Workflow Strategies for getting around chokepoints

 Forgive me readers but it has been 3 weeks since my last post.

What are chokepoints?

For the sake of business processes chokepoints are usually a single location within a larger process in which a disproportionate amount of time is spent either waiting for the activity to become accessible of waiting for the activity to be completed. 



What’s wrong with Chokepoints?


Over the 6 years I have been involved in the workflow/BPM space I have found that the majority of time spent completing a process from beginning to end is usually dependent on less than 20% of the activities within that task.  These slow activities can be costly.  Those costly exercises can be anything from, constant follow up by Managers to deadlines being missed.


Why do they occur?


Lack of sound process design

Lack of resources

Lack of process knowledge

Lack of automation

Poor Scheduling and allocation of resources


How do you find them?


Within many workflow systems there are built in reporting facilities which at a glance shows you where the most time is spent from when it arrives in a Task List to when it has been completed.  If you don’t have such a system all is not lost.  Most often you can just ask the people who work within the process what or who they are usually waiting on.  In fact they have probably volunteered this information to many people many times.


How do you eliminate chokepoints or minimise the effect of chokepoints?


It is important to ask several key questions to begin the chokepoint elimination process

1) Can your single chokepoint activity be broken up into more then one activity?

1.1) If it can be broken up can the two or more tasks be placed in parallel?

2) If it can not be placed in parallel can different resources be given to some of the newly created tasks or activities?

3) Can the chokepoint activity be placed more in parallel with other activities?

4) Can more resources be assigned at the chokepoint?

5) Can any part of the chokepoint be automated?

6) How can you escalate this task if it is taking to long?  Can you reassign it?  Can you send an alert when it is taking to long?

7) Can scheduling play a difference (your task has been placed in a queue at position x and will be completed in x amount of time) helps the resource performing the task as they no longer have to spend their time responding to queries regarding an activity status.

8) Can you establish an overflow mechanism?  The overflow mechanism means taking a path of least resistance once the resource is operating above capacity.   (This may have negative effects on quality however an ever growing queue is likely to have an even greater effect.)


What to do once you have eliminated to slowest link?


Once you have eliminated your chokepoint you will find that you have a new, although somewhat less problematic, slowest point in the chain.  So you must start the process all over again.  The thing to remember about Business Process Management is that it is not about providing a once off increase in efficiency it is about providing a platform and a methodology for continually increasing efficiency.



2 thoughts on “Workflow Strategies for getting around chokepoints

  1. One of the suggestions you mentioned was to send an alert when a task takes too long. I setup an invoice approval system where documents were routed to people for GL coding and approval. If the people took too long to approve their documents we sent an email to their boss…

    …response time was greatly improved.

  2. Pingback: Chokepoints « spokeent

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