Every day, businesses follow a routine to get things done. They have a process that everyone needs to follow to reach their goals and deliver outputs. Unfortunately, these business processes become outdated over time. As a result, businesses adapt and evolve by improving certain steps in the process—or the entire process itself.
Businesses could find themselves losing resources because of unproductive processes. This is because outdated practices tend to be more tedious, time-consuming, and less efficient. They may also affect the quality of the products and services of the company. So, when you find your business processes require some revamping, proceed to do it. Here are some practical ways to improve your methods:
Simple But Powerful Ways to Improve Business Processes
When it comes to major changes, it’s always good to start your planning process based on data. The analysis will show you the areas you need to pay more attention to and the current practices that are working well. Moreover, businesses can conduct a process audit and a 360-degree analysis.
A standard process audit analyzes the company’s current systems and identifies its strengths and weaknesses. It involves painting a picture of the company’s expectations or goals for itself, its customers, and employees. The audit should also investigate how the processes adapt to certain situations and the sentiments of those who will be affected by the change.
A 360-degree analysis will help the company to understand the problems that you need to address. In this analysis, the number of steps, the departments involved, costs, and the efficacy of the methods matter. Each step should, then, be evaluated by how much time they need to complete. It would also help to identify which steps bring the most problems or are susceptible to risks.
2. Identify the Problem Areas
Now that you have the data in your hands, you can identify the areas where improvements should be in place. The following are factors you should consider in identifying the issues in your business processes:
• Roadblocks – What steps are interrupting the workflow? Which steps have become problematic over time?
• Time – What steps are causing delays in the processes? Are there steps that can be condensed into one?
• Cost – Can the process cost less and use fewer resources?
• Quality – Are there steps that affect the quality of the product and services?
Knowing the issues in your processes gives you an idea of which steps you should optimize. It may help to dissect the process to dig into the steps one by one. This allows you to have a detailed approach. Additional input from people who have firsthand experiences of the process is also useful.
3. Communicate Effectively
Changes are rough, but it becomes easier with proper communication. Make sure to inform the departments, teams, or employees about the issues and the changes that will take place in the company.
However, telling each person one-by-one may not be efficient. Hence, streamlining the communication lines is necessary. Assign one person to funnel down the information to the rest of the team. Most of the time, this person is the manager, the team lead, or the supervisor. Instructing them to relay the message to the rest of the group is ideal because they are closer and more in touch, so it’s easier to reach the team.
Relaying the message is not the only objective. Here, people should start being on the same page. When telling everyone about the change, be transparent and listen to their voices. They should also feel like their input is appreciated because they are part of the process. Most of all, people take change differently, so consider the pace they need to adjust.
4. Simplify and Automate
The world constantly introduces new ways to perform tasks easily, especially with the presence of technology. What used to take two steps can now be done in one. Therefore, businesses should take advantage of technological advancements to make their business processes more efficient.
It could be difficult to change something that everyone in the company has been used to over the years. You could also be apprehensive of how well technology can do its job. When you find yourself with these problems, look at the data you’ve gathered from your analysis. Perhaps, automating and simplifying processes can save you time, energy, and money while increasing the quality of your work.
If certain steps have turned out to be impossible to automate or simplify, it’s understandable. Instead, you can look for ways to make the process more efficient, such as tasks that help your company stand out. These steps may also be too meticulous or specific to entrust to a machine. For example: selecting content for a magazine or personalized packaging.
5. Monitor Performance
One-size-fits-all does not always work for teams and employees. With changes, some people need more time to adjust and learn the new processes, while others may get the hang of it quickly. Monitoring their performance allows you to see how they are responding to the new business processes. It also gives you more insights on how to cater the other changes to their specific working styles and productivity levels.
Project status tracking will tell you what you need to know about team performance. It’s a practical approach to monitor your team’s productivity, so it’s less time-consuming and more focused on the employees. The factors involved in this system are lead and cycle times, progress and milestones, budget status, team performance, and bottlenecks in the workflow.
The company can tailor management styles based on this data. For example, some employees enjoy flexible work schedules and working from home. If the company offers work-from-home options, these employees are more likely to be more productive in that setup. Every employee has different needs. By catering to their needs, the management ensures that no employee is left behind during changes.
6. Be Consistent
Because changes don’t happen overnight, you need consistency to plan new business structures. It’s important to know every step of the process and every detail about it. This way, employees are informed on what they need to do and what is expected from them.
A project management process will help you visualize everything. It lays out the process to individually emphasize the steps. This helps with productivity and tracking of projects so that the team can work towards completion.
Project management systems can be push or pull. A push system follows a plan, while a pull system creates a plan according to the objectives. Think of a push system as following a blueprint when building a house. On the other hand, a pull system is talking to the owner of the house, asking them what they want, and then drawing up a sketch.
Having a vision board helps with consistency and management as well. You can use a flow chart on a bulletin board or use apps that help organize workflow. Productivity apps are free and accessible for easier access and synchronicity throughout the team. They usually have features such as Kanban, calendar, boards, comments, etc.
7. Reflect on the Improvements
Once everything is in place, it’s time to evaluate the improvements. Did the changes make the processes more cost-effective, less time-consuming, and overall efficient? Aside from the actual procedures, you should consider your employees as well. Are they able to keep up with the improvements?
Evaluating the changes shows you whether you have reached your goals. But know that results don’t reflect right away. Observe the process first. You can assess the changes with the help of the teams, managers, employees, or departments. While the data may not come in until a few months or so, people who have firsthand experiences with the changes will probably have something to say.
Benefits of Improving Business Processes
Improving business processes leads to the improvement of your business as well. The following are some benefits of having more streamlined and tailored business processes:
• Increase efficiency. This is the most apparent benefit of improving business processes. Through simplified processes, you’ll save more time, money, and resources to finish outputs. Employees also get to focus their energy and effort on increasing the quality of the output.
• Better customer experience. Customers tend to prefer fast delivery of products and services. Having a streamlined and simplified process helps your business offer just that.
• Customer loyalty and increase in revenue. It’s a domino effect—when customers are happy with the products and services of the business, they become loyal to that business. They will also recommend the business to other people, and you’ll have more customers. More customers, then, lead to more revenue.
• Reduce the chances of committing mistakes. The lesser steps in the process, the less room there is for mistakes. For example, a game of a message relay. The more people in the relay, the more chances there are of the message being altered. The same could apply to business processes. Therefore, using fewer steps makes your processes the closest to airtight.
• Easy management. When the process is as straightforward as possible, managers don’t need to oversee so many steps. Instead, they can focus on what matters instead of monitoring seemingly unnecessary steps. This way, they can check the quality of the products more intently.
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Business process changes do not happen in an instant, nor are they implemented overnight. Businesses have to analyze data, identify the issues, and communicate first. By the time the improvements are in place, they then need to monitor the performance of their employees and evaluate the new process. The new process remains in place through consistency until further improvements are applied.
M. Alan Shapiro is the CEO of Executive Boutique Call Center, an offshore call center and BPO services provider. Since 2008, he has been helping his clients’ companies grow by providing them with high-quality and reliable outsourcing services from their two offices in Cebu, Philippines. He spends his free time snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and gardening.