As economic challenges remain across the board, and budget cutting becomes a reality, government organizations are particularly sensitive to implementing new IT programs at minimal cost, and delivering results as quickly as possible, to ensure projects get funded through to completion – and results justify the resource commitments being made.
Lean Six Sigma approaches help ensure efficiency and stakeholder buy-in, and dynamic Business Process Management (BPM) software delivers the results, with deployments often within 6-8 months. We encourage government IT organizations to consider applying this winning technology combination to their next IT project. Marrying Lean Six Sigma with dynamic BPM can ensure stakeholder engagement and real results – fast.
It doesn’t take a lot of coding and that’s key.” – Cmdr. Miller
For example, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Group 4, a division within the U.S. Navy that includes active-duty Special Warfare Operators (known as SEALS), has reduced its time to process Government Purchase Card (GPCP) acquisitions from months to 3.2 days leveraging this winning combination of Lean Six Sigma and dynamic BPM. The resulting system not only lessens the time from request submission to purchase completion, it also walks users through processes to eliminate mistakes and can create various reports automatically for a variety of purposes. This program has been recognized by several international and national organizations; it is the winner of the 2012 Process Excellence Award, and a finalist for the Excellence.gov award.
The system was also fast to implement. Within a 6 month time-frame, NSWG4 had an automated workflow solution in place that reduced procurement lead time, improved accuracy, visibility, and all around satisfaction and improved performance of the GPCP process. This new automated system for the GPCP provides visibility into the process, standardization, and forcing function for over 6,000 purchases and $5.2 million spent annually.
Cmdr. Eric Miller, USN, logistics officer for NSW Group 4 during the time of implementation and current branch fleet support manager for Program Executive Office Submarines, says that dynamic BPM as a technology solution offers three key advantages for workflow automation: visibility, forcing function and standardization. The visibility allows users to see the stages of various requests as well as what must be completed at any time. They also can generate reports on different metrics through simple point-and-click actions. The forcing function notifies personnel when their signatures, reviews or other actions are required and continues to send reminder emails until the recipient responds. The commander explains that people can overlook a piece of paper, but the software’s persistence capability keeps the process moving.
The standardization part of the effort includes more than common processes across the group. Cmdr. Miller says that before introducing the technology, the stakeholders came together for two days to hammer out the procedures they wanted to implement. This involvement from the beginning helped employees to own the project and accept it more readily. The success has spurred interest by other larger groups in the Navy who are looking to implement similar types of solutions at higher levels.
In addition to hard savings that can be measured, the NSW Group 4 is saving hundreds of hours of personnel time on its 5,000 annual purchases under $3,000 by using this new system. It eliminates overprocessing and reduces defects by building in software input screens that force users to answer questions and take certain actions. It also is intuitive for nontechnical personnel. “It doesn’t take a lot of coding and that’s key,” Cmdr. Miller says. Users can specify facets that they want to include.
Users of the system benefit by reducing the time necessary to complete everyday processes while storing all information electronically so it is ready at any time for an audit. It also can help identify experts who may need to sign a document without requiring a person to spend time tracking down the individuals. Stakeholders throughout the approval chain can now track and monitor purchases, and buyers know exactly which step they are at in the process. The program is accessible from anywhere with Internet access around the world.
There were several key elements that led to success with this program:
- Incremental change led by employees: NSWG4 used TPS (Toyota Production System Model) to implement incremental change to drive organizational increases in productivity and efficiency. The model from Toyota uses small rapid improvements events (Kaizen) led by the employees and mentored by senior leaders to drive projects. NSWG4 used this methodology rather than the traditional activity based model, which mandates meetings, tollgates, excessive charts and measurements. NSWG4 didn’t try to ‘boil the ocean;’ it focused on solving specific problems.
- Speed: From defining the process specifications to going live with the new system was only six months. Securing buy-in from the stakeholders and end users encouraged active participation as the work progressed, and the COTS solution used as the basis of the implementation was easy to use and needed minimal customization, delivering most of the requirements out of the box.
- Cost: Using superior commercial off-the-shelf software that required minimal customization kept development costs down. And because the requirements were clearly defined upfront through the offsite, and leadership really listened to the stakeholders and kept them engaged, the process went smoothly and everyone involved was in agreement regarding what the final product should deliver.
The end result: an immediate increase in productivity, faster, more accurate purchasing and ordering, standardization, transparency, and an easy to use adhoc reporting mechanism that provides management with complete process oversight. By combining an effective strategic approach like Lean Six Sigma with a practical, technical solution like dynamic BPM, the stakeholders got a system that meets their needs – that also met their budget and deadline.
Harry Clarke is President and CEO of HandySoft, a leading global provider of Business Process Management (BPM), Tasking and Compliance software and solutions for government and business organizations worldwide. BizFlow by HandySoft is the first and only BPM suite in the marketplace dedicated to streamlining and automating dynamic actions and tasks, which make up roughly 80 percent of all enterprise business activities today.