You probably go through the motions of a business process every day and hardly realize it. You draw up a report, you deal with dissatisfied customers or email a possible business partner. These different moves have more in common than you think: they’re all meant to build an effective and lean business. All the more reason to invest in a business process improvement methodology.
No businesses are spared inefficient policies, jagged workflows, unhappy employees, poor customer review, or missed deadlines. And these are just a few of the irksome problems of a dysfunctional business.
What is BPI?
Business process improvement (BPI) is a strategic planning approach designed to identify root causes of present issues, recalculate the policies in use, and smooth up the process to ensure overall business growth.
The multi-purpose strategy of a BPI seeks ways to:
- Reduce operational costs.
- Maximize time.
- Enhance customer service.
- Improve product and service quality.
- Reduce waste and risks.
- Identify roles and responsibilities of team members while ensuring overall employee satisfaction.
- Prioritize business requirements over the technology used to find a solution.
Rather than bringing out drastic changes in management, BPI’s ultimate goal is to draw out the incremental steps leading to more efficient performance. Here are the 5 steps to take on the path to business process improvement.
Five Steps to Business Process Improvement
1. Map the Business Process
In order to figure out where you are and how to start improving, you need to assess your operations. Once you’ve decided which process you want to improve, document your steps in detail. You can use digital tools like Flowchart to visualize the path.
This first step in your business process improvement plan is designed to help you figure out where to invest your efforts. Everyone involved should understand the mechanisms of the process.
2. Identify Problems
Once you’ve outlined the business process, pinpoint the problems. Consider the next questions:
- What are the causes of poor process performance?
- How do the process measures relate to business drivers?
- What is the level and quality of customer satisfaction?
- What’s the source of employee frustration?
- What’s the root cause of costs going up while quality drops further down?
- Where in the business process does the bottleneck occur?
In terms of discontent customers, loss of time, high stress in employees, and poor revenue, identifying and fixing these issues is part of the process improvement methodology.
Investigate the root cause and relate it to the business process improvement. Ask your team members to vote for solutions to improve workflow in a brainstorming session, or start an opinion poll among your different departments.
Their answers may reveal not only a common origin of all problems but also intuitive ways to approach a solution.
3. Apply Process Improvement Techniques
Once you’ve identified the problems, you are free to redesign the business process so that it delivers value.
You will not be able to do it alone, so rely on your staff. People involved in the process will have a due interest in improving it.
Use some of the techniques from step 2. Brainstorming and exploration together with the employees are crucial to business process improvement. Anyone’s contribution can make a difference and unearth some of the deep-rooted problems.
Once you’ve narrowed the list of possible solutions, round them up in the semifinals of the business process improvement plan and review each of them to see if they reflect the real-life context. Ask yourself this:
Are these outcomes going to add value in achieving my organization’s objectives? What can I do to align these processes in order to achieve the best possible outcome?
You’re now conducting a pilot where you test all your new and fresh ideas.
One digital tool that will record the likely impact of your solutions on the overall success of the project is the Change Impact Analysis (IA) tool. The analyzer estimates the modifications you need to bring to accomplish change together with the potential real consequences of that move.
If you want to get even more thorough, you could also conduct a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Not only does it analyze the possible ways in which an implemented change could fail in, but it can also assess the relative impact of different errors and defects.
You can track these failures and mitigate the risks using the FMEA in Six Sigma.
So what are the full consequence of your redesigned plan and how do they affect the customer?
4. List the Available Resources, Acquire the Materials You Lack
Once you’ve agreed on a business process improvement strategy, you and your team need to start implementing it. Rewind to the first step and use the same tools to document the newly agreed-on process methods.
Now list all the resources you need to acquire for the new process. These may come in the form of time, materials, technology, business process consulting third-parties, or human resources.
For example, you may need new software, a different training program for new employees, or a reevaluation of time input.
5. Manage and Implement Change
You’ve already created internal controls, tools, and metrics. At this point, you should consider preparing the organization for the changes to come. In order to ensure implementation runs smoothly and stress-free, you have to butter the way for your redesigned business process.
Targeting key stakeholders is a crucial factor to consider while managing change. First, let us define the stakeholder. These are groups and individuals who hold the stakes of your initiative, and they can influence one way or another the success of your new strategy.
Success will largely depend on how you approach your stakeholders. Learn about their communication styles, their personal interest in your business, and the level of influence they carry around.
People are not much fond of changes. They tend to cling to the old ways. Adapting largely comes at the expense of your time and money.
Once you switch from the familiar to terra incognita, you will have to deal with protesting voices. You need to facilitate acceptance of change in your organization.
Communication is key here. Determine your organizational necessities – who needs to know about the change and how to effectively communicate the innovation to them.
Again, you can choose to employ some BPI tools and techniques to help you manage the transition better. The Change Curve, for example, is a popular model which promises to deliver acceptance for change in no more than four stages.
It warns you that a business process improvement strategy is an ongoing long-term process. You have to build in contingency time for people to embrace the new mindset.