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What is business process improvement, and how can it help you work more efficiently and grow your business?
How old are the business systems you rely on? Are you using them because that’s what you’ve always used, or because they’re the best systems available? And are your business processes helping your team be more efficient and productive, or are they slowing everyone down?
Even if you think you have a good idea of the biggest pain points in your business, you cannot know for sure until you’ve analyzed all of your current processes.
As technology advances, business owners are gradually being forced to digitize every facet of their business to stay ahead in their industry and meet customers’ increasing demands for innovation, speed, and great service.
What exactly are business processes?
A business process or system is a series of steps, actions, or tasks that you and your staff repeatedly follow in your business to get something done. These can be formal (official and documented) or informal (more like general guidelines that are not written down).
A business process example may include the steps taken to:
It’s likely that you rely on and follow multiple processes every day to run your business.
Depending on the size of your business, you may be missing some key processes that you haven’t needed to create yet, or that you haven’t found time to develop but desperately need to. For example, do you have follow-up emails that go out to customers who haven’t purchased from you in a while? Do you have a system for your marketing efforts? Do you have an HR system to deal with employee grievances?
When you have an inefficient or outdated process, you’ll often find it’s brought to your attention through frustrated team members and unhappy customers.
What is business process improvement?
Business process improvement (BPI) is also known as business process management. It refers to the process of identifying and evaluating all processes within your business and determining how efficient they are. Inefficiencies are flagged, and methods are redesigned to make them more effective and boost performance across your business.
BPI usually requires you to assign all your business processes into one of the following three categories:
- Operations (manufacturing, sales, marketing, etc.)
- Management (HR, budgeting, etc.)
- Support (anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories, including tech support)
Every task carried out in your business must be evaluated regularly and improved wherever possible to ensure you’re using the most efficient processes.
What is the aim of business process improvement?
12 worthwhile benefits of business process improvement
Helps you become more cost-efficient
Traditionally, organizations would slash their budgets when they wanted to cut costs. However, what if you’ve already trimmed the fat on all your budgets and are operating as a lean business? There’s only so much slashing you can do before you’re left with no budget at all!
Business process improvement is another brilliant strategy to help you maximize the efficiency of the costs you have and maximize profits. It will help you lean on business automation to eliminate the need for human input with repetitive tasks, streamline your day-to-day operations, and improve the quality of your product or service. Automation always reduces errors and speeds up the timeline, inevitably lowering your costs.
Completing tasks manually and relying on outdated paper and filing methods will significantly slow your business down and leave your team frustrated. Especially when they learn that a competitor is using the latest technology and software!
Even if you are using technology to run your business, if it’s basic, clunky, or doesn’t integrate properly with all your other systems, then it’s still going to be a giant headache.
A report from Samanage suggests that US businesses waste up to $1.8 trillion every year on repetitive tasks that could easily (and should) be automated. When you automate these tasks, it enables you and your employees to be more productive every day and focus on more creative work that a machine cannot do.
Buys you more time
As a business coach, the number one complaint I hear from business owners is that they don’t have the time to do all the things they need to do to grow their business. Improving the processes and systems you have in place, or creating them where you don’t have any, will undoubtedly buy you more time.
What you do with this time is up to you. Create more of a healthy work-life balance. Channel it towards higher-value tasks such as creating new product ideas, setting goals and creating action plans to achieve them, or developing your leadership skills so that you can drive your business forward.
Once you’ve set up these systems, they will run on auto-pilot and will only need to be maintained and tweaked. This means your initial investment in implementing stronger business processes will reap significant rewards way into the future without you needing to actively manage them.
Gives you more control
When you have a process that isn’t written down or is done manually, you have less control as a business owner on the way things are run day-to-day. You can’t keep an eye on everything, especially as you grow, which means that there will inevitably be mistakes that go unnoticed and eventually spiral out of control.
When you implement efficient business processes, you only have to monitor the system you have in place rather than every single step or task. This gives you more confidence that everything is running the way you want it to. Nothing is silently going up in flames in the corner!
Helps you scale
My main area of focus as a business coach is helping established businesses scale. But if you want to scale, you must be in control of these five components:
These components are part of my Scale in 5 Method. If any of these five are out of sync, I guarantee your business is out of sync, and you aren’t maximizing your business’s potential for growth and profit.
All your processes and systems must be replicable and scalable at all levels if you want to scale successfully. It’s not enough to think about the now; you must be thinking long-term about your business too.
Employee happiness goes up
Did you ever have a job where a task took ten times longer to complete than it should have? The computer was slow, the paperwork was tedious, or everything needed to be manually signed off by a manager you could never pin down?
A study by PWC found that 73% of workers are aware of systems that would help them do their job more efficiently and to a higher standard but aren’t implemented by the company they work for.
If you want to make sure your employees are happy at work, put yourself in their shoes. Are there processes in place that force them to waste time or leave them frustrated? Have you asked them if there are any pain points in their day-to-day tasks?
Business process automation will cut down hours spent on repetitive tasks and free your employees to do more critical work they care about. They’ll be happier, more motivated, and more productive.
Plus, systems are vital for making onboarding smooth for new hires and enabling them to immediately jump into their role without wasting time.
Are your employees manually transferring information from one place or system to another?
Even if you have competent employees you trust to get the job done; there will always be a certain amount of human error because you’re dealing with humans, not robots! At best, you can resolve these mistakes with a simple click of a few buttons, but at worst, they can take days to fix and lead to you losing money. There’s also a risk of fraud and backup mishaps that can lead to massive data loss or breaches.
Business process improvement will help you automate everything that can be automated and reduce the risk of mistakes. Plus, it will make everything safe and secure so that your data is protected—a must if you want to avoid facing hefty fines from data protection agencies.
Increases the equity of your business
Creating scalable processes and systems is an asset for your business which will be valuable if you plan to sell and exit your company in the future. If an acquirer is confident your business will run smoothly after it changes hands, they’re going to be much more interested in acquiring it because it’s a safer bet. Plus, your business systems may even help the acquirer improve and expand their business processes.
Helps you stay compliant
Do you find it challenging to stay on top of ever-changing compliance, whether it’s to do with taxes, accounts, or employee entitlements? Staying compliant across your business is important to avoid paying unnecessary fines.
A flexible, automated system with compliance built into it will help you do this. New requirements can be implemented instantly to help you stay compliant at all times and avoid hefty penalties.
Boosts customer satisfaction
A study by Microsoft found that over 90% of consumers would shop elsewhere if they knew a business relied on outdated technology. And it makes sense, right? Suppose you’re purchasing a product or service from a company and have a vast choice to choose from. You’re always going to select the most innovative business within your budget. Particularly if you’re buying anything related to technology (such as software, computer equipment, etc.).
In addition, when repetitive tasks are automated, employees are left with more time to focus on other more important tasks, including customer service, which will contribute to happier customers and long-term demand for your business.
Makes your business more agile
Another key benefit of business process improvement is that it helps you remain competitive in an ever-changing market and industry. Many things will be out of your control as a business owner, so it’s vital that you stay in control of everything you can.
Business processes are in your control. The right procedures will be flexible, so you can quickly pivot and adapt as required as your business grows or the market changes without too much effort or disruption.
Helps you utilize & integrate technology
The best technology for your business depends on many factors. This includes the size, the industry, and your immediate needs and long-term goals. Sometimes an off-the-shelf software will be sufficient, while other times, you’ll need something custom built. Business process improvement helps you determine which software and applications are most suitable for your business (including current and anticipated future needs) and align with your organizational requirements.
Whatever business you’re in, I guarantee there’s technology out there that can help you do at least one thing more efficiently in your business.
How to improve a business process
Now that you know the many benefits of investing in business process improvement let’s briefly look at the steps involved.
1. Map processes
Process mapping centers on mapping out all your current processes, step by step, so you can determine which one(s) need improving.
2. Analyze the process
Next, you can analyze the process from start to finish and identify where the friction is. For example, what takes longer than it should? Why are some steps more efficient and pain-free compared to others? What are you doing well, and how can these ways of working be replicated elsewhere?
3. Get buy-in from your team
Show your senior team the current problems and subsequent impact on the business. Make sure they are on board with improving the processes.
4. Redesign the process
Figure out the tools and technology you need to improve your process. Propose a plan of action to implement and roll out this.
5. Acquire resources
Ensure you have what you need to implement the new process, including investment, training sessions, and new equipment.
6. Implement and communicate change
Ensure all affected employees know what’s going to change and when. Next, roll out the new process. You may want to do this on a small scale first to iron out any kinks. When you’re happy, roll it out across the business.
7. Review the process
Keep analyzing and improving your new processes regularly as technology evolves and the needs of your business change.
The first step to improving processes in your business is to get clear on where you stand today. Click above to book a free strategy session so you can evaluate and identify any immediate areas for improvement and begin systemizing your business.