What is process improvement? How can it help my company?

The goal of every BPM study is to make all tasks and stages of processes occur efficiently and effectively throughout the entire production chain, offering a highly perceived value to the customer upon delivery of the product or service.

The greater the perceived value, the more the customer will be willing to pay to enjoy it. And if the processes for delivery are efficient without waste and with high operational productivity, they will enable the company to achieve a good profit margin.

In this context, process improvement becomes a crucial activity for attaining this goal. In this article, I will discuss many aspects of it.

Let’s start by addressing the question “What is process improvement?”.

What process improvement is

Below you can check the definition of Business Process Improvement according to the BPM CBOK® Guide:

Business Process Improvement (BPI) is a singular initiative or project to improve the alignment and performance of a particular process with the organizational strategy and customer expectations. BPI includes the selection, analysis, design, and implementation of the (improved) process.

For this to occur, the new process should follow some steps and design principles…

Step 1 – Understanding the process you want to improve

The first step, and one of the most important, is the business process analysis.

How to improve something that’s not fully understood?

Before you start a process improvement, it is important to understand the current processes and how they work, without any illusions or misunderstandings.

To help you with that, you can hire a Professional Process Analyst – they are in increasing demand by large-sized companies and work precisely in analyzing and improving business processes.

You can also use an AS-IS mapping process, by drawing a graph of the process and all of its phases, to get a complete picture of what could be causing delays, and where the bottlenecks and points of improvement are.

But, here’s the secret:

Talking to the people involved in the project is crucial. There’s no one better to tell you exactly where the difficulties lie than those who work day-to-day with the process.

Step 2 – Finding out improvements for the process

After the analysis, you should model the new process.

But, how can you do it? What would be the best way to conduct this process to get the best result faster and using fewer resources?

Make another diagram and share ideas with your team!

In this step of your improvement project, try to answer some of these questions:

  • What is the purpose of this process, workflow or activity?
  • Is there any redundancy?
  • What are the problems, quality and compliance issues, and why are they occurring?
  • Why is this task necessary?
  • Where should it be done?
  • Who is the best qualified person to do it?
  • Is it properly supported by automation?
  • What are its major problems?
  • How can the problems be eliminated?
  • How can we remove wastes?
  • Are there standards that must be achieved?
  • How can we monitor the activity and ensure that performance targets are hit?

Step 3 – Implementing the improvements

After process modeling, it’s time to get started!

Effectively putting into action what was discussed and getting everyone on board are essential to the success of process improvement. By examining the implementation, you’ll be able to see whether or not the new ideas work, and if the improvements will succeed.

Step 4 – Executing and monitoring the improvements

You can only improve what you can manage, you can only manage what you can assess and you can only assess what you truly know how to execute.

Controlling the execution is another crucial step in your improvement cycle. A good way to do that is to configure your process in a BPM solution that allows automation. See an example in the image below:

Task Form

The execution of the process will generate the indicators you need to check the effectiveness of the improvement.

Continuous improvement

Of course, you will always find new points of improvement and new bottlenecks. The process of improving them again is called process optimization (see also some examples), and it should never, in any way, be skipped.


Principles for Process Improvement

Improve customer experience

This principle states that, even though processes can become extremely efficient after  improvements are applied, if the customers experience is not satisfactory, all this work can be lost.

It’s what marketers call “moments of truth”, therefore all customer contact points in the organization must provide the best possible experience.

Activities that add value

A key and easy-to-understand principle: does the activity add value to the service or product?

If so, we must devote our full attention to it, so that it’s performed in the best possible way during the process. As for activities that do not add value, they must be eliminated from the new process.

View more: Defining BPM: Learn how to add value to your business here.

Decrease activities most likely to generate a fault in the process

Whenever a risky activity is part of the process, you need to find a way to eliminate it or to simplify its implementation.

The use of a more appropriate technology is often the solution to this situation.

There is nothing as useless as doing what should not be done efficiently. Click To Tweet

First redesign the process, then automate it

Here one should take care not to focus solely on process improvements in automation. The replacement of human activities is not always the solution that will get the desired improvement to achieve the objectives of that process.

Read more on business process design: Principles of Business Process Design.

Process standardization

Some processes are repeated throughout the value chain. If they are properly documented and kept in a process library, you can have access to them and their characteristics.

Therefore, when designing process improvements, it’s important to standardize them, wherever possible, into reusable components, bringing management agility into the company, in addition to facilitating the integration of processes.

Business rules

These are simple rules that can greatly facilitate processes, avoiding time-consuming tasks and replacing complex procedures.

A hypothetical example: checks with a value less than $100.00 can be withdrawn without conferring with the signer. After analyzing the process, it was realized that it would be more expensive to analyze all of the checks, one by one, than to possibly have any returned because of signature error. The business rule brought agility to the process without loss of value.

Plus, it improved the customer experience! Remember, process improvement is about pursuing the best experience for the customer, efficiently and effectively.


Most sectors have measurement standards, procedures, certifications and other parameters that are monitored by government or groups.

Obviously process improvement cannot go beyond these rules.

One thing that process improvement is not is a finite process. In fact, it is a cyclical process because the more we improve, the more we see how to move forward.

It is crucial to ingrain this idea in the company culture, since process improvement should be eternal and constantly applied.

So, what is process improvement?

To sum up, Process Improvement occurs after analyzing current processes, redesigning the processes of activities that do not add value or that bring great risks by eliminating them (or at least simplifying them), constantly following normative rules and seeking to make easy business rule implementation with the creation of reusable standards – all with the aim of adding more value to the product or service and, ultimately, offering an improved customer experience.

See also: Continuous improvement – Get to know the Japanese method and the American method here.

One helpful thing when implementing process improvement and directing your mind-set is the use of reliable software. It helps both managers and employees share information and make sure that data is up to date. The right software can even conduct an effective analysis of processes, besides mapping, modeling, optimizing  and automating them!

Could you share any advice on business process improvement?

We can learn many lessons from the experts who use BPI every day. Many of these lessons are hard-won and based on experience and struggle. If you have any other idea or advice, please leave a comment and share your knowledge with our readers.

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