience work together. It is intended as a practical guide for Business Analysts or managers to quickly understand the concepts of customer experience management, and how to improve business processes using ‘outside-in’ thinking.

The paper considers the difference between the customer experience and the process, why a customer experience approach is critical and how to improve the Customer Experience Management using the Customer Experience Management (CEM) Method.

Click here to download (registration required).



May 30, 2013

Improving The Customer Experience - A Chat With Gartner's Ed Thompson

Ed Thompson

I had the luck of getting a 1 hour one on one with Ed Thompson  at the Gartner BPM Summit in Sydney. Ed works for Gartner and is a world expert in Customer Experience.

I spoke to him about what I do, my passion for customer experience and what I try to do for my clients. In return I received some great tips on improving the customer experience.

Here are my notes from the session:

Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Most companies are moving away from long CSAT surveys and are typically using NPS (Net Promoter score) - . However the latest trend is to use Customer Effort Score (CES) – which measures the amount of effort a customer has to put into a particular interaction with the company (customers don’t like effort!)

Process Improvement Implementation

He recommended process improvement efforts are undertaken in 6 month sprints – if it takes longer than that you’ve lost momentum and you’ll lose the enthusiasm of the business

We should describe our processes the way a customer would – for example a customer would never call a process “provisioning”, to them it’s “getting the service”.

Getting high level engagement

To maintain an ongoing focus on the customer experience he recommended getting 20 minutes at least once a quarter to talk to the senior managers / exec of the organisation. These sessions would not be focussed on stats (everyone gets bored of stats) but focussed on real life examples of where companies the had particularly bad customer experiences and what they are doing to fix them. This is a bit of a shock and awe tactic but it really helps to bring things to life for those that are disconnected from the front line. He suggested using call recordings, mystery shop videos or even bringing in customers to talk about their experiences.

Ed also suggested getting everyone at the senior level from the CEO down to do a “back to the frontline” day – a bit like undercover boss except, err, not undercover so that they can really reconnect with what the frontline troops have to deal with.

Customer Experience Days

He also suggested that companies have a “customer experience day” where anyone from the company who is involved with customer experience should get together to discuss how they can help each other and co-ordinate ideas.

Customer Complaints and Compliments

It’s important to really take control of the feedback process – the ability for customers to provide feedback should be there as quickly as possible after the interaction. This is particularly the case with compliments. People fester on complaints and will tend to lodge a complaint up to twice as long on average compared to a customer leaving a compliment. So the lesson is – you snooze, you miss out on compliments.

He also recommended having an option to ask permission to use the customer’s compliments so that these can be used e.g. in a twitter feed, facebook wall or any other marketing.

He also mentioned that the top 5% of organisations with the highest customer engagement were those that gave feedback to customers on the customer’s feedback. 35% don’t give feedback to
the customer but will use the feedback to improve the organisation. 60% of companies will ignore the customer feedback and do nothing with it.

Building a Customer Community

One of the key things he recommended is to build an online community. i.e. forums that customers can join and discuss the companies products and services, etc. This provides an extra channel of contact. It helps to deflect some of the contact via other channels and doesn’t require a huge amount of staff involvement once enthusiastic members get on board (generally the 1% contribute 90% of content).

Staff would act as moderators and step in if a question remains unanswered after a few hours. It’s success is dependent upon a recognition scheme of some sort where they would be rewarded with points / stars / guru status, etc for contributing. e.g. companies could invite the top 10 contributors to a dinner or awards day on behalf of the company.

Ed recommended checking out Lithium which is the software that many organisations use for social customer experience.

Those organisations that do adopt a multichannel approach have increased levels of loyalty and profitability.

Social Media

Obviously Ed recommended companies getting on facebook and twitter ASAP if they aren’t there already and he mentioned that it’s a good way to engage facebook followers with quirky / weird / interesting novelty topics. One example that he has seen being popular is showcasing people with collections of old bank piggybanks. This apparently appeals to older customers!

Facebook is also an excellent place to showcase charity / socially responsible activities.

Ed also stressed the importance of undertaking continual social media monitoring using software such as Radian6 so that companies can be aware of what everyone is saying about them on whatever social media they are using. He even mentioned that some companies publish live feeds from Radian 6 to show what people are talking about at that instant.


Ed mentioned that apps are critical and can greatly boost an organisation if done correctly.

He also said it’s essential to  have separate apps for separate products / services as this way you can track number of downloads (usefulness) and feedback (useability) – otherwise you get a mish mash of feedback and no indication of why they downloaded the app.

A shining example

Ed mentioned USAA as a good example of a company that has engaged customers (I should say members because it is a membership based organisation) and has paid great attention to the customer experience. They have an astonishing average of 6.5 products per member - have a look at their community focus and you'll understand why they've been so successful.