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Work on your workflows to advance your efficiency

Dec 16, 2019 / Consumer Banking

Hungry? Don’t worry. You can get a fast-food meal in about 180 seconds.

Need something in two days or less? Shop Amazon.com.

How do those companies do it? Across industries, the most efficient players have tightened and perfectly coordinated their internal operations. They’ve deconstructed their processes into microsegments, some taking mere seconds to complete, and connected them into seamless workflows.

Smoother internal processes can lead to happier consumers, increased profitability and reduced costs. Domino’s set the bar for 30-minute pizza delivery, and Henry Ford turned his hanging conveyor belt into cheaper, more accessible cars for the masses. McDonald’s paved the way for faster food service by revamping the way hamburgers are assembled.

Somewhere in your internal processes, you also have something to gain.

Find the gaps

Every department, from lending to HR, has a core application. Within each department, workflows automate and accelerate the most common processes. Unfortunately, departmental applications don’t always work neatly across operational processes. When one system doesn’t talk to the next, employees have to fall back on manual tasks — spreadsheets, databases, scanning and rekeying — in order to connect siloed workflows, which create barriers to efficiency.

Consumers can feel your processes breaking down. Maybe an employee has to check a half-dozen systems or sort through 20 forms before responding, make multiple requests for the same information or re-enter data at every step. Those speed bumps slow down important processes and diminish the consumer experience. 

Internal processes and operations need to work together seamlessly if you want to deliver optimal consumer experiences. Connecting people, tasks and information across the enterprise results in faster, more consistent responses and, ultimately, an enhanced consumer experience.

Financial institutions pursuing efficiency should embrace these four truths:

1. Workflows are just the beginning. The key to operational efficiency is to connect the entire enterprise. Workflows are necessary, but not an end goal.

Let’s go back to the fast food drive-through window: Your fry machine can’t be slower than the burger station. And where’s your bagger? Each step in the process can meet individual efficiency goals and still not deliver a full meal. Similarly, departmental workflows are helpful in the short term but too isolated to create experience-changing efficiencies.

Work to minimize the number of gaps between systems. Everyone on your team should have access to accurate data when he or she needs it. Think fewer hand-offs and more first-call resolutions.

Financial institutions must leverage data and process digitization across the entire organization, not just individual departments, to improve profitability and the consumer experience.

2. Change is constant. Operational processes need to constantly change to meet new needs. Don’t implement automated workflows and let them sit unaltered for years.

Every consumer segment you target will have a moment of change in that segment’s situation, location or goals. When that happens, critically evaluate whether your organization is set up to continue serving those consumers. If not, react quickly.

Workflows should be agile and adaptable to match demographic shifts, market trends and product innovations. To stay competitive, financial institutions need to offer and integrate all of the tools consumers want — even as those needs and wants change. Look for more-efficient ways to scale your processes across the entire operation and deploy the technologies that meet those consumers’ needs as they evolve.

3. Measure what matters. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Financial institutions process all kinds of data all day, every day. But can multiple people and systems access it? Add to it? Talk to it?

This is another area where departmental workflows typically fall short. It needs to be about more than just workflow, it needs to be about data. While workflows can effectively auto-pilot small tasks, they don’t collect or display organization-wide data that leaders need to measure and improve processes. 

Key data inputs should be accessible and actionable, which requires creating end-to-end connections between your data, people and processes. Only then can measurements and audits support ongoing process improvements.

4. Happiness is contagious. Consumers aren’t the only ones who appreciate a well-oiled machine; employees also benefit when leaders axe redundant and manual processes.

As an example, some financial institutions still rely on original paper documents, manual file transport, printing, scanning and indexing. In those instances, responding to a single loan inquiry or a servicing question can take hours to complete. That’s painful.

Manual workarounds and duplicate systems add more than just overhead. They slow down processes and detract from employees’ productivity and satisfaction. With streamlined enterprise-wide processes, your workforce can gain back valuable time — and spend it delivering an excellent consumer experience.

Pursuing True Efficiency

Most departmental applications aren’t set up for organization-wide efficiency. But when they’re connected across the enterprise, they can operate effectively and with visibility.

Look closely at what’s happening inside your organization to understand how operational processes are affecting key performance measures. Productivity, cost, risk and the consumer experience are all impacted by your back-office processes. In a digital age, make sure your internal processes are as streamlined as your external processes.


Jay Coomes is vice president of product strategy for enterprise content management at Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Fiserv, a provider of financial services technology.

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