The whole is greater than the sum of the parts – Managerial Productivity Series II


1plus1In the office/services sector, if you measure the time to perform a linked set of tasks and compare the sum of the task times to total elapsed time to go from start to finish, total time will usually exceed the sum of the task times by a factor of two or greater.

In this scenario,  more is not better.

Two reasons:

  • When you suspend a task and go to another project it takes time to exit from the task and time to get back to your task. The more you multi-task, the more exit/re-entry times add up.
  • When you finish a task and the next-in-line task needs to be performed by another person, there usually is a time delay associated with the hand-off.

Corporations spend a lot of time writing a policy/procedure detailing how work should be done. Necessary? Yes. Sufficient? No.

What is missing is an infrastructure that minimizes task exit/reentry and minimizes hand-off delays.

You need two things to increase productivity in office/services.

  • RALB (resource allocation, leveling and balancing).
  • Guidelines/guardrails.

Guidelines come from BPM (Business Process Management), guardrails come from ACM (Adaptive Case Management).

RALB pulls everything together. Tasks post automatically as upstream tasks are committed.

BPM provides “best practices” advice and assistance for setting priorities and making decisions.

ACM sets up guardrails to prevent extreme, unwanted excursions away from best practices.

Unfortunately, getting organizations to subscribe to ACM/BPM is a bit like herding cats.

The range of excuses is too extensive to detail here. What I hear mostly is “ . . . too busy fighting fires” so they never get to see how ACM/BPM prevents many fires.

A couple of days with an experienced consultant is all it takes to break away from the herd and set the stage for significant productivity improvement.

If you want to get to where your organization is doing the right things, the right way, using the right resources, at the right times/places, pick up the phone.

Karl Walter Keirstead
1 800 529 5355 USA
1 450 458 5601 elsewhere

 

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management, Case Management, FIXING HEALTHCARE, LEGAL, MANAGEMENT, Manufacturing Operations, Operational Planning, R.A.L.B., Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stop Reading Exception Reports! – Managerial Productivity Series (I)


Looks like we are into a new series at this blog.

A good productivity improvement starting position is to eliminate waste, allowing Jugglerexecutives more time to work on more interesting/important work.

Corporate executives who spend a lot of their time reading exceptions reports need new technology that accommodates in-line transaction-level monitoring.

Once this is in place they will be able to move on to more interesting work within the corporation because there won’t be more than a couple of line items on the exception reports they have been reading. Many of these reports are likely to totally disappear.

I used to build process control systems for various industries, one of which was cement making. Cement plants are highly automated and the consequences of breakdowns can cause major repair/restart headaches. The obvious solution was to have in-line process control with several fail-safe backup protocols. If you visit a cement plant and try to find a worker, you will have about as much success as trying to get service in a large retail store.

In office/services, having things fall between the cracks is, for many, part of each workday.

Here, process monitoring was traditionally carried out by BPM (Business Process Management) software, with frequent pauses/hard stops along template instances to accommodate needs not anticipated in templates or rewinds to convenient upstream process points as faults were highlighted in exception reports.

The gradual merging of ACM (Adaptive Case Management) with BPM (Business Process Management) is changing all of this.

ACM/BPM provides orchestration (guidelines of decision support) plus governance (guardrails). Work happens.

In-line rule sets make sure the right things get done, the right way, at the right times/places, using the right resources.

In–line rule steps go a long way to detecting trends before actual problems have had time to evolve, allowing line managers / machines to initiate corrective actions that minimize exceptions.

If you have noticed recently that your multi-page exception reports show only 2-3 items, there is a good chance that your organization has embraced ACM/BPM.

If not, you should push for a review of how your organization can reduce the gap between operations and strategy by introducing ACM/BPM.

Don’t worry, you won’t be out of a job if most of your current workdays are taken up reading exception reports. There are lots of more interesting and challenging things to do, one of which is to make sure top management is looking at the right KPIs. The dynamic nature of business today is that there is a high risk of monitoring the wrong KPIs.

 

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Automated Resource Allocation, Business Process Management, Decision Making, Operational Planning, Process Management, Software Acquisition | Leave a comment

Finding needles in haystacks – Can you do it?


I deal with a fairly large number of organizations (suppliers, clients, correspondents).                     Haystack

I like to track e-mail exchanges but some of the time there is overlap between threads so no point trying to define and organize messages under Outlook folders.

Microsoft Outlook, in my opinion, has terrible facilities for organizing e-mail messages. If you are using folders and inadvertently drag and drop a message to the wrong folder, it can be frustrating to find it. The message search facilities in Outlook are not particularly good either.

I just noticed I have 17,405,808 messages sitting in 30 .pst files across 4 hard drives that host some 10 Tb of data storage.

Today, a colleague wanted to find a contact at TEAC, so I typed in the model of a TEAC field audio recorder that I use and immediately got 5 hits, two of which gave me the name of my contact. The last time I spoke to my contact was 12/31/2012.

My search environment is a little Outlook add-in software called Lookeen. I have no clue how I found it.

I went to the web site just now (http://www.lookeen.net/) and was astonished to find that it costs less than $100. I hope they are selling truckloads of this product.

There is a point to this little story.

I find that CEOs today are more receptive to “connect-the-dots” activities.

My theory is they have come to realize that staring at a fixed set of KPIs (Key Process Indicators) carries with it the risk that, because of the fast pace of business, they may be looking at the wrong KPIs. The ability to initiate investigations on their own becomes important.

The traditional approach to “connect-the-dots”, of course, has been to invent questions to put to assistants who then go away and come back with answers, leading to a new round of questions.

If you want/need to “connect-the-dots”, you will quickly find that a free-form search capability in a Knowledgebase is the way to go.

Before visual search/results display capabilities, reading through long listings of relational database (rdbms) search results was non-productive and suffered from the great deficiency that non-visual searches only tell you what the search algorithm was able to find, not what it was not able to find.

Visual searches let you see across 10,000 or more documents (all on one computer screen) what the search algorithm found and what it did not find.

Consider McDonalds, looking to add a new fast food outlet – they may be looking to add a new outlet at a location where Wendy’s has an outlet, but it could be they want to add a new outlet at a location where Wendy’s does NOT have an outlet.

The huge difference is you need to engage two searches in an rdbms to get the required information whereas in a Kbase environment you get to see the required information with one search.

The model used in Kbases is pretty straightforward:

Type -> click -> find

Kbases, in my view, are changing corporate landscapes.

In a cake-bake, the CEO with a Kbase will be the fastest, best-informed CEO in the north, south, east and west.

If you want more information on the role Kbases can play to increase your competitive advantage, take a look at “Where, oh where, have my documents gone?” at

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zb

 

Posted in Database Technology, Decision Making, Enterprise Content Management, Strategic Planning | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art and Science of Workflow Scheduling for Office/Services


ArtScience

Workflow scheduling in the office/services domain is complicated by the fact that not all of the work can be described plan-side using flowgraphs.

Compare CPM (Critical Path Scheduling), a deterministic flowgraph scheduling methodology (where there is one convenient starting start and one converging end step) to ad hoc Adaptive Case Management scheduling in office/services where, at first glance, the only attribute linking any two steps at any Case is time.

In the domain of office/services, we lose the ability to assign durations at some steps (i.e. how long will it take you to complete the invention you are working on?), so traditional ES-EF-LS-LF calculations can no longer be used.

The presence of pathway-embedded decision boxes that carry out branching on the basis of run-time data values takes us further away from plan-side scheduling.

We do have, thanks to BPM, “best practices” process fragment templates for some office/services work, but about the only thing we can say about office/services scheduling at the end of the day is we need an environment that can accommodate any mix of unstructured and structured work.

The mix can vary from 95/5% to 5/95%. Beyond these two ranges you no longer need one of BPM or ACM.

No wonder managers agonize over scheduling, but it can all come together without a lot of fanfare if we facilitate three types of scheduling at Cases and across Cases.

  1. Scheduling as a result of background BPM (i.e. steps post according to BPM process logic to the attention of workers who are available and have the appropriate skill sets to perform steps).

The posting method used results in each next-in-line step being broadcast to all
workers who have a Role that matches a Role at the step.

The first to “take” the step owns it and is expected to perform the step and commit it.
The owner-worker micro-schedules the step based on his/her specific workload for
a day.

Supervisors level and balance workload across workers.

 

  1. Insertion of ad hoc steps at worker InTrays by supervisors and workers.

 

  1. Insertion of steps or sequences of steps by intercept engines that parse incoming external event messages and post steps to gatekeepers or worker InTrays.

 

What is extraordinary is the simplicity of the User Interface required to accommodate the above activity.

All you need to manage workflow is a split screen with a traditional calendar on one side and a to-list on the other, plus a refresher course on how to use Agenda books that all of us have, at some stage, used.

Proof that the setup works comes from a realization that everyone, every day, comes to their place of work and first takes note of their fixed time commitments for the day. In between these, we focus on one or more to-do tasks.

Aside from ‘sticky’ to-do tasks (i.e. breakfast meds in a hospital), workers are best left alone to micro-schedule their to-do tasks. Some people like to advance a large to-do item in their InTray, others prefer to “clean up” several small to-do items.

So there you have it, a simple setup for what initially appears to be complex scheduling. It turns out most scheduling is not that complex at all.

But, but, but, you say, “the devil is in the details”. Correct, and here are examples of not-so-easy scheduling tasks that we all face now and then.

Healthcare: When a worker “takes” a task, fails to complete/commit it and goes off shift, “the show must go on” so you need a mechanism called “break glass” that allows virtually anyone, subject to inputting a reason, go in and complete the task or assign it to someone else. An intervention of this kind should only be done following verbal contact/e-mail response because of the danger to patients. e.g. no dose can be fatal, double dose can equally be fatal.

Manufacturing: If you are a government inspector visiting defense manufacturing plants, you need to use a “traveling salesman” algorithm for advance scheduling.

The lesson here is any run-time environment/UI you put together needs to route data collection to a Data Exchanger. In respect of the latter, rule sets can direct data to specialized engines for data enrichment and import back of enriched data for use within the Case environment.

Nobody said it was that easy, overall.

Posted in Case Management, Scheduling | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The real purpose of a BPMs


BPM

I have a client who has been with us for years. They have been using one of our healthcare  products for Case management but somehow never got around to using the workflow management module.

Recently, they started up a new division and asked us to help with streamlining of their operations.

This included mapping out processes, assigning roles to process steps, attaching data collection forms to steps, compiling the maps and rolling out processes to a run-time environment where BPM was able to provide background orchestration and ACM was able to provide governance via global rule sets.

We rolled out each process, invited a group of stakeholders to take on featured Roles and piano-play a few process template instances. As anticipated, we got feedback on the process logic and forms (steps with bad Role encoding, steps in the wrong sequence, wrong forms at certain steps). The versioning turnaround time in most cases was immediate i.e. change the Roles, change process logic, change process step forms then re-compile and roll out a new version.

Since the mapping was done in real-time with the active participation of stakeholders and since the environment lent itself to close to “instant gratification”, it did not take a long time to “improve” the processes.

Unfortunately, for most organizations, the BPM story ends here with delivery of a mapped, modeled, improved process on paper.

The real purpose of BPM, in our view, becomes evident when you put processes in a run time Case environment where you are able to achieve orchestration from BPM and achieve governance from the Case environment.

You need automated resource allocation, leveling and balancing capabilities (R.A.L.B) at the Case environment so that process steps from multiple Cases\process templates\instances post automatically at User InTrays as and when steps become current along what typically works out to be a Case load of 20-50 patients in healthcare and possibly 100 interventions per day of Day Orders for a worker in a job shop manufacturing setting.

Without RALB, workers do not have an easy time prioritizing (micro-scheduling) process steps that post to their individual InTrays nor do supervisors have an easy time leveling and balancing workload across workers.

The other thing often missing is Interoperability – if your Case environment is not able to export data to local and remote systems and applications and import data from these, your Case environment becomes a “ivory tower” where decisions are made in the absence of current data that could have an important bearing on such decisions.

Being able to manage workflow at Cases is all important because Case automatically gives you a history of all interventions at any Case with date/time stamps and user “signatures”. You get to see Case data, as it was, in reverse chronological order, on the form versions that were in service at the time the data was collected. Case plus interoperability allows workers to make decisions based on past and current data and if we add in predictive analytics, workers have the wherewithal to carry out “Case Management”.

It’s hard to imagine how e-Case Management would be incapable of providing at least a 30% improvement in productivity.

If we add onto this increased throughput as a result of having next-in-line steps post immediately as current steps along Cases\process templates\instances are committed, decreased errors as a result of in-line step-specific rule sets, and improved compliance as a result of Case level governance it is hard to understand why so many BPM initiatives quit at the paper process map stage.

A possible explanation is that BPM imposes rigidity in respect of the performance of work. This makes it difficult to get workers on board and even more difficult to sustain your BPM initiative.

Facts are if you inventory all of your BPM processes at a Services Menu and then include in this inventory a reasonable sub-set of individual process steps as “processes of one step each”, your software users will never feel constrained by BPM – they can, at any time, simply by selecting a menu item at a Case, revisit already committed workflow steps, insert steps not in the process template and record data at steps not yet current along a BPM workflow.

The final discovery once you get staff on board with e-Cases is that with Case-level governance you are likely to discover one worker performing interventions using a process template, with another worker, for whatever reason, performing the same scope work via a number of seemingly, except to that worker, unrelated ad hoc interventions.

Since both know what they are doing (i.e. we hire knowledge workers with the presumption that they know what to do, how to do it), it’s not surprising both are able to reach the same goals/objectives.

The lesson here is clear – make sure you go “the extra mile” with BPM. You can do this by combining BPM, ACM, RALB in an e-Case environment that accommodates interoperability.

The elevator pitch to CEOs/CIOs is easy – workflow management environments provide orchestration (the center line guidelines along a highway) plus governance (guardrails on the sides of the highway).

The benefits are increased staff efficiency, increased throughput, decreased errors, improved compliance with internal and external rules and regulations, all of which lead to improved outcomes and increased competitive advantage. With a potential 30% productivity improvement, ROIs should turn positive in 12-18 months, with clear sailing beyond this.

The punch line is – “when you have ways and means of doing the right things, the right way, at the right place , at the right time, using the right resources, there is not much that is likely to fall between the cracks”.

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Automated Resource Allocation, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Management, Case Management, Data Interoperability, R.A.L.B. | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

So you think you can multi-task?


Before you say yes, check out the video.

 

Seriously, you have probably noticed that multi-tasking seems routine to some, yet very difficult to others.

You may or may not be able to change the way you are, but here some ideas that will let you increase your productivity when you are a member of a team.

Rule #1 – do what you do well, let others do what you are not good at (i.e. don’t try to be your own plumber is a variation of this rule many of us have learned to follow).

Rule #2 – when you have a task to perform, take a bit of time to consider a few options before starting to work on the task. (I.e. look before you leap).

Rule #3 – avoid elegant solutions to the wrong problem. (I.e. is the problem really a problem?, if it is a problem, does it need a solution or is it possible the problem may go away on its own?, is your proposed approach to the problem likely to yield a solution?)

Rule #4 – remember the effect of “S” curves – when you have to suspend work on a task, you incur time unwinding from the task and when you come back to the task there is a “learning curve” that you typically have to go through.

Rule #5 – when you finish a task, communicate this to other members of your team – everything we do involves the creation of outputs from inputs (i.e. your output becomes someone else’s input and if you don’t communicate they won’t be able to do good job planning their contribution).

 

Posted in Productivity Improvement | Leave a comment

Where, Oh Where, have my Documents Gone?


Decision-making is the art of converting information into action. It’s an art because it requires a blending of experience, knowledge, wisdom, intuition, and information. All of these except information are acquired or intrinsic capabilities.pile_of_documents

The problem with information is that it is difficult to bring together all of the content needed to make decisions. The result is many decisions are made in the absence of key information.

If you think about it, the information needed to make most decisions is likely to be spread across multiple “documents” (e.g. MS Word .doc files, .pdfs, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, web pages etc.). These documents are likely to be all over the place. Each document type requires special software for viewing/editing.

Pulling all of these together and keeping them together as documents go through multiple revisions is tedious and time-consuming with no guarantee that all of the information will be where you need it to be at the time you need to make a decision.

Another consideration is some of the information needed to make decisions relating to one initiative will be common to other initiatives. Corporate Policy & Procedure is a good example. This means that if you want to consolidate information by initiative, you need to duplicate certain documents.

Free-form search Knowledgebases such as Civerex’s CiverManage™ are a solution to the problem of consolidating information and being able to prioritize initiatives that compete for the same scarce resources.

Here’s how you can set up a Kbase that can consolidate all of your documents and organize these for decision-making.

#1 Start by finding a Kbase environment that allows bulk import of the content of your Windows Directories and files located across various servers/PCs. You want to be able to import entire Directories, not individual files.

You will want the documents to import to your Kbase’s underlying database management system. Don’t settle for a system that uses links back to source Directories (i.e. if someone moves the files, the links will break; if someone opens a document from a Directory, edits the document and does a save-as, your KBase will be pointing to the wrong version of the document).

#2 Now, organize your documents the way you wish as “things-within-things-within-things”, same as you would organize physical files, within file folders, within drawers, within physical filing cabinets.

#3 Once your documents are all in one place, create as many alias documents as you like and park these under as many separate “filing cabinets” as you wish. The way alias documents work is any edits done at any alias document operate on the source document for that alias.

This leaves editing to be discussed along with free-form searches.

When you click on a stored document for editing, the Kbase environment needs to automatically do a save to the database before any editing starts so that you end up with a full audit trail of your document content. Since your documents are IN your Kbase, file names are no longer needed (the node name, key words / mirrored content are all you need to find a document).

Free-Form Searches

The big advantage of Kbases becomes apparent when you engage a search.

Whereas traditional SQL searches tell you what a query was able to find (providing you ask the software to look in the right place), a free-form Kbase search tells you visually what the software was able to find and what the software was NOT able to find. This greatly increases the amount of information returned per search.

A search at a hospital Kbase can give a patient information regarding which facilities have EMRs but the same search can give a vendor information regarding which facilities do not have EMRs.

If you try to look for a phone number in an address field using traditional SQL you will get back “not found” – the same search in a free-form Kbase will find the phone number even if it is embedded in a memo field.

It’s not all clear sailing – for fast searches, it pays to mirror document content to plain memo fields but in respect of, say, PowerPoint presentations, images, etc, you need to assign key words at document nodes so that you can find content. Videos are typically too large to store IN Kbases, so these are exceptions to the “no-links” rule.

With the exception of videos, you can, following import, move original documents to backup and, hopefully, never have to refer to these again.

A Practical Scenario

Consider a filmmaker trying to put together a documentary – there will typically be a screenplay, a project schedule, a project budget, promotional material, financing plans/requests/responses, equipment inventories, multiple video clips, actor/model release forms, copyright permission royalty agreements, etc..   If several projects are being worked on at the same time, some of the content may need to be used across projects.

File Folders (paper or electronic) make it difficult to find content.

Large corporations can easily have hundreds of active initiatives plus a number of initiatives under consideration, each with its own set of documents. In respect of initiatives under consideration, most of these initiatives compete for scarce resources. This gives rise to a need to prioritize initiatives which is next to impossible to do looking at one initiative at a time.

Knowledgebases help with information consolidation (products, products under development, asset inventories, staff, internal policy/procedure, external rules/ regulations, markets, competitors) and since there are no physical boundaries to Kbases, it is possible using “Russian doll” data hiding techniques to have any number of project\folders\nodes at one screen with free-form search facilities across the entire space.

The Kbases our group works with usually have in excess of 1,000 documents, sometimes 10,000 documents, all visible and accessible from one screen. Try that on your PC desktop and you will appreciate the value of a Kbase.

If you are not using Kbases, you or your assistants probably spend 1-2 hours a day hunting for information. Cost this out over a year and you have the potential to save a lot of money. The quality of decisions you make will improve as a result of having more complete information available if you migrate your documents to a Kbase.

If you are in the market for a Kbase, pick a LinkedIn discussion topic that has received 200-300 comments and ask the vendor to put together a demo Kbase comprising the comments, organized respondent by respondent, in reverse chronological order. Try to identify a sub-theme that two respondents have found to be particularly interesting and engage a search. Your search results will automatically thread together the dialog between the two respondents.

Here below is a screenshot of a Satellite Inventory, comprising some 6,000 documents relating to three Entities (Satellites, Launch Sites, and Launch Vehicles).

  • A search for a Launch Site, will give you site demographics plus all satellites launched from that site (all countries, all years) plus all launch vehicles used.
  • A search for a Satellite will give you demographics for that satellite and simultaneously highlight Launch Sites and Launch Vehicles used. You will be able to see clearly whether a country used a particular Launch Site for a period of time and then switched to a different site. If that country uses one site for commercial launches and a different site for military satellite launches, you will see it.
  • A search for a Launch Vehicle will give you all satellites/sites that have used this launch vehicle.

Satellite_Inventory

Need to find needles in haystacks?   Start using a Kbase today!

If you have any questions re your use of Kbases to improve decision-making, call me at 1 450 458 5601.

BTW:

The setup for investigative searches such as encountered in major crimes case management is different. Here, you will want a mix of “things-within-things-within-things” plus networked documents (i.e. multiple hierarchical trees) as you “connect-the-dots”.

Posted in Database Technology, Decision Making, Enterprise Content Management, Major Crimes Case Management | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Case – why you need it (Part III of III)


Here is part III/III on Case Management (ACM, BPM, RALB, ECM, CRM, and FOMM) highlighting data storage issues at Cases plus the need for interoperability and non-subjective ways and means of assessing progress toward meeting Case objectives.

Watch the 11 minute  video at

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management, Case Management, Data Interoperability, Database Technology, R.A.L.B. | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Case – why you need It (Part II of III)


Here is part II on Case, ACM, BPM, RALB, ECM, CRM, and FOMM.

Watch the video at

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Automated Resource Allocation, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Management, Case Management, Customer Centricity, Data Interoperability, Enterprise Content Management, R.A.L.B. | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How much money should you spend on a promo video?


Video_ShootWe live in an era where “also ran” no longer works. The other thing is viewers of web videos have very short attention spans.

Any small business owner has to decide up front what level of sophistication they want for, to take one example, a promo video.

Four options I can think of are PowerPoint, talking heads, animation sequences and interview style.

All can result in absolutely dreadful results when done wrong. The latter IMO is the most effective when done right.

Here is how we pitch video to our clients as a way toward improving competitive advantage.

The business owner has to understand that for interview style there has to be a script (that must not be referred to during the recording), a good camera  (preferably two), good lighting and good sound.  The video should not run more than 3-5 mins.

The script has to immediately answer viewer questions that include

1) should I continue to view this video?

2) is the message addressing a need that I have?

3) does it cause me to want to contact the owner/company to contract for products/services or at least get more information?

Budgets will dictate whether the owner can afford to hire a video production company to hopefully generate good value for money or whether they should try to do the video themselves using consumer level technology.

No telling in respect of the latter whether a video is any better than no video.

You may have noticed that the media in some countries are shifting away from the use of pro staff/equipment for news event coverage. The difference in quality is dramatic but the argument against my recommendations is “do contemporary audiences actually care?”Video_ShootVideo_Shoot

Posted in Video Production | Tagged | Leave a comment