Running a successful business, fundamentally, comes down to two things: delivering quality products and/or services to your customers, and not spending too much money while you’re doing it. When someone within a business suspects that one (or both) of these aren’t happening, they can often find themselves at the start of a long and dark road to improvement.
As with most things in business, a great approach to improving your process is – if you’ll excuse the cliche – taking a helicopter view of things. This more often than not will specifically involve examining and analysing your business process. Business process improvement is key not only to ensuring maximum efficiency and minimum spend on delivering great service to your customers, but is also a vital step when it comes to any sort of system implementation – particularly Electronic Resource Planning (ERP). Because if the process behind the scenes is broken – if you’ll forgive another cliche – throwing money at shiny new software is only going to make you be less productive faster.
So why delve into the potentially murky waters of business process? Why not stick with what you’ve always done? Here are four – we think – pretty compelling reasons as to why you should be looking to improve your business process.
It can save you time
Once you have a clearer view of what is involved in delivering your business, and the specific steps that need to be taken – and by who – to achieve an identified goal, you can start to pinpoint bottlenecks that are eating up precious time. Whether that’s an admin-heavy sales order entry process or an outdated dispatch system that no one’s thought to look at changing for years, you can really start to see where the time-intensive steps are and how they could be stripped back to make everything more efficient.
Not only can business process improvement save you actual time in your business, it can also help you save precious time on things like system and software implementations – most notably ERP. You’ll have a much better idea of what you want to achieve from the implementation, and what you’re expecting the system to deliver.
It can save you money
As happens frequently in business, saving time leads to saving money. Replacing admin-heavy tasks with software or taking outdated steps away from a process can save on recruitment spend, as well as greatly improving your labour utilisation, particularly in Operations.
Identifying areas for improvement and the methods for improving them in advance, and then carefully mapping them to your ERP implementation can save you time, and therefore reduce your consultancy or software delivery spend massively.
It can help you see things you’d not picked up in before
Consider, for a second, the human body. More specifically, consider your body. Imagine you have recurring headaches. Your first port of call probably wouldn’t be to march straight into the nearest hospital and ask them for a new brain, because clearly this one is defective. You – or your doctor – will work backwards from the problem to try and figure out the root cause. Do you need glasses? Are you drinking enough water? Do you grind your teeth? In many of these examples, changing something relatively simple can improve things greatly.
Now apply this to a business. Imagine sales are complaining that customers aren’t getting deliveries on time. They’re blaming your dispatch department, who reportedly aren’t dispatching things in a timely manner. You might be tempted to point the finger of blame solely at the dispatch team. However, examining the process more carefully might enable you to discover that there is, in fact, a box on a form or a dashboard somewhere indicating required delivery date, which no one in sales knew about. Making your sales team aware of this part of the process, and enforcing it, is just like getting yourself down the opticians and finding that a new pair of specs to stop your headaches – you’ve made a simple change, and the outcome has been significant.
It can help you identify opportunities for automation
In a time where customers are expecting more and more from businesses, in a time of same-day Amazon Prime delivery, unfortunately even the most efficient humans can’t be quite as quick as machines or computers when it comes to certain tasks. Looking at improving your business process can help you identify areas where resource-intensive steps are holding things up, and determine whether or not it’s feasible to replace that step with a system or software that could streamline the process. Not to mention it will free up human resource to spend their valuable time elsewhere, and focus on delivering more value to customers and the wider business.
Pinpointing opportunities for automation can also allow you to map these automated steps to relevant software or systems, whether that’s ERP, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Accounting.
It’s time to start the process
Business process improvement or re-engineering can seem like a significant undertaking, but it’s a vital step to keeping your business at maximum effectiveness. And you can start today – you can begin with a simple list of activities and tasks, whose job it is to do what, and some quick fire ideas on how you might improve each stage of the process. Once you’ve got the basics down you – with the help of business process experts – can start delving into individual steps, unpacking them, and coming up with innovative ways to improve your process, and by extension, your business’ performance.