As we wrote in our Untrue Efficiency paper earlier this year (get it here) increased #efficiency provides more time, and more time gives you more head space to think. That being the case, what do you spend your time thinking about? When we found ourselves with a little time earlier this year, we took the opportunity to plan and release some changes to our own platform and we’re now seeing the huge benefits they’ll have for our clients…

Whilst continual – or continuous – improvement is more associated with manufacturing processes, like most management techniques, it can also be applied to operational processes in service industries. As an industry trend, and in various guises like Six Sigma and Kaizen which are likely already familiar to you, it’s been around for a long time.

If they’re not familiar, or maybe even as a quick refresher, Six Sigma focusses on eliminating variability and improving predictability – which leads to stable and predictable process results and subsequently facilitates more efficient productivity models – and Kaizen is a broader mindset that’s promoted in a firm’s culture that requires everyone to focus on the improvement of their part of the operational machine. It translates from Japanese to English as “change for better”.

Regardless of its particular flavour, each guise essentially points in the same direction – a gradual and never-ending change that increases the effectiveness and efficiency of a firm to enable the fulfilment of its objectives. The changes can be made incrementally, through on-going minor tweaks to hone and enhance or through major breakthroughs that take products or services forward in huge leaps with each release or version, like the latest washing powder formula, or indeed adding one more blade to a hand-held razor.

Closest shave yet – LinkedIn

To put it simply, it means getting better all the time. Successful companies are not satisfied with the status quo. They’re constantly eyeing potential innovations and seeking the next level of performance. Even when things are going well, they’re looking at ways in which they can perform better and work smarter to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

But what happens when a firm truly has optimised their own operational design – or at least optimised it to an acceptable point? Where are the opportunities for improvement then found? Of course, this state is never actually reached because there will always be room for further improvement, but they can also look at the software they use, flows of information in and out of the organisation and, if possible, each of their partner’s operational designs and service offerings as potential sources. Regardless of its location in the supply chain, each improvement that occurs that affects overall value will ultimately have an impact on their own profitability and clients’ satisfaction.

When considering software, and co-operation with other firms, greater efficiency and effectiveness comes in the form of new functionality or the additional services that those firms might want to offer. So, when considering the quest for continual improvement, they then rely on the other party’s desire to achieve, or work towards the same. This means a firm should only enter into partnerships with others who have at least an equal, but ideally a greater desire for continuous improvement than they do.

Is that hard to identify? Does anyone guarantee such a desire? Is that even possible? Whilst there are international standards that can be attested to or certifications that can be audited to verify to some degree that continual improvement is an aim of a firm, what you actually want to see is providers and partners who are truly delivering improvements for the benefit of their clients and not just the potential kudos that such accreditations and certifications may bring.

For us, improvement meant looking at our delivery mechanism – the interface that Reporting as a Service® is delivered through. We already knew that shifting report production out of a firm and having it delivered through our model generates a time and cost saving in the region of 50% to 80% dependent on volume etc. but through our relationships with our clients and understanding where enhancements could therefore be made, we’re now improving that efficiency further by a whopping 85% and we’re pretty proud doing so.

We think the companies that are the most successful are the ones that always innovate and increase the service and quality they offer to their clients. In a business to business relationship, this can only have a beneficial impact to subsequent clients and end-consumers. In the search for efficiency, continuous improvement is needed not only in your organisation, but also in those that form part of your supply chain.

We’re delighted that we continue to improve and subsequently assist our clients in doing the same. It’s integral to all of our success. As always, let us know your thoughts and / or if you’d like to see the value we can add to your processes.

Andrew Sherlock
Opus Nebula