What makes a process improvement project good? We examine six key stages to follow to ensure success.
Process improvement is essential for all businesses
Process improvement, quite simply, describes the practice of identifying, analysing and enhancing how a business carries out tasks. It’s a systematic, planned approach.
There are many reasons to do it, from fixing a problem to upgrading performance or reducing waste. In fact, there’s unlikely to be a situation when you wouldn’t want to produce better processes. Even if the project seems daunting or expensive, the long-term benefits should outweigh any initial challenges.
However, there are times when you would want to remove processes: when they aren’t adding value. Operating models play a key role in streamlining, helping highlight processes that aren’t contributing positively to your business goals.
Six steps to achieve process improvement
A well-run process improvement project has multiple stages, of varying duration. Here are the main steps to follow for a successful project.
1. Run a business process review (BPR) to set the scene
A BPR sets your project on the right path.
It’s essential to fully understand the current state before you look to improve it. Gather all process data showing what happens and when, via data mining and workshops. This lays the foundations, helping you assess the process before you begin.
For support with this stage, see: how to run a business process review
2. Extract the data that defines your process
Process discovery provides hard data, giving an accurate picture of how activities combine to form a process.
Using a centralised platform is an unbiased way of extracting this data. It often gives you several options of data-sourcing methods, such as data-driven (using log files) or crowd-driven (using surveys).
3. Map and model the current state using the extracted data
A basic map lays out all stages of the current process. Choose the most appropriate for your needs, depending on the type of process (for example sequential or cross-functional).
By revealing what’s really happening, it helps to identify the problem areas and opportunities in your live process. Then you can move to identifying the ideal future state (to-be process).
For support with this stage, see: getting started with process mapping
4. Create the ideal future process
Target operating models (TOMs) are a useful tool to model the optimal future process. They’re a template for how you would like the business to work. Often created to manage major changes, they are also useful for smaller, single-function projects.
For support with this stage, see: what does a target operating model look like?
5. Use a transformation map to plan the route to your goal
Transformation maps (T-maps) visually represent the goal and strategic planning process. They show the ideal future state, timelines, key targets and progress indicators.
T-maps are live documents and should be regularly updated and accessed by the whole project group.
For support with this stage, see: how to create a transformation map
Example transformation map
6. Make changes confidently, supported by scenario modelling
You may think you know what would improve the process, but it’s impossible to be certain until you act.
Scenario modelling and simulation enable analysts to test assumptions in a more risk-free environment. Thereby reducing the risk of potentially expensive mistakes and getting closer to the results you need.
For support with this stage, see: three steps to better scenario modelling
Example of results from scenario modelling
Define key metrics at the start of the project
The metrics and KPIs you choose are personal to your business, as with so many things about process improvement. Make sure they’re in sync with your overall business goals, so they’re reinforcing the strategy. Both quantitative and qualitative metrics – like productivity, timeliness or customer satisfaction – are important.
Think about how you’ll collect the data to determine success. Perhaps configure a transformation dashboard to retrieve data from the process model. Will data collection be ongoing or take place at the end of the project? Clarify all these points before you begin.
Maintain the improvement with regular reviews
Continuous improvement is one of the biggest challenges. It’s as much about culture and mindset as it is about tools and techniques.
A transformation dashboard helps you regularly review your process and contribute towards ongoing improvement. It offers multiple ways to access, view, chart and filter the information in your process models.
Take your process improvement to the next level
You may be using spreadsheets or diagramming software to map and improve your processes. While these can be useful, their capabilities are limited; they can’t enable an entire process improvement.
A specialist transformation platform like BusinessOptix combines extensive functionality with ease of use.
It’s there for you at every stage of business process improvement. It provides all the tools you need, whether you’re an experienced analyst or starting your first project today. So you can get on with improving processes immediately.
To discover how to get the most value out of BusinessOptix, claim your free demo.