Rapid process improvement cuts NDIS backlog and improves throughput
A regional provider of disability services faced challenges in processing schedules of support with volumes being driven from a combination of growth for new customers, support variations, plus business as usual rollovers. A central team was responsible for funding, scheduling and processing as well as coordinating on rostering impacts, all with a highly manual process based on printed and signed customer documents with significant complexities in case mix, domain knowledge required, handoffs and dependencies, partial or wrong upstream information, and bottlenecks at several stages in the process.
The problems with process efficiency were directly contributing to the backlog, where delays and lead times meant an ever-increasing backlog that resulted in further delays, often extending to several months. This backlog has developed on several occasions in the recent past, and the ordinary response to address it through additional labour (via temporary staffing) had not effectively solved the issue and was not seen as viable in this most recent case.
Exent were engaged to solve this backlog issue and redesign the process to completely address systemic issues now and into the future. Exent received a strong mandate, with endorsement and very active daily engagement from the executive team as well as an aggressive timeframe of four weeks to have the backlog gone and process issues solved.
We took a ‘blitz’ approach – Exent terminology for a rapid diagnostic, conducted in 48 hours, across the various dimensions of process and procedure, team and capability, work design, data and information quality, policies and controls, technology platforms and automation potential. This blitz was followed up with a series of significant process improvements all conducted largely in parallel, with some natural prioritisation and sequencing, delivering a very rapid intervention that began to attack backlog volumes by the second week.
- Lean process analysis and redesign, eliminating non-value add overhead steps and simplifying branching and hand-offs
- Queue & status flow redesign to reflect case complexity and type, optimising lead times and touch times for a variety of simpler cases
- Implementing exception management with case pending and reason coding to better identify and solve upstream issues as part of a single team approach to solving root causes
- Work redesign reflecting seniority in the team and domain expertise, keeping experts focussed on the most critical cases that leverage their expertise
- Built and implemented a case flow tracker, rapidly in Excel, which was instrumental in tracking cases at all stages, automating the allocation and management of work, reporting on productivity and ensuring service levels could be managed. This tracker served as a de facto case management solution.
- Developed detailed written procedures in both MS Word and promapp
- Developed detailed dashboards and reporting that highlighted queue and status bottlenecks, productivity across team, exceptions and
- Developed a lean ‘ways of working’ with formalised takt time (two cases each hour, every hour) balanced with demand volumes, daily stand-ups, training and one point lessons and a roaming coach who could rapidly address delays for team members
- Increased capacity with new temporary staff for several weeks to drive backlog numbers down, and then taper off to a core team based on routine demand.
- Management visibility of and action on upstream data or process issues with weekly management reporting on all aspects of performance to ensure complete alignment
This engagement was delivered in seven weeks with a single ‘Blitz’ team comprised of 2.5 Exent consultants and 2-3 client representatives working closely as key SMEs.
Case backlog began to decline from the second week onwards, responding to the earliest changes to work queue and pend changes, and continued to decline from 420 cases to 30 cases in under seven weeks – an excellent outcomes and one that was recognised by team members, executives and upstream stakeholders alike.
Most importantly, the backlog has remained at around 30 cases in total (reflecting consistent demand) for over 10 months since project closure, despite several new case types and increased volumes. The automated case management tool has been extended several times and remains pivotal in managing work, productivity and performance in this central team.