Digital University:  Analyzing the Current State

 

We have already established the process architecture of an educational institution and have gained a better appreciation of its many business processes. The next step towards a digital university is to analyze the current state of its processes. This activity will provide insights on which areas need the most attention and an overview of what they can do to put out the fire in those areas.

 

Process analysis

As educational institutions perform their processes to provide value to their students, there would be situations that arise that would hinder the efficient delivery of its services. Process Analysis is an approach that involves reviewing how an institution’s processes are currently performed to identify how to further improve its efficiency. Process Analysis is the most crucial part of the Business Process Management Lifecycle as this would highlight the process inefficiencies which should be addressed and opportunities for improvements that should be taken advantage of. 

 

Tools and Techniques

There are a lot of tools and techniques that can be used for process analysis. Take note that there is no one correct approach for this activity. As there are multiple tools and techniques available, complementing one with another would help strengthen your analysis. 

With this, here are two techniques that I have used together in past engagements to better understand the current state of their processes:

 

The first is the 8 Wastes of Lean, which aims to reduce wastes in processes. It classified wastes into 8 categories, with the acronym: DOWNTIME. Identifying these wastes in a process would help pinpoint where the process gaps and bottlenecks are. Knowing what wastes are present in your process would also give you an idea of what needs to be removed. 

 

8 Wastes of Lean:

  • Defects – Rework, correction, or compensation for errors
  • Overproduction – Outcomes produced that do not provide value upon completion.
  • Waiting – Idle time because of unnecessary delays
  • Non-Utilized Skill –  Failure to utilize the time and skills of people
  • Transportation – Unnecessary sending and receiving of information/materials/documents and work transferring from one place to another.
  • Inventory – Work stuck in inboxes that are not being processed, unutilized assets
  • Motion – Unnecessary movement of people to perform the work
  • Excess Processing – Performing work beyond the requirement which does not add more value to the product or service.

 

The other tool that I’ve used to complement the 8 wastes of lean is Value Added Analysis. It examines the process step-by-step and evaluates whether each step provides value to the customer or not. In Value Added Analysis, we classify the steps into three categories, which are:

  • Value-Adding Step (VA) – activities that provide value or satisfaction to the customers. These are steps that customers will pay for and if removed, it would reduce the customer’s perceived value of the product or service. 
  • Business Value-Adding Step (BVA) – activities that are necessary for the business to operate. These are steps that would reduce the risk for the organization or are being done to comply with regulations, policies, or standards.
  • Non-Value-Adding Step (NVA) – activities that do not fall under value-adding or business value-adding. These are steps that only consume resources but do not provide any value to the organization and or the customer.

 

This tool improves efficiency by removing non-value adding steps, which would reduce the overall cycle time and the cost of the process. Also, it maximizes value by focusing on what brings satisfaction or value as perceived by the students. If a step does not bring value, it should either be redesigned or eliminated.

 

After performing the analysis, all findings should be properly documented and provided to the key decision-makers to assist them in identifying the solution that should be implemented to address these findings. This would now be the vital input for the next step on the journey towards a digital university.

 

Key Learnings

The effectiveness of transforming processes and improving the value that it provides is dependent on the results of the analysis that has been conducted. With the criticality of process analysis in mind, here are 5 key learnings I believe can make a difference when doing the analysis:

  1. Before conducting the analysis, it is vital to understand the big picture. To provide a better context for everyone involved in the process of transformation initiative, the following items should be clearly defined:
    1. a decision on which processes are to be analyzed
    2. a KPI or a measure to be achieved or improved for the process
    3. and a defined scope of the analysis.

If these are not clear to everyone, it could lead to scope creeps which would result in scope extensions, longer project timelines, and additional costs.

  1. Although process analysis is considered the most important, there are instances where it was left out or conducted simultaneously with redesign efforts. This might lead to a shallow understanding of the root cause of the inefficiencies and a band-aid solution being implemented.
  2. Make sure to invite the right people when doing the analysis. There are three key roles that need to be present during this discussion, which are:
  • the process analyst/s which would lead the analysis and creating the documentation which would be the basis for the advancement of the project
  • the subject matter expert which would provide more context of the process (i.e. the technology or human resource needed to support it)
  • the facilitator would provide structure and guidance on the discussion to ensure that the goals of the analysis will be met, as well as manage the group dynamics during the analysis

There could be instances where a process analyst would also wear the hat of a facilitator due to resource constraints. I would highly encourage to split these hats into two people as these two roles have a distinct aim that they need to achieve during the analysis and their perspective largely differs as well. 

  1. Documentation would be your best friend and lifesaver. With all the different information being thrown around during process analysis discussions, it would be hard to remember everything that everyone has declared. An issue register would come in very handy to keep track of everything that should be considered in synthesizing the analysis, identifying solutions, and redesigning processes.
  2. Automation is not the silver bullet to all process inefficiencies. Adding technology is only one of the various ways to improve the process. As Bill Gates once said:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Aside from technology, it is also worth looking at the other areas on how the process can be improved, such as performance measures, organization policies, process design, human resources (training/workforce allocation), and workplace facilities.

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