Reengineering Corporate Services in the Public Sector

Your typical Corporate Services shop in the public sector is fertile ground for finding efficiencies through Business Process Reengineering (BPR). Here's one reason why: the goal of BPR is significant change to the status quo. You can only get there by radically redesigning cross-functional processes.

This requires cooperation among those functions. And since many significant cross-functional processes occur within the boundaries of Corporate Services, getting this cooperation merely requires, umm, encouragement from a single DG or ADM.

Let's take hiring as an example (ignoring the part about getting approval for hiring); bringing a new employee on-board involves not just HR but also Facilities Management (workspace and equipment), Finance (pay), Security (access), Mail and Records (for, uh, mail and records), IT (system access), and perhaps other functions as well.

An 'employee on-boarding' process could be expected to cross all these functional areas, with much duplication of information and work. A reengineered process might put all the tasks necessary on a single desktop, or at least co-located in a single office, with tasks operating in parallel rather than sequentially, and a big reduction in data entry.

By the way, the same functions are involved in the 'employee check-out' process as well i.e. when an employee leaves. You can get double bang for your buck by reengineering both!

The second reason for starting with reengineering Corporate Services is the management of risk. By and large the processes involved are not 'public-facing'; the customers of Corporate Services are internal to the organization. Less chance of ending up on the front page of the Globe and Mail when things go zoink.

There's a third, less-obvious reason as well; in a previous newsletter I mentioned Leavitt's Diamond and the fact that significant change to the way work is done will probably impact employees' roles and skills, organizational structure, and technology; so you want your HR, IT and other subject matter experts involved from the start anyway.

Where do you start reengineering Corporate Services? Pick a process and make your first priority to develop an understanding of the expectations of your customers. PLEASE, take the time to ask them; I've heard the old rant 'we know what our customers want' a number of times, and subsequently have discovered BIG SURPRISES in those wants.

Usually this misunderstanding arises from confusion over means and ends i.e the old saying that 'people don't want half-inch drills, they want half-inch holes' is very true. By the way, this is also how you overcome objections to change from your customers; you focus on desirable outcomes and service standards, and wean them away from a particular service delivery method (see an example of this at the link above).

With a good idea of what your customers want, you need to examine where your current processes fall short. Then you take these two perspectives and craft your vision of the future reengineered process.

I've described our reengineering approach and methodology elsewhere, but here's a key point to leave you with; the focus when reengineering Corporate Services needs to be on reducing/removing non-value added activities, not on merely cutting labour costs. This is how you achieve significant efficiency gains.

p.s. feel free to forward this to the frustrated Corporate Services manager of your choice ;-)

Reminder, my first Executive Training Workshop on Business Process Reengineering and Change Management in the Public Sector has been scheduled for January 14 2013, in Ottawa at the Minto Business Centre.

We can also deliver a custom workshop on this topic at your site; Drop me a line to reserve space for your team.

Scott Kelland, President

Performance Reporting Solutions

613 302-3924

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