Reducing Lead Times for Old Mutual.
Improving the reporting process in a shared service centre.
Complex and ambiguous processes
In the finance shared services centre (FSSC) of Old Mutual, the quarterly and monthly financial reporting process was causing significant concern. Although reports were presented on time, the complexity and ambiguity of the process created significant time pressures and stress. It was clear that significant process improvement was required.
As the process lacked transparency, it was difficult to determine the progress status at any given point. One particular concern was that the time pressure meant there was little or no time for review of reports prior to submission, potentially leading to mistakes in the published figures, resulting in loss of credibility and subsequent rework.
The project objective was to improve the process to create enough capacity, allowing for report review, and delivering an increase in quality. There was initial scepticism in the department that any process improvements could be made, as a ‘Big 4’ accountancy firm had re-engineered the process 18 months prior without achieving the same objective.
Improve process flow and create metrics
First, a project team was assembled and they worked together to develop their capability to support the project and enhance their understanding of the process and the issues involved. Process user groups were used to capture the current end-to-end process across four departments of the FSSC.
Workshops were also used to identify key input quality issues, and data gathered to quantify them. As no relevant metrics were in place, the project team introduced local performance metrics for quality, speed and cost so that the effect of changes to the process could be quantified and verified.
The key factors in delivering the identified process improvements were:
- Initiation of quality partnerships, working with supplier departments outside the FSSC, to improve the input quality of information received
- Introduction of improved flow into the process (moving to daily reconciliation rather than monthly, for instance)
- Moving tasks that could be done at other times out of the critical month-end period
- Operations management capability improved by addressing planning and work management
- Employment of Visual Management techniques to easily track and accurately measure progress, supported by early corrective action where required
Lead time reduction by 30%
Improved quality and accuracy were also measured, with the added benefit of a significant reduction in overtime and reduced staff stress levels during the month-end period. There was also a large amount of skill transfer amongst the project team that has left them well placed to address further process improvement opportunities.