The UK’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme – and all others in the EU stable – is bound to generate huge quantities of data beyond the reach of processing on standalone computers. This leaves some companies in the mandatory sector between a rock and a hard place. They already have to divert scarce talent to draft compliance reports. Now they face purchasing equipment with big data processing power.
The more astute are turning to cloud computing solutions like EcoVaro in increasing numbers. They are also keen to benefit from remote secure backup. .
Increasing migration to public clouds has caused a growth in niche big data consultants. EcoVaro is one of these. We want to do more than simply open up a port and leave you to become familiar with our technology. We service a growing group of companies who want us to analyse their energy usage reports, and isolate the main demand drivers so they know where to start saving.
We are consumer-centric energy consultants with the emphasis on corporates and sme’s. We offer more than just big data processing facilities. We also help set up your dashboard and are full of practical ideas you can use to start trimming energy costs right away. So please treat us as your affordable energy partner who really wants to help.
Multinational management-consulting and technology-services company Accenture has a good eye for sniffing out new business, with 305,000 employees advancing its interests in more than 200 cities in 56 countries evidence. Last year, it netted US$30 billion profit that is a tidy sum of money in anybody’s books.
Accenture also practices what it preaches. This is maximum business efficiency within moral standards. It tracks its carbon emissions from its offices around the world. Being a technology services company it is unsurprising that it automated the process. Being management consultants it can drill down to finest detail in its search for continuous improvement.
As a forward-thinking company Accenture is committed to transplanting its business skills into other organizations, in order to drive higher performance and sustain greater profits in the long term. It works with clients across borders and industries to integrate sustainability into their business models, and find effective ways to lighten carbon footprints.
The City of Seattle in Washington is a case in point. Following a proud history of nature and energy conservation, it engaged Accenture in 2013 to help it reduce downtown power consumption by 25%. Other project members were Microsoft supplying software, the local power utility for technical advice, and a non-profit to set up a smart building program. The initiative uses cloud services to process the big data generated by a host of building management services, plus a multitude of sensors, controls and meters.
The project is vital for the City. It wants to continue expanding but needs to avoid another power plant polluting its skyline. At the time of writing, the pilot sites had proved successful and the program was rolling out. Seattle’s next challenge is to acquire 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The smart building solutions Seattle trialled in five downtown buildings, had a further welcome spinoff; by reducing operating times, facility managers can look forward to extended equipment life and fewer maintenance downtimes. The green building philosophy is alive and well in the City of Seattle, driven both by necessity and vision.
It is a no longer as question of if – but when – other urban communities follow suit. EcoVaro believes it is time long due for individual companies to start enjoying lower energy costs plus the prospect of profitably trading carbon credits. The process begins with measuring what you have and identifying cost-effective savings.
Want to find out more?
Contact Denizon today to find out how we can your organisation overcome business challenges.
Master Data is information that is critical to your business. This could include contracts, proprietary information, intellectual capital and a whole lot more besides. Because this often reposes in a variety of different places, you need a master data management / MDM policy to control it. That way, you can link it all together in a single, secure, backed up file.
This Sounds Like Big Data
Not necessarily: big data refers to extremely large data sets that are best stored and analysed on a cloud using big technology, in order to uncover trends, patterns and associations often relating to human behaviour. Of course, if you run a niche restaurant your critical master data might be limited to a few recipes and the books you do not care to show your accountant.
The distinction is largely a question of size: think of your master data as the subset of big data that you already have your mind around. According to John Case of IBM this is probably already in a structured format and available to share. He goes on to present a cogent case for using this as a peg point around which to systematise the rest. This is because the average organization already has master data recording customers’ and prospects’ behaviour.
Do I Still Need My Master Data?
Yes you do, because real people created it with the benefit of human insight. Retain it as a separate set. Then compare it with the results of big data processing for even richer insights. Two heads are better that one and that goes for data processing too.
Trends in CRM Big Data
Adding data via location-aware devices like smartphones and tablets is adding a new dimension to customer information. We now know where they were when they made the enquiry or punched in the information. Use this geo-location data to hone the way you interact with customers and service their accounts. Do not phone a customer who makes decisions at work when they are at home.
Does My Master Data Belong on a Cloud?
There are a number of ‘ifs’ to consider. How comfortable are you with your service provider. What would happen if someone hacked their server? There are many advantages to cloud technology. Denizon knows of solutions you can rely on, and makes sure its clients have contingency plans to protect them at all times.
Tightening organisational flow to improve productivity and minimise costs is a growing concern for many businesses post the Global Financial Crisis. Businesses can no longer afford to waste time and personnel on inefficient processes. Organisations using either Six Sigma or Lean techniques better manage their existing resources to maximise product out-put. Both of these techniques involve considerable evaluation of current processes.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is an organisational management strategy that evaluates processes for variation. In the Six Sigma model, variation equates waste. Eliminating variation for customer fulfilment allows a business to better serve the end-user. In this thought model, the only way to streamline processes is to use statistical data. Each part of a process must be carefully recorded and analysed for variation and potential improvements. The heart of the strategy embodied by Six Sigma is mathematical. Every process is subject to mathematical analysis and this allows for the most effective problem solving.
What is a Lean Model?
Lean businesses do not rely on mathematical models for improvement. Instead, the focus is on reducing steps in the customer delivery cycle, which do not add value to the final deliverable. For example, maintaining excess inventory or dealing with shortages would both be examples of waste behaviour. Businesses that operate using Lean strategies have strong cash flow cycles. One of the best and most famous examples of Lean in action is the Toyota Production System (TPS). In this system, not only is inventory minimised, but physical movement for employees also remains sharply controlled. Employees are able to reach everything needed to accomplish their tasks, without leaving the immediate area. By reducing the amount of movement needed to work, companies also remove wasted employee time.
Industry Applications for Lean and Six Sigma
Lean businesses reduce the number of steps between order and delivery. The less inventory on hand, the less it costs a business to operate. In industries where it is possible to create to order, Lean thinking offers significant advantages. Lean is best utilised in mature businesses. New companies, operating on a youthful model, may not be able to identify wasteful processes. Six Sigma has shown its value across industries through several evolution’s. Its focus on quality of process makes it a good choice for even brand new businesses. The best use is the combination of the two strategies. With the Lean focus on speed and the Six Sigma focus on quality combined, the two organisational processes create synergy. By itself, Lean does not help create stable, repeating success. Six Sigma does not help increase speed and reduce non value-added behaviours. Combined, these two strategies offer incredible value to every business in cost savings.
Using Technology to Implement Lean Six Sigma
Automation processes represent an opportunity for businesses to implement a combination of both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. Any technology that replaces the need for direct human oversight reduces costs and increases productivity. A few examples of potentially cost saving IT solutions include document scanning, the Internet, and automated workflow systems.
* Document Scanning – Reducing dependency on paper copies follows both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. It is a Lean addition in that it allows employees to access documents instantly from any physical location. It is Six Sigma compliant in that it allows a reduction on process variation, since there is no bottleneck on the flow of information.
* The Internet – The automation potential offered by the Internet is limitless. Now, businesses can enter orders, manage logistics and perform customer service activities from anywhere, through a hosted portal. With instant access to corporate processes from anywhere, businesses can manage workflow globally, allowing them to realise cost savings from decentralisation.
* Automated Work Systems – One of the identified areas of waste in any business is processing time. The faster orders are processed and delivered, the greater the profits for the company and the less the expense per order. When orders sit waiting for attention, they represent lost productivity and waste. Automated work systems monitor workflow and alert users when an item sits longer than normal. These systems can also reroute work to an available employee when the original worker is tied up.
Each of these IT solutions provides a method for businesses to either reduce the number of steps in a process or improve the quality of the process for improved customer service.
Identifying Areas for Lean Six Sigma Implementation
Knowing that improved processes result in improved profits, identifying areas for improvement is the next step. There are several techniques for creating tighter processes with less waste and higher quality. Value Stream Mapping helps business owners and managers identify areas of waste by providing a visual representation of the total process stream. Instead of improving single areas for minimal increases in productivity, VSM shows the entire business structure and flow, allowing management to target each area of slow down for maximum improvement in all areas.
Seeing the areas of waste helps management better determine how processes should work to best obtain the desired outcomes. Adding in automated processes helps with improved process management, when put in place with a complete understanding of current systems and their weaknesses. Start with mapping and gain a bird’s-eye view of the situation, in order to make the changes needed for improvement.
When call centres emerged towards the end of the 20th century, they deserved their name ‘the sweatshops of the nineties’. A new brand of low-paid workers crammed into tiny cubicles to interact with consumers who were still trying to understand the system. Supervisors followed ‘scientific management’ principles aimed at maximising call-agent activity. When there was sudden surge in incoming calls, systems and customer care fell over.
The flow is nowadays in the opposite direction. Systems borrowed from manufacturing like Kanban, Pull, and Levelling are in place enabling a more customer-oriented approach. In this short article, our focus is on Pull Systems. We discuss what are they, and how they can make modern call centres even better for both sets of stakeholders.
Pull Systems from a Manufacturing Perspective
Manufacturing has traditionally been push-based. Sums are done, demand predicted, raw materials ordered and the machines turned on. Manufacturers send out representatives to obtain orders and push out stock. If the sums turn out wrong inventories rise, and stock holding costs increase. The consumer is on the receiving end again and the accountant is irritable all day long.
Just-in-time thinking has evolved a pull-based approach to manufacturing. This limits inventories to anticipated demand in the time it takes to manufacture more, plus a cushion as a trigger. When the cushion is gone, demand-pull spurs the factory into action. This approach brings us closer to only making what we can sell. The consumer benefits from a lower price and the accountant smiles again.
Are Pull Systems Possible in Dual Call Centres
There are many comments in the public domain regarding the practicality of using lean pull systems to regulate call centre workflow. Critics point to the practical impossibility of limiting the number of incoming callers. They believe a call centre must answer all inbound calls within a target period, or lose its clients to the competition.
In this world-view customers are often the losers. At peak times, operators can seem keen to shrug them off with canned answers. When things are quiet, they languidly explain things to keep their occupancy levels high. But this is not the end of the discussion, because modern call centres do more than just take inbound calls.
Using the Pull System Approach in Dual Call Centres
Most call centre support-desks originally focused are handling technical queries on behalf of a number of clients. When these clients’ customers called in, their staff used operator’s guides to help them answer specific queries. Financial models determined staffing levels and the number of ‘man-hours’ available daily. Using a manufacturing analogy, they used a push-approach to decide the amount of effort they were going to put out, and that is where they planted their standard.
Since these early 1990 days, advanced telephony on the internet has empowered call centres to provide additional remote services in any country with these networks. They have added sales and marketing to their business models, and increased their revenue through commissions. They have control over activity levels in this part of their business. They have the power to decide how many calls they are going to make, and within reason when they are going to make them.
This dichotomy of being passive regarding incoming traffic on the one hand, and having active control over outgoing calls on the other, opens up the possibility of a partly pull-based lean approach to call centre operation. In this model, a switching mechanism moves dual trained operators between call centre duties and marketing activities, as required by the volume of call centre traffic, thus making a pull system viable in dual call centres.
Six Sigma is an industrial business strategy directed at improving the quality of process outputs by eliminating errors and system variables. The end objective is to achieve a state where 99.99966% of events are likely to be defect free. This would yield a statistical rating of Sigma 6 hence the name.
The process itself is thankfully more user-friendly. It presents a model for evaluating and improving customer relationships based on data provided by an automated customer relations management (CRM) system. However in the nature of human interaction we doubt the 99.99966% is practically achievable.
Six Sigma Fundamentals
The basic tenets of the business doctrine and the features that set off are generally accepted to be the following:
Continuous improvement is essential for success
Business processes can be measured and improved
Top down commitment is fundamental to sustained improvement
Claims of progress must be quantifiable and yield financial benefits
Management must lead with enthusiasm and passion
Verifiable data is a non-negotiable (no guessing)
Steps Towards the Goal
The five basic steps in Six Sigma are define the system, measure key aspects, analyse the relevant data, improve the method, and control the process to sustain improvements. There are a number of variations to this DMAIC model, however it serves the purpose of this article. To create a bridge across to customer relationships management let us assume our CRM data has thrown out a report that average service times in our fast food chicken outlets are as follows.
3 to 8 Minutes
9 to 10 Minutes
Table: Servicing Tickets in Chippy’s Chicken Cafés
Using DMAIC to unravel the reasons behind this might proceed as follows
Define the system in order to understand the process. How are customers prioritized up front, and does the back of store follow suit?
Break the system up into manageable process chunks. How long should each take on average? Where are bottlenecks most likely to occur?
Analyse the ticket servicing data by store, by time of day, by time of week and by season. Does the type of food ordered have a bearing?
Examine all these variables carefully. Should there for example be separate queues for fast and slower orders, are there some recipes needing rejigging
Set a goal of 90% of tickets serviced within 8 minutes. Monitor progress carefully. Relate this to individual store profitability. Provide recognition.
A symbiotic relation between CRM and a process improvement system can provide a powerful vehicle for evidencing customer care and providing feedback through measurable results. Denizon has contributed to many strategically important systems. Our consultants are highly trained and waiting for your call.
The theory that it is possible to manage organizational change (Change Management) in a particular direction has done the rounds for quite some time, but is it true about Change Management. Was Barrack Obama correct when he said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Or, was business coach Kelly A Morgan more on the button when she commented, “Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to, and work through the change process.” Let us consult the evidence and see what statisticians say.
What the Melcrum Report Tells Us Melcrum are “internal communication specialists who work alongside leaders and teams around the globe to build skills and best practice in internal communication.” They published a report after researching over 1,000 companies that attempted change management and advised:
• More than 50% report improved customer satisfaction
• 33% report higher productivity
• 28% report improvements in employee advocacy
• 27% improved status as a great place to work
• 27% report increased profitability
• 25% report improved absenteeism Sounds great until we flip the mirror around and consider what the majority apparently said: • 50% had no improvement in customer service
• 67% did not report increased productivity
• 72% did not note improvements in employee advocacy
• 73% had no improved status among job seekers
• 73% did not report increased profitability
• 75% did not report any reduction of employee absenteeism
This shows it is still a great idea to hear what all parties have to say before reaching a conclusion. You may be interested to know the Melcrum report gave rise to the legend that 70% of organisation change initiatives fail. This finding has repeated numerous times. Let’s hear what the psychologists have to say next. There is a certain amount of truth in the old adage that says, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” Which of us has not said, “Another flavour of the week … better keep heads down until it passes” during a spell in the corporate world. You cannot change an organization, but you can change an individual. At the height of the Nazi occupation of 1942, French philosopher-writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral”. Psychology Today suggests five false assumptions change management rests upon, THAT ARE SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
1. The external world is orderly, stable, predictable and can be managed
2. Change managers are objective, and do not import their personal bias
3. The world is static and orderly and can be changed in linear steps
4. There is a neutral starting point where we can gather all participants
5. Change is worthy in itself, because all change is an improvement
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” A prophet can work no miracles unless the people believe. From the foregoing, it is evident that change management of an organization is a 70% impossibility, but encouraging an individual to grow is another matter. A McKinsey Report titled Change Leader, Change Thyself fingers unbelieving managers as the most effective stumbling stones to change management. To change as individuals – and perhaps collectively change as organizations – we need to “come to our own full richness”, and as shepherds lead our flock to their “promised land”, whatever that may be. Conversely, herding our flock with a pack of sheepdogs extinguishes that most precious thing of all, human inspiration.
When a Toyota industrial engineer named Taiichi Ohno was investigating ways to optimise production material stocks in 1953, it struck him that supermarkets already had the key. Their customers purchased food and groceries on a just-in-time basis, because they trusted continuity of supply. This enabled stores to predict demand, and ensure their suppliers kept the shelves full.
The Kanban system that Taiichi Ohno implemented included a labelling system. His Kanban tickets recorded details of the factory order, the delivery destination, and the process intended for the materials. Since then, Ohno’s system has helped in many other applications, especially where customer demand may be unpredictable.
Optimising Workflow in Call Centres Optimising workflow in call centres involves aiming to have an agent pick up an incoming call within a few rings and deal with it effectively. Were this to be the case we would truly have a just-in-time business, in which operators arrived and left their stations according to customer demand. For this to be possible, we would need to standardise performance across the call centre team. Moving optimistically in that direction we would should do these three things:
Make our call centre operation nimble
Reduce the average time to handle calls
Decide an average time to answer callers
When we have done that, we are in a position to apply these norms to fluctuating call frequencies, and introduce ‘kanbanned’ call centre operators.
Making Call Centre Operations Nimble The best place to start is to ask the operators and support staff what they think. Back in the 1960’s Robert Townsend of Avis Cars famously said, ‘ask the people – they know where the wheels are squeaking’ and that is as true as ever.
Begin by asking technical support about downtime frequencies, duration, and causes. Given the cost of labour and frustrated callers, we should have the fastest and most reliable telecoms and computer equipment we can find.
Then invest in training and retraining operators, and making sure the pop-up screens are valuable, valid, and useful. They cannot do their job without this information, and it must be at least as tech-savvy as their average callers are.
Finally, spruce up the call centre with more than a lick of paint to awaken a sense of enthusiasm and pride. Find time for occasional team builds and fun during breaks. Tele-operators have a difficult job. Make theirs fun!
Reducing Average Time to Handle Calls Average length of contact is probably our most important metric. We should beware of shortening this at the cost of quality of interaction. To calculate it, use this formula:
Total Work Time + Total Hold Time + Total Post Call Time
Total Calls Handled in that Period
Share recordings of great calls that highlight how your best operators work. Encourage role-play during training sessions so people learn by doing. Publish your average call-handling time statistics. Encourage individual operators to track how they are doing against these numbers. Make sure your customer information is up to date. While they must confirm core data, limit this so your operators can get down to their job sooner.
Decide a Target Time to Answer Calls You should know what is possible in a matter of a few weeks. Do not attempt to go too tight on this one. It is better to build in say 10% slack that you can always trim in future. Once you have decided this, you can implement your Kanban system.
Introducing Kanban in Your Call Centre Operation Monitor your rate of incoming calls through your contact centre, and adjust your operator-demand metric on an ongoing basis. Use this to calculate your over / under demand factor. Every operator should know the value on this Kanban ticket. It will tell them whether to speed up a little, or slow down a bit so they deliver the effort the call rate demands. It will also advise the supervisor when to call up reserves.
System integration in an organization refers to a process whereby two or more separate systems are brought together for the purpose of pooling the value in the separate systems into one main system. A key component of process consolidation within any organization is the utilization of IT as a means to achieve this end. As such, system integration as a means to cost reduction offers organizations the opportunity to adopt and implement lean principles with the attendant benefits. The implementation of lean techniques requires an adherence to stated methods to facilitate the elimination of wastage in the production of goods and services. In summary, the lean philosophy seeks to optimize the speed of good and service production, through the elimination of waste.
While analyzing some of the traditional sources of waste in organizational activities, things like overproduction, inventory, underutilized ideas, transmission of information and ideas, transportation of people and material, time wastage and over-processing stand out. The fact is that companies can eliminate a significant portion of waste through the utilization of IT to consolidate processes within their organization.
Adopting lean principles calls for the identification of all of the steps in the company value stream for each product family for the purpose of the eliminating the steps that do not create any value. In other words, this step calls for the elimination of redundant steps in the process flow. This is exactly what the utilization of IT to consolidate processes offers a company. For instance, the adoption of a central cloud system across a large organization with several facilities could increase efficiencies in that company. Such a company would drastically reduce the redundancies that used to exist in the different facilities, eliminate the instances of hardware and software purchase, maintenance and upgrade, modernize quality assurances processes and identify further opportunities for improvement.
Perhaps, from the company’s point of view, and from the perspective of lean process implementation, the most important factor is the effect it has on the bottom line. Reducing the number of hardware, eliminating the need for maintaining and upgrading hardware, removing the necessity for software purchase and upgrade across facilities also contributes to a significant reduction in operational costs. This reduction in the cost of operations leads to a corresponding increase in the profit margin of the company.
Applying system integration as a means to cost reduction can also lead to the reduction in the number of people needed to operate the previous systems that have been integrated into one primary unit. Usually, companies must hire people with specialized knowledge to operate and maintain the various systems. Such employees must also receive special training and frequent ongoing education to constantly stay informed of the latest trends in process management. With the integration of the system, the number of people needed to maintain the central system will be significantly reduced, also improving the security of information and other company trade secrets.
Based on an analysis of the specific needs that exist in a particular company environment, a system integration method that is peculiar to the needs of that organization will be worked out. Some companies may find it more cost-effective to use the services of independent cloud service providers. Others with more resources and facilities may decide to set up their own cloud service systems. Often, private cloud service system capabilities far exceed the requirements of the initiating company, meaning that they could decide to “sell” the extra “space” on their cloud network to other interested parties.
A company that fully applies the lean principles towards the integration of its systems will be able to take on additional tasks as a result of the system consolidation. This leads to an increase in performance, and more efficiency due to the seamless syncing of information in a timely and uniform manner.
Companies have to combine a top-down and a bottom-up approach towards their system integration methods. A top-down approach simply utilizes the overall system structure that is already in place as a starting point, or as a foundation. The bottom-up approach seeks to design new systems for integration into the system. Other methods of system integration include the vertical, star and horizontal integration methods. In the horizontal method, a specified subsystem is used as an interface for communication between other subsystems. For the star system integration method, the subsystems are connected to the system in a manner that resembles the depiction of a star; hence, the name. Vertical integration refers to the method of the integration of subsystems based on an analysis of their functionality.
The key to successful system integration for the purpose of cost reduction is to take a manual approach towards identifying the various applicable lean principles, with respect to the system integration process. For instance, when value has been specified, it becomes easier to identify value streams. The other process of removing unnecessary or redundant steps will be easier to follow when the whole project is viewed from the whole, rather than the part. Creating an integrated system needs some patience in order to work out kinks and achieve the desired perfect value that creates no waste.
ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization, is a global standard-setting body, made up of a network of various standards organizations from among its 162 member-nations. ISO is a vital force in the manufacturing industry, promoting industrial and commercial global standards for specifications and requirements in materials, products, procedures, information, and quality management.