Avoiding Process Fatigue

Improving efficiency, productivity, and morale through process digitization.

Here’s a fundamental management question: Do you know what your people are doing all day? The dirty little secret is that they probably spend a majority of their time dealing with random requests in an ad hoc fashion, rather than approaching clear-cut tasks in a structural way.  And they’re probably bogged down with cumbersome processes that are not making the best use of technology.

Digitizing manual processes will create efficiencies, and improve employee productivity and morale. And it doesn’t require a big investment in IT.

Digitizing manual processes will create efficiencies, and improve employee productivity and morale. And it doesn’t require a big investment in IT. Here’s an example of how a large bank did that in three months and saw immediate returns.

A European Tier 1 bank significantly upgraded its weekly stress-test management reporting process by trading a complex and highly manual process for end-to-end workflow through a web application. The re-engineering process took three months and realized significant efficiency gains.  Report production time was reduced by at least 50%, thanks to instant validation checks, enabled by company-wide adoption of the same toolkit. Processing resources were reduced by 45%, thanks to quality control checkpoints and input traceability. This early success set into motion frequent reviews of manual overrides. Furthermore, by monitoring the changes and results, subsequent fixes were prioritized according to real business impact.

Tackling Excel-based Process Inefficiency

The bank’s existing Excel-based manual reporting process was error prone, with regular quality and timeliness issues. Despite high organizational visibility, with 20+ stakeholders involved on a weekly basis, there was limited flexibility and traceability of output for users and risk controllers. Now, data is ported to, consolidated, and modeled in an interactive web dashboard, allowing users to drill down on real-time data—and add comments that other users can see. Managers can view projects—their economics, market risk, and invoices—and create bespoke PDF reports on demand, without sending highly skilled staffers to scurry after data.  Management is liberated from overly complex models living in Excel to a more compute-friendly environment.

The dashboard also had a significant positive impact on staff morale. No longer are employees with graduate degrees cutting and pasting data into Excel files or a static PDF file—they can spend their time studying results. This has led to enhanced cross-department collaboration and team motivation.

Equally important, the bank didn’t have to overhaul its data or IT architecture with bots or AI to achieve this transformative breakthrough. The re-engineering was more a process of removing elements that were not strategically useful or too time consuming to produce—and delivering accessible data that users can manipulate within an open-source and easy-to-expand set of technologies.

For the many companies that still rely heavily on Excel, this example shows how the problem of process inefficiency can be tackled quickly and easily. While such a tactical overhaul of a discreet process is no substitute for a long-term strategic overhaul of IT infrastructure, it represents a concrete improvement that can be carried over to multiple processes and lead to increasing gains.