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You Can't Improve A Process You Don't Have

Process Improvement hinges on end to end analysis and value mapping of existing support  and delivery processes.  An improvement project would wisely commence with the most critical and the high impacting, "broken" or defective processes.  A  Pareto Analysis  could help with that.

Sadly, the challenges of improving your company's core processes are daunting if they are not defined.  ISO 9000 gives us the terminology and management guidance to define, document and clearly articulate exactly what our processes are.

To put it bluntly - If your core processes are not clearly documented, accurate, relevant, current, and available to all your support staff,  then you don't have any processes to improve.

I was prompted to write this article by a couple of coinciding events in the last week.  Firstly, I had been wanting to extend the infrastructure for documentation management into our community's SERVER sub-domain  (I'm adamant that documented work instructions and other support procedures are critical to Server Support and other IT service management sectors).  Secondly, I started reading a new book being advertised by ASQ named  "Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2"  (Tracy Owens).  The first section in chapter 1 was titled In Order to Improve a Process, there Must be a Process.  (I haven't actually bought the book yet  -  that's one of the benefits of my ASQ membership, the book previews).

The title and section was so meaninful, I decided to leaver off it within this article, and also put a practical spin to it  through a quick demonstration on document management.

The point I wish to convey, is that infrastructure for document management does not have to be expensive nor difficult to establish, at least for a small organisation (similar to our Small Business Model). Obviously, document management tools, and document control disciplines are scalable in both cost and work effort to suit the size and scope of the business.  In the case of our Server Support services, the number and complexity of servers, equipment and applications also shapes the size and effort of document management.

 In the example I use here, there is already an establish infrastructure on this site for managing both internal procedures and products.  Don't be concerned too much about the number of documents and their completion state (Any volunteers to help us progress these?).  The important point is that simple document management is in place.  Further more the underlying indexes, templates and the quicktab document catalogues themselves form a template that we could both refine and easily replicate into our sub domains.

Hence, I was able to create a procedures catalogue in about 40 minutes within the Server Support domain.  Obviously much more work is required to start populating the work instructions, records and other support documents.  Remember always, it is better to at least add missing documents to the appropriate index and assign owners and time frames to complete, than wait until the documents are actually completed.

In her book, the author goes on to discuss Process Maps as part of the Define phase of a an effective DMAIC methodology.  Process maps need to be catalogued as well and included in the documentation management system  (Many of my colleagues know that I like to see a current process diagram as well a a Value Stream Map for every process in a delivery chain, whether external or internal).  This all sounds like a lot of work, but  it is far better to establish and list procedural requirements, and integrate the control of such documents into daily staff work practices, then leave it for a quieter period to "catch up".  We all know how flawed that approach is.

As always, I appreciate your feedback, experience and suggestions.


[References used in this article:  "Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2", by Tracy L. Owens 2012 (ASQ Quality Press) ]

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Good article, and I agree with you that documents and support procedures are very important to maintain an upper footing.  I work in a company supporting about 30 servers and over 200 desktop PCs, and we do all the support with one small team.   I guess my problem is that we are so busy keeping up with the work demand and fixing problems, we barely have time to keep on top of the documentation.

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