Managing Your Flow Time and Business Calendars in Foundation

By Clinton Jones on February 8, 2017

An interesting question came up the other day around defining calendars that relate to working hours and public holidays. Most products, including Winshuttle Foundation, support the defining and maintenance of calendars. However it can be painful to manage, and has to be maintained every year because some holidays fall on different dates from year to year.

Maintaining calendars can be a nuisance when you only have minor edits from year to year. I would like to see the business calendar discarded from workflows altogether. Businesses often track processes for reporting based on process duration or the flow time. There is often confusion around the specifics depending on the material you read, but I’ll give you an example of what I have worked on.

business calendars

For this purpose, flow time is the amount of time a ‘flow unit’ spends in a business process from beginning to end. If there is more than one path through the process, the flow time is the length of the longest path. You can think of this as your longest and most complex path in a workflow. According to Christian Reinboth on SAP’s SCN, flow time is considered one of the three most important performance measures of a business process. You need to set the flow time KPI with an objective, and get the work done during a designated timeframe. If you don’t meet that flow time, then you’ve failed. If you beat it, you succeed. Should it be any more complex than that?

Tracking your time

The goal of flow time tracking is to lower the time it takes to complete a process, and improve overall operational productivity. If you consistently beat the flow time, you probably need to lower the flow time value. Many believe that a reduction in flow time can lead to improved quality, however when flow time is optimal – there is often little margin for error. That’s great if a process is dialed in with very little operational variations. You can easily set the flow time and track your progress, but if you’re still evolving your process you may have gotten it wrong.

Most processes have inconsistencies that can lead to falling behind a normal effective pace. When this happens, you might rush or simply not try very hard to reach your time because you know you’ll be behind. Reevaluating flow time to improve your process performance and completion times may be the answer.

Six Sigma provides you with a framework for incorporating flow time with breaks. Adding breaks can create opportunities for process acceleration if your flow time consistently meets or fails to meet the goal. Do you incorporate lean principles and time segmentation into how you track your KPI’s or do you simply use an algorithm to describe process completion objectives?  If you’re hoping to increase productivity, you can’t just reduce the duration of a process. You need to increase manpower or throughput to improve efficiency.

The flow of work

Today your flow of work and productivity may not be transparent depending on your existing calendars. A Winshuttle customer had this problem with their Lotus Notes implementation of Marketing Expense Management, and the easiest way for them to resolve the issue was by implementing Winshuttle Foundation forms and workflow with SAP integration to speed up the flow time.

The end result was dramatically accelerated flow time for expense claims, especially around data entry into SAP, as it was the slowest part of the process. Because there was less of a mad dash at period ends, the quality of data entry improved and the risk of overages on expenses against budgets was reduced. They all now own the end-to-end quality of work and rely on different teams to help achieve corporate goals. This is a great example of how a relatively simple implementation of Foundation can achieve this. We unfortunately can’t give you a better calendar than the one you have, but if you want to define a calendar in your installation, check out this Winshuttle support note for ‘Adding Holidays to the Business Calendar’.

About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.

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