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Process to progress

In the era of the retail distribution review, businesses need to look at their processes and work with the people involved to make any changes, with the objective of providing a consistent and valuable service for clients

As businesses deal with service design and make changes to respond to the retail distribution review, there is a need to take a structured look at processes. This is not necessarily the most exciting element of the business but it lies at the heart of service delivery and productivity. Indeed, you cannot achieve consistent service without well defined and easily repeatable processes.

The objective is to make a material improvement in the efficiency of the process that is failing or needs to change. A good process manager can often step back and identify the problems and the solutions but will need to work with the people involved to make any necessary changes.

The chart below summarises the method of reviewing and improving processes.

You should be clear about what the outcome of each process should be. For example, if you ask people to define the outcome of the new business application process, you may get a range of answers:

  • To get paid as quickly as possible.
  • To deliver service within an agreed timescale
  • To make sure the product and fund data held on the software is as accurate as possible
  • To achieve the monthly target and the associated bonus.

All these are important and sometimes it is not possible to identify one single outcome. A question that is often posed is, what does “good” look like? It is a clumsy expression but it helps us concentrate on achieving the best outcome. For the new process you are designing, that may be:

  • Completing a key stage in the client service process in an accurate and timely manner

The result of this would be:

  • Client satisfaction
  • Contribution to business targets and adviser remuneration

The reason for making this process as effective as possible then becomes much clearer – deliver effective service and this makes us and our clients happier.

The review should concentrate on the outcome, with the incentive for all those involved of some clear client and personal benefits. The latter is very important because it is a further way of gaining co-operation and support when change is being made.

Working through the six steps makes sure that everyone is involved and that the various ways of achieving the end point are reviewed. It is nearly always the case that a best practice approach will emerge and human nature ensures that all the possible barriers will be unearthed and discussed.

’The reason becomes much clearer – deliver effective service and this makes us and our clients happier’

Mapping the new process should be undertaken by the person charged with the review. This should always be presen-ted as a draft and brought to a meeting of all those invol-ved. That way, any remaining issues and possible improvements can be accounted for.

If the process is complex and you cannot achieve full buy-in, it is perfectly reasonable to pilot the new process for a time period. At least one month and often three months works well.

If you have several pro-cesses that require improvement, you will need to prioritise the order of review. In practice, processes often overlap or are inter-dependent but you have to work out where to start and, if necessary, break the current set of behaviours and actions. It is never advisable to make more than one change at a time, particularly if software change or development is involved.

The following questions help deal with this complexity:

  • Is there a compliance risk and how significant is it?
  • How important is the process?
  • Is this a low-cost change?
  • Is there an obvious revenue benefit from making the change?
  • Is this easy to fix?
  • How much will it disrupt the day-to-day business?
  • Do we have to get this process right before we can deal with others?

You can set this up as a matrix and rate each ques- tion. Adding up the scores does not necessarily give you the right answer but it concentrates the debate, gives you objective criteria and provides a very good start for your final judgement.

The Business of Advice will take you through process design in detail and includes templates, example processes and all the checklists you need to transform and enhance the processes in your business – from advice through to back office.

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