Business Process Improvement: A Practical Approach for Better Results
Have you ever landed on a problem that you have absolutely zero knowledge of in your workplace? Does it make you feel overwhelmed and uncertain about where to start? Problems like these usually land in your workplace when you already have tight schedules, unrealistic deadlines, and limited resources.
You need to quickly learn to navigate through unfamiliar territories even if words like business process improvement (BPI), systematic examination, etc, may sound daunting at first as no one teaches those navigation skills in school.
Several years ago Bill Gates wrote,
“A rule of thumb is that a lousy process will consume ten times as many hours as the work itself requires.”
This is absolutely true and it has not changed at all in time. There are several organizations that fail due to the proliferation of bureaucracy and red tape.
The bureaucracy doesn’t happen immediately but happens over time and it makes business processes become bloated making them ineffective, inefficient, and inflexible. So, improving business processes is the only solution that keeps you stay ahead of your competitors. You can also improve your customer responsiveness, and employees’ productivity and enhance your company’s ROI.
Everything is a process. Once you understand this, then everything becomes easy. This is where our guide cuts through the confusing and difficult-to-comprehend explanations and walks you through a practical approach to what a business professional needs to understand about business process improvement. The techniques covered in this guide will set you on a smooth path to successful BPI by clearing your uncertainties and delivering the power of business process improvement directly into your hands!
What is Business Process Improvement (BPI)?
BPI is a process of improving business processes. It can be used to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. It is a systematic approach to identifying and improving process performance.
A good BPI system will ensure that all aspects of your business are considered as well as any external factors that may affect it, such as customer buying habits or regulatory changes.
BPI is an iterative process which means it doesn’t have a start or end point—it will continue indefinitely until your organization achieves its aims.
The three main objectives of business process improvement are:
Effectiveness – Does the process brings the desired results and meet customer demands?
Efficiency – Does the process eliminate bureaucracy and limit the use of resources?
Adaptability – Is the process flexible to the dynamic changes?
Business process improvement is a way of improving business performance by reducing costs, increasing customer satisfaction, or improving employee engagement.
Processes are everywhere:
For example, when you go out for dinner at a restaurant, there are many processes involved—ordering food and drinks from the menu, paying for your meal by cash or credit card, and receiving the bill from your server—and each one has an impact on how well the restaurant performs as a whole.
If you were designing this scenario from scratch today with no past experience with how restaurants work (or what people expect when they visit one), it would be difficult for you to know every detail required in order to make sure everything goes smoothly at every stage in this process until everyone leaves satisfied with their experience.
The same thing applies here: businesses have been operating since before anyone could write things down on paper; there’s plenty we might not know about our own organization’s capabilities until we try something new!
The Roadmap for Effective Business Process Improvement (BPI)
The journey – here is the roadmap for you to easily navigate on a trip through business process improvement. Here are the ten simple steps that you can follow for effective BPI.
Development of process inventory
Setting up the process inventory is the first step in the journey and it will help you:
• Identify the business processes
• Establish prioritization criteria and apply them to each business process in the inventory
• Create a prioritization table for processes where you can compare and contrast business processes to know which needs to be addressed first and which can be addressed later without affecting the flow.
Authorize the foundation
In this step, you will create the blueprint which lets you establish the foundation for beginning your continuous improvement process over time. You need to do in-depth process work here to avoid inconsistencies and unnecessary time consumption in the future as the project progresses. Discuss the entire business process flow with all the teams from start to finish and collect all necessary information as much as possible. This will let you establish boundaries to stay on track.
Design the process map
Once you start drawing the process map, you will begin to understand how each business process works and where the handoffs occur between teams of different departments. The process map that you design in this step gives the necessary information for applying the business process improvement techniques in Step 6. Also, the process map gives the project team a better understanding of how the process works from start to end.
Estimate cost and time
Once you have successfully designed the process map, step 4 will help you estimate the process cost and cycle time. Process time will help you summarize the labor requirement for completing the project. The cycle time will help you plan the key metrics and let teams know when the project can be completed and establish timelines and parameters for further improvement stages.
Authenticate the process map
Here is where you validate your created process map to see if all the information is accurate. It needs to be reviewed by the respective departments to see if the map accurately reflects the end goal. When you complete the validation, you gain support from sponsors and stakeholders and start building the foundation.
Make use of the improvement techniques
This is an important step where you will apply the appropriate improvement technique in order to achieve the end goal through an organized approach. Using improvement techniques you can:
• Eliminate bureaucracy
• Eliminate duplications, inconsistencies, and redundancies
• Reduce process cycle time
• Optimize resource utilization
• Apply automation tools
• Assess valued-added activities
• Simplify forms, processes, and reports
At the end of this step, you have planned a thoughtful approach and applied suitable changes and to the business process to make it deliver the desired value.
Creating tools, internal controls, and metrics
This step is crucial for attaining the three objectives of BPI. Establishing internal controls helps you to easily identify errors and prevent them. When you create tools, you can streamline and automate the processes and assist employees in eliminating mistakes and train them how to perform the tasks. When you create metrics, you can easily measure the overall performance and check if the process works as planned.
Test, Review, and Rework
In this step, you will create a plan to test and review the business processes. The plan will contain questions on who is involved in developing, what items are tested, implementing changes, and resolving bugs as and when they occur when changes are implemented. At the end of this process, you need to feel confident about the new business process, metrics and tools are working as intended.
Implementing the change
In this step, the new changes are introduced to the organization and are done in the implementation phases. You can have four tracks:
• Change management track is where you will do the impact analysis to ensure that the changes are successfully accepted in the organization.
• Testing track is used to confirm that the process and tools created work as planned.
• Communication track is where you will notify the person responsible for educating the employees about the new business process and tools. You will set up the communication vehicle in motion.
• Finally the training track is where you will train the employees to get them used to the new changes.
Drive continuous improvement
Continuous improvement means you are striving to achieve a new mindset. This is the final step and the end of the journey where you keep validating the business process and tools regularly as it continues to deliver effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability to the organization.
What are Business Process Improvement Techniques
This section will give you a complete overview of different business process improvement techniques and methodologies to give you a head start in the world of business process improvement. Let’s begin with the newest entry and most popular one – Business Process Management (BPM).
1. Business Process Management
This is a top-tier technique that applies multiple BPI steps focusing exclusively on directing and aligning the enterprise-wide view of business processes in place of functional views to help achieve strategic goals. It provides an end-to-end process and focuses on the whole enterprise instead of a single process which gives a sense of linkage between different teams and they function as a whole.
2. Business Process Mapping
This is a top-down approach that starts with an overview of the entire organization, including processes and their participants, then breaks them down into smaller pieces. Here you can make use of gateways, pools, swim lanes, events, activities, loops, and flow lines.
3. Business Process Redesign
This is a bottom-up strategy where you start at the beginning of your process and work all the way through it, identifying areas for improvement along the way.
4. Workflow Analysis
This involves mapping out how each step in your current process interacts with other steps and identifying bottlenecks or other problems that can be addressed through changes in workflow design or even cancellation of unnecessary steps altogether (or both).
The last option on this list is known as “process reengineering” which is a popular technique since the 1990s, it involves reimagining your entire operation from scratch—a tad ambitious but sometimes necessary!
These are some of the other business process improvement techniques which are commonly used:
Six Sigma is a set of benchmark techniques for improving quality. It was developed at Motorola University in the 1980s by the American Engineer Bill Smith and is often used to reduce defects and increase efficiency.
Lean Six Sigma seeks to improve efficiency by reducing waste, reusing assets, eliminating bottlenecks, increasing worker productivity, and finding alternative solutions to problems. It focuses on identifying areas ripe for improvement using data from past projects or research; implementing changes through incremental steps; measuring performance against goals; correcting problems immediately so that they don’t recur (this is known as “kaizen”); then repeating the cycle until you no longer see room for improvement in your processes.
DMAIC stands for define-measure-analyze-improve-control, which refers to an approach pioneered by Genichi Taguchi (1948) but popularized by W Edwards Deming (1921–1993). This involves iteratively defining objectives before beginning a project (define) gathering data about it through measurement methods such as test runs or surveys (measure), and conducting qualitative or quantitative analysis via statistical methods like regression analysis so that you can derive causal relationships between factors affecting your end result (analyze), implementing improvements based on what you learned from this analysis and returning back into the loop as needed until all planned goals have been met (improve), then creating mechanisms in place so these gains are sustained long after completion of initial project objectives so they don’t erode over time due to factors beyond the control of those involved with executing them initially – e.g. if someone leaves the company or dies unexpectedly while other factors remain unchanged.”
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a customer-centric approach that involves continuous improvement and is often applied in supply chain management and customer satisfaction projects. The success metrics in TQM are formulated based on the problem-solving process and how the team decides to improve the processes over time.
Kaizen (Continuous improvement) is developed based on the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. The idea of Kaizen was born from how life should be lived by continuously improving oneself to lead a more happy and more fulfilling life. The goal of Kaizen is to improve continuously and eliminate waste. Therefore it focuses on removing these three types of waste from the processes:
• Muda (wastefulness) – eliminating practices that simply consume large amounts of resources but don’t add any value.
• Mura (unevenness) – this has to be eliminated as it overproduces and wastes resources.
• Muri (overburden) – it either overworks the machinery or overworks the employees and puts a strain on both the resources and employees.
Hoshin Kanri also called policy deployment is a strategic method that is used by companies to formulate and achieve goal-driven progress at every action of the process and eliminates waste that comes from poor communication and inconsistent direction.
It is important that any changes identified as part of a business process improvement effort are implemented in a manner that ensures the change will be adopted by the people doing the work.
As you can imagine, it’s important to ensure that any changes identified as part of a business process improvement effort are implemented in a manner that ensures the change will be adopted by the people doing the work.
To do this, you’ll need to:
• Buy-in from your team. The best way to make sure people understand new processes and procedures is to train them in person or online (we recommend an online training course). But don’t just give your team some training—communicate with them regularly about what’s being done and what’s next so they have time to adapt and understand before implementation begins.
• Measure effectiveness after implementation. In order for BPI initiatives to be truly successful, you need continuous measurement of how well they’re working after the initial rollout; this allows for better planning of future improvements based on past results (and other factors).
• Make adjustments as needed! Once your system is up and running smoothly, there may still be areas where changes can improve efficiency even further—make sure there’s a process in place so that these improvements can happen quickly without disrupting workflow too much!
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Benefits of Process Improvement
Business process improvement is the transformation of a company’s business processes in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness. It can help companies achieve a competitive advantage through the creation of new products, services, or business models. Business process improvement can also lead to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction by reducing waste and errors while increasing employee productivity.
In addition to these short-term benefits, there are long-term benefits as well: when a company improves one or more of its processes through business process improvement, it will become more efficient and effective as a whole. This will allow them to operate on fewer resources while still providing an excellent product or service at market prices that consumers are willing to pay for!
Business process improvement can help companies improve their processes through better efficiency or better quality.
Now that we have a better understanding of what BPI is and when it can be useful, let’s look at some examples.
By having an efficient business process in place, you will be able to reduce your costs and increase revenue by being able to provide the same level of service with fewer employees or less capital investment. For example, if you want guests in your hotel to get ice for their room fast so they can go out and enjoy themselves at night, but currently the wait time is too long for this to happen efficiently (i.e., before they lose interest), you might consider getting more ice machines installed throughout the hotel so guests have better access and there’s less waiting around time between requesting ice from one machine and actually getting it from another machine located elsewhere onsite.
By reducing waste through more efficient processes companies will also naturally increase their quality because they’ll be producing fewer defective products or services.
Increase customer satisfaction:
When customers know they’re always getting high-quality products or services no matter how much time goes by between purchases — thanks again due to those improved business process improvements — then this builds trust between both companies making sure everyone gets what he wants immediately rather than later down the road if possible (or maybe even never). You could also say that this creates positive word-of-mouth marketing opportunities among consumers who might share their positive experiences directly with friends via social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.
Increase employee satisfaction:
Employees who feel like part-owners within an organization tend not only to work harder but also feel like work harder because there are clear goals set forth ahead of time which leads to increased performance levels across departments–which ultimately means higher profits for shareholders!
Business process improvement is not only about improving efficiency and reducing costs. It’s also about making your employees more motivated, satisfied, and productive. And it’s worth noting that this can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction as well.
Therefore, business Process Improvement is an ongoing journey, not a destination. There are no quick fixes, only continuous improvement.
No one size fits all.
Process improvement is not a one-time event or project; it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and commitment from the organization’s leadership team to ensure the success of any BPI initiative.
You will find numerous products and services out there capable of supporting BPM and BPI. Here is a list of some of the tools which you can use if you want to enhance your business performance as most of these tools offer a 30-day free trial.
Cflow is a no-code workflow automation and BPM software that lets you build process diagrams and design your workflows along with process documentation features. You can manage multiple workflows and connect multiple teams simultaneously. You can also easily integrate third-party platforms for importing and exporting data. You can log all information on the workflows created including people responsible, events, and activities. You need to become familiar with its features and automation functionalities and once you mastered it, it is quite easy to use. It is an intuitive and affordable cloud-based SaaS tool that is made suitable for businesses of any kind.
IBM Blueworks Live lets users easily build process diagrams where they can enter data and document as it progresses. It is a top-tier SaaS product that lets you import files created using Microsoft Visio to the Microsoft Office Suite and BPMN. The only downside of this tool is the pricing approach.
Promapp is a web-based application with a social media-style user interface. You may feel like using Facebook but the pricing increases with buying each module.
iGrafx Flowcharter is a process modeling and diagramming tool similar to Microsoft Visio with cross-functional process mapping capabilities but not intuitive compared to other tools.
Business Process Innovation
Business process innovation is the creation of a new way of doing business, creating a new product or service, or changing the way you do business. It involves doing things differently, better, faster, and cheaper. It also means doing things more efficiently with less waste.
• Creating an online customer support service instead of having people call in for help;
• Automating manual tasks to free up employees’ time for higher value-added activities;
• Redesigning customer portals so they’re easier to use.
The concept of business process innovation helps you drive continuous business process improvement and improve efficiency, cost-cutting, and implementing growth throughout your organization.
On a final note, the benefits of business process improvement are numerous and far-reaching, but they don’t happen overnight. It can take time for an organization to fully implement a new system or improve an existing one, but with the right tools and resources, it is possible to achieve great results. All in all, business process improvement is a great way for companies to improve their processes and make them more efficient or better quality.
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