Whatever your organization does, there’s a pretty good chance that your business processes aren’t as efficient as they could be. Most companies are very passive about their processes, holding a “why fix something that isn’t broken” mindset.
If you want your organization to stand out from the competition, however, that won’t cut it. You should be striving for doing as well as you could be. Companies that have a culture of innovation and improvement tend to outlast their competition both through time and through crises.
Starting off with process improvement isn’t all that easy, though. You might realize that while you do want to improve, you have no idea where to begin. To help start off with a blast, we’ve compiled a list of 8+ practical business process improvement ideas – all of which you can immediately put into action.
8+ Business Process Improvement Ideas
Explaining how to do process improvement can be pretty tough – the practical improvements you can do really vary by the industry you work in, as well as any given department.
So, while some of the improvement ideas are very practical & can be implemented 1-to-1, others are more of a theoretical framework. They help you figure out potential improvements yourself.
Are you looking to document and run your processes?
Don't use MS Word or Google Docs, and don't use flowcharts.
Documenting your processes using flowcharts might look pretty and nice – but you can’t run them. Even worse – nobody looks at flowcharts.SEE WHY HERE
Business process improvement ideas are divided into 3 categories.
- Software Adoption & Process Automation – Using software to make processes more efficient. This can help eliminate any kind of grunt work, making your employees happier with their work.
- Analysis & Improvement – In some cases, there might be a couple of easy wins just waiting to be found. A process step, for example, can be useless and overpriced. Simply eliminating the step would make the entire process more efficient. These methodologies help find inefficiencies within your processes, as well as how to improve them.
- Problem-Solving – Are your processes malfunctioning? Are bottlenecks and missed deadlines a frequent sight? These techniques help figure out the root cause of the problems, allowing you to get everything back on track.
Software Adoption & Process Automation
Unless you’re taking advantage of digital transformation, you’re missing out. According to IDC, over two-thirds of all CEOs will have digital transformation in the heart of their corporate strategy by the end of 2017.
And there’s a pretty good reason behind that, too. Simply adopting the right software or tech can make your processes more efficient. In some cases, they can even completely automate a big chunk of a certain business function.
To help you get started with this, we’ve covered three of the most common software types that help with process improvement and automation.
Task / Project Management
For a non-digital organization, task-management can be very hectic. You can hear the cries of confusion and frustration all around the office…
“Wait, so why isn’t this done yet?”
“Wasn’t John supposed to do it?”
“John’s on vacation. Wasn’t Jane supposed to delegate the task to someone else?”
And so on.
Task or project management software puts all the to-do management in one place. Rather than having to chase after your employees, you get a top-down view of everything going on in the organization.
This makes the process of task management significantly easier and more efficient.
While there are a lot of different tools for this, our favorites are…
Basecamp – This software consists of different boards depending on the department or business function. In each board, you (or your employees) can create and assign tasks to whoever’s relevant.
Trello – If your company is already using Kanban, Trello might be the easiest option. It’s essentially a digital Kanban board. Your employees move tasks around based on their completion status (to-do, in progress, done).
Business Process Management
These are the type of tasks you complete repeatedly on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, this can be onboarding a new employee, writing and publishing a blog post, opening a new customer account, etc.
So if we take employee onboarding as an example, the process would be…
- Have the new employee sign all the paperwork
- Let the supervisor know about the new hire
- The supervisor creates a list of initial to-dos, assignments, projects, goals, etc. for your new hire
- Let everyone in the company know about the new hire (so as to make proper introductions on day one)
Business Process Management software helps automate the communication part of the process. Think, instead of completing your task and sending over an email to the next responsible person (in this case, the supervisor), you simply create an instance of the process.
Then, the BPM software helps enforce the process. Once any given task is complete, the process owner in line gets a notification that they have a new task.
If you want to give business process management software a go, you can try it free here.
Grunt work is the most annoying thing your employees face. It’s something that has to be done, but no one really wants to bother spending hours and hours on it.
Task automation software, such as Zapier, helps you cut corners.
So for example, you have a lead generation website set up that captures the emails and general information about your customers.
You’d probably want to move the data from MailChimp (most common email marketing solution) to whichever CRM you use.
While this is OK if you have to do it once or twice a day, it can be overly time-consuming if you have a surge of traffic & capture hundreds of emails within a day. To save you from having to copy-paste contacts manually, you can use Zapier to do it for you.
Analysis & Improvement
These techniques allow you to analyze any given process and figure out how to improve it. You’d do this in three steps…
Step #1: Process Mapping
Before you can analyze any given process, you should have it mapped out. This allows for significantly easier introspection – unless you’re the individual working the specific process, you probably don’t know it by heart.
So, you’d want to create a process map. The simplest way to do this is with a flowchart diagram. That’s the exact steps you’d take to complete the process. Here’s an example of employee onboarding…On one hand, the process map allows you to gain insight into how the process works. On the other hand, your employees can use it as a point of reference. You can use it to teach new employees the intricacies of the process, as well as make sure your current employees don’t forget any process step.
Step #2: Streamlining the Process
Once you have the process map, you can make certain conclusions on how to streamline it (think, remove useless steps, make some steps more efficient, etc.).
- Are any of the process steps unnecessary to get to the end-goal?
- Do your employees frequently miss deadlines for a given step? Why?
- Is any given process step overly expensive or time-consuming? Is there any way to make it cheaper or faster?
Once you’ve found how the process can be potentially improved, you can put the theory into action.
Step #3: Standardizing Processes
Once you’ve identified the best variation of any given process, you’d want to standardize it. Meaning, you want to make sure that all of your employees stick to the best practice, not how they used to do it before.
For this, you can share the process map with relevant employees & explain how things should function differently from here on out.
To make sure that they stick to the changes, you can reward the employees that show initiative and adapt.
To make process standardization easier, you can use Business Process Management software. You can use the software to create a process model. The software will then enforce the new process standard, ensuring that all of your employees are following the changes.
If your processes are broken in some way (missed deadlines, bottlenecks, etc.), these business process improvement ideas help find the root cause behind the issue, allowing you to get things back on track.
The idea behind this analysis method is that if you keep asking the question “why?” enough times, you’ll figure out what’s the root cause of a given problem.
So, for example, let’s say that 5% of your customers are receiving a defective product.
- Why are the customers receiving a defective product?
- Because there was a serious malfunction in a certain manufacturing line
- Because the manufacturing machine on the given line was faulty
- Because the machine was shipped by a new partner company (for a price cheaper than the industry average)
Once you’ve got the root cause of the issue down, fixing the problem can be very simple. In our example, you could stop working with the partner. Or, you could ask them to fix the machine ASAP at the threat of litigation.
Ishikawa (or the fishbone diagram) helps you determine the causes and effects of different elements.
To create your own fishbone diagram, you should do the following…
- Identify the exact problem. Place it on the right of the diagram.
- Come up with the major categories that might be contributing to the problem. Put them down as separate arrows on the diagram. The categories could, for example, be…
- Then, branch out from each category & name potential problems within each.
- Analyze each potential problem. Identify why is it happening, how you’d fix it, etc.
Hopefully, the business process improvement ideas we’ve mentioned were helpful.
Do you have any examples or ideas that we’ve missed? Maybe personal stories from your own process improvement initiatives?
Let us know down in the comments!