Answers by Amanda Feathers, Cohort 70 – Stewart Peak, Accounting Technician II/ PCard Coordinator, Denver Department of Public Works Finance & Administration (PW Fin&Admin) – November 2018
To start, Amanda Feathers is one of the most innovative Black Belts in 2018, according to Peak’s data on Denver innovations. Along with her team, Amanda identified and actualized more than 110K in soft/hard savings for the City & County of Denver, by making small improvements to a few of the systems her department manages. Thus, the following paragraphs are Amanda’s answers to some of Peak’s questions around her relation to the fantastic innovations she put into place throughout the 2018 fiscal year.
Tell us a little about yourself; what should the world know about you?
I started with the City and County of Denver in May 2017 within the Parking Business Center. After four months, I promoted to Accounting Technician II/ PCard Coordinator with the Public Works Finance and Administration Office. My role here has been evolving and has allowed me to grow my knowledge of different research and analysis tasks. I started taking college classes in the evenings to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Finance. In my personal life, I am married to my high school sweetheart, and we have four kids. Not including our fur babies. We moved to Colorado 3 ½ years ago from Austin, Texas. I am an avid reader, I love the outdoors especially hiking and skiing, and most importantly I love hanging with the family.
How did you begin innovating & using the Peak Academy tools to innovate?
I started innovating and using the Peak Academy tools a few months before I went to Denver Peak Academy’s Black Belt Training. So, of course, at the time I didn’t know I needed more guidance when making process improvements. I just saw an issue and felt that I needed to get a hold on it before something that’s avoidable happened, this was a slow process due to the fact I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but needed the resources to help me achieve it. That is when I went to the Denver Peak Academy for my Black Belt Training, which was a fantastic week with a wealth of knowledge. By the end of that week, I knew what I needed to do to reach my goals. The biggest thing for me was to break things down. You can achieve several innovations by focusing on just one issue and this pivotal moment was the magic for me. Once I started to focus on each piece of the process by using tools like the value-added analysis and spaghetti diagrams, then I saw what worked and what needed scrapping.
What was your first Peak Innovation?
My first innovation started with tracking PCards. I realized that when I was receiving a PCard for one of them, and they needed to pick it up, there were no rules on who can pick them up and no accountability on someone being responsible for them. At least not on an agency level. I also realized that it was taking so much time for me to look up information about a card holder’s account if they or their supervisor had questions. Particularly if a supervisor has several employees with cards, and they want to know what each person is set at, to make sure their department is running efficiently. Having to look up all that information, one cardholder at a time, was time-consuming. Also, if I received a card for someone who has a PCard, I wasn’t aware of why they were getting a new one. I started tracking their expiration dates since this was the usual of why they were getting a new card. The tracker allowed me to do a significant amount of research needed in a matter of seconds instead of minutes. To bring it all together, I started making anyone picking up PCards sign for them.
What is your most successful Peak Innovation to date and why?
For me, I feel like the most successful innovation was the PCard OneNote. If I am sincere, it is my favorite, and I love it! For so long, PCard holders are accustomed to the old process in Citibank when they had to allocate their purchases. Once we switched over to Workday, the game changed. I was learning it like everyone else but realized I needed to learn it fast to help anyone who was having trouble. The job aids were somewhat helpful but seemed to help anyone who understood how Workday worked. I have several PCard holders who only use Workday to allocate their transactions, and that was it. That made it hard to try and talk to them over the phone and walk them through the steps. I found myself traveling a lot to train and retrain on how to use Workday for their transactions. Hours and hours of time both on my end and their end was not efficient for anyone. So, I decided to make a one source tool for all the PCard holders and supervisors. It contains the tools they need to be able to do their job with little help from me. Step by step instructions with pictures, rules, accounting codes, and forms all at their fingertips in one program, this has dramatically cut down on time and money between myself and the cardholders.
What went well while working on your most successful innovation?
The input I got from everyone was the most successful part of my improvement. Building the OneNote was reasonably simple as I rolled it out to cardholders and got the feedback from them that it was helpful and showed them how to use it. It freed up time on everyone’s end to allow us to work on other things.
What did not go so well while working on your most successful innovation?
The one downside that I didn’t get to work out was adding a section on how to operate PCard accounts through Citibank. With some people having the older version and some having the new version, it was just too much for me to include all of it in there. The only other thing was getting everyone going on the OneNote. I think introducing something new tends to come with reservations from those that may feel overwhelmed by it. However, once I showed them the more critical parts of the PCard OneNote and got supervisors, and several PCard holders on board, the reservations of using the tool faded away.
What would you change about your most successful innovation?
Honestly, at this point, I wouldn’t change anything, not saying I wouldn’t later. It’s still in the first year of being used, and little things change here and there, but they are usually things out of my control. Anything within my scope of work I am going to hold off till we hit the year of using it and resurvey everyone to see if there is anything they would want to add or subtract. In the end, this was not just for me, but for all the PCard holders would use it.
What advice would you give to someone trying to innovate for the first or fifth time?
To anyone who is either just starting or have journeyed down this road before, to know that we are all in this together. Use your resources. Whether that be the Peak Team for advice, the tools you learn in the Peak Academy, or even your coworkers. These are all great resources. I could not have done it without the help of my coworkers, especially Jon Carmichael and Kristina Leahy who helped me in my innovations.