Capturing industry knowledge with validated experts and making it available is the future.
McKinsey & Company Insights – by Albert Bollard, Clark Durant, Rohit Sood, and Matt Tobelmann
Improving operations and client experience in B2B organizations is hard because they rely so heavily on highly skilled experts. But those experts can also be the source of a solution.
Think back 20 years. Buying a mortgage or filing an insurance claim was difficult and time consuming for almost everyone: days of phone calls and appointments, mistakes to correct, and duplicates to send in the mail.
Then a few leading companies started giving consumers what they wanted within days or even minutes rather than weeks. Faster processes also had to be more reliable and easier to understand. And now consumers can file a medical claim or apply for a basic loan with just a few taps on a mobile phone, and check the status at any time with a couple of more taps.
The value these leaders created was vast. For many of them, what made it possible were the four integrated disciplines of lean management. The combination of delivering value efficiently, enabling colleagues to contribute their best, discovering better ways of working, and aligning strategy and purpose to day-to-day work helped these organizations perform better on multiple indicators at once: shorter turnarounds and increased accuracy and higher employee engagement and faster adaptation to the digital world. Early leaps in performance were followed by consistent increases year after year.
What kind of value could B2B and other expertise-heavy organizations—from law firms or utilities to financial-information providers and risk-management departments—create if their processes were as transparent, reliable, and time sensitive as these consumer leaders?
Yet even organizations that recognize the threat from potential disrupters—particularly those offering the latest digital tools—often remain unmoved, citing the complexity and expertise that specialized sectors require. “We aren’t a factory or call center. Our work requires unique insights from experienced, credentialed professionals. Treating each project as unique is a big part of our value to customers.” That, in a nutshell, is why changing expert organizations is so hard. Despite what some may believe, what experts do really is a hard-to-define art—at least some of the time—and that makes experts skeptical of ideas that try to make their work more “efficient.”
Nevertheless, there’s also a science to expertise. That means that even in the most complex, bespoke projects, a lot of the work is actually standard—or could be. That’s where the insights underpinning lean management can help. The problem is identifying those standard elements, understanding them, and improving them, so that experts can spend more of their time on the art—while clients get an improved experience and the organization can improve its strategy.
Who better to solve the problem than the experts themselves? That’s what a few standouts have discovered. Aiming experts’ intellectual firepower at the organization’s own practices can lead to unexpected operational breakthroughs. A financial information provider, for example, took only four months to reduce its backlog of documentation issues by about 70 percent, and its time to market by 15 to 20 percent (exhibit).