Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wasting money measuring Turn-around Time

Many years ago, I remember my father talking about being involved in a time and motion study. In his office, managing the movement of railway equipment and trains to ensure the optimal performance of the London commuter rail network (given the suboptimal resources they had), working efficiently and effectively was key to many millions of journeys being completed on-time. It was a fascinating idea for me.

I haven't heard the term 'time and motion' in a long time, and to me it sounds dated. Taking the 'time' piece of it is still very relevant for business process improvement, and frankly studying the time in a process that needs some improvement is something that seems unfortunately overly hard to achieve.

I have worked on business process management (BPM) software projects that try and achieve the study of time alone, rather than any real process improvement goal. The projects had the single goal of putting a basic work delivery solution in place so that the business analysts could start to measure (and management could work with users to improve) the turn-around time (sometimes called TaT) for individual tasks within a process.

The time analysis solutions provided a very simple mechanism for packaging up work items or cases, then delivering them under the control of individual users, as a single step process without any real rules in place. These processes allowed the measurement of the time taken to complete tasks (the turn-around time), and the amount of time work was sat waiting to be acted on (wait-time). The solutions were a minimal use of expensive and complex BPM technology in my opinion. The processes gained from automating the manual delivery of documents and information, but little additional control was provided to further improve them.

It seems to me that the analysis of time used in processes that have yet to be remodelled and improved with BPM would be better handled use lighter weight, easier to deploy and cheaper to buy tools designed with this type workflow delivery in mind. It seems even more important, when you think that many of those processes that were initially analyzed for TaT and other simple measurements, using expensive BPM licenses and consultants, where never actually enhanced afterwards to benefit from all the features of the product they were using.

Understanding the processes you run in your business today is desirable. Improving them quickly is essential. Doing that in a way that doesn't waste money goes without saying.

A post from the Improving It blog

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