As Salesforce consultants, we are often involved in reviewing and improving business processes. It is often easy to recognize when processes feel heavy-handed or inefficient, but it can be difficult to pinpoint and precisely identify the contributing root causes. It can also be difficult to develop a common language across business functions to describe and discuss process inefficiency.
Lean methodology offers a great framework to help with these challenges.
“Lean manufacturing is all about doing more with less by adopting ‘lean thinking’,” explains Raabit Ahmad, a Salesforce business analyst. “A lot goes on in the manufacturing process that yields a lot of time and resource wastage. In lean manufacturing, the goal is to optimize processes and eliminate all kinds of waste that prove costly to the manufacturing process.”
Essentially, lean maximizes value by identifying and eliminating waste. It traditionally defines seven different kinds of waste and sums them up in an easy acronym (of course): TIMWOOD. It is probably easy for anyone who has worked in a Salesforce implementation to identify with some of these forms of waste:
Is data from multiple external sources being copied and pasted into Salesforce? Is your team spending time downloading and uploading documents from email or other external systems?
How many records are being maintained or stored in your Salesforce org? Are they all providing value? What are the established processes for moving ‘inventory’ in Salesforce to an archived state?
Are Salesforce users forced to move across many different records to complete a given task? Or does completion of a single task require moving one record across many functions (think approvals). Is your team searching for information in several systems rather than finding it in one location?
According to experts at machinemetrics.com, waiting is often the result of poor process design. This is especially evident in the approvals process. We’ve all heard stories about Bob from finance being on vacation and not approving that super important deal for 10 days. Poor Bob, he needs a vacation, but that doesn’t mean your approval needs to wait for Bob to get back. And we don’t need to pick on Bob, there are other examples of waiting in Salesforce-based business processes; approvals are just an easy target.
Do you have a bloated pipeline with too many opportunities that don’t actually add value to forecasting or business insights? Or maybe you have a huge volume of activities logged just to show that ‘work’ is being done? Do you have more contact and account records than you actually need or use? We could go on. The point is, you have probably seen examples of overproduction in your own Salesforce instance.
Are you or your users copying the same data in many places? Or do you have one object that is jam-packed with critical information used in many different business functions? One way to avoid over-processing is to approach the work requirements from the customer’s point of view. Then produce based on the expectations requested by the customer and only create the amounts needed.
This is an easy form of waste to identify. “Unfortunately, defects cost a lot more than you think because it affects more than the product itself,” explains Tony Earley, a lean manufacturing specialist. “A defect leads to reworking the product/service and the need to fill in reports and hold problem-solving meetings. You lose not only the time and energy spent producing the part, but you also have to reschedule and invest more time and energy to create replacements.”
Common examples include errors in quotes, orders, pricing, etc. Identifying error types and establishing goals for error reduction can stimulate ideation to address the root causes of error.
After the waste has been discovered and named, sometimes a solution is clear: simple automation or integration is all that is needed. Other times detailed analysis is required to quantify waste before finding an adequate solution.
One important point, you cannot eliminate all waste. All systems have waste and in some cases that is OK. Lean helps to identify and focus on waste, but the decisions on which areas to improve will be individual to any given organization.
Do some of these challenges sound familiar? Or maybe you are seeing some challenges in a new light? If you’re considering an overhaul of your business processes to make them more efficient it is worthwhile to look at lean as a framework to support that transformation.
Have questions? Reach out to Simplus to learn more about how our Advisory Services team can help you identify areas for improvement in your business processes.