Operations Consulting in a Remote World
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, companies around the world are facing new challenges requiring innovative solutions to weather this storm. For many organizations, this includes a rapid transition to a work-from-home environment. Some were already well on their way to enabling their employees to work remotely, others were not as prepared. As we all come together in our respective home offices to overcome this pandemic (with huge appreciation to those in front-line essential service roles), how can an operations consulting firm like Trindent continue to deliver results to their clients? Below, I share two areas of success and one challenge our team experienced over the past three weeks implementing long-distance solutions in the insurance industry.
Success – Communication
Under normal circumstances, the success of engagement is built on a foundation of thorough communication. When your team is spread across four time zones and 6,000 km working out of makeshift home offices, this is doubly true. To maintain project continuity and ensure our team priorities remain aligned, we ramped up digital communications. Overall, these practices helped deliver ongoing success from a communications standpoint:
- Morning Huddles: Daily team check-in to discuss priorities for the day ahead
- Wash-Up Call: End of day review of actions, roadblocks, and next steps; includes key client stakeholders for enhanced transparency into our team’s approach
- One-on-Ones: Weekly 360° feedback sessions to understand what’s going well, what needs improvement, and how I can better manage the team and the project
- Tri-Weekly Touchpoints: 20-minute meetings held M-W-F with key client stakeholders to discuss current progress and understand any of the team’s concerns
- Humour: Historically, I’ve never been one to forward jokes from friends and family to colleagues, let alone to clients. More recently, I’ve loosened my stance on this and don’t plan to turn back. Please direct your best client appropriate jokes to email@example.com
Challenge – Technology
In the time we need it most, one of the most significant challenges I’ve faced in the past few weeks has been on the technology front. Understandably, networks are overloaded and IT departments are fighting to respond to unexpected demands. Here is a short list of technology-related issues and attempted workarounds:
- Issue: Calls occasionally drop, video chat is delayed, long file transfer times
Solution: Use alternative software packages where available. Microsoft Teams has proved reliable so far
- Issue: Difficulty conducting a remote process observation (full day side-by-side observation) of the client’s contact center due to network restrictions preventing screen-sharing
Solution: Analyze pre-recorded calls including screen-capture, combined with workforce management software to monitor occupancy rate, as well as supervisor interviews to understand management effectiveness and operational performance
Success – Implementation
Resistance to change is a trademark challenge of any consulting engagement and one that can be the most difficult to overcome. It’s not surprising that employees are reluctant to change their way of doing business when an outsider shows up at the office claiming to have a solution for their problems. Now, the outsider can’t even show up! Some of the ways our team has found success in implementing solutions without stepping foot on-site:
- Method Change Workshops: every method change (solution) we recommend includes an accompanying workshop. We clearly define the problem it addresses, the qualitative/ quantitative impacts, and the proposed solution(s) with a cost/benefit analysis. Workshops are interactive sessions involving managers and SMEs to verify our assumptions are accurate, and that our implementation plan makes sense for the client.
- Prototypes: Many solutions require a proof-of-concept to demonstrate feasibility. Our team recently developed a system to track errors and reduce the time required to process insurance applications. Feedback from front-line staff determined the new system was slower than the original. We listened to their concerns, improved the system to achieve the same results in less time, and gained valuable front-line staff buy-in as a result.
- Measure Results: Metrics for measuring improvements are part and parcel with each solution. Every method change has one or more associated KPI with a baseline and target to drive results.
Thomas Guyette is an Engagement Manager and Professional Engineer at Trindent Consulting.