“Every operating company has a process or they would soon be out of business – often this process is not widely understood and frequently it is undocumented.”
Companies live and die on their processes. Oftentimes these processes are not documented and live in the heads of key individuals within the company. Whereas this can lead to Indiana Jones-like heroic scenarios it can also lead to widespread confusion and disappointing overall results. Losing even one of the key individuals can bring much disruption if not outright panic.
Many System Engineering companies do understand their processes but the process may have been developed many years ago and have not been revised to take into account external changes in the market and internal changes in the product that inevitably occur.
The first key to improving a process is to capture how work is being done within a company. For example this might include asking the people involved in designing and delivering systems:
- What tasks do they perform?
- How are these tasks achieved?
- What inputs do they depend on?
- Where (e.g. which group or external supplier) are these inputs are coming from?
- What is the resulting deliverable?
- Who are these delivered to?
By capturing this information and assembling it with information relating to the upstream and downstream activities, the overall delivery process can be understood and documented.
Once documented it is possible to work with the individual workgroups to identify what changes can be made to:
- Minimize the amount of effort to perform each task – perhaps changing the inputs can help, possibly more is delivered than actually is required, would the development of tool to aid in the implementation of the task be justified
- Improve the quality of the deliverable i.e. better meet the needs of the downstream workgroup
- Shift responsibilities within the process to improve workflow or eliminate duplicate effort
The result is a documented process that can literally get everyone singing off the same song sheet. The process can be used as an educational tool for new employees and to ensure that existing employees are clear on what is expected of them as well. Use of such a process developed and documented in this manner has been shown to improve the quality of delivered systems, providing customers with a more uniform and satisfying experience. Typically the service organization will be a lot happier supporting solutions that have been delivered according to a documented repeatable process.
MDSI Mobile Data Solutions Inc.
MDSI experienced a period of hyper-growth following the acquisition of its major competitor. This created a situation where a record number of systems had to be delivered in a short period of time often using newly hired resources to configure, customize and test the solution. The company had delivered a number of progressively larger systems but was lacking a cookie-cutter approach. By working with the teams involved in delivery and post-delivery support, we developed the CPLC – Customer Product Life Cycle Process. This was used to deliver 20 systems in under 12 months, representing a tripling of the company’s previous delivery capacity and allowing the company to meet its revenue and profit goals during the period of rapid growth.