The Guide Dogs charity is embarking on a major rethink in the way it runs as part of a business process management programme (BPM) to modernise the 80 year old organisation. Cliff Saran reports.
There are 360,000 blind and partially sighted people in the UK, and 180,000 of them never leave home without a volunteer. In the UK The Guide Dogs services 7000 blind and partially sighted people each year.
To help more people - as in to provide dogs to more blind and partially sighted "customers or clients" - it needed to modernise and improve efficiency.
Change programme director, Jenny Cook, said The Guide Dogs needed to become efficient to reach more people.
“It also needs to be relevant for the next 80 years to support blind and partially sighted people. We wanted to rework our strategy so the dog is part of a mobility solution. Some people don't necessarily want a dog. They may prefer an infrared red cane.”
Adam Fisher, CIO at The Guide Dogs, said BPM involves three phases. First, build a library of processes and make sure everyone can access them. The second stage would be to use push technology to push out the processes to everyone. He said, “Once people can get changes of processes on the fly, then you can start to measure to what extent the processes are being used.” This is the third phase.
“We had been discussing for a long time what our requirements were in terms of BPM. We are in the process of implementing a full BPM package and designed a centre of excellence.”
He said, “We are looking at delivering a number of services in addition to guide dogs. We are looking to be more collaboration with other organisations, so we need to look at our online systems and start to think about how they should look to meet our aspirations in terms of collaboration.
In particular he said The Guide Dogs is looking at client centricity. “We are keen to make sure our service users are central to everything. We want to make sure IT function is seen as a strategic asset.
The organisation is cleaning up 3000 databases, delivering data governance, and starting a new CRM project. He said, “The CRM platform will allow us to do a great deal more. It will be an in-house system, which will be cost-effective and more responsive. I expect we will take 12 months to implement it.”
The Guide Dogs previously relied on external consultants but Fisher said the in-house team has software development expertise. “We will look at more adapting and augmenting the team with new skills. I am optimistic we will be able to cover the new work without the need to use external experts.”
Speaking at the Gartner Business Process Management summit in London, she said, "There were 1000 staff and 10,000 volunteers. Our key process is the dog and it relies on a volunteer to spend a year puppy walking."
With a new CEO, Richard Leeman, The Guide Dogs launched a new strategy in 2010, Cook said. "We needed reconfigure the entire organisation. We had to identify processes to change.” However, unlike corporate BPM programmes, Cook said, "It was not about cutting the bottom line, but reallocating resources to reach more people. The change needed to focus on social benefits."
Starting with a new business plan
The Guide Dogs began its BPM programme with what Cook describes as clear statement of vision and purpose. "The starting point was to build a strategy map and scorecard."
The first point on the scorecard was finance. "Our outcome was about benefit. We had to ensure we have enough donations."
The scorecard drove the BPM work. "We pulled a core team of five people to drive transformation, with limited use of consultants, so staff could feel proud they owned the process." The core team had a BPM expert who developed the strategy, map and workshops. Cook said this was beneficial, as it meant someone on the team understood what the organisation was trying to achieve and its culture.
Consultancy firm PA was brought in to look at current processes in 2011. However, The Guide Dogs designed the new processes. “We mapped 2000 processes in 4 months of which 60% were carried across. We dropped 20% and introduced 20% new processes. Some of the existing processes were good. Some needed to be changed. We also had to change the organisational structure and how we organise data.” On top of this, Cook said The Guide Dogs also reviewed its IT strategy.
The processes were reviewed with 200 staff using the strategy map The Guide Dogs had developed. She added: “We then rewrote 500 job descriptions and redesigned the organisation to put a lot more resources at the front line, in order to deal to support blind people in the community.”
Staff were mapped to new roles leading to 32 voluntary redundancies.
The IT behind BPM
The Guide Dogs was fortunate to be donated business process discovery software from Nimbus Partners, a UK company now owned by Tibco. Cook said the firm gave The Guide Dogs the software and expertise needed to help it deliver the BPM programme very quickly. Nimbus allowed The Guide Dogs to author and store the processes and relevant information like the process owner in one place. It also built a real time hierarchical diagram showing the processes and their relationships.
The charity also looked at the role of IT function and established a new IT Management Board – to balance overall versus departmental demand and set direction and budgets.
Cook said, “We stopped a lot of projects, some were put on hold. Our IT was all over the place. She said IT has now been centralised, and the new IT board is controlling what The Guide Dogs needs from an IT perspective. “We can see the IT landscape we need to support our delivery to clients.” How the organisation manages data will be critical for its future development plans.
Getting staff on board
Once the organisational restructuring was in place, The Guide Dogs needed to give its people time to reflect. “We spent a few months consulting with all staff. We also made changes based on the feedback we got back from staff.”
After the planning stage, The Guide Dogs embarked on a “massive roadshow” across 30 locations in the UK, starting with the staff, Cook explained. “We had some processes that were good and some needed changed. If we got the staff on side, we would get the stakeholders [to support the strategy too].” The Guide Dogs also ran volunteering presentations on the new processes and structural changes.
In January 2012 every member of staff at The Guide Dogs started their new jobs using the new business processes and organisational structure.