Auckland-based startup Boxfish is helping Kiwi SME’s find efficiencies and design their business to be lean using a data-driven online platform. Erin Westover explains.

Boxfish founder Rowan Teh is well-versed in what it means to be a ‘Lean’ business. As a black belt in Lean Six Sigma, a business improvement method that relies on the key components of lean practices, and over twenty years as a career consultant, Teh typically works with companies undergoing change.

Lean is a term coined in the 1990s that takes its learnings from efficient manufacturing systems, but with a strong emphasis on the customer. The process begins with defining value and understanding the processes involved in delivering that value to customers. Companies become leaner by removing the activities within their processes that don’t hold value.

During a ‘lean event,’ a company invests a lot of time and money into improving processes. The result is often a list of recommendations supported by a ‘process map’.

Unfortunately, improvements based on the process map would often fall to the wayside. Meant to be used as a guide, the process map is instead stashed away in a 3-ring binder and forgotten.

“The only thing lean practitioners changed over the years is taking those three-ring binders and putting them into a digital format. The value of the actual process map still isn’t quite there because it’s still just boxes and arrows on paper,” says Teh.

Without a way to continuously capture, track and analyse new data, efforts for improvement would die.

Demand for tools to help process improvements (otherwise known as BPM – Business Process Management) as a service is expected to nearly double by 2025.

“Our platform is about ironing out what true value is in a business.”

“In the current climate businesses are looking to reduce cost so they need to start by understanding the true value they deliver to their customer and how they deliver it. To do this, they need an end-to-end way of looking at their business,” Teh explains.

Teh has always been interested in ways to commercialise IT innovations, and in Director positions of global consulting firms, he experienced this gap in the market firsthand. A natural entrepreneur in many ways, Teh knew that the next step would be validating his concept through early adopters.

Since launching in early 2020, Boxfish has attracted close to 20 businesses in NZ, Australia and USA with growing subscriptions to the platform. “Market and economic uncertainty is a global concern, forcing businesses to rethink how they deliver value to customers. Technology is an enabler of change and can create a competitive advantage for many businesses,” says Teh.

“Now, it’s all about becoming more optimised. How can businesses deliver the same or better value to their customers but a lot quicker or a lot cheaper than they could before?”

Leading with value is one aspect that sets Boxfish apart from other BPM tools. Yet, Boxfish doesn’t sit purely in that category. Boxfish uses data mining to give businesses an objective end-to-end view of their existing systems. This way, companies can continuously improve processes by understanding what is providing value. It’s one of the fundamentals of lean.

“If you study lean, you learn that it’s about releasing inefficiencies so that businesses can focus more on efficient or value-adding tasks,” says Teh.

“Our platform is about ironing out what true value is in a business.”

Boxfish analyses a business to show where they can be more efficient, informing on what is value-adding and what is not. Because it is an open system, Boxfish can pull data from any data source.

With Boxfish’s ‘process analysis’ tool, redundancy doesn’t have to be the first step towards cost savings – a common misconception of lean. Businesses can look at the tasks and processes associated with any given role and what jobs wouldn’t get done if that role was made redundant. It gets companies to ask themselves, ‘would this be value-adding for us?’.

By providing a new kind of visibility, Boxfish is helping businesses make more educated decisions. With user feedback continuing to shape and evolve Boxfish, Teh’s vision of a single tool for SME’s to facilitate the improvements that help companies move forward is well on the way to being a reality.

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