How lean is your business?
Lean process as a methodology has its origins in the automotive industry, most notably with Ford and Toyota. The guiding principles of lean remain absolutely valid today.
Customer expectations of service businesses are changing. The pressure is on to deliver a frictionless client experience that makes it easy to do business. A premium advice service needs to not only deliver the right outcomes but also needs to be as straightforward and trouble-free as possible. Looking at your business from a “lean” perspective can help you to meet this challenge and ultimately ensure all your clients are advocates for your business.
So what are the principles and how do they relate to a modern advice business?
- Identify the value you are delivering to your client and the processes that are in place to deliver that value
- Challenge the way you do things and look for the wasted steps
- With waste removed make the rest of the process flow as seamlessly as possible
- Strive for perfection by continuously seeking to reduce or streamline the steps and time required to deliver your value
These principles can form the foundation for the optimisation of your operations. So now let’s put them into context for financial advice firms.
In the case of point 1, start by documenting your customer journey. Then overlaying that with the processes that need to be in place to support the journey and ensure clients get the best possible outcome. Look to identify any processes that are not contributing to the delivery of your value and consider if they can be outsourced or removed.
Next, hunt out those wasted steps. Be on the lookout for unnecessary or duplicated effort. Examples include entering data in paper forms before re-keying into a CRM system or scanning documents to a server and then filing them. Or lastly, keeping paper or spreadsheet registers where the data is also recorded in back office systems. You will be amazed how much wasted effort you can find and how years of “we have always done it that way” slow you down.
Point 3 is all about automation. For many adviser businesses the cost of the CRM or back office system is one of the largest expenses and yet not enough time is invested in improving adoption. It is all too easy to say the system does not do X or Y and let that become the justification for creating inconsistent and inefficient manual workarounds. Surely it is better to embrace the solution and learn to work to its strengths, rather than fight against its shortcomings.
A notable consequence of poor adoption is that many integrations or straight through process opportunities are not taken up or maximised. These are the lean “golden nuggets” with the potential to create significant efficiencies. The good news is that today, there are exciting new initiatives, such as portal technology, that present even more chances to deliver a frictionless process.
Lastly, this should not be considered a one-off exercise. Sir David Brailsford, a former British Cycling Coach, is well known for his work on marginal gains – delivering game-changing performance through a series of small incremental changes. By continuing to focus on your processes there will be further opportunities to remove waste and improve quality. Furthermore, as regulated businesses, there is a systems and controls responsibility to regularly monitor processes, as a means of managing risk.
As specialist consultants in the field of advice business operations Jigsaw Tree has access to a market leading business process management software application that helps firms to measure their operational performance in terms of time, cost and value delivered. Taking a lean approach to managing process supports the achievement of common business objectives in this market; reducing costs, adding more value, managing regulatory risk and increasing client satisfaction. To learn more about our services contact us here.