When was the last time your team documented your agency’s processes or set benchmarks to measure performance? If you’re like most, it’s likely been a while, if at all.
It’s understandable. Who has the time? Especially when the ratio of staff to licensing requests and backlogs continues to grow more imbalanced. But if you’re on the path to investing in licensing technology to help streamline and automate operations and accommodate a virtual workforce, take it as an opportunity to audit and document workflows and establish baseline metrics. This will help your team avoid the painful fate of implementing a solution that fails to deliver on expectations, which happens all too often.
And there’s another benefit. Going through this process will help your team identify and remove friction points in the customer experience, eliminate waste, identify automation opportunities and help breakdown internal silos, which is crucial as more teams move to a virtual model. Taking these steps will set your agency up for an effective system rollout and for success over the long term.
Begin with the customer in mind
The workflow documentation journey can feel overwhelming, and often the hardest part is knowing where to start. To avoid paralysis by analysis, start with one process and with the customer in mind.
Consider your services from the customers’ perspective. What is most important to the people you serve? Customers have grown to expect Amazon-like experiences—straight-forward, accessible, fast—across all facets of daily life, government services included. And ultimately, they care most about how fast they can obtain the license they need to start a business, start a new career or stay in business.
Taking this into account, are there any steps in your current workflow that create friction in the process? This is an indicator of where to start the process mapping journey. But you’ll want to get granular.
For instance, don’t try to blend the process for new applications with the process for renewals. These should be audited separately. Starting with one very specific process can help your team develop a model of other processes or workflows.
With the process selected, define a clear start and stop point and describe the full scope. For new applications, as an example, this will start from the time the applicant lands on your website to locate the online application through to the time they receive their license. Give this process a name and determine baseline metrics to help your team gauge improvement down the road.
Get inclusive and visual
The most productive operational audits involve stakeholders at all levels—from leadership to the frontline workers who support the process you’re examining. This is the only way to get granular on specific steps involved. Keep in mind however, there can be some trepidation among the team to expose areas of perceived or actual weakness. Reassure them that the objective is to improve workflows for everyone –– customer and the team. It’s not an individual performance review. Make sure they understand it’s a safe and collaborative space where they’re encouraged to expose inefficiencies. Now is the time to adjust what needs fixing, not to place judgment on those willing to point out perceived flaws in the process.
Before your team begins the audit, gather all of the documents –– copies of the application, rules, policies, statutes, etc. –– that are part of the process. Create a list of all outputs and inputs. In the case of a new application, an input would be the application and an output would be the license. Finally, make note of all steps and approvals that need to be obtained to keep the process moving forward.
Mapping these out visually for the entire team to see tends to work best, particularly when the goal is to identify and revise any obstructions. Sticky notes on a whiteboard or wall work well for this because it promotes collaboration and granularity. Document each step on a separate note then have the team work together to add to, discard or move the notes around until the full process is defined and agreed upon.
Flow chart tools like Visio or Bizagi also work well to not only draw out process flows, but also assist in identifying areas of process improvement. For instance, if you see arrows in the chart that loopback, this could indicate an area that requires cleaning up.
Conducting an inclusive and visual audit of workflows will give a clear perspective on how your licensing agency’s process is, or is not, working. The outcome might surprise you.
Define baseline metrics
With the process documented and areas of improvement defined, you’ll be able to establish baseline metrics to track future performance against. If you’re implementing new technology, this will be one way to gauge its efficacy and make adjustments sooner than later.
In defining your key performance indicators (KPIs), measure quantitative and qualitative data with an emphasis on the analytics that indicate customer success and satisfaction. This could include:
- Length of time to issue a license
- Net promoter scores (NPS) –– a customer satisfaction benchmark that measures customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Deficiency rates (for example, how often do you have to go back and ask a customer for more information)
- The number of phone calls or emails customers have to make to your organization to understand what is required on the application
Plugging these data points into a tool like a Pareto chart will create an easy-to-follow visual for tracking improvement or for identifying what needs to be addressed first.
If you don’t have these numbers documented, get your team to start tracking these points over the course of a week as they’re processing applications. Don’t leave this up to a best guess. Let the data lead you to the problems or areas in greatest need of improvement. This will paint a detailed portrait of your operation—from strengths to deficiencies—and strategically guide you to make decisions on which steps to automate and which to eliminate. Finally, start small. Rather than tackling a daunting overhaul of the entire operations, begin by identifying the most pressing issue and then expand after that problem has been corrected. Often, solving one problem area will inherently remedy other related problems. And when this process is combined with configurable solutions that support automation, the returns on your investment and your team’s efficiency will skyrocket.
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