Time tracking made easy: how to automate data entry

Businesses either they keep up with the fast pace in which the IT landscape expands, or they get more weighed down by the hour by error-prone, time-consuming manual work.

Time tracking made easy: how to automate data entry

Businesses in the financial industry are at a crossroads. Either they keep up with the fast pace in which the IT landscape expands, or they get more weighed down by the hour by error-prone, time-consuming manual work. Either they sink, or they swim.

Not in the financial industry ourselves, but just as aware of the numerous advantages IT solutions can provide, we're always on the lookout for ways to improve our business processes.

And it was just a matter of time before we understood, that co-designing our internal processes with the people at the heart of it is the golden ticket to accelerating business outcomes.

The Service Design Workshop was born.

Why would anyone need a Service Design Workshop?

As of late, design thinking isn't just a buzzword anymore. People have come to understand that design thinking is a form of solution-focused thinking, also applicable in business and social contexts, that constantly produces constructive future results by allowing problems and solutions of a given process to co-evolve.

With technology and digital solutions on the rise, businesses have also come to understand that respecting a human-centered design for their products and/or services is the only way to thrive or even survive on the market.

Given its structured approach, the Service Design Workshop provides a birds-eye view of the given process and an in-depth view of the inefficient operations that slow it down. The concept of the Service Design Workshop is based on co-designing a company's internal processes with its users - the employees, empowering them to effectively contribute to the company's future.

How does the Service Design Workshop work?

Step 1. Lay it all out

First things first: break the ice.

This is not the time for ideas, this certainly isn't the time for assumptions. It's the time for listening to our colleague(s) talking about their day: their tasks, their responsibilities, their needs, the people they work with and their needs, and the pains of making it all work.

It's very important for the person(s) conducting the workshop to understand exactly what the participant's job entails. Where there's smoke, there's fire. And where there's a problem, there's an opportunity to make it all work better.

SDW Step 1. Checklist:

We have our SDW materials ready: the stakeholders map, the service design map, and the opportunity ranking sheet

We have our sticky notes ready

We use the sticky notes to - you guessed it - take notes of the story that unfolds in front of us

SDW Tip:

Sticky notes are the best option for writing stuff down during the workshop. They're small, so you'll be quick in writing down the essentials. They're also perfect for filling out the workshop materials with the needed info.

Step 2. Identify the stakeholders

As mentioned earlier, the participants of the workshop talk about their work and the people they have to conduct it with. Those people are what we call stakeholders. They are involved in the process we're analyzing; they have stakes in resolving the issues they usually come across.

SDW Step 2 Checklist:

We write down all the job roles the participant interacts with in order to get their job done

Then we go on to pinpoint these job roles on the stakeholders map, which consists of two axis; somewhere in between those two axis, we'll find a spot for every stakeholder depending on how supportive or detracting they are of making changes to the process and on how active or passive they are within the process

By the way: the stakeholders map, or any other materials you're using within the Service Design Workshop, can be as quick-and-dirty as this:

We'll draw a circle around the people with the biggest stakes in the process: the people who are most active within the process and who are most supportive of bringing (positive) changes to the process

SDW Tip:

If the people with the biggest stakes in the process would all participate in the Service Design Workshop, that'd be great.

This way we can be sure that we've covered the entire process and that we aren't biased in any way.

Step 3. Map out the work process

It's time to get down to work with the heaviest map of them all: the service design map. Sticky notes in hand, we map out all of the tasks that emerge for the participants in the given process, in the order of their appearance.

Let your creativity unfold and we promise, you won't fall short of solutions.

It's what we did when we undertook a Service Design Workshop with Cristina, a fellow business analyst of ours. Mainly, she was concerned about the high amount of manual work dedicated to time tracking activities, which made her keep her eyes less on the prize, and more on the clock.

PS: real-timeboard is one of our favorite tools for digitally filling out the service design map on the spot.

Some of the solutions we came up with in this Service Design Workshop were:

For the company to invest in time & task management trainings for the employees involved in this process,

A Lean 6 Sigma project for operational excellence, for the company to identify and eliminate bottlenecks, thus reducing waste,

Using the FindTime Office365 app for efficient group meetings scheduling

A time tracking automation to remove at least some of the error-prone, time-consuming manual work businesses nowadays can no longer afford to be slowed down by

As you can see, the Service Design Workshop is not exclusively focused on digital solutions. But we all know that it's best to let intelligent process automation work its magic where it's possible.

Step 4. Rank the opportunities

Part of the beauty of the Service Design Workshop is working with different perspectives; the results are quite objective, unbiased solutions.

SDW Step 4 Checklist:

We make a list of the opportunities that came up during the previous step

Everyone involved in the workshop grades the importance and urgency of every opportunity

SDW Tip:

Though the emerging solutions will impact all of the stakeholders of the process, some solutions will directly affect some people more than others. It's important for everyone involved in the workshop to understand the proposed solutions entirely.

Step 5. Get prototyping

By the size of that sticky note you can probably tell that, after using the opportunity ranking sheet, we decided to implement the intelligent process automation solution first: the time tracking automation. It would pull activities from calendar and notes apps the people use, ask them for any edits necessary, and push the data to the systems that need it.