Clearly Coronavirus is causing a lot of short-term disruption, the likes of which have not been experienced since World War 2. Everyone is working hard to cope with constantly changing circumstances, but many businesses are having to reduce activity or stop altogether for an unknown period of time.
For those in that position, they may be able to seize a golden opportunity. How often does day-to-day activity slow down or stop – allowing you to really explore ways to improve business processes? Can you come out fighting and emerge stronger?
I have come up with 3 data driven ideas that could transform a business during this period of shut down or limited operations.
Walk the Data Process
Take a piece of data that would typically join the process early, e.g. a line item on an order. Follow it through each process to the end. Much like a value stream mapping exercise you can see where the data goes. How many times is it duplicated? In how many different systems is it entered? What are the risks of transcript errors? How much time does it take for people to manage this data? How many times is it printed? How is lead-time affected? Would you describe this as an agile data process?
I often wonder if the physical process of a business was as inefficient as the data process, would it be tolerated? Most data processes can by automated. If the computer can be doing it, it should be doing it. It is just a matter of knowing how.
Having seen many businesses, big and small, over the years, I have experienced some inefficient and poorly managed meetings. Meetings are significant contributors to company culture, so I get quite passionate about how they should work.
A meeting is a decision-making process and, like any process, it should have inputs and outputs and be as efficient as possible. Inputs should mainly comprise of information derived from up-to-the-minute data. Ideally, the information is created automatically or through Business Intelligence tools for specialist analysis.
The outputs should be a series of agreed actions with one person responsible for each, a clear outcome and deadline. Larger actions should be broken into small ones to ensure progress is visible.
The meetings itself; I could fill many pages on this alone, but here is just one tip: How many meetings have you endured listening to people fill an information or data gap with debate and opinion?
Don’t allow it. Just make one of the actions (outputs) to get the information and data (inputs) for the next meeting. It is amazing how data eliminates debate.
The meeting process itself, like any process should be efficient. Punchy, stick to facts and the agenda. Only include those people necessary.
Poor meeting culture can be a hotbed for politics and damage to relationships. Why not use this temporary downtime to redefine how meetings will work and make the whole business stronger as a result?
It is always worth reviewing KPIs occasionally. Business strategy may change in response to changing markets, supply chain, legislation, etc. So even if KPIs were a good fit, they may require some re-alignment now.
If things are quiet, you can do a quick check of your KPIs. Imagine all your KPIs are at optimum levels, e.g. 100% or 0% (depending on what they are). Is there anything important in the business that could be sub-optimal, but it is not evident in the KPIs?
Another thing to challenge with KPIs is their efficiency. If it is taking many man-hours to compile meaningful KPIs there is a problem, a slightly ironic problem if efficiency (or similar) is itself a KPI. Returning to my earlier point, your computer systems should be able to automatically create your KPIs.
If your KPIs are manual, their review cycle may be quite long, a week or a month maybe which is less than ideal. If KPIs are fully automated, they are always available. In some cases, it eliminates the need for meetings if rules can be applied to a combination of measures, “If this… then that…”. This empowers staff to get on with their jobs with the need for a senior nod.
KPIs are just a measure. They tell you where you are today compared to other days, positive or negative trends. They become significantly more powerful when you add some related analysis of gaps, paretos, comparisons and so on. Your KPIs become a powerful tool to drive improvement and therefore a valuable input to the meeting process described above. Is this the case for your business now? Can you make it so?
These are just three themes related to data and data management, that you could challenge in your business. Data is so powerful. Used correctly it can transform your business. I hope you find this useful, stay safe through the pandemic and I hope we all emerge stronger.