We recently shared the ins and outs of a business process. Once you are aware of your business processes, you can take the necessary steps to improve them. In this article, our goal is to provide you with the answer to the question, “what is process improvement?”
Once you’re done reading, you’ll not only know the various process improvement methods, you’ll also see how automation tools can help your organisation achieve this pivotal practice.
In just two words, process improvement gives you the gist of the notion– to improve processes. But, we can go deeper than that.
Process improvement is a process in itself, which begins with identifying business processes. After performing analysis on how business processes are running, you can pinpoint where inefficiencies may reside.
With this knowledge, you can work towards optimising (or improving) said business process. The outcome of doing so can be to create a better workflow, follow best practices, or to enhance the customer experience (or all of the above).
Process improvement may also be called business process improvement (BPI), continual improvement process (CIP), or other similar names. At the end of the day (and regardless of how you call it), process improvement is intended to minimise waste and maximise productivity.
Processes and people are at the heart of any business. To be able to deliver value to customers, processes must be clearly defined, monitored, and measured.
By practising process improvement, businesses reap many valuable benefits, including:
Process improvement is used to highlight inefficiencies and works to fix them. This can alleviate burdens on your resources (time, money, people). With the ability to release capacity and strengthen capability, your team and organisation will run more smoothly and at a higher level.
While it may seem like a lot of work to achieve, we’ll soon share how automation can greatly aid in this endeavour.
Process improvement may look different for different organisations. That’s because there are several different methods that can be deployed to achieve these highly-sought after results. While some methods are more data-driven, others are qualitative in nature.
Let’s review some of the methods so you can assess your business’ needs and abilities to choose what aligns best for you:
Out of all the methods, it’s arguably safe to say that Six Sigma is the most data-driven. To carry it out, organisations will use both qualitative and quantitative data, which may include process mapping and statistical process control (SPC), to name a few.
Six Sigma focuses on ridding a process of root causes for defects and aims to reduce variability in an effort to standardise a process (with respect to both inputs and outputs). The name comes from sigma- which represents one standard deviation from a mean in a bell curve. Six sigma points to the idea that it would take six deviations away from the mean for an error to occur.
Six Sigma was developed by Bill Smith, an engineer and scientist for Motorola, who developed the system akin to Karate. In this way, members move up amongst ranks.
Lean six sigma is a hybrid of the lean process method combined with the six sigma method. It leverages a 5-step method called DMAIC to carry out. DMAIC stands for:
Lean Six Sigma requires that team members collaborate and be on the same page. As such, the outcome is not only to minimise waste, but also to create a culture that embraces change and looks forward to process improvement.
Total quality management (TQM) offers an approach to organisational management that focuses on the quality of outputs. Through continuous improvement of internal processes, TQM is reflective of standards. At its core, TQM believes that every party involved in a process is responsible and should be held accountable for the outcome.
Although its origins lie in the manufacturing sector, total quality management is often used in supply chain management, customer service, banking and finance. Process automation can greatly help achieve total quality management as it provides an easy way to standardise and measure processes.
Taking the lean process improvement approach means placing all focus on your customers. You assess every step of your process to see the value that it delivers to a customer. The ultimate goal is to use as few resources as necessary to produce the required and desired results.
A lean process approach will consider the flow of services, the big picture of tools uses, the technologies and departments involved, and at each point, will look to remove waste. It’s intended to be a way of thinking for how an organisation operates, rather than a short-term bandaid to fix a current problem.
There are different methods of process improvement and each comes with their own outlook and methodology. However, any organisation can follow these process improvement steps to reap the benefits:
Automation software can play a huge role in process improvement, making the practice easier and more efficient for everyone within and outside of an organisation (including customers).
Firstly, by incorporating an automation solution within your organisation to run processes for you, you have to start by defining processes and designing them within the software. At this stage alone, you may become aware of inefficiencies that you can fix.
Secondly, automation tools inherently remove the need for human intervention because of robotic process automation, which mimics human actions.
By carrying out tasks that humans would have otherwise been responsible for, the software can do the same work in less time and with less errors. This immediately can help to eliminate waste (time, opportunity cost, mistakes, etc.).
Thirdly, automation software is equipped with dashboards and real-time analytics, which provide stakeholders with oversight and the ability to measure how a process is running at any point in time.
If a process is taking more time than expected or results are not where the organisation wants them to be, you can implement changes to the process and immediately roll them out. Given the real-time data updates, everyone is always aware of outcomes and able to respond to changing needs with agility.
Business leaders and employees alike can enroll in process improvement training and courses to either receive certifications or just learn the material. These courses range from Business process model and notation (BPMN) training courses to free online courses offered by Coursera or Udemy, to name a few.
Additionally, businesses can seek the aid of software solution providers (like SolveXia) who can help to deploy automation solutions within your organisation in an effort to achieve business process improvement.
One of the best features of process improvement is that it becomes a state of mind and culture that your organisation can adopt. The desire to continuously improve and question how your processes function allows everyone involved to be a part of proactive solutions and execution.
Automation solutions can provide a saving grace to any organisation looking to minimize waste and maximise efficiency. Automation offers increased oversight, enhanced agility, streamlined workflows, and a system designed for constant monitoring and advanced analytics so you can ensure that your processes are running as desired, every time.
What is the purpose of a process model? Ultimately, to optimise and improve processes, but it provides even more benefits for businesses.
What is process improvement and why does it matter? Here’s how automation can play a role in optimising your business’ practices.