INTERVIEW – In today’s Q&A, we learn how Lean Thinking is supporting the digital transformation of the public administration of the African country of Benin.
Interviewee: Ornella Diane Semondji, Service Desk Supervisor, ASSI – Benin
Planet Lean: Please introduce the organization and in particular the role of the Service Desk.
ASSI: The Agency for Information Services and Systems (Agence des Services et Systèmes d’information – ASSI) is a government agency that has been engaged in the digital transformation of Benin since 2016. With our work, we strive to support the creation of a smarter public administration through new digital solutions to facilitate and improve the user experience.
ASSI supports the Beninese administration in putting public services online, such as criminal records, passport appointments, certificates of non-bankruptcy, and so on. To this end, ASSI has set up a Service Desk that assists citizens who are encountering difficulties when using its online public services. In the process of digitizing it, ASSI also supports the Beninese administration in the governance of their IT system.
PL: What problems were you experiencing before applying Lean IT principles and techniques? What was the problem you wanted to solve?
ASSI: We were consistently confronted with organizational difficulties that didn’t allow us to develop a clear definition of the objectives we wanted to achieve, establish a proper methodology (through the standardization of processes) that we could use to manage the different types of requests we receive, and extrapolate clear stats on the work we were doing. We had no system in place for managing the incoming flow of requests.
We also observed (also thanks to several Voice of the Customer interviews) variability in processing times, long lead-times to resolve requests, unhappy customers, and a rate of missed calls of 50%. The scoring we got from the interviews averaged at 6.6/10 for citizens and 7.4/10 for Agency workers.
PL: What did you do to tackle the problem?
ASSI: We applied lean IT and Agile principles and techniques, which we learned during training. Our lean journey started with a lean coach collecting data during seven weeks at the gemba.
Over the course of a three-day workshop, we carried out several exercises. These included a simulation in which we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes or had to find the right strategy to manage the input flow. Through these activities, we learned to identify our problems (and the waste that was hiding in our processes) and committed to solving them. Whether it was identifying the root cause of a major incident, increasing our response rate for calls or eliminating delays in responding to requests, we left the workshop with a new vision: to have customer satisfaction as the guiding star of our work.
Supported by a coach, we developed and implemented new practices. We started deploying PDCA thinking to find the causes of the discrepancies we saw in our process and to drastically reduce them. We have also made the daily monitoring of indicators a requirement, so as to ensure that we never stray from our Northern Star: customer satisfaction.
PL: What tools and principles were most important to the project?
ASSI: We have applied problem solving using the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) approach, but also introduced visual management and flow management in our operations. These days we constantly look for waste in our processes and always have the Voice of the Customer guide our moves (the KPIs we track include customer satisfaction, productivity, request times, lost calls rate, email and WhatsApp stock, volume of entries/exits and pending requests).
PL: What was the impact of lean on your performance?
ASSI: The improvements we have made to our processes have led to a drop in the lost calls rate from 50% to 25% in less than a month. We are currently working to reach our target of below 10%. We have also implemented a system called “Syslog” to help us identify the root cause of critical incidents on our servers. To achieve our daily target, we have begun to organize ourselves around the incoming flow of requests, which we discuss daily during our morning meeting. Thanks to the VOC exercise we carry out weekly, the team takes the actions that matter the most in fulfilling customer needs.
The most important results we have achieved are a boost in customer satisfaction and productivity. Customer satisfaction, for example, was 6.6/10 in September 2021 (before we introduced lean) while it is now 8.2/10.
In Lean Thinking, we have found a new management methodology that allows us to ensure that our work at ASSI creates value in a consistent and transparent manner. Our perception of the work has greatly improved, and we have learned how to better assign our resources.
PL: Was it difficult to get people to understand the new way of working?
ASSI: The introduction of lean was not difficult to understand for our people, even though – like with any change – it took a little time and energy to learn the new methodology and procedures.
Here’s what some of our colleagues told us…
@Anziz Adehan, Project Manager for Dematerialization: “When I think about Lean management, I think about visual management, waste reduction and productivity improvement. With Lean Management, I can clearly see end-to-end tasks in a better way.”
@Amon Djossou, Electric Engineer: “To me, Lean is about improving productivity and findind a better way to identify the root cause of a problem.”
@Saïd Jekinnou, Systems Engineer: “Lean helps a lot with to team productivity. It enables the team to perform better, and allows us to know the customers needs at all times. We can formulate hypotheses that will lead us to the identification of the real cause of any issue.”
@Emile Ainamon Gannan, Support Technician at the Service Desk: “Lean leads to better workflow control and ensures we can effectively face any problem we may encounter during our work.”
@Lati Yaya, Project Manager of Dematerialization: “As a management philosophy, lean advocates for autonomy and trust in people. By giving us a clear understanding of the value we are after, lean allows us to focus on customer satisfaction in a process of continuous improvement while allowing for a better use of the organization’s resources.”
PL: What was the biggest lesson you learned?
ASSI: We have begun to see a shift in mindset at ASSI. We have learned that by working together we can provide a service of impeccable quality and continuously improve our performance. If we work together, we can succeed together.
Thanks to lean management, we have changed the Service Center’s main mission, which is now to ensure customer satisfaction through a service of the highest quality. This is why the team now prioritizes identifying problems and finding solutions so that we can limit the number of inconveniences for the users of our e-services.
PL: What are the next steps in your transformation?
ASSI: We have a long way to go, of course. As we strive to continue to improve our processes, reach ever higher levels of customer satisfaction and become a model organization, we know we need to work hard to turn the countermeasures identified during problem solving into our new standards. It’s the only way to make our results sustainable. We also think we’ll benefit from automating the collecting and sharing of KPIs.
Ornella Diane Semondji is Service Desk Supervisor at ASSI in Benin.