By Scott Schneider

Reengineering –a multi-step process in which organizations critically examine their internal work processes, compare them to those of known industry leaders, and plan ways to radically redesign them.  Reengineering is a structured method for an organization to examine its fundamental goals and redesign itself to meet those goals. 

meetingSurely one of the most difficult puzzles for the public sector is how to build lasting institutions of government that will continue to fulfill their purpose from one generation to another.  In recent times, reengineering has been proven an effective tool in the private sector, yet in the public sector few reengineering steps have been taken.  There is no universal answer to explain the public sectors reluctance. It could be financial, legal, personnel, or institutional.  It takes longer for public agencies at local, state, and national levels to implement reengineering projects.
Public sector employees cannot contend with the possibility of mistakes, failures, or risks.  The political environment has positioned a greater focus on lobbying and interventions by elected officials, which has made it cumbersome to set and prioritize objectives.  There is an insufficient level of empowerment given to staff to support any redesign projects.
Public sector employees are constantly under scrutiny, have less decision making autonomy, adhere to more rules and regulations, and work in constrained environments which leads to formal regulations.  The money delegated to them has “tax dollars at work” stamped all over it.
The general public has expectations that public officials and agencies must always be fair, responsive, and honest. As a result of these external influences, the public sector has not embraced reengineering.  It has less to do with the lack of commitment.  The focal point is social and political environments, which have acted as a “pressure cooker.”
There has been greater difficulty for public sector employees to justify change since the majority of the services rendered are subsidized. In addition, because the public sector lacks adequate performance benchmarks, it has become problematic to evaluate impact or quantify any potential improvements as a result of reengineering.  Also, because of the frequent turnover at the managerial level, it has been increasingly difficult to obtain sustainability.
In addition, public employees are subjected to multiple ‘checks and balances’ by authorized institutions which has created difficulties in obtaining approval for a reengineering project. Change can be gradual.  Time must be mandated for various individuals and departments to ensure that any proposal is representative of the people.
Employees of the public sector rely on appropriations.  The ability to use financial incentives is limited.  They have a monopoly in providing mandatory services which lowers any incentive to reengineer or improve operating efficiency.  This has created difficulties in devising incentives for individual performance that has led to lower work satisfaction, lower productivity, and lower organizational commitment to reduce costs.
Reengineering services means meeting the demands for better work performance. Most individuals fear change.  For reengineering to take form involves revamping the entire organizational structure.  This equates to new job responsibilities, new work flows, enhanced information systems, proper training and retraining, and development of new tools to name a few.  Because of all these steps that need to be taken into consideration, many individuals avoid changing existing systems and models to cater to our rapidly changing environments.
In order to gain wider acceptance we must clear away the old bureaucratic models (which have always been used to resist change) and instead take full advantage of the resources of information and communication technology.From that point, public sector employees can work on finding a fit between the ideas of reengineering and the organizations specific needs by method of a formal assessment.  Factors that must be adhered to in order to gain wider acceptance include clearly defining goals, creating an incentive structure, justifying change, clarifying important constraints, identifying key internal conflicts, defining performance measures, establishing performance data, and obtaining detailed qualitative and quantitative data to validate this.  Most importantly, each organizational entity must maintain a consistent vision for change.  They must understand what processes are involved in future planning.
It starts with limiting the layers of authority and understanding our existing state.  Most people prefer “one stop service” where they can obtain information that would traditionally involve visiting multiple departments for each process.  The savings by eliminating unnecessary work processes (which can be done electronically or face to face) will improve public sector employee morale and customer satisfaction.  Organizing these mundane tasks in shorter phases will simplify the process and efficiency and quality can be measured simultaneously.  If the public is kept up-to-date and appropriate development indicators disseminate information appropriately, the application of reengineering in the public sector might not be so far fetched.
Data has many innovative ways to utilize information and knowledge in order to succeed from an evaluation or communication standpoint.  To manage data properly involves understanding its roles, its properties, the opportunities its offers, and the steps that must be taken to exploit those opportunities.
Before evaluation and communication of data can transpire, managers must find ways to promote effective and efficient usage of their individualized data to custom meet the needs of the organization.  This can be achieved by providing timely access to the data systems or improve upon the quality of the data systems being used on a daily basis.  The basic framework for this exercise involves identifying the users who access the data, identifying their needs, monitoring their usage patterns, and identifying what kind of data is needed.
In order to obtain a comprehensive evaluation, public managers must familiarize themselves with the versatility of data.  Improvement opportunities and new business ventures by acquiring a macro approach can lead to more effective evaluation methods.  Many organizations are truly unaware of their “hidden treasures” because they equate data to limited confined areas.  Data’s values are dependent upon specific core applications that are oftentimes disregarded.
Typically, most individuals do not take into consideration that data is derived from a tremendous number of sources.  Also, data values change and new data is created as a direct result of everyday business transactions.  Evaluation methods may be strenuous because of the problematic area of identifying data from a “dollars and cents” standpoint.
In order to articulate data, managers need to step outside the box.  Data is generally developed by specialized individuals to meet individual needs.  Because there is little coordination in data-modeling approaches, effective dissemination of data allocations among organizations has posed great difficulties. Managers should consider what data will we need to execute a given strategy, and how will the availability of new types of data through the Internet affect our strategy.

 

Many solutions are available to allay some of the difficulties in managing data.  Defining the most important uses of data, translating data into organizational needs, and communicating those requirements to the appropriate resources is a good start.  For effective evaluation and communication, managers should consider the following.

 

  • How does our organization clearly define data models?
  • Are our organizations data values accurate?
  • What tools are necessary to implement quality management?
  • How do we develop, maintain, and make widely available the inventory of data resources?
  • What are our organizations most critical uses of data?
  • What data should be shared?
  • Who in the organization is accountable for data?
  • How can we manage data differently?

(Photo credit: St Peter’s Community News/ Flickr)