5 Simple Steps to Better Business Processes
Too often business processes evolve in an ad hoc way in response to business growth. This creates systems that are illogical, frustrating for staff and difficult to manage. Building better processes can save money, accelerate change and give control back to management, while also improving the workplace environment for staff.
1. Take an operational overview
Look at the whole business and identify what is working and what is not. Be sure to identify what processes are working well – don’t just look for the problem areas. There is nothing more frustrating for staff than changes to business process that introduce more complexity and less efficiency. It is essential to keep the staff on-side and engaged during a business process change project.
Look for operational bottlenecks that are slowing the business and talk to staff about frustrations and frequent problems with existing processes. This could be time wasted on invoices, chasing missing orders or following up on slow suppliers. If possible (and appropriate) talk to existing customers about what they would like to see improve.
2. Protect what is working well
In any improvement process there is a risk that the wrong things get changed and the process ‘improvement’ project actually makes things worse. Unless processes are chaotic and inefficient, it is usually better to make incremental changes rather than attempt a wholesale revolution. Never forget the impact on staff who are used to how things work and might be invested in systems they helped to put in place. Make sure changes do not make staff feel like they are being blamed for wider problems or a general lack of investment in how business processes have developed.
3. Target the processes that need changing (and decide how to evaluate improvements)
Identify the specific steps that need to be improved and establish what needs to change. But before you make any alterations, you will need to consider how to measure improvements. This might be time taken to carry out a single step or a series of steps, such as the time taken to process an invoice or the time taken to get internal approval for a new design.
Choose your metrics and measure the performance of existing processes to make sure that improvements are real and not just perceived. This will help win over staff and senior management that the project has been worthwhile and should be repeated.
4. Assess your resources honestly
There is no point in imagining fantastic new ways to work if the business does not have the resources to make the changes a reality. Once you have identified the issues that need to be addressed, consider the resources available to overcome those challenges.
Think about staff, skills, technical infrastructure and how partners can help. This might require help from other parts of the business or extend to a relationship outside the organization. It might mean justifying extra hires or spending on consultancy services. If the other steps have been properly carried out it should be easy to create a plan that justifies this spend.
5. Analyse the impact and fine tune changes
Once the change is implemented do not be afraid to change or fine tune it. Because you have the metrics to measure the success or failure of the project it should be possible to take a data-driven view of how well the changes have worked. Business process improvement is not a one-off project but a continuous progression. Hopefully, staff have seen the benefits of the improvement project and will be looking out for ways to continue to make the business more efficient.
The truly successful project will offer cost savings, a more agile infrastructure, happier staff and management and provide more control over the business and a better idea of the impact of future changes.
Find out more about how FUJIFILM Business Innovation can help.