“How do I prioritize my back office improvement opportunities?” is a recurring question we hear from our clients.
Our world right now is built on scarcity, and let’s face it, no firm has unlimited time, money, and capabilities to tackle every project. If you have been following my other blog posts, we talked about putting together an investment plan and fostering a culture of improvement at your firm. You’re hopefully swimming in potential projects and areas for improvement. The only thing missing now? A great way to evaluate the ROI of these opportunities other than how they fit into your current investment plan.
There are many ways to evaluate opportunities. At the end of the day, you need to find what fits best for your team and run with it. In my experience, consistency in evaluation is more important than method.
Evaluating, measuring, and executing on projects in a consistent way helps you track performance, improve your process, and measure your success.
THE BIG THREE
When we work with our asset and investment management clients, we focus on three factors when evaluating opportunities: time, money, and stress.
Time and stress can be deceptive and challenging to measure. Money, while measurable, bears opportunity costs.
Together, we do the analysis to see downstream impacts, and help you find potential cost savings. Some common questions and themes to consider within each:
- Time: How much time does it save and how often? Is this a non-value add process? Are there betting things you could do with this time? What are the downstream impacts of not having this time?
- Money: Is there a direct dollar cost other than labor for this? Are you paying for data/licenses/hardware/contractors that you don’t need? Are you sacrificing front office agility and missing business? Opportunity costs are everywhere and often hard to find.
- Stress: What’s the quality of life impact on this process if we don’t fix it? How much does it make your team hate their jobs? Does the team find the work interesting/exciting/fulfilling?
Many firm managers think they have a gauge on how much time their team spends doing various tasks in their day to day workflows, however, if you’ve been executing on the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How ritual, you’re probably finding that your internal views are not aligned to the situation on the ground. If you’re not exercising the ritual, you’re probably scratching your head trying to figure out where to start.
Often when clients think about timesaving initiatives, they focus on the stress of a given task, the urgency, or the energy expenditure to get the job done. Those metrics cloud each other and make it difficult to see objectively the real costs of your tasks. It’s easy to think about some terribly stressful thing that happened last quarter (that one problem with that one client) and perhaps you want to focus on making sure that never happens again. The stress is fresh and it’s easier to justify the costs of solving it in your mind, but it may be, and often isn’t, the best use of your time and resources to fix that issue.
RITUALS FOR SUCCESS
Another ritual I like to encourage for serious process improvement is to start tracking time at a very granular level, and apply the time to specific tasks. Do this for 30-60 days without fail, and the results will surprise you. If you’re familiar with Six Sigma, or other process improvement methodology, you may be doing this already. To find areas for improvement in time, do a time study. The goal of the time study is to see where members of your firm spend their time. You might be surprised to find those easy daily tasks are eating away at your resources much more significantly than you previously thought. The little tasks often become the biggest time sucks, but are also often some of the easiest things to eliminate with new or automated workflows.
If your team is already stretched for time and doing this in-house isn’t an option, SS&C Advent Professional Services can provide guidance and help execute on your behalf. Our team of highly skilled technical and business consulting resources can partner with you to optimize your workflows and maximize your ROI on back office investments. As a partner to your team, we make sure we’re in step, ensuring accurate data assessment, and compiling that data to present recommendations and businesses cases to your firm’s leadership.
While our process is straightforward, the time involved with running an accurate time study is rarely something operational teams have the time to do internally as it requires discipline in tracking, thorough review, and analysis in task management.
Figure 1: Timestudy Basics
PARTNERING FOR OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE
Applying a time study to process improvement initiatives is a great way to identify areas of opportunity, and continuously drive your firm’s ROI, not only around technology utilization, but also to gain a clearer picture of overlap and duplicating functions and job duties. Further, adding time study analysis as part of your back office investment evaluation criteria is critical on zeroing in on non-value-add activities that are likely keeping your team from addressing issues that are more complex or adding value elsewhere. Perhaps most important, these non-value-add activities could even be preventing your front office team from creating new products and building new lines of business. If your back office team is spending more time doing data entry than they are servicing clients or fulfilling requests, you probably have some big opportunities you’re missing out on.
Our team is a partner you can count on. Whether it is testing approaches, analyzing your data collection, or general process improvement and technology optimization, we can help.
Talk to us and together we can identify how we can add value to your team, and help you ensure success on your process improvement projects.