Business Process Improvement (BPI) initiatives like process reengineering, Lean and Six Sigma have been around for quite some time to help organizations streamline operations and improve efficiencies.  Only recently has workforce optimization (WFO) broken out of the contact center and into the enterprise to help organizations achieve the same goal — but with two very different approaches.  BPI focuses on processes, while WFO focuses on people.  So which has more impact?

When interviewing a large global insurer about its operational excellence improvement initiative, imagine my surprise to learn it was leading with WFO.  In this company’s view, process improvements were low-hanging fruit and produced nominal improvements that couldn’t really be captured.  In a working group of 20 full-time employees (FTE), for instance, process improvement might find one quarter of an FTE in time savings.  By optimizing resource utilization with workforce optimization (WFO), an organization might find four to six FTE in capacity.  When you think about it, this makes sense as personnel costs are typically your highest operational cost.

The insurer also pointed out that if you don’t have accurate activity data and documented processes, you can’t effectively jump in and do BPI. They admitted that this was the case with organization.  WFO becomes the data source needed to understand who is doing what, when and for how long in your operations.  The activities captured can be linked to processes, creating the foundation upon which to build a process improvement initiative.  With WFO, the insurer increased time spent in production applications by 36 percent and experienced a dramatic decrease in time spent on non-production-related activities, saving it millions of dollars.  In the end, WFO proved to represent the “big opportunity” to improve efficiencies.

Where do you see your biggest opportunity in driving efficiencies across back-office operations?