Business colleagues working in team

A Small External Enterprise Development Team is Cheaper than Your Own

Business colleagues working in team

Time is money in the application development business. We have to get to market sooner so someone else does not gazump us, and pip us at the post. We increase the likelihood of this with every delay. Moreover, the longer your in-house team takes to get you through the swamp, the higher the project cost to you.

Of course, in theory this should not be the case. Why bring in a team from outside, and pay more to support their corporate structure? Even going for a contract micro team ought not to make financial sense, because we have to fund their mark-up and their profit taking. Our common sense tells us that this is crazy. But, hold that thought for a minute. What would you say if a small external enterprise development team was actually cheaper? To achieve that, they would have to work faster too.

The Case Against Having Your Own Internal Enterprise Development Team

Even if you were able to keep your own team fully occupied – which is unlikely in the long term – having your own digital talent pool works out expensive when you factor in the total cost. Your difficulties begin with the hiring process, especially if you do not fully understand the project topic, and have to subcontract the hiring task.

If you decide to attempt this yourself, your learning curve could push out the project completion date. Whichever way you decide to go, you are up for paying advertising, orientation training, technical upskilling, travel expenses, and salaries all of which are going to rob your time. Moreover, a wrong recruitment decision would cost three times the new employee’s annual salary, and there is no sign of that changing.

But that is not all, not all by far. If want your in-house team to keep their work files in the office, then you are going to have to buy them laptops, plus extra screens so they can keep track of what they are doing. Those laptops are going to need desks, and those employees, chairs to sit in. Plus, you are going to need expensive workspace with good security for your team’s base.

If we really wanted to lay it on, we would add software / cloud costs, telephony, internet access, and ongoing technical training to the growing pile. We did a quick scan on PayScale. The median salary of a computer programmer in Ireland is €38,000 per year and that is just the beginning. If you need a program manager for your computer software, their salary will be almost double that at €65,000 annually.

The Case for a Small External Enterprise Development Team

The case for a small externally sourced enterprise development team revolves around the opportunity cost – or loss to put in bluntly – of hiring your own specialist staff for projects. If you own a smaller business with up to 100 people, you are going to have to find work for idle digital fingers, after you roll out your in-house enterprise project. If you do not, you head down the road towards owning a dysfunctional team lacking a core, shared objective to drive them forward.

Compared to this potential extravagance, hiring a small external enterprise development team on an as-needed basis makes far more sense. Using a good service provider as a ‘convenience store’ drives enterprise development costs down through the floor, relative to having your own permanent team. Moreover, the major savings that arise are in your hands and free to deploy as opportunities arise. A successful business is quick and nimble, with cash flow on tap for R & D.

Electric Fuses Box Check

Mobile Workforce Management in a nutshell

Electric Fuses Box Check

It is fairly common for businesses to have staff working across many different locations across the country or even the world.  Engaged in various activities like  door-to-door sales,   delivery and installations,  service maintenance, conducting inspections & investigations or even data collection.

Managing and co-ordinating tasks, scheduling activities, planning and monitoring activities and communicating can often be challenging.

Mobile Workforce Management is the automation of the entire end-to-end workflow management and operations of any field service workers. 

Mobile Workforce management Synonyms

Mobile Workforce Management is also known as

  • Field Service Management
  • Job Scheduling Software
  • Job Management Software

Advantages of Mobile Workforce Management

It is increasingly clear that there needs to be a certain sense of discipline and streamlining of field operations and important to automate certain tasks within field sales and operations, primarily because it helps you to track your assets remotely and ensuring contact with your workforce when required. Enabling your team to get in touch when required.

Most importantly, engineers, sales representatives and customer care executives can easily send information, scan receipts, Invoice customers and retrieve other crucial information in a standardized and streamlined manner. Assisting in regulating your business and also bringing some order to what is usually a very chaotic mode of working.

Why choose Mobile Workforce management

Work Force Management tools help you to stay in control. They assist in automating what can and should be automated leaving only the crucial human-human interactivity. Helping you to keep a record of all interactions and important data within a database, without you having to manually go through sales receipts, complaint slips and other such details.

A Field Force Management tool is a time-saver and efficiency tool for companies. Moreover, these tools help to automate several aspects of your day to day operations, leading to an increase in productivity and motivation.

Streamlining operations, will also ensure that important stakeholders are well informed and management visibility is enhanced. Helping your business to make smarter decisions and help serve your customers better.

Field Force Management is similar to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution but is vastly different. It is specifically targeted at staff that work on the field and is intended to make their and your work more streamlined, transparent and easy to track.

Cloud based solutions help you automate

 Field Force Management is usually cloud based which means all data is stored and accessible on secure cloud servers. There is no question of losing important data or not being able to retrieve something important. If something goes missing, there will usually be a backup available. Field force management tools include the software, the hardware and also the kind of training that is required for users to use it efficiently.

The software usually helps in saving and processing information while the hardware helps employees to enter important data into devices while they are on the job. Sometimes, field force solutions can also be a mobile app which negates the need for a specific or special device.

This is very important when it comes to field jobs as carrying different devices can prove to be a cumbersome job. At the end of the day, field force solutions are meant to reduce the burden on staff and not actually inadvertently increase it.

Denizon’s FieldElite Mobile Workforce management application provides significant improvements in efficiency and service with a switch to digital working and the elimination of paperwork.

All the information that is stored on the cloud can be run through analytics software so that you get the kind of reports that you are looking for to improve your business.

Field Force Management Process

A field force management tool helps you to remain in contact with your staff while they are at work on the field. This helps you to track your personnel in real time. Field personnel or your staff can log in and enter their attendance using a smartphone. You can assign that particular day’s task remotely using a web console or your own smartphone.

Next, they can carry out whatever duties they need to while you get all the alerts that you set to receive. This helps to increase transparency. You can choose to receive alerts on your phone or on your desktop.

Finally, staff can tag completed tasks with audio and images, instead of they having to type reports. This helps to focus more on the job than on job reporting. Last but not the least, location tags help you to ensure that the job is done at the right place. Your staff will not be able to take your generosity for granted.

All in all, a field force management tool helps you to track and control your staff without you having to be physically present with them and this is the beauty of this tool.

Summary

Field Force Management helps companies to reduce administration expense and improve productivity. This helps to automate data integration which is usually done with the help of cloud servers. Moreover, you can set invoice parameters that help you to also keep track of stocks, inventories and engage in P.O. and task management.

A number of field force management users also use it as a tool to engage in credit management. Banks and insurance companies particularly find this tool helpful as payments can be received on the job, instead of asking customers to pay online or offline. This also helps in building valuable customer relationships and enhance loyalty.

Thirdly, a field force management tool helps to increase planning efficiency. This means, you will be able to allocate tasks and optimize routing. All this helps to increase your ROI at the end of the day and get back the money you invest on field force management.

Finally, you will have more control over productivity and sales thanks to automation of data collection. You will also have more control over the execution of tasks and that will invariably make your company leaner and smarter.

Finding the Best Structure for Your Enterprise Development Team

An enterprise development team is a small group of dedicated specialists. They may focus on a new business project such as an IoT solution. Members of microteams cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. These self-managing specialists are scarce in the job market. Thus, they are a relatively expensive resource and we must optimise their role.

Organization Size and Enterprise Development Team Structure

Organization structure depends on the size of the business and the industry in which it functions. An enterprise development team for a micro business may be a few freelancers burning candles at both ends. While a large corporate may have a herd of full-timers with their own building. Most IoT solutions are born out of the efforts of microteams.

In this regard, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg blazed the trail with Microsoft and Facebook. They were both college students at the time, and both abandoned their business studies to follow their dreams. There is a strong case for liberating developers from top-down structures, and keeping management and initiative at arm’s length.

The Case for Separating Microteams from the Organization

Microsoft Corporation went on to become a massive corporate, with 114,000 employees, and its founder Bill Gates arguably one of the richest people in the world. Yet even it admits there are limitations to size. In Chapter 2 of its Visual Studio 6.0 program it says,

“Today’s component-based enterprise applications are different from traditional business applications in many ways. To build them successfully, you need not only new programming tools and architectures, but also new development and project management strategies.”

Microsoft goes on to confirm that traditional, top-down structures are inappropriate for component-based systems such as IoT solutions. We have moved on from “monolithic, self-contained, standalone systems,” it says, “where these worked relatively well.”

Microsoft’s model for enterprise development teams envisages individual members dedicated to one or more specific roles as follows:

  • Product Manager – owns the vision statement and communicates progress
  • Program Manager – owns the application specification and coordinates
  • Developer – delivers a functional, fully-complying solution to specification
  • Quality Assurer – verifies that the design complies with the specification
  • User Educator – develops and publishes online and printed documentation
  • Logistics Planner – ensures smooth rollout and deployment of the solution

Three Broad Structures for Microteams working on IoT Solutions

The organization structure of an enterprise development team should also mirror the size of the business, and the industry in which it functions. While a large one may manage small microteams of employee specialists successfully, it will have to ring-fence them to preserve them from bureaucratic influence. A medium-size organization may call in a ‘big six’ consultancy on a project basis. However, an independently sourced micro-team is the solution for a small business with say up to 100 employees.

The Case for Freelancing Individuals versus Functional Microteams

While it may be doable to source a virtual enterprise development team on a contracting portal, a fair amount of management input may be necessary before they weld into a well-oiled team. Remember, members of a micro-team must cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. The spirit of cooperation takes time to incubate, and then grow.

This is the argument, briefly, for outsourcing your IoT project, and bringing in a professional, fully integrated micro-team to do the job quickly, and effectively. We can lay on whatever combination you require of project managers, program managers, developers, quality assurers, user educators, and logistic planners. We will manage the micro-team, the process, and the success of the project on your behalf while you get on running your business, which is what you do best.

Which KPI’s to Use in CRM

Customer relationship management emerged in the 1980’s in the form of database marketing. In those tranquil pre-social media days, the possibility of ‘managing’ clients may have been a possibility although Twitter and Facebook took care of that. Modern managers face a more dynamic environment. If you are one, then what are the trends you should be monitoring yourself (as opposed to leaving it to others).

If you want to drip feed plants, you have to keep the flow of liquid regular. The same applies to drip-feed marketing. Customers are fickle dare we say forgetful. Denizon recommends you monitor each department in terms of Relationship Freshness. When were the people on your list last contacted, and what ensued from this?

Next up comes the Quality of Engagements that follow from these efforts. How often do your leads respond at all, and how many interfaces does it take to coax them into a decision? You need to relate this to response blocks and unsubscribes. After a while you will recognise the tipping point where it is pointless to continue.

Response Times relate closely to this. If your marketing people are hot then they should get a fast response to sales calls, email shots and live chats. It is essential to get back to the lead again as soon as possible. You are not the only company your customers are speaking too. Fortune belongs to the fast and fearless.

The purpose of marketing is to achieve Conversions, not generate data for the sake of it. You are paying for these interactions and should be getting more than page views. You need to drill down by department on this one too. If one team is outperforming another consider investing in interactive training.

Finally Funnel Drop-Off Rate. Funnel analysis identifies the points at which fish fall off the hook and seeks to understand why this is happening. If people click your links, make enquiries and then drift away, you have a different set of issues as opposed to if they do not respond at all.

You should be able to pull most of this information off your CRM system if it is half-decent, although you may need to trigger a few options and re orientate reporting by your people in the field. When you have your big data lined up speak to Denizon. We have a range of data analysts brimming over with fresh ideas.

Technology and process improvement

six sigma

Technology and process improvement – Six Sigma

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.

The Connection Between Six Sigma and CRM

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:

  1. Continuous improvement is essential for success
  1. Business processes can be measured and improved
  1. Top down commitment is fundamental to sustained improvement
  1. Claims of progress must be quantifiable and yield financial benefits
  1. Management must lead with enthusiasm and passion
  1. 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.

<2 Minutes3 to 8 Minutes9 to 10 Minutes>10 Minutes
45%30%20%5%
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.

Conclusion

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.

Is Change Management a Myth or a Possibility

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.

Could Kanban Be Best for Knowledge Workers?

Knowledge Workers include academics, accountants, architects, doctors, engineers, lawyers, software engineers, scientists and anybody else whose job it is to think for a living. They are usually independent-minded people who do not appreciate project managers dishing out detailed orders. Kanban project management resolves this by letting them choose the next task themselves.

The word ‘Kanban’ comes from a Japanese word meaning ‘billboard’ or ‘signboard’. Before going into more detail how this works let’s first examine how Japanese beliefs of collaboration, communication, courage, focus on value, respect for people and a holistic approach to change fit into the picture.

The Four Spokes Leading to the Kanban Hub

  1. Visualise the Workflow –You cannot improve what you cannot see. The first step involves team members reducing a project to individual stages and posting these on a noticeboard.
  1. Create Batches – These stages are further reduced to individual tasks or batches that are achievable within a working day or shift. More is achievable when we do not have to pick up where we left off the previous day.
  1. Choose a Leader the Team Respects – Without leadership, a group of people produces chaotic results. To replace this with significant value they need a leader, and especially a leader they can willingly follow.
  1. Learn and Improve Constantly – Kaizen or continuous improvement underpins the Japanese business model, and respects that achievement is a step along the road, and not fulfilment.

The Kanban Method in Practice

Every Kanban project begins with an existing process the participants accept will benefit from continuous change. These adjustments should be incremental, not radical step-changes to avoid disrupting the stakeholders and the process. The focus is on where the greatest benefits are possible.

Anybody in the team is free to pull any batch from the queue and work on it in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation. That they do so, should not make any waves in a culture of respect for people and a holistic approach to working together. All it needs is the courage to step out of line and dream what is possible.

The Kanban Project Method – Conclusions and Thoughts

Every engine needs some sort of fuel to make it go. The Kanban project management method needs collaboration, communication, courage, focus on value, respect for people and a holistic approach to work. This runs counter to traditional western hierarchies and probably limits its usefulness in the West.

Why Executives Fail & How to Avoid It

The ‘Peter Principle’ concerning why managers fail derives from a broader theory that anything that works under progressively more demanding circumstances will eventually reach its breaking point and fail. The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, who was decidedly anti-establishment added, “All public employees should be demoted to their immediately lower level, as they have been promoted until turning incompetent”.

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The Peter Principle is an observation, not a panacea for avoiding it. In his book The Peter Principle Laurence J. Peter observes, “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence … in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties … Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

Let’s find out what the drivers are behind a phenomenon that may be costing the economy grievously, what the warning signs are and how to try to avoid getting into the mess in the first place.

Drivers Supporting the Peter Principle

As early as 2009 Eva Rykrsmith made a valuable contribution in her blog 10 Reasons for Executive Failure when she observed that ‘derailed executives’ often find themselves facing similar problems following promotion to the next level:

The Two Precursors

  • They fail to establish effective relationships with their new peer group. This could be because the new member, the existing group, or both, are unable to adapt to the new arrangement.
  • They fail to build, and lead their own team. This could again be because they or their subordinates are unable to adapt to the new situation. There may be people in the team who thought the promotion was theirs.

The Two Outcomes

  • They are unable to adapt to the transition. They find themselves isolated from support groups that would otherwise have sustained them in their new role. Stress may cause errors of judgement and ineffective collaboration.
  • They fail to meet business objectives, but blame their mediocre performance on critical touch points in the organization. They are unable to face reality. Either they resign, or they face constructive dismissal.

The Warning Signs of Failure

Eva Rykrsmith suggests a number of indicators that an individual is not coping with their demanding new role. Early signs may include:

  • Lagging energy and enthusiasm as if something deflated their ego
  • No clear vision to give to subordinates, a hands-off management style
  • Poor decision-making due to isolation from their teams’ ideas and knowledge
  • A state akin to depression and acceptance of own mediocre performance

How to Avoid a ‘Peter’ in Your Organization

  • Use succession planning to identify and nurture people to fill key leadership roles in the future. Allocate them challenging projects, put them in think tanks with senior employees, find mentors for them, and provide management training early on. When their own manager is away, appoint them in an acting role. Ask for feedback from all concerned. If this is not positive, perhaps you are looking at an exceptional specialist, and not a manager, after all.
  • Consider the future, and not the past when interviewing for a senior management position. Ask about their vision for their part of the organization. How would they go about achieving it? What would the roles be of their subordinates in this? Ask yourself one very simple question; do they look like an executive, or are you thinking of rewarding loyalty.
  • How to Avoid Becoming a ‘Peter’ Perhaps you are considering an offer of promotion, or applying for an executive job. Becoming a ‘Peter’ at a senior level is an uncomfortable experience. It has cost the careers of many senior executives dearly. We all have our level of competence where we enjoy performing well. It would be pity to let blind ambition rob us of this, without asking thoughtful questions first. Executives fail when they over-reach themselves, it is not a matter of bad luck.

What Heijunka Is & How it Smooths Call Centre Production

The Japanese word Heijunka, pronounced hi-JUNE-kuh means ‘levelling’ in the sense of balancing workflows. It helps lean organizations shift priorities in the face of fluctuating customer demand. The goal is to have the entire operation working at the same pace throughout, by continuously adjusting the balance between predictability, flexibility, and stability to level out demand.

Henry Ford turned the American motor manufacturing industry upside down by mass-producing his iconic black motor cars on two separate production lines. In this photograph, body shells manufactured upstairs come down a ramp and drop onto a procession of cars almost ready to roll in 1913.

Ford 'Model A' Line in 1913

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Smoothing Production in the Call Centre Industry

Call Centres work best in small teams, each with a supervisor to take over complex conversations. In the past, these tended to operate in silos with each group in semi-isolation representing a different set of clients. Calls came through to operators the instant the previous ones concluded. By the law of averages, inevitably one had more workload than the rest at a particular point in time as per this example.

 

 

 

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Modern telecoms technology makes it possible to switch incoming lines to different call centre teams, provided these are multi-skilled. A central operator controls this manually by observing imbalanced workflows on a visual system called a Heijunka Box. The following example comes from a different industry, and highlights how eight teams share uneven demand for six products.

This departure from building handmade automobiles allowed Henry to move his workforce around to eliminate bottlenecks. For example, if rolls of seat leather arrived late he could send extra hands upstairs to speed up the work there, while simultaneously slowing chassis production. Ford had the further advantage of a virtual monopoly in the affordable car market. He made his cars at the rate that suited him best, with waiting lists extending for months.

A Modern, More Flexible Approach

Forces of open competition and the Six Sigma drive for as-close-to-zero defects dictates a more flexible approach, as embodied in this image published by the Six Sigma organisation. This represents an ideal state. In reality, one force usually has greater influence, for example decreasing stability enforces a more flexible approach.

Balancing Predictability, Flexibility, and Stability to Level out Demand

Years ago, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota moved away from batching in favour of a more customer-centric approach, whereby buyers could customise orders from options held in stock for different variations of the same basic model. The most effective approach lies somewhere between Henry Ford’s inflexibility and Toyota’s openness, subject to the circumstances at the moment.

A Worked Factory Example

The following diagram suggests a practical Heijunka application in a factory producing three colours of identical hats. There are two machines for each option, one or both of which may be running. In the event of a large order for say blue hats, the company has the option of shifting some blue raw material to the red and green lines so to have the entire operation working at a similar rate.

Diagram of a Heijunka

Predictability, Flexibility, and Stability at Call Centre Service

The rate of incoming calls is a moving average characterised by spikes in demand. Since the caller has no knowledge whether high activity advisories are genuine, it is important to service them as quickly as possible. Lean process engineering provides technology to facilitate flexibility. Depending on individual circumstances, each call centre may have its own definition of what constitutes an acceptably stable situation.