The goal of every BPM study is to aim for all tasks and stages of processes to occur efficiently and effectively throughout the entire production chain, by providing 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, it will enable the company to achieve a good profit margin.
In this context, process improvement becomes a crucial activity for the achievement of this goal, and in this article I will show many aspects of it.
Let’s start this article with a definition for 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, this new process should follow some steps and design principles…
Step 1 – Understanding the process you want to improve
The first step, one of the most important, is the business process analysis.
How to improve something that’s not fully understood?
Before you start with a process improvement, it is important to understand the current processes and how they work without any illusions or deceptions.
For this, you can hire a Professional Process Analyst – they are increasingly demanded 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 create a complete picture of what could be causing delays, where the bottlenecks are and where the points of improvement are.
But, here’s the secret:
Talking to the people involved in the project is crucial. There’s nobody better to tell you exactly where the difficulties lie than those who work day to day with the process.
Step 2 – Find 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 find the best result faster and using fewer resources?
Make another diagram and share ideas with the 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 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 – Implement the improvements
After process modeling, it’s time to get started!
Effectively putting into action what was discussed and getting everyone on board is essential to the success of process improvement. It is the examination of the implementation where you’ll be able to see whether or not the new ideas work and if the improvements will succeed.
Step 4 – Execute and monitor 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.
The control of execution is another crucial step in your improvement cycle. Configure your process in a BPM solution that allows the automation. See an example in the image below:
The execution of the process will generate the indicators you need to check the effectiveness of the 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 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 applying improvements, if the customers experience is not satisfactory, all of 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 performs in the best possible way during the process. As for activities that do not add value, they must be eliminated from the new process.
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
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.
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.
These are simple rules that can greatly facilitate processes, avoiding time-consuming tasks and complex procedures that can be replaced by these rules.
A hypothetical example: cheques 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 cheques one by one than to possibly have any returned because of signature error. The business rule brought agility to the process without the 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 any 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 that this is ingrained in the company culture, which has to be eternal and constantly applied.
Finally, so what is process improvement?
We can conclude that 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 create easy business rule implementation with the creation of reusable standards, all with the aim of adding more value to the product or service and in the end, an improved customer experience.
One thing that helps a lot in implementing process improvement and directing your mind-set is the use of reliable software, which 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, map them, mode them, optimize them and automate them!
Could you share any advice for business process improvement?
There are many lessons we can learn from the experts who use BPI every day. Many of these lessons are hard won and based in experience and struggle. If you have any other idea or advice, please leave a comment and share your knowledge with our readers.