In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about measuring process activities as part of project controls for measuring and improving efficiency and productivity. So, what are process activities and why should we monitor and measure their efficiencies?
Process activities are the set of business processes that do not directly contribute to the production of a subunit. This is in contrast to production activities that directly contribute to the production. As a simple example, painting a wall is a production activity while filling out a report about it is a business process activity. Similarly, taking a picture to document a finished work is a process activity because it does not contribute to the production of the unit.
Examples of process activities include business processes such as daily logs, communication, documentation, review, RFI, and submittal processes. These activities are crucial for the successful completion of projects and are often part of production processes, but they do not directly contribute to the actual production.
There are several reasons why a construction firm may want to monitor, measure and analyze its process activities as part of its project controls. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that business processes are what an organization puts in place to make it more efficient. Therefore, if a construction firm wants to improve its efficiency, it only makes sense that it does so by measuring the efficiencies of its business processes.
A compelling reason for measuring the efficiency of processes activities is due to the scale of their impact. A business process is usually used across a large swath of an organization and improving it can have multiplicative effect throughout the organization. In other words, measuring and improving them provides the biggest bang for the buck. For instance, a firm is likely to use the same or similar RFI process regardless of the project. Measuring and improving the efficiency of its RFI process is likely to have a positive impact on all its projects.
Furthermore, process activities also have the benefits of serving as yardsticks to benchmark and compare the performance of various segments of an organization, such as a division, a project or a production process. This is because a business process is generally designed to be consistent throughout the entire organization and any variation in its performance by a segment can be attributed to the segment. For example, if an analysis of the RFI process reveals that the average RFI closure time is longer than average for a project, it may give us some insight into the project.
An additional reason for measuring process activities is because they may be used as proxies for measuring production activities when measuring production activities is not possible. This is because business processes activities are often sprinkled throughout and intertwined with production activities and may be used to gauge the efficiency of the production activities they encapsulate. As a simple example, if a production process includes documentation steps throughout the process, the time between these steps may serve as good proxies for the time it takes to do parts (or all) of the production.
I believe the most compelling reason is, process activities are often the easiest type of activities to measure because we may already be collecting the data needed to do so. For example, as part of RFI documents, most construction firms likely already have the data necessary to analyze their RFI process. So, if the data is already there and can have a significant impact on your business process, what could be more compelling than using them as part of your construction project controls?