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Business Process Optimization is the act of taking your old business processes and optimizing them for efficiency. The general idea is to make it more efficient – the means of doing that, however, can vary a lot.
Business Process Optimization is one of the final steps for Business Process Management (BPM), a methodology that advocates for constant process re-evaluation and improvement. So, to make it work, you should have already carried out the first three steps critical for any BPM initiative. Specifically…
Process Identification – You should have already picked a process you’d like to work on. In most cases, you’d usually go for processes that are important for the company and are a profit-driver. What’s the point of business process optimization if it doesn’t have any impact?
Business Process Mapping – Unless you have the process mapped out, you’ll have a hard time finding potential improvements. If you don’t already a map for the process, you can do that by creating a flowchart using pen & paper, or using workflow software.
Business Process Analysis – Before you can start improving the business processes, you should first analyze each and every step. The analysis itself can either be super straightforward, with some glaringly obvious potential changes or a bit more difficult, if the problem is not too obvious. In the latter case, you can use some of the business process improvement tools to find the inefficiencies.
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Settling for basic and cheap project or task management tools is the biggest mistake you can ever make. You get what you pay for. If you try to save a cent - you will lose a dollar. Wasted time (at $40/hour) is far more expensive than the cost of software. There's a huge difference between process management and project or task management. Processes relieve stress, make things predictable - and help you grow and become efficient. Projects and tasks are just ad-hoc, unpredictable chaos.
It's important to understand that context before you carry on reading. Successful people are smart enough to fundamentally change the way they work "right now" and amaze themselves and everyone else with new ideas. You can stop fighting uphill battles every day immediately - and drive more personal success in your career by introducing the modern way of creating, tracking and even enjoying tasks with your coworkers.
Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
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
So if you’ve already got all that out of the way, you should have a clearly defined & mapped out process, and a couple of ideas on how to optimize it.
How to do Business Process Optimization
As we’ve already mentioned, there can be a lot of different ways to do business process optimization. This, of course, really depends on the process in question – there is no one size fits all solution.
In most cases, however, optimization is done through either of the following methods…
Process Improvement or Re-Structuring
This one’s pretty simple, and all it takes is a good look at each step of the process.
The idea is, you need to identify the processes or steps that are…
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
Wasteful – Each step within a process should, somehow, add a certain value to the end goal (which is either a product or some sort of output), and the process itself should amount to something in the context of organizational goals. Sometimes, however, you’ll find that certain steps or processes are actually useless, without creating any sort of value.
Inefficient or Improvable – This means that a step (or a process) is simply not as efficient as it could be. There might be a lot more steps than needed, for example. Approval processes tend to be guilty of this quite often. If you’d want to get a new project off the ground, you would need approval from the senior management within the company. Meaning, you might have to wait for 5+ extremely busy executives to get the time to read the document and give you a green light.
Once you found processes or steps that fall into these categories, all you have to do is improve them for efficiency. This can be done by restructuring the process (change the steps or order or steps), eliminating useless processes (or steps), or by doing a little bit of both.
No one likes manual work. Sometimes, it really does make you feel like a cog in the machine, doing something that even a robot could do. There are cases, though, where that’s exactly the situation – what you’re doing IS something a robot can do, and all you have to do is find the right tool or software.
Business Process Automation (BPA) can help take out any menial labor from your employee’s workloads, which leads to high productivity (employees work more on what matters) and morale (no one likes grunt work).
While how you’re doing automation varies by the task, here’s a few common examples…
- Social Media Management – Whatever your company does, you probably have a Facebook (or at least LinkedIn) page. The traditional way of managing these is to have someone manually log on and find something to post about 3-4 times a day. Rather than waste your time with this, however, you could use a social media management tool such as Buffer to plan out your posts throughout the next month.
- Customer Support – If you’re working with your clients online, you probably have a customer support form right there on your website. Let’s say there’s a bug in the new software update affecting around 10% of your user base. Chances are, your inbox is going to get real clogged. While the first bug report is useful, the rest is just clutter you have to waste time replying to. Software such as Intercom allows you to create events when you can send out automated replies to user complaints, depending on what keywords they mention on their ticket.
Technology Adoption & Complete Process Change
Adopting the right technology can really be a game changer; unlike the first two options, it doesn’t exactly optimize a process. Rather, it changes it completely.
So for example, let’s say you use a whiteboard to manage your daily to-dos within your company. By adopting a task management software such as Trello, you’d instantly be improving the efficiency of your business, without even changing any of the processes. With software in charge, you’d be seeing benefits like…
- Fewer Mistakes & Missed Deadlines – Humans are known to err. Everyone can mess up once in a while, forgetting a very important to-do or deadline. Task management software makes sure this never happens, reminding you of all the tasks and deadlines.
- Central Command Center – It’s a lot easier to just create a new task online and pin it to your employees, rather than send out a detailed email and hope it doesn’t get lost or overlooked.
For a more process-oriented example, there’s workflow management software. Instead of having to manually keep track of workflows through email or chat, you can use a dedicated system to manage all of your processes through one dashboard. This can automatically eliminate a lot of issues you’d encounter with process management, such as…
- Lack of Process Standardization. It can be hard to force all of your employees to follow a strict procedure. Workflow software ensures that everyone completes every step of the process in the right order.
- Easier Tracking & Analysis. Compared to your average process map, workflow software allows for easier tracking and analysis. Without software, you’d have to manually keep track of the process & deadlines through chat or email with. In addition, to actually measure process efficiency, you’d have to manually gather data from different software & employees. With software, you get all of this in a single dashboard.
Now that you know the ins and outs of business process optimization, all that’s left is actually putting it into practice. Theory, after all, can only take you so far. So, do this…
- Identify weak or inefficient processes
- Map it out
- Analyze it. Find if there are any better ways of doing it
- Optimize the process, by either restructuring it, automating it, or adopting some tech that will completely change the way it works
Have any other questions about process optimization? Did we miss anything important? Do let us know in the comments!