We may have mentioned this before, but for most business owners one of the main aims for their business is to grow. Business process improvement, or basically helping your business to grow in a streamlined way, is always in the back of your mind, even if it isn’t in the forefront of the day to day operations.
What is Business Process Improvement?
Business process improvement is used to identify, analyse and improve the current ways you are doing things to make sure that you are meeting your business’ goals and objectives.
Business process development is defined as ways of improving quality, productivity and response time of a specific business process, by reducing time and costs and removing any non-value adding activities.
It usually happens incrementally and is a process that needs to be regularly revisited.
What sort of processes would you need to assess?
This could literally be anything.
If you run an online store, for example, you might assess:
- The steps in your production line or ordering and intake of stock
- The process of packing and shipping a customer order
- Customer service steps including phone, email, follow-up after purchase etc.
- Your communication steps with wholesalers
- The way your warehouse is set up and runs
- Your social media marketing strategy and implementation
- How you attack the day to day of your business and looking at time management and opportunities for work you can delegate or outsource
- Assessing your business tracking tools such as bookkeeping software, project management, job tracking, HR, apps and more.
Onwards and upwards: why you need to develop your business
The basics of business improvement are to do things better, so to save money or time on any aspect of your business in a way that helps your bottom line.
It could lead to more production and sales, to less staff turnover, to greater market reach, to fewer errors in manufacturing, to better use of technology, to better relationships or communication or many more kinds of improvement.
Optimisation is needed to be able to make more money while making processes easier or more streamlined. The processes you are looking at could be informal or formal ones and work in a number of different areas or departments of your business.
You might be prompted to make improvements by a number of different triggers or signposts, for example by significant growth in your competition, by a slowing down in your sales, by changes in technology that you need to keep up with, or by negative feedback that you really need to listen to.
You don’t need to be triggered to look into process improvement, however, as growth and development of your business is enough reason in itself.
You will usually undertake this kind of improvement with your business’ overall goals and mission in mind, so it can be very helpful to define these beforehand and have them clear.
Steps in Business Process Improvement
There are a number of different ways to analyse how your processes are currently performing, but they will all touch on the following four steps:
- Identifying the need for change (and if need be, putting evidence of this to the powers that be)
- Analysing and reviewing your current process (including breaking it down into steps and seeing the opportunities for making things better)
- Creating an optimisation strategy (can include modelling of how you would ideally like things to be)
- Implementing your improvements
Then the cycle starts again with identifying another need for improvement.
You will then need to gather information to analyse your current processes and identify ways you can improve.
The amount of information you gather and the different ways in which you collect it will depend on how big your business and how long you have been in operation.
You might gather information by:
- talking to existing employees, team members or contractors
- seeking feedback from customers
- assessing what your competitors are doing
- collecting data on outputs, sales figures etc.
- conducting research into developments in your industry and in technology
- including business rules and regulations, industry standards etc.
Some common techniques for Business Process Improvement Analysis
Drive is a lovely, simple way to look at the processes you are using and analysing them. Any business owner can use the Drive formula and you don’t need special tools or expertise to do so. This approach involves:
D — Defining the scope of the process you are looking at, the criteria you are measuring your success by and the deliverables that you are using
R — Review the current process using existing data
I — Identify potential improvements you can make to the process and changes you could make to maintain them
V — Verifying that the improvements can achieve the goals you defined
E — Execute the new plan of attack
While the Drive technique is more about looking at content and data in your planning, process mapping is a visual technique. You basically draw a diagram or chart of how your specific process works, the path that it follows, and identify moments where it can be optimised.
Visual representations can work much better for some people than using words or data reports and can be as simple as flowcharts or post-it notes on a board.
For some easy instructions on creating your flowchart, see here: Draw a business process flowchart in just 5 steps
Similar to process mapping, but process modelling looks more at what is the best way you could be doing things, or how you can optimise the process. This technique looks at an ideal world — if you could have everything running perfectly and faultlessly, what would it look like.
Then figure out how to get your existing process there.
This approach uses computer models to mimic your operation process and identify areas for optimisation. This works well where clear steps are followed such as in a production line or following the staff handling of a complaint.
To learn more about business process improvement and making your business more efficient, get in touch with us here at Optimise & Grow Online as we love to make business and marketing operations more efficient!
Originally published at optimiseandgrowonline.com.au on July 15, 2018.