When it comes to process efficiency, for the most part, organizations think and operate in a fairly predictable way: they plan, execute, deliver, evaluate -- then do it all over again. When the results of all their work are rewarded by market acceptance of their goods or services; that is validation that things must be working ‘right.’
Smart enterprises, however, recognize that success does not necessarily beget more success; no one is ‘entitled’ to a continuously fortuitous business cycle.
To avert potential problems, organizations continuously take action to do what they can to be nimble and lean. This generally means they try to become more efficient, as process efficiency is viewed as the best way to make the organization (more) successful. The expectation is that being more efficient brings with it the holy grail of business goals: increased revenue, reduced waste, less re-work, increased productivity, fewer mistakes.
Process efficiency is certainly a good place to start, as there are a variety of processes in every organization that, over time, tend to veer away from their original purposes. They may become bloated with additional steps or, conversely, cease to address meaningful issues. Generally, they also do not leverage new tools.
Refining and re-evaluating these business processes can go a long way towards truly developing a more efficient way to operate the business. Being tasked with making something more efficient is not distinct from a “pretty good” comedian who would be great if only he could just be… funnier.
Where does one start, and what does “more efficient” look like? To truly make your business processes more efficient, it’s important to address your business activities holistically, then identify what can be done to change them. An organization would do well to consider the following elements in an approach to increasing process efficiency:
Outcomes: First, determine what it is you want to improve. You may find that it’s simply not possible to get a decision, process or product from point A to point B any faster than it is getting there currently. If you sense, however, that an activity is not optimal in its process, the next step would be identifying the ultimate goal, then separating that process into its various parts.
Roadblocks: Are there decision points that require too much data? Are employees involved in the process unaware of what is required to ‘move things along?’ There are many potential bottlenecks; you may have to play sleuth until you locate them. In doing so, however, you may also discover that there are some un-needed aspects to the process. Those can be eliminated. You may also be surprised to find some elements of the processes that are no longer needed . By removing them you will be able to take a major step towards increasing efficiency.
Automation: Are there cumbersome parts of your process that could benefit by being automated? Or aspects of your processes that are automated that don’t need to be? Consider the number of tools your organization implements every year: some in the form of technology, others around methodology. Many companies tend to look at solutions singularly and do not always recognize how they can be adapted for other purposes. In the course of your exploration, you may discover tools already in use that can improve process efficiency with relative ease.
Leadership: Executives will always want more profits at reduced costs. It won’t take much persuading for them to understand that making processes more efficient will give them that outcome. They, however, need to support the efforts required to make things more efficient. That will include reviewing the existing landscape, and it could also mean some initial pain while things change. For those who take responsibility for initiating this type of change, it will be crucial for them to explain the relationship between what’s currently being done, and what could be done.
Everyone looking to improve processes is applauded for their efforts! It should be noted, however, that process efficiency isn’t a one-time thing. Embedded within the whole essence of changing business processes (BPM) is the need to constantly be aware of opportunities to optimize process efficiency. To stay competitive and lean, smart organizations will need to find BPM software that can continuously re-tool and to stay on top of effective process management strategies.