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The Importance of End-to-End Process Design

By Samantha Searle | October 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

Processes usually don’t operate in isolation so when redesigning a process, it is vital to consider its context and how other processes interact with it, or depend on it. The other day I encountered a wonderful example of how not to do this!

Getting a doctor’s appointment is not an easy process and usually involves a long wait on the phone. So I was delighted to here that my local doctor’s surgery was taking a step into the 21st century with an online appointment scheduling process that spared you the pain of trying to get through on the phone.

“So, how can I get access to this system” I asked, expecting to be given the website address. The receptionist replied “You fill out this form with your details, but it will take a few days to process so you’ll have to come back next week to pick up your username and password”.

My jaw dropped. “Hang on,” I said “you’ve launched an online appointment scheduling system for which I can’t register online?!! I have to do it by paper and collect it next week?!!”. I was met with a blank face.

Thankfully before I was tempted to launch into a lecture on the difference between good and bad process design, a second receptionist came to my rescue and offered “I can process it for you now if you like?!” (which they did).

There are two main lessons to learn from this example:

  • When making a process change of this nature, consider the entire context of the process and any dependencies to determine whether the consumer of the process has everything they need to complete the task. In the above example, online registration for new users (and log in for registered users) should have been the first step in the new online appointment scheduling process.
  • Train your staff to encourage customer adoption of the new process. Rather than having to ask for access to the new process myself, the staff should help migrate customers over. If more customers book appointments online, the staff will spend less time answering phone calls and free up their time to concentrate on more important things!

Essentially getting the right process design and providing change management are two critical success factors to this project. Without these, no one will start using the new process and the project will not succeed.

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  • Glenn says:

    “Consider the entire context of the process and any dependencies.” Not that it applies to your particular example, but there are times when the entire context will add so much complexity as to overburden the original concept, leading to stalemate. I agree with you, one should always consider the entire context, but understanding when and how to include the entire context is crucial.

  • Samantha,
    besides context and customer adoption, the third aspect in your example is employee awareness. Clearly, the receptionist had no real understanding of the ‘why’ and could only tell you about ‘the how’.

    No matter how good or bad a process really is, when no one understands the intentions and objectives behind it, it might as well not exist at all.

    The second receptionist you encountered clearly understood what is was all about. The result: A process to your (the customers) satisfaction.

    At a rough guess I’d say that this is bound to happen when companies invest in BPM system training and forget about the process content and awareness training.