Business Improvement Process: Guide, Methods & Tips

Process Improvement
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“It’s the way we’ve always done it” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may be common sayings around the office, but it’s the type of thinking that can cause stagnation. Alternatively, the welcoming of and support for any kind of business improvement process can positively serve your organisation to remain strong, agile, and on top of your game.

In this article, we’re going to share some business process improvement steps and see how business process improvement tools can help your business to prosper!

Coming Up

What Is Business Improvement Process?

What are the Types of Processes to Improve?

Why Use Business Process Improvement?

What are the Challenges of Business Process Improvement?

What are Methods to Improve Business Processes?

What are Business Improvement Process Steps?

What are Business Improvement Process Best Practices?

How to Set Up Business Process Improvement at your Business?

What is the Role of Automation in Process Improvement?

Wrap Up

What Is Business Improvement Process?

A business improvement process is an approach to assess and evaluate how your business processes are running. It involves outlining business tasks, reviewing workflows, and spotting inefficiencies in an effort to improve upon them and make processes better.

There are three main categories of business activities of which it’s worthwhile to consider improving upon, namely:

  1. Operational: the day-to-day tasks that keep the business running
  1. Management: the tasks centered around human resources, governance, and budgeting
  1. Supporting: all other tasks that don’t fall into the other two categories, such as technology support, accounting, and recruiting, to name a few

What are the Types of Processes to Improve?

On a more broad level, when you’re considering business process improvement examples, you will see that processes fall into two main buckets. These include:

1. Formal Processes

Formal processes are well-established and have documented steps that are clearly outlined. In some cases, these are called procedures.

Many important formal processes have to do with how the organisation deals with legal issues, safety of customers and employees, and its financial considerations. By having processes documented clearly, the business is able to ensure that they are executed up to specified and expected standards.

2. Informal Processes

Informal processes may originate by groups or individuals within an organisation in order to fulfill their tasks. As such, they aren’t written down and documented with detail as formal processes are.

Why Use Business Process Improvement?

As you can guess, if you’re applying business process improvement steps within your business, then you certainly have something to gain (otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it).

Organisations apply a business process improvement framework to reap the plenty of benefits of process improvement, like:

  • Preventing wasted resources
  • Decreasing costs
  • Removing inefficiencies and double work
  • Improvement quality of service and customer support
  • Alleviating bottlenecks
  • Eliminating key person dependencies

In almost any process that you seek to improve upon, automation solutions will become your best friend. This is because many of the responsibilities that are error-prone, repetitive, and filled with inefficiencies are those that are perfect for automation.

By deploying automation software, you’re able to prevent key person dependencies, remove bottlenecks, save money and time, and streamline workflows to optimise efficiency.

What are the Challenges of Business Process Improvement?

No matter what process you’re analysing and redesigning, it’s likely that business process improvement will be met with a few hurdles. It makes sense because humans are creatures of habit, and so, change can feel intimidating and scary at times.

Before implementing any process improvement tools and techniques, think about how you’ll overcome challenges like:

Change Management

Unplanned or under communicated changes often are met with pushback. This is why it’s so important to communicate clearly (about the change itself, the reason for it, and how a new process or tool will help), so that everyone is aligned with the new vision.

Insufficient Time

Your employees are busy managing their day-to-day tasks, so initiating a new process or change can feel like a lot to balance. If it’s something that can be outsourced (or technology can be used to expedite the updates), it’s worth considering.

Lack of Clear Outcomes

When initiating any updates, it’s of top priority to showcase how the change will benefit the organisation and its people before rolling it out.

This is another place where automation software can be of great service because you can design a new workflow and test it out before you expand it organisation-wide. By doing so, you’ll have analytics and reports to show to your team and stakeholders so that the benefit is clearly defined and proven.

What are Methods to Improve Business Processes?

With your eye on the prize to initiate your own business process improvement, here’s how you can utilise methodologies to help accomplish your goals.

1. Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to removing inefficiencies in processes. Having first been implemented within Motorola, the manufacturing-focused technique can be applied to any industry or process type.

It’s driven by the DMAIC framework, which stands for:

  • Define (the problem)
  • Measure (the current and future metrics before and after the change is made)
  • Analyse (inefficiencies and issues with the process)
  • Improve (make the necessary adjustments)
  • Control (ensure that the new system is working to your liking based on analytics).

2. Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management, or TQM, is similar to the lean thinking methodology in that it is focused on outcome and providing the most value for the customer.

By placing the customer at the center of all managerial and operational planning and thinking, organisations can work towards maximising customer satisfaction. The idea is that the more happy and satisfied customers are, the better the business will do.

3. Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) methodology focuses on finding out what constraint is causing bottlenecks and removing said constraint in order to improve.

It can be executed through these five focusing steps:

  1. Identify the bottleneck
  2. Eliminate the constraint
  3. Align activities with the correction
  4. Realise any possible actions that can remove the bottleneck (consider automation software here!)
  5. Move to a new inefficiency (the job is never over so this practice is continuous).

4. Agile Management

Born from the software industry in the 1990s, agile management is all about coming up with quick solutions to satisfy different demands. In action, it looks like various teams and departments focusing on specific pain points in order to make functions flow with more ease.

5. Lean Management

The idea of lean management is about fostering a workplace culture in which continuous improvement and change is looked upon favorably by all. It’s a long-term approach that believes in incremental and small changes in order to make up a larger and more pronounced impact over time.

What are Business Improvement Process Steps?

Did any of the techniques call out to you? If they did, then the next step is to put your business process improvement in action! Here’s how:

1. Identify Processes

The first step in fixing any problem or making anything better is to identify what you’re going to work on. To do so, make an audit of your existing processes to see where help is needed.

2. Analyse Processes

Run an analysis on current processes to verify with data where inefficiencies reside.

3. Get Buy-In

Showcase the processes and the impact of what a change could bring so that stakeholders and employees are aligned with the plan of action. Automation software tools can help make a compelling case with the aid of analytics and customisable reports.

4. Make Changes

Once you have your plan neatly laid out and tools by your side, make the changes!

5. Monitor Edits

You’re not quite done yet. In order to make sure that your changes and new technologies are working as you intended, continuously monitor and assess the new processes. If (and when) you use automation software to streamline your processes, you can also leverage advanced analytics and real-time dashboards to easily determine the effect of your changes!

What are Business Improvement Process Best Practices?

As you go through the motions of business process improvement, don’t forget about these tips to reap the best results.

1. Utilise Process Maps and Process Modelling

Rather than making your process improvement a guessing game, solidify your game plan with the use of process modelling. Process modelling allows you to visualise how your current processes are so that you can clearly pinpoint bottlenecks and wasted steps in order to make necessary edits.

2. Communicate Clearly

Be clear about the need for changes and showcase how the changes will benefit everyone involved. This way, people are more likely to pay attention to what they need to adjust.

3. Leverage Automation Software

Automation software exists to take the pain out of process improvement. By automating your processes, you immediately improve the outcome and reduce errors while saving time.

How to Set Up Business Process Improvement at your Business?

With all this information on options for the business improvement process, you may feel like you want to hit the ground running to remove the headaches of your past processes and make everything better for your business.

That’s great news, but in order to put the wheel in motion, you’ll want to:

  • Make a clear case for the adjustments and let everyone see and know what they will gain by buying into the updated process
  • Gain support from higher ups so that it trickles down throughout the organisation positively
  • Begin with small edits and celebrate progress along the way
  • Officially document the changes and updated process so it continues

What is the Role of Automation in Process Improvement?

You’ll be hard pressed to execute any business process improvement without the aid of automation. This is because automation is used to remove redundant, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks so that you can free up your team’s time to focus on high-level and value-add responsibilities.

Automation software can be used for: account reconciliation, email responses, expense management, regulatory reporting, data transformation and transfer, revenue management, expense analytics, and more.

Wrap Up

Once you get going with implementing any business improvement process, you’ll quickly realise how valuable it is for your business.

With automation software involved, you’ll get to see the benefits fairly quickly in order to generate and solidify buy-in and get everyone excited about the updates you’re implementing.

By doing so, you can say goodbye to any thought processes that have you stuck in the past and keep your business moving into the future with confidence and success!


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