Project key takeaways: how to embark a public real estate company on an operational improvement journey?
Point of view based on the discussions that have taken place during a remote roundtable on Tuesday October 27 and where all the Brussels PREC’s were invited. The discussion was led around a project carried out by ngage consulting on behalf of the Foyer Schaerbeekois / Schaarbeekse Haard.
It all starts by structuring the company around processes
Beside their ongoing activities of tenants’ management, building maintenance and social support, the public real estate companies (PREC’s) are currently facing some operational and organizational issues. Like in many public or private companies, some symptoms show the necessity for a broader structural reasoning. Here are a few examples: a reactive way of working facing the emergency, a knowledge transfer that is mainly verbal, the absence of documented processes and procedures, roles and responsibilities to be clarified, a lack of communication between services, a staff turnover difficult to take up, a questioning on the consistency of the application landscape or a large volume of work on paper.
These real estate companies generally undertake major renovation plans while minimizing the unoccupied situations of their buildings. PREC’s are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of life of their tenants, driving them to improve their operational performance. These ambitions go often together with a desire to digitalize and modernize their office tools.
In this context, it is important to help these organizations to evolve towards a more efficient way of working by reviewing and optimizing their main processes.
How does the analysis of the current situation help to increase operational efficiency?
Using a funnel approach which consists in starting by the most high-level process analysis then zooming down to a more detailed level in a progressive way provides organization a pragmatic method to identify gaps, issues and improvement opportunities in their current processes.
Here are the five main steps of this approach:
Establish a capability map (company skills) that is sustainable over time
Identify and map the processes behind each capability
Describe the most important processes in more detail
Analyze the points of complexity and recommend areas for improvement (including organizational and application impacts)
Select the solutions to be implemented and define an action plan
Building on capabilities allows a company to structure itself around its processes independently of its organization. Describing and visualizing the main current processes enable to highlight the dysfunctional elements and to trigger a mechanism of improvement.
Depending on the available resources, it is not always possible to describe all the processes of an organization. Therefore, we recommend to start by sampling a specific capability or process to allow rapid results and to offer the possibility of replicating the applied methodology further in the organization.
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What are the key success factors?
It is critical to ensure that the key internal stakeholders are available and involved in this type of project providing all necessary information for a complete analysis and sharing key risks and issues that reflect the current reality.
The key success factors to keep in mind are:
involvement of key stakeholders from all levels of the organization, closely sponsored by senior leaders
methodology and tools adapted to the context
a logic of co-construction of deliverables which must represent the field reality
taking into account all the ideas coming from the project participants before final selection
appropriate communication on the project’s progress and results to the entire company
What’s next? How to sustain the continuous improvement mindset?
After an external intervention, it is essential to continue and maintain these efforts internally in order to engage the organization in a process of continuous improvement.
Four elements are essential to ensure this continuity:
train internal stakeholders to the methodology and the tools
continue to analyze other processes by replicating the approach
monitor closely the implementation of the solutions through adequate governance
measure the effectiveness of the processes in place using key performance indicators to observe trends and take corrective action(s) when necessary
Key benefits from leveraging external support and advice
Public real estate companies (PREC’s) are not used to work with consulting firms. The participation of an external consultant brings them expertise in delivering operational excellence, external benchmarks and industry best practices. It also gives them the opportunity to follow and learn an effective methodology to build continuous improvement capabilities within their organizations in a very objective and sustainable way.
An external presence also allows to boost the work carried out while involving the internal teams in a collaborative way of thinking. Once integrated into such a structural reasoning, the consultant is often required to participate in parallel analyses (tenant journey, systems & applications, support to communication, …)
The recent pandemic context has turned out to be an opportunity taking advantage of the facilitation techniques and tools used by the consultant in order to improve internal communication and remote working practices.
This type of initiative only makes sense if it is shared by all the management and by the members of their teams. After applying a collaborative methodology of operational excellence, the consultant ensures that knowledge and method is transferred over to ensure the continuity of the process and anchors a continuous improvement mindset within the organization.