Process Improvement Methods and Tools in Shared Services

Introduction

While many companies realize significant savings when first transitioning to Shared Services, uncovering additional savings opportunities can be a challenge without the proper focus. One attribute of many successful Shared Services operations is a well-established Process Improvement program that is ingrained into the culture of the operation. The topic of process improvement remains as one of the most popular in the world of Shared Services, and for good reason.  The strong performance results companies have experienced have been impressive and, for many, having an active Process Improvement program has been a significant factor in achieving superior results.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used recently to provide insights to how Peeriosity member companies were using performance improvement methodologies in Shared Services, with a drill down to the specific tools that are most commonly used.  The results indicate that 65% of Peeriosity member companies are using a combination of Lean and Six Sigma, with an additional 19% primarily using the Lean methodology only, with the balance of 19% using either a range of formal or less formal methods.

Regarding the specific tools used, 53% of Peeriosity member companies indicate that value stream mapping is the most helpful.  For 27% of member companies, developing and reporting on specific KPI’s has created the greatest impact, with 13% selecting brainstorming as the most helpful specific tool.  Here are the details:

A few of the comments from members include:

  • We have a formal Continuous Improvement program that utilizes a combination of principles and tools, including all of the options in the survey (Lean, Six Sigma, Pareto, Value Chain Analysis, Focused Action Workshops, etc.).
  • We have a culture of continuous improvement and have leveraged the appropriate method to drive the changes. We have been leveraging more Value Stream Mapping recently, but the other approaches can be valid depending on the area being improved.
  • The methodologies used are really determined by the needs of the project. We also use PMBOK quite often. As for tools used to improve performance, we are very strong in developing KPIs. We also use pareto often. Most importantly though, measuring the KPIs is pointless if you do not have a clearly defined process to address risk areas when they surface within the KPIs.

Closing Summary

Creating a culture in Shared Services that embraces process improvement at every level of the organization continues to be a key success factor for leading companies with over $5B in annual revenue, even though leveraging advanced technologies and process scale is often achievable, and within budget.  Because effective change begins with measurement, having defined methodologies and tools is critical to identifying opportunities and driving meaningful change, with outcomes that are measured and understood.

What process improvement methods and tools does your company use in Shared Services?  Are you satisfied with the results or is it time to take another look at this important aspect of your Shared Services operation?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Implementing a Global Accounts Payable Portal

Introduction

The concept of self-service technology for Shared Service processes has been around for decades, with the greatest penetration for Employee Services applications for the creation, updating, and distribution of employee related information, with other efforts related to call center support, including supporting vendors for basic requests to answer question regarding payment status and payment timing becoming increasingly popular.  As the availability of purchased portal solutions has become more popular, solutions for Accounts Payable have also advanced to include designs that can support global operations with functionality that includes invoice submission capabilities, in addition to accessing basis payment status information. 

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM in our Accounts Payable (P2P) research area featured a global company with over $10B in annual revenue discussing their approach for establishing a global Accounts Payable portal.  The company implemented a purchased portal solution from Taulia, with a first go-live in early 2017 and with a steady expansion of functionality and regions served over the next 3-years.  The company already had a successful EDI program in place for many of the manufacturing related invoices and used Taulia to reduce the impact of remaining volume of ten thousand paper invoices per week that required manual entry.  The project was successful in eliminating over 60% of these paper invoices. 

While the company had resources to build a custom proprietary portal, a decision was made to purchase a solution for a number of reasons, including a simpler path for changes and upgrades, and the ability to leverage the adoption of a purchased solution with a large installed base instead of requiring suppliers to learn something unique and custom. 

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide insights to how Peeriosity member companies were approaching this issue.  The first question asked about the geographic scope of an Accounts Payable portal for member companies who have implemented.  Implementing globally was the approach taken by 30% of companies, with an additional 50% selecting either multi-region, regional, or multi-country implementations.  The balance of 20% have implemented on a single country basis.  Here are the details:

The second polling question asked about the major challenges impacting the expansion of geographic scope for their Accounts Payable portal.  29% indicated issues with standardization of processes, and another 29% said the greatest challenge had to do with vendor willingness to use the portal.  42% indicated the greatest challenge was that expanding scope of the Accounts Payable portal hasn’t been a priority. 

A few of the comments from members include:

  • Currently don’t have a vendor portal. In process of a system upgrade that will have a vendor portal. We will need to strategically roll it out as vendor master data isn’t clean and will need to strategically choose the vendors that can be supported by a portal and will be receptive.
  • We are in the early stages of developing an external facing Portal for our vendors.
  • We have just rolled this with automated invoice process for North America. Plan is for further roll out across regions.
  • A key challenge for us in rolling out our portal to additional markets has been the different legal / tax requirements. it’s not a showstopper but it does involve additional work and sometimes external consultation.
  • We have a global portal that utilizes a different link for each geography.
  • We are working towards a global vendor portal that will include accounts payable.

Closing Summary

For companies looking to implement self-service technologies, rather than developing a solution internally there are likely to be a range of purchased solutions available that can be easily integrated with the company’s existing ERP system.  For Accounts Payable portals, these solutions have a wide range of functionality, with the ability to handle large volumes from anywhere in the world and with the opportunity to implement the functionality globally, even if actual work processes are organized regionally.

Does your company have a global portal for Accounts Payable?  If yes, what are the features and functionality available to your suppliers?  Has the portal helped you to eliminate paper invoices?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Measuring Success and Resource Needs for Intelligent Automation

Introduction

With monthly Peercasts featuring member companies and frequent polls to help members better understand the issues, Peeriosity members have many tools available to cut through the hype to develop meaningful strategies and tactical plans for their Intelligent Automation initiatives.  A couple of considerations for our members are how to measure the success of Intelligent Automation projects, and what are the most typical resources needed.  Because the nature of the effort typically includes many smaller projects, having a method to formally track and measure success is an important consideration.  It’s also important to know where resources are most critically needed to create as much success as possible. 

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently, Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to better understand how Peeriosity members were measuring success for Intelligent Automation projects, with insight into the most likely resource constraints. 

Regarding success measurement, 50% use Human Hours Saved (which easily converts to an estimate of dollar savings) as the primary measure, with an additional 44% taking a more complete full cost and benefit approach by looking at Return on Investment.  Both approaches are focused on hard-dollar impact, either by delivering cost savings or freeing up time that can be spent on higher value-added activities. 

Regarding the most pressing need for resources, the biggest challenge for 47% of member companies is having people with a combination of business / technical skills who can deliver a complete solution.  An additional 20% struggle with having people with technical skills to implement projects, and 13% report their biggest challenge is having the right people in the organization to sell the vision and create excitement and buy-in.  Here are the details:

Here are a several of the comments added by members:

  • Human hours saved has acted as the primary measure, but we also have evaluated success by analyzing efficacy of the automation as well monetary impact and increases to compliance.
  • We use human hours saved (converted to dollars). There is debate as to whether this is the right/sole measure, as we have found it can prevent using IA to improve controls or improve customer/employee experience if there is no significant saving.
  • We are still trying to create the right metrics for showing what the bots are saving, but hours have been our focus so far.
  • Currently, we keep “score” by tracking actual financial value realization (typically cost take-out or cost avoidance of budgeted expense). While there are many value drivers for Intelligent Automation projects, we tend to focus on direct impact to a business unit’s P&L.
  • ROI Seems to be the primary gauge and filter for automation
  • Our biggest challenge is on the “demand side” of the automation equation. Therefore, our most pressing need is to have more process owners and operations leaders within the business units do opportunity identification. Without a pipeline of large, meaningful projects, we cannot successfully scale Intelligent Automation
  • A combination of business and technical skills is crucial in implementing IA solutions, you need someone to translate business needs into technical solutions.

Closing Summary

Implementing Intelligent Automation solutions is increasingly becoming a proven approach to reducing employee time on routine tasks with associated improvements in quality and timeliness. Because the nature of the effort typically includes many smaller projects, having a method to formally track and measure success is an important consideration.  It’s also important to know where resources are most critically needed to create as much success as possible.  Because Peeriosity members are able to discuss these issues candidly without the influence of vendors or consultants, with the ability to directly network on specific topics, they can quickly develop a more complete picture allowing them to make better decisions.

How does your company measure the success of Intelligent Automation projects? What are the people resources you most need to maximize your success?  

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


From Center of Excellence to Operations Center

Introduction

As companies implement Intelligent Automation solutions, once the proof of concept is completed the management of related improvement efforts becomes more important for leveraging the new capabilities across Shared Services, and for many, across the company.   As more formal roles are created, the most typical is to implement a Center or Excellence model to create critical mass, focus, and leverage.  Then, as the base of implemented projects grow, and as the alignment with Information Technology increases, shifting to an Operations Center model as the next logical transition is a design solution increasing pursued by companies with a longer history of successful Intelligent Automation projects.

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM in our Intelligent Automation research area featured a global company with over $15B in annual revenue discussing how their company’s Reporting Center of Excellence shifted to an Operations Center model, with the Reporting Center of Excellence, Intelligent Automation, and Data Science, all included as part of an Enterprise Data Capabilities group that reported into Technology and Solutions, which was part of an Information Technology organization that reported to the CEO.  This change shifted reporting from Global Business Services, which became a separate large-scale organization that also reported into the IT Digital and Technology group. 

Created in 2015, the company’s Reporting Center of Excellence completed over 50 projects, resulting in USD $80M of value creation, with over 250 different dashboards and over 2,000 reports per month.  As the focus shifted to include a greater emphasis on the ongoing production it made sense to shift organizationally to an Operations Center model. 

Additional details regarding the company’s experiences in this area are available on the Peeriosity member website, including the original presentation material, detailed poll results, and PeercastTM recording.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to better understand the approach Peeriosity member companies are taking to operationalize their Intelligent Automation efforts.  Currently only 6% report that they have transitioned to an Operations Center model, with 38% indicating they are using a Center of Excellence model as a primary resource by customers to develop automated solutions across the company.  An additional 38% indicate they are in a Mature Learning Mode, where they have achieved success in developing a number of automated solutions and are moving towards a Center of Excellence.  The remaining 18% are in an Early Learning Mode where they are gaining experience in developing automated solutions.  Here are the details:

The second polling question asked how Peeriosity member companies expected their organizational designs to shift over the next two years.  Within 2-years, 50% of companies anticipate moving to an Operations Center model that includes having full responsibility for developing projects and for managing the automated solutions and work processes.  An additional 43% anticipate using a Center of Excellence model with the remaining 6% expecting to be in the Early Learning Mode.     

A few of the comments from members include:

  • COE model is currently in place. Responsibility for managing bots and associated processes remains with business functions. More bots and processes may be managed by Shared Service centre in future, but not feasible to move to a full operations centre model. Some processes and associated bots e.g. manufacturing, will likely always require a level of detailed specialist knowledge.
  • As an organization we have placed a handful of bots into production. A center of excellence exists and serves as a conduit to help provide oversight, training, and ensure some level of consistency across multiple business units. We are still in a growth/training stage but believe we can reach option 3 in the near future as we continue to develop more automated solutions.
  • We have around 40 bots in production; we are working now as an intelligent automation product team to deliver more value.
  • COE model is in place and developing real time centralized dashboard for bot performance/troubleshooting. Responsibility for managing bots remains with the operations in the service center (i.e., a person is the digital supervisor). Quite a learning journey.
  • We are still in a transformative stage after an initial attempt at creating an automation COE.

Closing Summary

As companies transition from successful pilots to full-scale implementations, when does it become time for a Center of Excellence to look more like an Operations Center, that is closely managing and monitoring thousands of bots and hundreds of work processes? How does the physical environment change, and what skill sets are required?  Early adopters of Intelligent Automation solutions are making the transition today, with many expected to implement an Operations Center design for Intelligent Automation within the next two years.

What is the level of maturity at your company for delivering automated solution to your customers?  How do anticipate your design changing over the next two years as more projects move from implementation to long-term production status?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Work-From-Home Expense Policies

Introduction

As companies implement work from home measures for employees in response to COVID-19, many are considering relaxing in-office work requirements and allow more work from home as a normal course of doing business after the requirements created by the pandemic subside.  With high speed internet services at home being the norm for many employees already, the question is how much, if any, are companies reimbursing for internet and office supply expenses for an increasingly remote workforce?

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used recently by the Director of GBS Strategy at a Peeriosity member company to understand what types of expenses other member companies reimburse for employees who work at home.  Here is the background provided with the poll:

Our company plans to offer some GBS employees the option to work from home permanently for those jobs that can be done remotely after the pandemic. We plan to provide colleagues with the necessary equipment (PC, monitors, peripherals). We are interested to learn how other companies handle home office expenses such as internet and office supplies for remote workers.

The first question in the poll asked about how the company handles internet expenses under normal business conditions (the standard policy before the pandemic).  For 82% of member companies, the cost of the internet connection is the employee’s responsibility.  For 12% of member companies, the employee is given a monthly stipend (a regular fixed amount), and for the remaining 6% the employee is able to submit for reimbursement.

The second polling question asked about how expenses for office supplies are handled.  While 34% of companies do not reimburse for office supplies, the balance of 76% have a process where the employee can either get the supplies they need, or where they are reimbursed for the office supplies that they purchase. Here are the details:

Here are some comments from responding companies:

  • If the remote worker works in the area, they pick up supplies in the office. If distance remote worker, we order through company online office supply catalog and deliver to the employee’s home address.
  • Certain states (i.e. CA) have stricter laws regarding work from home expenses but in general we expect the employee to provide their own internet access and the employer provides the necessary supplies and equipment.
  • Working from home is a privilege at the cost of the employee. Limited amenities are provided by the company. Keyboard, mouse or spare monitors have been provided but not as a general rule.
  • For office supplies employees can also purchase themselves and be reimbursed for those expenses.
  • For staff that work remotely at the company direction a stipend is paid. For staff who work remotely voluntarily, no stipend is paid.
  • Costs are primarily the responsibility of the employee. During COVID-19, we will pay internet only if over and above existing arrangements and if the employee has never previously needed to use work-from-home arrangements. 

Closing Summary

The creation of Shared Services allowed companies to concentrate resources including people, to leverage technology, gain greater efficiencies and scale, and standard processes.  One of the design requirements was to provide services remotely, where internal and external customers are not co-located with the teams performing administrative work processes.  With better technology and the elimination of paper handling, responding to a global pandemic provides a true test for every company to explore whether or not work at home models might be beneficial.   Using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM  capabilities members are able to quickly understand how other leading companies approach this issue, with the ability to see the details for who responded, allowing members to follow up directly with peers for additional discussion and insight. 

What is your company’s policy for reimbursing expenses for employees who work from home?  Does your experience with the pandemic increase the likelihood that more employees will be able to do so, even after the pandemic is no longer a concern? 

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Impact of COVID-19 on the Accounts Payable Process

Introduction

A few weeks ago, Shared Services organizations were comparing approaches for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this week Peeriosity will facilitate a panel discussion with Peeriosity members on a Peeriosity PeercastTM featuring leading member companies sharing ideas and answering questions about Shared Services delivery with the emergence of COVID-19.  This “for members only” PeercastTM supports open and candid discussions between members in a confidential environment, completely free from outside influence or bias, with the ability for all attendees to communicate and follow up with other members at any time.

Because Peeriosity includes research on the detail processes often within scope for Shared Services, a more detailed poll was recently conducted to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the Accounts Payable process, with additional polls and discussions between members planned over the upcoming weeks.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used recently to deliver real-time insights into how members were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to complete work activities in the Accounts Payable process area.  The first polling question asked about the percentage of the Accounts Payable team that were working from home.  As many may remember it wasn’t that long ago that remotely processing Accounts Payable was problematic, with hard copy paperwork required in some instances, and remote connectivity to ERP systems not widely available, even when the process was primarily electronic or reliant on invoice images instead of paper.  For Peeriosity members, those days are in the past, with every responding company indicating that either all or close to all Accounts Payable team members are currently working from home. 

The second polling question asked about the impact the impact COVID-19 has had on being able to both conduct business as usual and meet expected performance targets.  Interestingly, 63% indicated that there was limited disruption, with an additional 29% indicating that the disruption was moderate, with a number of issues that were addressed within a reasonable period of time.  In other words, for 92% of Peeriosity member companies, COVID-19 hasn’t been a significant challenge for the Accounts Payable process. Only 8% indicated that the disruption initially was significant with “most of the kinks” now worked out.  No one reported that the disruption was significant, where the difficult challenges have not been adequately addressed.  Here are the details:

Here are some comments from responding companies:

  • Our China team has just moved back to the office recently.
  • We have not had any disruptions to our productivity or deliverable timelines.
  • Still going through some changes, but most have been worked out.
  • We have experienced a significant drop off of invoices being submitted for payment. Curious if others are experiencing the same. Our early theory is that suppliers are working through their BCP plans and are initially less focused on AR.
  • There were a few issues initially with internet connections, but this settled down in the first couple of days. We still have some system performance issues on occasion, but lower work volumes have matched the lower productivity, so we are maintaining SLA’s.

Closing Summary

Soon after the crisis became a priority for all of us, Peeriosity members were sharing ideas and discussing approaches for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including details for how individual work processes were being affected.  While some of the initial concerns were mitigated by a decreased workload because of the impact COVID-19 had on supplier’s Accounts Receivable processes, the ability of Peeriosity member companies to respond successfully to this “new normal” has been impressive.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your company’s Accounts Payable process?  What issues or challenges are you still facing?  Are some of your regional centers coming back online as the hot spots for the pandemic shift from China and Asia to Europe and North America?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Leading a Kaizen Blitz Event

Introduction

Process improvement methodologies come in many different flavors, from formal Six Sigma tools and strategies using a formal DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) approach, to lean process improvement tools, Pareto charts, process flow charts, fishbone diagrams, Value Stream Mapping, SWOT Analysis, and PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act).  While a Kaizen Blitz Event may use less analytical data that a formal Six Sigma project, the benefit of a focused, rapid improvement effort that pulls together key players to complete a structured and creative problem-solving exercise can’t be ignored.  Instead of a BPI (business process improvement) project that can take weeks or months, with Kaizen Blitz you can often get actionable solutions within a few days.

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM in our Shared Services Leadership research area featured a global company with over $5B in annual revenue with their EMEA Process Improvement Manager discussing how they used Kaizen Blitz at their regional Shared Services center located in Eastern Europe. 

The company leverages a Central Capabilities team as a service to the wider Shared Services organization.  The discussion included details about roles and responsibilities (including facilitators, team members, project owners, and key stakeholders), with a comprehensive walk-through of each step, from planning to executing the sessions, to assigning action items and completing post-session follow up.  Lessons learned and the biggest challenges were also discussed in detail, using actual results from multiple projects.

Additional details regarding the company’s experiences in this area are available on the Peeriosity member website, including the original presentation material, detailed poll results, and PeercastTM recording.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to better understand the extent to which Peeriosity member companies were using Kaizen Blitz Events to resolve significant issues within their processes.  The results indicate that 53% have implemented and use this approach, with 26% reporting that they use this approach regularly.  The remaining 47% indicated that they haven’t considered using this approach within their Shared Services operations.  Here are the details:

The second polling question asked the members who are using Kaizen Blitz Events to compare this method with other process improvement approaches they are using.  For 46% of respondents, Kaizen is considered to be more effective in solving problems with better results overall.  An additional 36% consider Kaizen to have results that are similar to other formal approaches that are used, and the remaining 18% consider Kaizen results to be similar to results obtained using other process improvement approaches that are also less formal.  

A few of the comments from members include:

  • Currently introducing the Kaizen methods in the Payroll organization.
  • We use regularly with several employees who are skilled in facilitating Kaizen Events, Value Stream Mapping, etc.
  • We use other methods of problem solving.
  • We have a set of tools that we use for targeted problem solving, with Blitz being one of these. We would assess which tool is fit for purpose based on the problem at hand.
  • Blitz is one of the tools used in the organization. The decision which tool will be leveraged depends on the process improvement request coming in.
  • We have used Kaizen Blitz Events successfully for many years.

Closing Summary

While a Kaizen Blitz Event may use less analytical data that a formal Six Sigma project, the benefit of a focused, rapid improvement effort can be significant.  Instead of an improvement project that can take weeks or months, with Kaizen Blitz you can often get actionable results within a few days.

What is the status in your Shared Services organization of using Kaizen Blitz Events to resolve significant issues with processes?  If you already use Kaizen, how does it compare to the other process improvement approaches that you use?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Intelligent Automation Success Factors and Challenges

Introduction

Since launching our Intelligent Automation research area in late 2017, every month we have delivered insightful Peercasts featuring member companies’ experiences, sometimes using a panel format with multiple member companies discussing the pros and cons of available solutions, and at other times with a member company featured on a specific topic.  Each Peercasts follows an open format where the feature company shared their experiences, including lessons learned, with Peercast attendees, with all attendee questions were answered candidly and honestly. 

Because Peercast attendance is restricted to member practitioners, there is never any reason for bias or restraint, with all attendees able to talk openly about their experiences.   Best of all, members can easily follow up privately with the feature presenter for a one-off conversation, or exchange comments or questions privately with other attendees using Peeriosity’s integrated Peer Mail capabilities. 

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM in our Intelligent Automation research area featured a global company with over $50B in annual revenue discussing their story for implementing their “Process Automation Operating Model” by creating an Automation Center of Excellence that places projects into two categories based on complexity as follows:

  1. Projects that are IT developed, and are completed using complex workflow apps, where the underlying processes being addressed are complex.  For these projects the project team is composed of IT Production Analysts, and IT Production Support resources. 
  • Projects that are Business Unit developed, using simple workflow apps, where the project is managed within a Business Unit Competency Center, and where the underlying processes are less complex.  For these projects the project team is composed of process experts from the business with assistance from IT as needed.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide additional insights by looking at the success factors and challenges Peeriosity member companies face with Intelligent Automation implementations.  The first question asked Peeriosity member companies to identify what has most contributed to the success of Intelligent Automation projects.  Three factors were most often cited, with 33% saying having dedicated internal resources was the most important, 29% indicating that executive leadership / sponsorship was the most important, and 21% responding that having staff that are open to change, new ideas and improvement was the primary success factor.  Interestingly, the response option for “the tools and vendor we selected” was picked as most important by only 4% of respondents.  Here are the details:

The second polling question asked about the biggest challenge related to implementing projects using Intelligent Automation.  With 9 different challenges identified, the top selection for 26% of companies is the challenge of having internal resources that are not dedicated to Intelligent Automation.  The next four top challenges all tied at 13%, including lack of executive leadership / sponsorship, difficulty in getting trained resources, projects being dispersed across the company with no central coordination, and challenges related to project selection.  These were followed by 9% who identified the biggest challenge as trying to do it ourselves without external help. 

A few of the comments from members include:

  • Our biggest challenge with the success of automation projects has been the level of process variants in our GBS business. Projects have either been unable to deliver the anticipated benefits because the process(es) are significantly more complicated than first understood, or there are so many process variants that the business case for automation does not stack up.
  • Intelligent automation is relatively new to our organization, but we have implemented a significant number of processes and have leadership support.
  • We are more in the automation through robotics phase than the artificial intelligence phase at this stage. In the initial phase, building the support organization is taking some time as we build up capacity. We have many areas for implementation but are choosing those with the biggest benefit first.
  • Dedication from business was challenging as they have projects and their normal work to focus on.
  • Driving the E2E process changes that are needed to fully leverage the automation. Requires depth of understanding, and robust change management.
  • Intelligent Automation is receiving a lot of attention at my company; however, the limited amount of resources dedicated to IA makes it extremely difficult to get projects completed.
  • Our biggest challenge has been to find the right use cases that will provide a substantial ROI and break even within 18 months or less.

Closing Summary

Every month Peeriosity members participate in private and exclusive discussions with Peers as members of a practitioners-only research community that delivers primary, “from the source”, research with details for how leading companies are evaluating and implementing Intelligent Automation.  Each Peercast is supported by member research, using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM capabilities to highlight the range of approaches followed, with the ability to see details by company, and with option for following up directly with peers for additional discussion.

Regarding success and challenges for Intelligent Automation projects, the two biggest success factors cited most often by member companies are having dedicated internal resources and the importance of Executive leadership / sponsorship.  Not surprisingly two of the biggest challenges are associated with the same two issues – internal resources that aren’t dedicated, and a lack of executive leadership / sponsorship.

What approach does your company take to access primary research for how leading companies are implementing Intelligent Automation?  If you have already started your Intelligent Automaton journey, what has contributed most to the success of projects at your company?  What are your biggest challenges?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Introduction

With the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering Shared Services from either a global hub, or multiple regional hubs becomes problematic.  The strategy for a limited number of centers with hundreds or thousands of employees is impacted dramatically when faced with a dangerous virus that is easily transmitted between people who are working in close proximity.

Within days of the pandemic moving from China to Europe and North America, Peeriosity members were communicating and sharing information for how they were responding.  In a few weeks, in April 2020, members will participate in a Peeriosity PeercastTM featuring a panel of leading member companies sharing ideas and answering questions about Shared Services delivery with the emergence of COVID-19.  This “for members only” PeercastTM supports open and candid discussions between members in a confidential environment, completely free from outside influence or bias, with the ability for all attendees to communicate and follow up with other members at any time.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used recently to deliver real-time insights to how members were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The first polling question asked about the measures member companies have adopted in response to the pandemic.  While many options and combinations were available, polling results centered on two choices, with 70% of companies adopting the combination of significantly restricted travel, working from home, and social distancing in the work environment.  The balance of 30% had not formally implemented social distancing in the work environment at the time the poll was conducted (in mid-March 2020).  Here are the details:

The second polling question asked if other measure were being taken, with 39% responding yes, 6% responding not yet, but likely, and the remaining 55% responding no, with no plans at this time. 

Here are some comments from responding companies:

  • We developed a contingency plan for business essential functions requiring access to office (check printing, critical mail etc.).
  • Additional cleaning procedures.
  • Reviewing contingency plans for all critical business functions.
  • Our Corporate Office has encouraged working from home through April 3rd. In preparation for this shift of the work location, a formal network test was conducted.
  • Prohibiting visitors, outside vendors, etc. from entering building.
  • Prioritizing our processes based on their criticality to our business operations.
  • Periodic cleaning of high-touch areas (doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc.)
  • Anticipate staffing challenges with the school closings.
  • Increased cleaning of offices.
  • Outside vendor restrictions, prioritization / support of business-critical processes.
  • Additional sanitation, work from home for office workers, business continuity plan implemented for global operations, project prioritization, evaluating employee leave policies, evaluating technical needs.
  • Altered store hours and extended sick time/personal leave for hourly associates.
  • We’ve increased cleaning/sanitation cycles/procedures as well as increased postings on hand washing and other proper hygiene practices. In addition, we’ve stressed that if an employee is exhibiting any symptoms of a sickness, they should stay home.
  • Similar to others – additional cleaning; no visitors to our sites; staffing challenges with external labor; contingency plans in place for essential functions; BCP for supply chains.
  • Disinfectants available in the office (at the beginning, before WFH was the main, strongly encouraged solution), extended IT support in order to move all necessary equipment home as a measure to provide the most comfortable conditions for employees while working from home. In factories: adjusting shifts, cafeteria access etc. to increase safety of crucial production line employees.

Closing Summary

Peeriosity members are able to directly connect with leading peers on any issue, even ones that are completely new, where the impact on their Shared Services organizations and across their companies are significant and urgent.  Soon after the crisis became a priority for all of us, Peeriosity members were sharing ideas and discussing approaches for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Results of a recent poll on the topic suggest that all member companies are impacted, with all choosing to restrict travel and implement work from home solutions wherever possible.  For employees who are not able to work from home because of nature of their responsibilities, many are implementing social distancing recommendations to control the spread of the virus.

How has your company responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?  How valuable was your business continuity plan for helping navigate the possible solutions for how to respond? What issues or challenges are you still facing?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Enhancing the Customer Cash Application Process through Automation

Introduction

While many companies have made significant improvements over the recent years to their Customer Cash Application Process, there often remain many opportunities to enhance this critical portion of the Order-to-Cash organization.

This research abstract features the experiences of a Peeriosity member company that recently carried out a focused initiative to streamline this critical process, and what they shared regarding the challenges they faced and the benefits realized by their efforts in this key area.

Company Experience

A Peeriosity PeercastTM recently featured a global company $15 billion USD in revenue and 50,000 employees.  Their Cash Application function is part of the Credit Services tier in their Global Business Services operation, alongside Credit Risk Management, Billing, Dispute Management, Collections, Cash Flow Management, and Distributor Finance. 

The project to improve the automation of the Cash Application process had as objectives improving cash cycle time, widening general experience levels in the area of automation and robotics, investigating potential savings, and improving the Cash Application team’s engagement. 

Their first phase of Market Research started in October of 2017 and the project was completed in August of 2018.  Lessons learned included:

  • Automation can be achieved in highly complex and “judgment intensive” processes
  • The project manager’s role to link technology with business requirements is crucial
  • The preparation phase requires significant and time, and it’s important for detailed project scope needs to be defined upfront
  • It is critical to define risks and incorporate control & check points

Other project details included on the Peeriosity member website as part of this presentation include a high-level process map and project deliverables.

iPollingTM Results Review

A Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology was created in conjunction with this PeercastTM and provides some interesting insights related to the Cash Application process.  The first of two poll questions asked what members consider to be the biggest opportunity to improve the Cash Application process at their company.  Increasing AutoCash application rates was the most popular response (41%), followed by utilizing automation, such as robotic process automation, at 35%.  Improving the deductions process as it relates to cash application was selected by 18% of the companies, and implementing or enhancing the ERP system was chosen by the remaining 6%.

The second poll question then addressed when the last time was their company made significant improvements in the Cash Application process. The majority of companies (53%) have done this within the last year, followed by 1-3 years ago at (29%), 3-5 years ago at 6%, and 12% selecting more than 5 years ago.

Some of the poll comments made by Peeriosity members related to this poll include the following:

Wholesale & Distribution Member: The cash processing is managed in-house and we are able to get a 94% payment match rate for paper checks. We are looking to use RPA or IA to improve our EFT/ACH payments match rate of 90% to 95+%.

Consumer Products & Services Member: We implemented High Radius Cash Application Automation (CAA) six months ago (May 2019). Our success rate is in the mid 80%. We are working with customers whose payments are not auto-applied to improve our success rate.

Energy & Utilities Member: We implemented the High Radius Cash Application Automation tool one year ago. Our hit rate has improved for checks and electronic payments. Continual efforts to improve master data maintenance will help to improve the hit rate as well as working with our customers on remittance formatting.

Manufacturing Member: Since implementation of AutoBank 3 years ago we have been able to reach best in class automation levels in our cash application process. Main challenge is currently represented by North American customer short payments which are still creating unnecessary burden along the chain.

Consumer Products & Services Member: We implemented High Radius Intelligent Receivables about a year ago for Cash Application. Auto applied cash averages around 90%. Our next focus area is on deduction automation. Looking at a couple different tools, including High Radius Deduction Cloud.

Non-Profit Member: RPA would be a close second to the process improvement opportunities in our organization.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: Increase in Auto cash application specifically for non-check formats is a priority across globe.

Closing Summary

Because of the high customer payment volumes at most companies, the ability to make even a minor improvement in the Cash Application process can yield significant results.  As was the case with our feature company, introducing additional automation can provide breakthrough results.

What is the status at your company regarding the overall efficiency of the Cash Application process?  Is your current approach providing the optimal results for this important process area?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.