Business Process Improvement: What’s The Point?

business process improvementNo one goes into business to fail, on the contrary people go into business with the hopes that their business will succeed.  The goal of most entrepreneurs is to be the best at what they are doing, have a strong business model that will grow repeat business and give them some financial success.  You have to have more than a strong business model and a drive to succeed in order to be successful in business.  Business management and the understanding that client needs will evolve over time making it necessary for your business to evolve to survive necessary as well.

Business process improvement is a fundamental tool for business management.  It is used to improve the quality, productivity, and response time of business processes by removing any activities and costs that are not adding value to the business.  Before business process improvements can be implemented, a business needs to identify their existing processes and costs.  In order to be effective at this step, it should be treated as a project with project management principles followed in order to achieve the best outcome.  Looking to start a business?  Join thousands of others wanting to build a strong brand by learning some key principles in our Start up a Strong Business branding course.

A business must have at least the following two items up and running in order for their business to even run at a minimum.

  1. Employees
  2. Business Processes

Identifying these two processes, their strengths, skills and weaknesses and how they are used in the business is the only way that you, as a business owner or manager will be able to identify if both of these areas are performing at their peak, or if they could use some improvements.  Making sure that your team has a defined set of steps that they follow each day will help to streamline their work.  When processes are not followed, or are flawed it can lead to multiple issues.  Customers may begin to experience issues and this will lead to an increase in customer complaints, team members may become frustrated with the way that business is done and could eventually quit.  Employee turnover can be very costly to a company.  You may have to spend money on a recruitment campaign to get new applicants, training costs, and downtime that other team members may spend training a new hire are all negative side effects of losing an employee.  Of course, employee turnover is inevitable so it will happen, but it is more likely to happen to a company whose employees are not happy or whose processes are not effective.  The effect that business process improvement can have is incredible in today’s market.  Technology has opened the door for customers to compare prices at multiple sites in a manner of minutes by running a quick online search.  An effective way to achieve business process improvement is to focus your energy on what is required from your business, rather than the technology that is used to achieve the solution.  Join others that want to learn how to identify and improve their business processes and help their companies achieve peak performance with our Learn Business Process Analysis course.

Your Best Asset

Some business owners may struggle with the idea that their business is not running to its full potential.  After all, realizing that you’re not doing your best can be a tough pill for some to swallow.  For those that aren’t sure that their business needs to be improved, they can ask their employees.  Employees, after all, are the first to hear customer feedback and try to correct issues.  They will be able to give you valuable insight into how the business processes that you believe are working just fine, can be improved.  Communicate openly and honestly with your staff and let them know that you are open to hearing suggestions from customers, or even the staff members themselves on which processes can be improved as well as any ideas that they may have on how to improve them.  Learn tips and tricks that you can use to communicate effectively with the aid of Effective Communication: 7 Tools to Communicate Tactfully.  Once, (with the assistance of your team) you have identified processes that could use some improvement, it’s time to move on to step 2.

Map It Out

flowchart examplesThe best way to identify which area of a process could be improved it to begin by documenting the process in its entirety.  Create a flow chart to visually identify each step of a process.  Make this a team effort and explore each phase in detail with your team.  They may be able to identify any sub-processes that occur ensuring that not a step is missed.  You could also ask your customers to complete brief satisfaction surveys and use the data that has been gathered to analyze where your business is exceeding expectation and where it may be lacking in satisfaction on the customer end.  Flow charts are a great tool that can be used to increase your teams overall success.  Learn 15 tools that can ignite you and your team and guide you on the path to success with this flowchart tutorial.

Play Detective

Use your newly created flow chart to search for problems or areas that could use some improvement.  Your team will again be a valuable asset during this phase as they probably run through the processes more within their day to day.  Ask them questions about which area of the business process may cause them or customers some frustration.  Taking the time to understand what it is that makes your customers happy as well as what they want could mean the difference between life and death for a company.  They are after all the ones who hand over the money to pay the bills.

  • Are there any steps must be completed before another can get started that may cause a delay in response time?
  • Which steps do they feel are cost effective?  Which do they feel will be affected if costs increase or decrease?
  • Which of the steps in the process are the most time consuming?  Which step causes the most delays and frustrations for them and for customers?

Take the answers that you have gathered and track down the root of the problem.  Ask your team for suggestions on how they would handle the issues and improve the processes.  If your company has multiple departments, check in with them to see if they have experienced any similar issues and what they have done to resolve them.

Make a Change

Out with the old and in with the new.  Now that you’ve identified areas which could use some improvement it’s time to make changes.  Keep in mind that change is not always easy for people, it’s unwanted more often than not and you may receive some push back.  It may be a good idea to keep the employees that helped you in previous phases of the project and ask them to help you to implement the new changes.  They are more likely to buy into the changes if they have been involved in the project from the beginning and their word may also have more weight with their co-workers than yours will.  They do after all work with the processes day in and day out.  Conduct impact analysis and risk analysis to better understand the impact that the redesigned processes will have on your business.

Change is not always easy for people and you will sometimes experience push back from employees if the processes include more work for them.  Try to make it a priority to communicate potential changes with your team and your customers from the beginning.  Value their feedback and try and include their ideas in your revised processes.  Your team will feel a sense of ownership in the new processes and your clients will reap the rewards.