Removing Human Latency from Business Processes

Let’s take a quick virtual survey.  Everyone reading this post that will be increasing their IT budget in 2009 please raise your hand.  OK…yes, just as I thought…not a single hand.  It’s been “do more with less” for several years now, but the current economic conditions are driving this home more and more everyday.  The problem is, we have been investing in ITIL, 6-Sigma, LEAN, etc., for so long now, we are reaching the point where we cannot get much more out of our people and processes without a major shift in thinking.  This is where human latency comes in.  It is a term that has been floating around for the past year or so, and the new collaborative tools available are making it possible to actually look into reducing that issue.  For purposes of this discussion, human latency is the lost productivity due to the inherent lag time caused by people in our business processes.  A simple example will illustrate how human latency can cause major delays and issues in productivity.  Your company is a leading manufacturer of widgets.  Your ordering process is well automated, but getting the orders to the shop floor to the customer requires that someone receive the order, process it, bundle it, ship it, and bill it.  While this might only take 60 minutes of “people time”, it takes 8 hours to process because the workers have to check queues, prioritize, and execute.  Using tools such as Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 and IBM Lotus Sametime 8, businesses can leverage their technology investments to reduce the people time needed to complete the order (60 minutes to 45 minutes, for example), but also reduce the latency in the process to reduce the time it takes to get the order out the door.  Your 8 hour turnaround can now be reduced to 6 hours, 4 hours, or less.

How can software do this?  Simply by enabling workers to be more efficient and in turn, make your processes more efficient.  In this case, time lost can be due to the assigned resource being on a break, resources not checking their work queue every 5 minutes, the resource being overloaded at that time, supplies/inventory not being on hand, etc.  Utilizing the collaborative tools available, we can provide the person who is sending the order to the shop floor the ability to see who on the floor is able to get the widgets off the shelf and bundled right now, in real-time.  Using a single interface for IM, presence, phone, etc., the workers can easily have their status (available, busy, on break, offline) visible to anyone who needs it.  Based on this, the order can come in and be assigned to the most available resource.  Instead of waiting for a resource to acknowledge and take ownership of the request, the requestor can simply assign it to a person based on presence availability.  The worker is then alerted on their handheld device of the assignment, and they are on their way to making your customer happy.

The beauty of this example is that you are able to make IT an enabler of the business.  The profit centers of your organization will see IT making them more efficient and productive, which will allow you to look to utilize new and exciting technologies to enhance the business.  By solving a single business problem, IT is able to add tremendous value not just to that business unit or process, but the entire organization.  Once you demonstrate the value you can bring with collaborative solutions such as the one cited here, other areas of your organization will want to find ways to utilize the solution.

Nicolas Jacquey
michael lazar