H. James Harrington wrote in his book Business Process Improvement: The Breakthrough Strategy for Total Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness that “Everything we do today can be done better by concentrating on the process.
Management has taken away our employees’ ability to produce error-free output by saddling them with obsolete, cumbersome, bureaucracy-laden business processes. Let’s give our employees a fair chance at success by starting business process improvement activities today.”
And that quote perfectly summarizes the importance of business process improvement. But let’s dig deeper.
Here’s all you need to know about how BPI can transform your business and help your company grow.
What Is Business Process Improvement (BPI)?
Business process improvement refers to diagnosing, analyzing, and improving current processes in the enterprise to enhance performance, correct project management practices, and provide continuous business growth.
👉 If you need a thorough guide through BPI, we encourage you to read our article: How to Successfully Implement Business Process Improvement
Here’s a quick overview of business process improvement examples:
- Improving technology used at the company by updating outdated systems, integrating tools to them, or exchanging technical equipment.
- Improving communication.
- Changing the hierarchical structure within the company.
- Eliminating unnecessary steps in the project management procedure.
Business process improvement can relate to any change in the current process in a company. They depend on the organization, its structure, and field of operation.
👉 Read also about Business Process Reengineering
Why Is Business Process Improvement Important?
BPI is particularly important for organizations that struggle with poor project management and have problems with establishing the right business processes. But it also helps to enhance existing procedures and add value to projects.
If you’re wondering why business process improvement is important, here’s the list of the benefits deriving from BPI.
1. Automation of work
According to the McKinsey research, as many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting technologies.
And it doesn’t mean that technology has to push employees out of their jobs. The same research states that “fewer than 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated using current technology. However, about 60 percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated.”
Technology used with people’s skills and the right methodologies can automate and optimize work.
It can improve the quality of work by eliminating tedious activities and bureaucracy, streamlining workflow, and bringing more transparency to teamwork.
There’s no need for your team to do things manually if they can use technology to have their work done.
How can you improve business processes with technology? For example, you can use time tracking software to automatically fill timesheets, track billable time, and manage payroll. Or you can use dedicated project management software to manage tasks and visualize progress. Even tracking and adding inventories are now made easy by inventory management software to avoid misplacements and miscount of stocks.
There are many ways to improve processes with technology. You need to explore the options, analyze your needs, and adjust the tools to your organization.
2. Waste elimination
Business process improvement helps to better plan, organize, and thoroughly prepare to a project in the long-term. By establishing clear guidelines and procedures, you know your goals, the means to achieve them, what to avoid, and what to look for.
One of the biggest benefits of waste elimination is the ability to accurately assess the profitability of projects or certain processes that consume too much time and money, and don’t bring any value to the company.
Also, when you track the progress, you can eliminate waste—be it money, resources, or time—in real-time and act in the right moment.
3. Defining or reshaping the culture
Company culture is shaped by many factors—attitudes, goals, vision, but also processes. These help to establish the right practices, approach to managing projects, and overall workflow.
Business process improvement helps to evaluate which organizational procedures and regulations add value to the company and help to steer it in the right direction.
Improving business processes helps to support the current strategy, mission, vision, and goals, and eliminate those that don’t support company culture. Or create a new one that aligns with company values.
Company culture can also help to choose the tools and methodologies corresponding to the organizational structure.
4. Decreased cost
One of the main assumptions of business process improvement is cost optimization.
BPI involves a thorough analysis of statistics, figures, budget, and projects to identify weak spots. That way you can save money on unnecessary expenses with work automation, by modernizing your workplace with innovative solutions, and apply time management strategies.
How to decrease costs with business process management? Take a look at examples proposed by Kevin Coyne, Shawn T. Coyne, and Edward J. Coyne in their article for Harvard Business Review:
- Consolidate incidentals – Combine activities like training days and celebrations into single events across multiple departments
- Take overdue personnel actions – restructure the jobs of any less-than-fully-busy people and confront the problem of underperformers
- Reduce spending on department management – limit the level of supervision over tasks that don’t need to be supervised
- Gain control of miscellaneous spending, small things that aren’t necessary for employees, projects’ success, and work comfort
- Hold down pay increases – check which employees should actually get raise
- Repropose rejected cost-saving ideas
- Eliminate any work for which the cost exceeds the value
5. Fewer errors
Through business process improvement you can perform a precise analysis of your procedures, business structure, and spot mistakes.
Additionally, fewer errors result in better performance for your employees. They can focus on improving their skills which will result in better customer care and higher customer satisfaction, and improved quality of services or products your business offers.
If errors in your processes cause severe problems, you can introduce some proven methods for minimizing mistakes. One of them is the “pointing and calling” method that helps to avoid mistakes by pointing at important elements and calling out the status. As a result, you activate different parts of your brain and stay focused.
This technique is used mostly in Japanese railway or production companies, but it can be adopted for customer service or office work. For example, you can read aloud your email before sending it to make sure it’s understandable.
6. Efficient and smooth workflow
Business process improvement allows you to eliminate unnecessary procedures and optimize performance time for certain activities.
If you carry a thorough analysis of your workflow, you can reshape it to be more effective, less time-consuming, and streamlined.
Maybe you don’t have the right procedures, are using the wrong techniques, or have too many tools? If so, business process improvement will help you define the weak spots and set things in the right order.
7. Improved reliability of business processes
With business process improvement you can refine the entire organization and give your business a strong fundament for growth.
That’s because BPI lets you unify all practices to experience fewer failures and successfully deliver every project. In consequence, processes are always up-to-date, effective, and bring desired results.
H. Harrington writes that “If you buy a recorder, a television, or a car, you expect it to be as reliable as the ones made before and after it. You expect it to start every time. You do not accept variation. Why should this be any different for a business process?”
8. Increased employee morale
The right business process improvement methodology should include employees. Because employees are the driving force for your business success.
In one of the researches, 36% of employees said that better visibility of organizational goals would amplify their satisfaction and job performance. People can’t be satisfied if they find it difficult to work.
If you ensure all processes are smooth and favor your people’s work, they’ll be happy, motivated, and willing to achieve more. You’ll also experience a lower turnover rate
Remember, satisfied employees are the best marketing for your company!
PRO TIP: To boost employee performance, don’t forget to invest in their development—training sessions, courses, webinars, conferences, books, and other resources. There are many ways you can help them improve their skills and gain experience.
9. Adaptability for future changes
Once you set all processes in order and work out a solution to the weak spots, you’ll find it easier to identify areas for improvement in the future. It’s worth remembering that business process improvement means continuous development.
Your organization needs to be flexible in the processes to “handle future, changing customer expectations and today’s individual, special customer requests,” writes H. Harrington in his book about BPI.
Business process improvement can help you become adaptable for future changes without facing extra risk.
10. Higher customer satisfaction
One of the main advantages of business process improvement is high customer satisfaction. It’s the result of making sure all loose ends are tied up.
It’s like a cause-and-effect relationship—when all processes are set in order and work effectively, your team knows exactly what to do, how to develop their skills and better serve the client.
Customers always remember how you handled, or didn’t handle, their special needs. So make sure they remember your organization as a professional business partner.
How to Effectively Achieve Business Process Improvement?
Business process management relevant to your company’s model can significantly support business process improvement. There are three elements that can help you effectively achieve BPI:
1. VISUALIZE process improvement process with a block diagram (flow chart). Include all activities, tasks, processes, subprocesses that need to be done to get to the desired outcome.
To make it easier, you can use professional visualization tools that’ll let you draw graphs in different variations, such as Visme or SmartDraw.
2. TRACK PROGRESS after you’ve mapped all the processes. Use dedicated tools such as time tracking software to track progress, monitor budget, resources, and all your planned activities.
Track your business process improvement progress with TimeCamp
3. REVIEW your processes regularly to improve, eliminate waste, and quickly identify risks.
Optionally, you can also hire a specialist with business process improvement certification who will help you go through all BPI steps.
Business process improvement is beneficial and the best part is that it can be carried for free. With the right tools and methodology, it will help you understand how your organization functions against your competitors, and what you need to do to better serve your clients.
It’s a great way to transform your business to stand out on the market and adapt to global changes in the business world.