Service standards change, with innovation in the private sector as well as public services leading to improvements in service delivery and feeding higher expectations. Social security institutions have a continuous need to respond, as participants demand comparable levels of service.
Today’s quality standard can quickly become tomorrow’s bad service experience. Achieving excellence in service needs to be regarded as a stretch target where the bar is continually rising and under pressure from constant change.
Business process improvement methodologies within the public sector include the application of Lean, Six Sigma and Business Process Re-engineering together with Kaizen, Total Quality Management and Systems Thinking.
Striving for excellence is dependent on innovation within the product development lifecycle. Innovation resides at the intersection of invention and insight leading to the creation of economic and social value. Introducing innovation to the product development lifecycle requires a Continuous Improvement like approach where the entire product lifecycle is regularly reviewed with a view to transforming or eliminating sub-optimal processes and creating new processes and introducing new technology. Among the most widely used tools for continuous improvement is a four-step quality model—the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle:
- Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.
- Do: Implement the change on a small scale.
- Check: Use data to analyse the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.
- Act: If the change was successful
Continuous improvement initiatives can be large or small (i.e. large business process transformation projects that usually involve ICT change, or small change initiatives with little or no ICT change). Each improvement initiative should be examined from a value-for-money perspective before committing resources and initiating the project. For large initiatives requiring significant business transformation or ICT change, a formal business value analysis or return on investment business case should be undertaken.
A social security institution should manage a portfolio of continuous improvement initiatives focused on addressing service quality issues. Once an institution decides that there is no further work to be done to improve service quality, the institution should revisit its service quality framework and service charter.