London, bad processes, competition and UKGovCampX

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London, bad processes, competition and UKGovCampX

  • London St Pauls

January 2017 – Part 2

Following on from the first Eastleigh session I was again back in the car up to London to attend my first UKGovCamp (cheers and applause – for those who have not attended the event this is standard response to anyone who speaks and mentions those words). The trip in the car gave me the chance to think (at least until I hit the crazy traffic and crazy drivers of London fortunately not literally!) about both bad processes and also about how I could tailor the second Eastleigh session to deliver the best outcome for the customer.

I have recently been unfortunate to have had a minor medical issue that necessitated 4 months contact with the NHS. I am a strong believer in the NHS and especially the staff that deliver the services but the process I encountered in my customer journey was inefficient, expensive and the time taken to heal was considerably longer than it needed to be because of the process. Every single member of staff I saw was excellent and delivered great service all the way through my treatment in every process step. The process itself could easily have been delivered faster and at less cost to the NHS by removing the waste and focusing on the customer and business value.

The process is too long to explain here but I will detail the process and the potential benefit of change by mapping the As Is process and the To Be process using ENGAGE™.

This will be the subject matter of my next blog ‘Bad processes not bad people’ highlighting how despite working incredibly hard and delivering every process step very well, the staff were severely hampered by the end to end process leading to much waste.

Upon hitting the streets of London I suddenly found another couple of great examples of bad processes, the first came about as I travelled through the streets to my accommodation for the night. The sat nav connected to the phone for live traffic redirects combined with a total lack of knowledge of London combined for quite a circuitous route to my accommodation. As I am not aware of the congestion zone boundaries I was adopting the approach I used the last time I was in London. This approach was based on my only previous experience of London driving where I saw signs and clearly marked red C’s on the road when I went into the zone.

On this particular journey through London despite having clearly (I found this out later) been well inside the zone for a massive part of my journey I saw no signs or road markings indicating my transgression. As I didn’t think I had hit the zone I didn’t pay the charge that night. The next day at GovCamp (every time I say or write this I have a terrible affliction which is an ear worm which converts this to ‘one time at band camp’ which I was glad to see one of the pitchers also had at GovCamp).

I decided to ask around and see if anyone knew if I had been in the zone a couple of conversations later I realized I clearly had entered the zone (it sounds much cooler than it is!).

This minor error cost me the princely sum of £2.50 extra as I was now paying the day after I entered. This minor user error meant I had to pay £14 instead of the usual £11.50 oh well it is one of those things, no problem I have a TFL account for my Oyster Card, I would have to just log in and pay (or at least that’s what I thought!). I tried logging in to my TFL account but I needed my customer ID, now I am sure last time I logged in this was my email but I tried this and I quickly realized this was not my customer ID. I used the ? to get the help text and it told me my customer ID was unique to me and that if I did not know the ID I could ask the account holder, excellent advice I thought. As the account holder I asked myself the account ID and you will be surprised to hear I did not know it (this also got me some funny looks from the growing crowd at GovCamp in the sponsors area as I tried to set up the stand). OK I thought no bother I have lots of emails about my account from TFL its bound to be in there. After checking all emails I realized it was not there so I tried the phone line and that was a few more minutes I won’t get back. I love when IVR is designed specifically to never let you connect to a person!

After a failed phone call to resolve I thought no problem I have a few emails I will set up a new account. Bear in mind all the time the National Audit Office is busy filling up with 200 people (prospective customers as a sponsor) who I really should be speaking to not trying to give someone £14 who clearly does not want it. So I tried setting a new account up and got the option of adding my card at the same time. Excellent I thought I need to pay so that is perfect. After filling in the account details, card details, inside leg measurement on a Wi-Fi struggling under 200 users accessing on multiple devices, I was presented with a really helpful error message something like sorry we haven’t been able to set up your account try again. No meaningful error no clue as to what went wrong or what I did wrong.

By this time the stress levels are reaching the ceiling. More people arriving, more missed opportunities for useful conversations. Fortunately, I calmed down and thought about the problem OK I work in IT and processes what could have gone wrong? I thought calmly and rationally and thought maybe it’s the card details. Maybe I used the same card last time and maybe it doesn’t like it. OK I will try a new account without linking a card. Finally, success and now I could pay the £14 charge. I don’t know if it was the card details or just a coincidence this second attempt worked. How much waste is there in this process? How much customer value to the whole interaction? How did I feel as a customer?

I have to say that how big TFL is and how much revenue it generates it still really needs to look at its processes. I have no doubt it spent a lot of money on its online services but it needs to look at the customer value and user experience. All this effort to pay my charge. Password reset and logging into an account need to be much better than this in this day and age. TFL you need to improve your processes, ENGAGE™ can help you contact us for more information. I would normally anonymise the details but because of the transaction this is not possible.

The second bad process was related to my accommodation. I booked through a well-known online booking agent and the process was seamless. Excellent, all booked, paid for, invoice received and forwarded to the accountants. All this was done weeks in advance and I decided to buy the parking (£25 for the night) to make it easier despite it being massively expensive. I received an email confirmation from the booking agent and six emails (3 lots of the same 2 emails) from the accommodation provider. None of the 7 emails I received had a breakdown of the charge just the total amount but I wasn’t worried as this was a simple transaction, a room booking, I have done this in many places, many times before with remarkable success rates even if I do say so myself.

I arrived at the place after a long drive tired and in a hurry to get to a business meeting due to the traffic. First problem was I found the place straight away but there was nowhere to stop outside. Driving round the block a couple of times I could not find the parking. So I found a safe place to stop and called them. The main office staff were very helpful ‘car park is at the rear in x road but its round a one-way street, do you know London, no, how about I give you a postcode, OK I say, just go around the back, press the intercom, speak to the reception and they will let you in’. Easy punch the code into sat nav and find the entrance go up to the barriers and press the intercom. ‘We can’t let you in to the car park until you check in’ was the response. I mentioned the advice from the office but was told ‘if we let you in you won’t be able to get out of the car park without a pass’. You need to park and come to reception and check in. Fortunately I found a space relatively close but slightly beyond the car park (meaning another trip around the block). I parked and walked to find the office.

The apartments had 3 or 4 buildings so it wasn’t easy to find and I managed to find the office. Unfortunately it was the office and not the reception ‘the reception is in the building over there on the right press the intercom and they will let you in’. I found the building and pressed the intercom only to be told ‘this is the south building you need to go to the west building’.

Fortunately, a couple of residents came and pointed me in the right direction to the much-fabled reception. I have now found the holy grail and my quest is now over (or so I thought but the game had just begun). Next steps I have entered the building and I can see reception 2 people behind the desk and one customer so I step up to the available person tell them I am here to check in and I spoke to them from the car park and south building intercom. The person grunts back at me and points to the other person and tells me to check in there. Another 10 minute wait whilst the other customer is sorted out (this customer also appears to be having a very smooth interaction with the staff). I finally get served and check my watch (no problem 15 minutes of my 30 minutes parking left), now for check in, its all plain sailing from here, after all I prepaid for the room how hard can it be?. Give photo proof of ID (why?), which is photocopied for prosperity(not sure I like a photocopy of my driving licence being on file), get handed 4 pages of terms and conditions to sign and be copied, ‘I need to put a £500 reserve on your credit card sir’ (why, this is self-catering and no bar or other service available, also none of the 7 emails mentioned this), nervous check of the watch fine I have 10 more minutes and I am also nearly finished or so I thought. ‘You haven’t paid for parking, I have no record of this’ ok no problem I have 7 emails and now the problem of lack of breakdown on those emails hits home. After another few minutes’ pass checking these I am now getting perilously close to the end of my parking. Fortunately I log into my booking agent website and manage to find the breakdown on the booking (though not on their email!) proof of parking success check in now completed collect £200 and pass go! Not quite just a quick screen grab of the phone and email to the reception and I can almost check in. Final step here is your key and the pass to get into the car park and to your accommodation through the internal car park doors. Final message from reception you are in this room in the West building and your car park space number is x make sure you park in that space.

OK it’s taken a while but I am now walking around the buildings and back to my car a minute to go so hopefully no ticket.

Back to the car, no ticket, final trip round the block and up to the car park gate. Put my token to the reader which opens the pedestrian gate. On the intercom again and speak to the happy go lucky reception staff who open the gate (remember they wouldn’t do that before because I needed to check in first or I would be stuck in the car park with no way to get out). In the underground car park which is massive with hundreds of numbered spaces and no signs indicating which way certain numbers are. Find my way to my allotted space x eventually guess what there is a car in it! By this time fed up and late I decide I will pick another space marked for the company managing the apartments. Next challenge find the entrance to West building, massive underground car park, no signs on doors except the ones for bins, electric etc. The doors for the apartments are not visible from the car park until you turn the corner and find them. Long walks around the car park before I find the door for West building (although it doesn’t say that) and it lets me in. I go to the room which is great. Call reception quickly to say I parked in x not x because another car was there ‘oh OK’ is the reply.

Quick change and I can go out to my meeting 40 minutes late in all from getting to the building it took about 1 hour 45 minutes to get to my room. As a footnote I later went down to the car then out of the car park entrance on foot as I had the magical key, the pedestrian gate had a push button exit and no need for the key!

How can so much waste exist in such a simple process? I believe this was a combination of bad process and bad staff or training but still it was dire. So many failures at every step of the way and so easy to improve that process. Although I have not named you x company I have sent you a link to this blog. In the 4 emails you sent to me 1 minute apart asking for feedback I hope this is useful to you. You need to improve your processes, ENGAGE™ can help you contact us for more information.

So, it got me thinking about quite how many bad processes we experience as customers every day. I am intrigued to hear about your experiences, to start to map some of them and improve them. I want to demonstrate with real life examples how much a process can be improved with lean thinking and using the ENGAGE™ tools. I am not looking for your work examples as we have many of these and many conversations about those on a daily basis with our users I am really looking for those examples you experience as a customer of the private or public sector processes.

Why bother? To give you a small incentive to help me I thought that we can make it a competition.

 Win a Fitbit Surge

I will run the competition until the end of March 2017. The prize is a Fitbit Surge size small which will be awarded to the best (worst) process example. I am looking for the sort of detail given in the examples above. This will enable the building of your customer journey process maps and the ability to redesign to deliver a customer value focused “To Be” process, eliminating the waste. The judges of the competition will be myself and Dutch colleagues from ENGAGE™ who will be reviewing the entries and picking the best example. We will then re-engineer the process and publish the outcomes in a later blog. Please email your entries to admin@weareleanandagile.com or use the button below, and you can enter as many examples as you wish.

Enter now
The National Audit Office London

The National Audit Office in Buckingham Palace Road

Finally, I can get to my first UKGovCampX (cheers and applause, how have I missed the first 9?) this event was held in the rather impressive building and address of the National Audit Office in Buckingham Palace Road. I turned up to the building early at 8.30am to get set up. These events we sponsor as a new company are very important to us to allow people to see our product which is new to the UK. As I work directly in and with the public and private sector I always attend these events with two hats on, the first as a sponsor to show our excellent products/services but the second and most important as a participant. As well as training budgets being slashed travel to events such as these have been severely restricted certainly in the Local Authority sector. These types of events are vital to helping you crowdsource solutions to your problems, learn from other colleagues/projects lessons and even solve problems you didn’t even know you had yet. I always ensure I try take the learning and share it when I return to the office to highlight the value of the event.

I was met at the building by some of the GovCamp makers and huge thanks go out to these guys for volunteering and making a great event happen. GovCamp is different to some other events in that it is held on a Saturday, so all the volunteers and participants are giving up a weekend day and traveling to the London venue on their own time (ok maybe some were allowed the time by their bosses but I am sure most weren’t). So much for lazy jobsworth public servants! 200+ participants, makers and sponsors with a diversity of attendees from a 3-month-old to a private secretary drawn from local and central government. Talking to GovCamp veteran’s I was amazed at the growth of the event and the demand for tickets. I think given the demand and the quality/value of the sessions maybe the time has come to make it a 2-day event or maybe live streaming sessions so that more participants can take part? It’s a credit to the event that one of the sessions was a future of GovCamp session where passionate participants talked about how they can grow and improve the event. I thought the event excellent and the energy was amazing in the venue.

The day is made up of 40 sessions running 8 at a time and is in an unconference format.

The day started and I was a bit wary as often (even as a sponsor I say this) participants are nervous about pitching sessions and they can be a bit sponsor sales pitch led. I have no problem with sales pitches but I gain the most at these sessions from topics aimed at real problems and resolutions. I needn’t have worried the day started with an introduction about the format and then people were asked to line up and pitch. The line for pitching was huge and more than 40 pitches were given so many that the sessions needed to be combined and there was barely a sponsor among them. Even the odd sponsor pitch was based around adding value rather than pushing products. The makers were excellent and handled the logistics of this big event very well.

So, 40 sessions agreed and the details shared instantly online via google docs. Because the event was so well documented and shared I don’t need to detail the sessions here instead please have a look at the blogs from each session and twitter conversations here there will be topics that will help you and provide those little gems of information or learning. I found the sheer number of sessions difficult with 8 options each session I was stuck with at least 2 options for every session due to the quality and relevance of the pitches. That’s a nice problem to have though.

A few potted highlights for me include a good session on how R&D can be built into government departments and pass the tabloid test, a huge number of conversations on individual topics I am involved in developing solutions and a fantastic conversation with Ben Fowkes from Delib about how software suppliers can really add value for their customers. For me as a newbie to the software selling game it was a really interesting discussion about non-traditional approaches. Having spoken to Ben I can thoroughly recommend you take a look at Delib products if you are looking to really engage and connect with your customers. I made connections with people I would never have had the chance to in my day to day work which will provide invaluable in the future. Another highlight for me was some of the excellent business improvement posters around the building from the National Audit Office business improvement team and some great uses of employee personas to engage their staff.

I was gutted to miss both of the sessions before and after the event in the pub which would have been opportunities for more learning and development albeit probably a bit more off the wall but that is what I like! Unfortunately, straight after the event I had to leave to take the long drive back to sunny Torquay. Huge thanks to my maker friend from the Northern Isles who was generous enough to give me a local gift to sample after my journey in my GovCamp water bottle. No names here just in case you are right about the legalities.

So, that’s it for GovCamp for the year but I will be back next time for sure. Following the great day I had it made me resolve to attend as many of these events as I can and to make sure I get back to LocalGovCamp this year. I am going to make sure I try GovCamp Scotland and GovCamp Cymru. I would really like to see a LeanCamp UK event where us process geeks can have our day!

See you all soon.

Andrew Sandford
Andrew Sandford Director
Agile guru and process evangelist

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