The ever-changing nature of today’s business environment forces organizations to continuously adapt and improve to maintain their competitive edge. Without the correct strategies in place, businesses are doomed to fail.
Here’s where the concept of continuous business process improvement (BPI) comes in. In simple terms, BPI is defined as a proactive approach to improve internal and external business processes with the ultimate goal of creating an efficient and effective organization that provides top-quality services and flawless customer satisfaction.
It can be achieved through improving workflows, better resource allocation, conducting staff training, making changes to company culture, etc. What’s vital to understand is that process improvement is continuous and includes a four-step cycle. Today, we’ll discuss these steps and how to implement them correctly.
Business Process Improvement Cycle
Although the exact number of steps and their nature will vary depending on the process improvement methodology, in its simplest form, it involves four steps:
- Identifying which processes require improvements;
- Analyzing the identified processes;
- Improving and optimizing workflows and processes;
- Monitoring and evaluating the implemented changes.
The first step is to identify the need for improvement. The recommendation is to start with processes that cause you the most significant problems, such as wasting time and resources.
Once noted, a good idea is to perform a process audit. It will help you identify which steps and tasks require improvements. You should also look at this from a broader perspective. Namely, how this inefficient process affects the organization, its performance, customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
It’s also recommended to outline and visualize the process. Workflow visualization is a powerful tool that can help managers quickly identify where their processes are lagging and how they impact the overall process performance.
Once the processes requiring improvements are identified, the next step is to analyze and assess their effectiveness. The goal here is to identify the bottlenecks that don’t allow the process to be effective and where it’s necessary to implement improvements.
The case might be that the entire process needs to be changed. Sometimes, you might even realize that the process isn’t required to reach the overall business goals, and the best idea is to axe it completely.
There are several ways to get to the bottom of the problem. One is analyzing the available data. The second is to ask the teams responsible for performing it what works and what doesn’t. Once again, workflow visualization will prove itself helpful here, allowing you to quickly check which parts of the process are causing delays and disruptions.
Once an organization identifies where the improvements need to be made, it’s time to come up with a solution. The best idea here is to draft an action plan of how you intend to implement the necessary changes and decide how you will measure their effectiveness.
Once you’re ready, the first step is to have a brainstorming session with the teams responsible for the process. It’s vital to explain the purpose and reason for implementing the improvements. You also need to decide how to allocate resources and establish clear communication between the teams.
If everything is ready and all teams understand what they are required to do, it’s time to implement the improvements. Remember to document everything for further evaluation. Without the proper data, you won’t be able to assess whether your changes worked and if there’s still room for improvement.
Once you implement the changes, it’s time to evaluate how and if they worked. The key here is monitoring how your improved processes perform and seeing whether all goals were achieved. If not, it means you need to do things differently. For instance, the case might be you need to delegate tasks to different people or break them down into smaller parts.
Often, the issue is incorrect resource allocation. Whatever the problem might be, you need to identify and analyze what it is. In other words, you need to start the entire process from the beginning. That is the key to understanding how process improvement works. It’s not a one-time project. It’s a continuous cycle.
How to Implement Business Process Improvement?
As covered, the exact number of steps and their nature will vary depending on your chosen methodology. There are numerous process improvement methodologies, with the most popular ones being Kaizen, Six Sigma, Kanban, and 5S. However, while each is unique, the ultimate purpose remains the same – creating a more efficient and better performing business.
The basic process improvement cycle we discussed above is enough to understand the concept of continuous business process improvement. Now, we’d like to provide you with several tips on how to implement these steps and achieve your desired objectives.
Design a Plan of Action
Implementing any changes to your business processes should begin with a carefully-crafted plan. You can’t simply identify the bottlenecks and implement the changes. Or worse, changing your workflows and processes without first going through some level of analysis. i. The key is to avoid an attempt to “boil the ocean.” Spending too much time on analysis can be worse that not doing anything at all.
Crafting a plan for your improvement process will help you manage it better, enhancing the chances of final success. Be sure to involve your teams in the process. They will provide insight into current processes and where they need improvements. It will also ensure all employees are on the same page and know what they need to do.
When designing your plan, it’s also essential to establish the timeframe within which you want the process to be completed. The period will depend on which process you wish to improve.
Be sure to decide how you will assess your project. For example, if your goal is to eliminate waste of time and resources, track how much money and time you saved. The best idea is to compare it to how the previous process performed.
You might also reach out to customers and ask them whether they feel your services have improved. You may also benefit from asking your employees whether the new process is clear and allows them to work more efficiently. Remember that employee satisfaction is vital in improving your business.
Take Advantage of Workflow Automation
Workflow automation is a necessary step toward a better functioning business in today’s digital environment. It helps eliminate errors and streamline processes by getting rid of tedious and repetitive tasks. This can boost productivity within your organization, helping team members work more efficiently.
Workflow automation and process management software will also help you monitor ongoing changes. By taking advantage of such features as real-time reporting, everyday business users and managers will be able to act immediately whenever they believe it’s necessary, implementing changes and improvements on the go.
Furthermore, using dedicated workflow management software, you will be able to document and visualize how the implemented changes affect the processes. Through more thorough evaluation, managers can analyze whether all improvements serve their purpose or whether the process might benefit from a different approach.
Make Process Improvement a Part of Your Company Culture
If you want process improvement to work, you need to make it continuous. The best way to do that is to make it an integral part of your company culture. That will ensure the entire organization is on the same page regarding the goal of achieving excellence.
And while it might not be possible, it will push the entire organization to shift to a higher gear. If striving for excellence becomes part of your organization’s DNA, employees will feel more encouraged to exchange ideas and go the extra mile looking for ways to improve.
That, combined with workflow automation and constant evaluation, is a recipe for success and achieving a long-term competitive advantage.
Optimize Your Business with HighGear
Business process improvement should become a vital part of any business’s operations. It helps continuously improve and adapt to an ever-changing business environment, ensuring the organization doesn’t fall behind the competition.
As covered, the process is continuous and divided into four primary steps. Given their complexity, implementing the steps without help might do more harm than good. Luckily, HighGear is here to assist.
Taking advantage of our workflow management platform, managers gain access to all the tools they need to improve and manage business processes. Through our workflow visualization feature, you will be able to quickly assess if or where your workflows require improvements, automate them, and manage all tasks more efficiently thanks to real-time reporting.
You will then be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your business process improvement project and see how you can further improve your processes. Schedule your demo today and see for yourself how we can help take your business to the next level.