The business case for improving productivity

I am a big believer in the improvement for businesses that can be achieved by improving productivity.  I still see this as a largely untapped area of savings.

what! you are probably saying at this point is Steve talking about, every last bit of productivity improvement has been driven out of processes as a result of decades of investment in ERP, PDM, CRM and Computer aided everything as well as business process re-engineering, down-sizing, continuous improvement etc. 

Well my contention is that most of this improvement addressed the improvement of process, as a result of this many people left companies or had their jobs re-engineered because the processes they performed were re-engineered or disappeared, however the people who are left are in my view still an untapped opportunity, the following diagram gives you an idea of why:


So what the diagram tries to show is that for many information workers the re-engineering of mega business processes that keep engineering people out of the business have very little effect on the “stuff” that most people spend their work time doing, which turns out to be mainly:

  • Travelling, to and from work, customers/suppliers, one office to another, one meeting room to another
  • Email, send, receive, scan, scan again, delete, search, sort, scan again!
  • Reading, email, documents, web pages, RSS feeds
  • Creating, documents, emails, presentations, spreadsheets, line to business tools, blog journal entries
  • Search, email, documents, web
  • Listening, conference calls, phone calls, meetings, chats
  • Discussing, meetings, conference calls, blog comments, discussion databases, email threads
  • Decision making, meetings, conference calls, surveys, spreadsheets
  • Analysis, databases, spreadsheets, reviews, surveys
  • Presenting, meetings, conference calls
  • Chasing things up, tasks, actions, risks, issues, decisions, orders
  • Co-ordinating, tasks, actions
  • Checking things have been done
  • Reviewing

Even worse the stuff they were still doing largely expanded to fill the time that way released, ie more emails, more meetings, more RSS feeds!

It’s this stuff that needs to be improved and to a large extent it’s this stuff that’s very difficult to express as a process, to measure, to standardise and to automate.  Different people, with different time pressures, different personality types, different skills levels and experience do this stuff differently and more important the best way for them will be different to the best way for someone else.  However my experience tells me that the best at this stuff are probably as much as 10 times better than the worst and 4 times better than the average.  This shows the potential is there and in my next post I will look at some of the research that backs me up.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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