Business process optimization
Business doesn’t stay the same forever. 20 years ago, hardly anyone bought goods online. These days, customers (both B2B and B2C) expect to be able to buy almost anything through an app, from clothing and shoes to cars, houses, and a whole lot more.
Your business is going to grow and change as time goes on. At some point, you’ll need to adapt to market trends, consumer demands, government regulations, new competitors or other issues—and in order to adapt, you’ll need to make changes to your business processes.
When you’re pro-active instead of re-active, you have an advantage over your competition. When adaptability and continuous improvement are part of your company culture, you’re in effect future-proofing your business. That’s why continuous improvement is such an important part of business process management.
The good news is: you don’t have to figure out the nuances and techniques of effective continuous improvement on your own. There are many time-tested models that you can follow. Below are a few of the most popular ones.
Continuous improvement models
The overarching theme of Lean is to reduce waste. Lean identifies 7 different types of waste to get rid of:
- Overproduction: producing things before they’re needed, which can lead to products sitting on shelves or in warehouses for long periods of time.
- Waiting: when a work-in-progress is waiting for something else to happen before moving on to the next step of production.
- Transport: the unnecessary movement of materials or products.
- Motion: the unnecessary movement of people.
- Overprocessing: doing more work than necessary to meet customer requirements.
- Inventory: keeping more materials and product on-hand than you actually need.
- Defects: production that’s of low quality, and needs to either be scrapped or reworked.
You can learn more about Lean here.
Six Sigma is “a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. Six Sigma strategies seek to improve the quality of the output of a process by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.”
Continuous improvement projects in Six Sigma follow a defined sequence of steps called DMAIC:
- Define: define the problem and how it’s affecting the current process.
- Measure: look at the KPIs—and any other ways you measure the success of a task or process—to find areas for improvement
- Analyze: analyze the process
- Improve: brainstorm solutions, test and implement changes, and make improvements as needed.
- Control: normalize the new process and make it part of the business strategy
You can learn more about Six Sigma here.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
TQM is a more holistic approach to continuous improvement. Instead of focusing on one department or process, TQM consists of organization-wide efforts improve customer value on every level.
TQM is loosely based on 8 principles:
- Total employee involvement
- Integrated system
- Strategic and systematic approach
- Continual improvement
- Fact-based decision making
You can learn more about TQM here.
Making BPM part of your business strategy
Business process management, when done right, doesn’t just make your processes better: it makes your whole organization, business and company culture better. When everyone in your company is on the same page—and when everyone’s working together to maximize value—it improve productivity, but it also improves morale.
As we said in the beginning: everything relates back to value. That means value to customers and value to the business. Here are some tips on making sure your continuous improvement efforts are providing value, both now and in the future:
Keep monitoring results and brainstorming ideas.
You can’t change what you don’t measure, so keep monitoring your KPIs even after you’ve adopted your new processes. Have your process changes created the desired effect? Have they created value in the right places? Are there ways that you can further increase value as time goes on? The answer to that last question is always “yes.”
Maintain your process models.
Update your process models whenever there’s a change to a process. This is easier if you’re using a BPM tool, like Novacura Flow, that connects your workflows to your business systems. That way, you’re always in contact with your workflows—and it’s much easier to make changes to those workflows. But if you’re not using a BPM tool, at least keep your process models in a format that’s easy to access and update.
Foster a collaborative, pro-active work culture.
This is easy to say, but much harder to actually do. So, how do you do it? Start by focusing on transparency. BPM expert Marlon Dumas defines transparency as “the ability for BPM to help different stakeholders in the business to better understand and monitor their processes.” Transparency, he says, is the most important value of all when it comes to business process success. But it’s not just about business processes: numerous studies have shown that when management is transparent about their goals and objectives—and when they foster a culture of transparency at work—employees are happier, more engaged, and therefore more productive.
Make business process management a habit, not a project
The ultimate goal of business process management is to make your business proactive instead of reactive. Reactive businesses respond to things that happened in the past; proactive businesses act on situations before they become issues or problems. Proactive businesses control their success; reactive businesses scramble to keep up. If you think of BPM as a project, then you’ll most likely stay in a reactive mindset. But if you think of BPM as a habit—something you do every day—your business will become proactive.
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.”
– Calvin Coolidge
Business process management is a discipline. The only way to really learn how to do it is to do it. Of course, you should do your research and have a strategy in place before you dive in. But the only way to really get “good” at BPM is to roll your sleeves up and get started. We wish you the best of luck on your BPM journey!