You may not know it, but your business processes could be stopping your company from achieving its full potential. Unlike a project—which is free-flowing and only happens once—a process is something structured which happens repeatedly at any level, from taking on new employees, assembling products, or sending invoices. This doesn’t necessarily mean there are any glaring errors in the systems you currently have in place, but managing and refining these processes could make a huge difference to the business’s overall success.
The overall value of business processes can be broken down into three specific benefits: efficiency, effectiveness, and agility. This, in turn, means companies are positioned to work consistently and make better-informed decisions. And with good business process management, companies have the flexibility required to stay afloat in the face of any exceptions or unexpected changes.
Here are four examples of small improvements you can make to help your business thrive.
1. Define and standardize each process
Even if the same business process can be achieved in four or five different ways, your company will operate much more efficiently if you decide upon—and commit to—the most effective strategy.
Examine the various approaches you can take to complete a task, and talk them through with your team, comparing results and identifying the most effective. Once you have a winner, make that the definitive process and document it so all employees know to follow the same steps. This is best done through the use of a process map, which demonstrates the order and relationship between each step in the chain.
You could either create a pen and paper or digital flowchart. Either way, the illustrated process should be accessible for everyone that needs it.
2. Streamline your strategies
Successful business process management requires keeping track of each step and noting which parts work well and which cause problems. Your process maps will make it much easier to understand how the different elements work together, and to spot opportunities for improvement.
In order to uncover any problematic business process steps, it might be useful to follow the ‘Five Why’s’ technique. This interrogative strategy explores the cause-and-effect relationships within a process, determining the root cause of an issue by repeatedly asking “why?”. Eventually, a countermeasure should start to become clear. Even if aspects of your business appear to be working well, you may spot opportunities to further optimise them. You could explore possible improvements by considering factors such as the cost and time it takes to implement each step.
There are various work management software solutions to help you streamline your business processes. One of the most all-encompassing examples is ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which organizes data at a central location and allows it to be shared between departments. This means everyone in your team can access information relevant to every business process step, eliminating the need to transfer data manually. SAP (Systems, Applications, and Products) is the most popular ERP system, used by 91% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies. With successful implementation, experts in the industry claim that using SAP as an Enterprise Transformation tool brings dramatic improvements to your business case at “limited extra costs”.
3. Automate minor tasks
Applying automation to particular steps of a business process could eliminate the risk of accidents or oversights, as well as save you significant time and money. As part of Smartsheet’s 2017 Automation Report, over 40% surveyed said they spend at least a quarter of their working week completing manual, repetitive tasks, while 86% believed automation would make them more efficient and productive.
You can find automated tools for many elements of your business processes such as customer service, which allows you to generate automatic replies for customer complaints containing specific keywords. This means you don’t need to manually reply to every person experiencing the same issue, helping to save time. Meanwhile, document management tools keep the flow of documents centralised, eliminating endless follow-up emails and clarifications that could arise if you need to send a file to multiple members of the team.
4. Outsource non-critical business process steps
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a simple method that could save you both time and resources. In fact, the cost benefits and the growing availability of groundbreaking new technologies mean that the industry is estimated to reach $332.4 billion by 2025. Passing on non-critical tasks to third-party virtual assistants (VA) lets you and your employees focus on the parts of the job that matter most, like formulating marketing strategies and liaising with clients.
BPO is ideal when applied to the tasks that require no particular expertise or knowledge but still take up a significant chunk of time. Good examples of these jobs include scheduling meetings, sourcing information, and organizing contacts online.
Be mindful of the specific tasks you do decide to outsource as you don’t want to pass important work onto people who aren’t suitably equipped. For instance, you shouldn’t let freelancers, who won’t be confident with all your company’s policies and procedures, be responsible for handling sensitive data. Stick to outsourcing basic administrative jobs, and your business can reap the rewards of the extra time in your work schedule.