A business, and the success of its operations, relies on two core things: people and process. The people a business employs must have the relevant skill, capabilities and general principles to bring value to your business. If you’ve got the right people, you have to get the most and best out of them by ensuring they do things in the most efficient way possible. This is where process comes in.
What is process improvement?
Business process improvement involves identifying key processes within an organisation, analysing them and examining them for – you guessed it – opportunities for improvement. There are a number of methodologies used to approach this, one being lean process, which we’ve covered before. No matter the methodology used though – it’s all about looking at the way you do things as a business and how this can be streamlined to make you more efficient and ultimately more profitable.
Whichever you approach it, there a few important characteristics of successful or best practice process improvement worth calling out on.
Process improvement is first and foremost a proactive task (or it should be). Quite often, businesses arrive at the possibility of a business process review because something isn’t working and needs to be fixed or improved. Process improvement is obviously very helpful here, but in practice, ideally it should be a relatively regular thing which happens regardless of whether you’re experiencing a problem or symptoms of a problem or not. It’s not always about finding the big bottlenecks of overlooked inefficiencies which are costing you thousands – sometimes it’s just about incrementally tweaking and refining until you have a process that is helping be more profitable and productive.
It’s about the big picture
Business process improvement as a broader exercise also shouldn’t just be about “nitpicking” with particular departments, individuals or pieces of software that you suspect are causing inefficiencies. To truly do effective business process review and see real outcomes – you have to focus on the bigger picture. What are your goals as a business? What do you want and need to deliver to the customer? Are your customers happy? The answers to these questions will help you frame your process review and ensure that any change or improvement you make is contributing towards the wider goal of making the business more successful and your customers happier. Without this context, you’re just doing the exercise for the sake of it.
It drives real change
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as part of a business process improvement project is to actually implement the changes you identified that would streamline or fix inefficiencies. That may sound like an obvious one, but if you carry out a whole business process review and don’t action any of the changes or improvements, then you’ve effectively wasted a lot of time and probably budget to not provide any more value to the business. How many times have you “reviewed” something in your business only to never actually change anything or make any real progress? You can probably think of an example right now. This can’t and shouldn’t happen with true process improvement – once you’ve identified bottlenecks, inefficiencies and opportunities to streamline, you need to put a plan in place to address this. Then you need to continually monitor and measure the success of these changes and revisit if they’re not working in the way you want them to.
Process improvement starts and ends with action. It’s all about being proactive and driving to improve your business to become bigger and better and provide more value to your stakeholders. If you would like to talk to us about a business process review project, get in touch.