The Fundamentals of Process Improvement

Manish Nepal

October 16th, 2018 Business Process Improvement  

What is Process Improvement?

Process improvement is a methodology to combat redundancies in processes that lead to project delays, employee demoralizing, and productivity decline. It starts with a focus on defining the business requirements of a process rather than contemplating the technology to overcome the obstacles. Enterprises that have applied BPI testify to reducing waste, increasing operational efficiency, and enhancing mindshare by better utilizing their existing resources.

Using process improvement is like taking to an overgrown tree or bush and cutting off all the unnecessary growth and giving a better shape to grow and maintain aesthetics. Process improvement identifies process parts and the functional talents that could be groomed further – or filtered out – to enhance process quality.

What Can Process Improvement Do For Your Business?

At its heart, process improvement strives to meet market demands and accomplish business goals with minimal waste. Process improvement runs on the principle of comparison; so whatever gets measured, gets done. It is used widely to bring order to deficiencies in a process or a system to harmonize them with the enterprise goals.

Like any other change management, implementing process improvement tools is a project and needs certain direction to see results. Some of the well-defined rules to achieve a well-organized business process improvement are to:

  • Address the existing processes, their relative health, and their roles in the company
  • Identify how broken processes could be better aligned with the organization’s goals
  • Define how the improved outcomes would add value to the core operation
  • Identify and reorganize the available resources (IT, manpower, systems, other resources) for an effective process improvement implementation

The implementation can begin with a simple process mapping to test the waters and address pain points.

All In the Process Improvement Family

Process improvement is often confused with business process reengineering (BPR), Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, TQM, and so on. While it is drastically different from BPR because of their different approach, it does overlap with other disciplines. This is mostly because all of these concepts aim at minimizing waste in subpar processes and enhancing productivity.

BPR is applied to processes that require a major overhaul, like completely redesigning a process to achieve dramatic results. Business process improvement is useful for all other processes that need important modifications, but without taking away its essence and more or less with the same set of resources.

Speaking by numbers, business process reengineering is likely to be executed on a very broken process where the results may be up to 90% better savings, quality, speed, etc. Process improvement looks at processes that need only to be enhanced. Hence the improvements are more likely to be in the 10-30% range.

However, it is important to note that BPR and Business Process Improvement can be parallel processes that go hand in hand to achieve a common organizational goal.

Business Process Improvement Complements BPM

Business process improvement should be used as a regular part of an overall business process strategy. By implementing business process improvement on a regular basis, process owners can see:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Improved process visibility/performance
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Reduced cycle time reduction
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Effective management of resources

What Process Improvement Does?

Here is a quick list of some of the changes that might happen as a result of process improvement:

  • Remove redundant tasks
  • Add conditional branches to accommodate existing exceptions
  • Convert sequential steps to parallel steps to cut down on processing time
  • Convert approval steps to notifications for processes that are well-functioning
  • Add steps to accommodate for new personnel and team structure
  • Add approval steps to ensure quality
  • Bring more automation to your form data so that fewer fields need to be completed
  • Hide unnecessary fields from certain participants
  • Integrate the process with other software to automatically create folders, add lines to spreadsheets, add calendar events, add journal entries, etc.

…and much more

Keep Your Processes Trimmed

Using process improvement is a great way to make sure your processes stay in great shape. Every process naturally needs to be reviewed once in a few months if not more regularly. Keep business process improvement as a core part of your regiment and your processes will continue to operate with even better efficiency!