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Reducing the Rework

In a previous blog, I talked about getting back to basics with BPM and today I’d like to focus on one area in particular that every company has to deal with: rework. From a case that is missing a necessary document to a user forgetting to perform a required task to simply leaving a field blank, the amount of time and procedures required to handle a processing error are commonplace within all organizations.

Return to Sender

In any business process, there needs to be a check to make sure that as work goes through the process, there weren’t any errors from the previous step that prevents the work from being done in the next. This is represented by this simple flow chart:

While this is pretty easy for a simple two-step process, what if it’s a more complicated process with many steps? The error checks cumulatively build as you progress farther down the line.

As work enters a new step, you not only have to check for errors from the previous step but in every step that occurred prior the current one. By the time you get to Step 3, you are checking for errors in Step 1 and Step 2. If this was a 6 or 7 step process, you can see how cumbersome this can become and one that invites problems and increases the amount of processing time as the work makes its way through the workflow.

Not only does having checks for errors in each step of the process make that process more complicated it also means that organizations must provide rules and procedures to follow in the event that something must be returned. These procedures can be even more complex if the returns have to go outside the department from where the item is being worked. This means written procedures, training, audits, and additional overhead simply to handle the return of errors, let alone correcting them.

Enter BPMS

Business Process Management Software (BPMS) provides numerous ways to not only help speed up the rework process but also reducing the need for rework from the start. Depending on the software package provided by a BPM vendor, here are some common ways to avoid errors and eliminate the need for rework:

  • Automated checkpoints within a workflow – By utilizing key metadata that is stored within the work item, rules can key off this data to validate…

  • Required formatting of values

  • If any key fields are blank

  • Going against back end systems or databases to make sure the metadata is correct

  • Task Lists – A list of tasks can be set up and assigned to each step in the process to guide the user ensuring that all steps are completed. These tasks can be required or optional for each step. While the Task doesn’t necessarily mean they will be completed (a user can simply check off the task but not actually do them) it does give dynamic and immediate procedures based on…

  • The work step the item was pulled from;

  • The metadata on the form;

  • The user role of the person working the item;

  • And other factors.

This also reduces or eliminates the need for written procedures within binders or pinned to cubicle walls that a user may have to reference while doing their work (which can increase the overall processing time). Training is also expedited because the information is right there within the work item and not disconnected by being in a manual somewhere.

  • Case Lists or Case Management – Case lists are ideal for making sure all of the documentation necessary for a particular work process has been received and handled. Coupled with Task lists, a Case Management style BPM can highlight and call attention to anything missing that is needed for completion of the work item or, at a minimum, before it can be sent to the next step.

  • Smart Forms – By embedding logic into the form fields themselves, users can be alerted when key data is missing or incorrect. For example, if Field A has a certain value it will cause Field B to be a required field. Additionally, forms can have drop down boxes that are linked to databases or lists that eliminate a user having to key in a value. This increases the chances that the right value is selected and not subject to typos (understand, however, that a user could still select the wrong value for a particular work type).

Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI)

Determining the ROI on a BPM implementation can be daunting because BPMS covers so much ground but by breaking down the benefits into specific chunks, the investment can become much clearer. It is imperative that the relative information and factors to determining the current cost of the process is done during the BPM analysis of the process. In the case of rework, the following needs to be captured before and after implementation:

  • The Average Hourly Wage (W) of the roles within the targeted process

  • The Number of Reworks (R) over an established time period

  • The Total Amount of Time Spent (TTS) over all on reworks during the same time period

  • The Average Amount of Time Spent (ATS) for each rework (number of reworks during the established time period divided by the total time spent doing reworks during that same time period).

Once these figures are in place, a dollar amount should be obtainable. For example:

  • Average Hourly Wage (W): $12.00

  • Number of Reworks in a Month (R): 78

  • Average Amount of Time Spent per rework (ATS): 2.5 hours

  • Total Amount of Time Spent (TTS) for reworks in a month (R x ATS): 195 hours

  • Total Cost (W x TTS): $2340.00

  • Average Cost per Rework (Total Cost ÷ R): $30.00

The above factors become a baseline for determining the ROI for reworks. When the BPMS solution is being designed, it’s important that these are tracked within the workflow. This can be done by keying off workflow rules when an item is sent back to a previous step and adding timers to these actions. By utilizing a dashboard with the baseline factors as a constant, real time data on the number of reworks, the time spent and cost associated within the BPMS solution can be displayed. These are real, concrete dollars that add up and help justify the expense of the solution.

Not a Cure-All

Obviously BPMS is not a cure-all for errors. Mistakes happen but BPMS lessens the chance for those mistakes. Plus, the ideas that have been described herein is not advanced technology. Most, if not all, BPMS packages provide some manner of these capabilities right out of the box and in some cases, configurable by the end user without the need for heavy coding.

Getting back to basics with BPM means making sure organizations understand the inherent value of a BPMS platform. Handling rework is done in EVERY process in EVERY vertical. Whether it’s Authorization for Expenditures within the Oil and Gas industry or Supply Chain Management within the Manufacturing and Distribution industry, everyone has to be aware of errors and how to handle them.

With proper analysis and design at the start of a BPM project, an organization can get back to basics with a proper and well thought out BPMS implementation that provides tools that, at a minimum, make reworks easier and, at a maximum, greatly reduce the number of reworks.

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