Any business, from 10 employees to 10,000 share common characteristics. They’re made up of people, products or a service, and have processes in place that ensure they’re operating effectively.
Business process has taken a centre stage in recent years. With the popularisation of automation, partly fuelled by technological trends, including:
Employees and customers alike are spread around the globe, meaning effective business processes have become more important than ever.
Internal Business Processes are any, but usually predictable or recurring activities that take place throughout a businesses life, that take inputs to create higher value outputs.
As businesses become more developed, these processes become more formalised, and tailored to the businesses specific situation. A project development cycle for a local plastics manufacturer for instance, where a few stakeholders are managed informally, will be different than for a multinational construction company, where stakeholders spread around the world must be kept informed in the appropriate way for their timezone and culture.
Business processes are key to successful operation. Rightly or wrongly, people and products are becoming less necessary due to technological change. For this reason, you’re likely looking to optimise business processes at your organisation.
So we’ve established that business processes are important, but how can we leverage what we already know to improve day-to-day operations. Fortunately, ‘Business Process Optimisation’ is a well researched and discussed topic, with organisations from a wide spectrum embracing the principles in their operations.
‘85 percent of more than 300 executives we surveyed believe that processes help them share knowledge across divisions and regions, and executive agree that seamless delivery and service processes can be central to meeting customer expectations’ - Mckinsey
We’ve sorted through the noise to bring you the top tips for optimising internal business processes at your organisation:
The first and most achievable step is to streamline the business process workflow. You may already have a flowchart that illustrates your process. If not, the first step would be to make one.
Once you have this in place, think about which parts can be removed, or replaced with a quicker or easier task. You may also want to consider automating tasks that are repetitive or take up large amounts of your time. Technology is your friend here, so look into solutions that can take the manual load off your back. For some processes, look for an opportunity for outsourcing, again removing the strain on resources that your workflow is currently prone to.
2. Automate Communication
Automating communication is very much an extension of streamlining workflow. For most workflows, communication will be a bottleneck. How many times have you found yourself waiting on a reply? Or someone has done something wrong because they misinterpreted a message?
Automating communication has to be one of the quickest wins for optimising your business process. We recommend looking into automatic emails, text alerts or encouraging your team to switch to a more efficient communication platform. What's best for you will of course depend on your situation, but anything that moves away from ad-hoc, word-of-mouth communication will speed things up.
3. Maintain Consistency
A fully optimised business process should stay consistent to itself. Though improvements should be made in response to feedback, consistency being a goal should always be in the back of your mind. Keeping consistency means everyone is reading from the same book, minimising room for error or misunderstanding. This allows everyone to become more efficient and better at their job. What’s more, it opens the door for automation opportunities, further streamlining the workflow.
4. Focus and Measure the Results
Improving your business process over time should be a priority, and the best way to do this is to continually track your results. What you use as success metrics must accurately represent the goals of the process, and having too many can obscure things. We suggest having a few, well defined goals, that follow the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound) framework. Once you have decided these, you can test changes against these success metrics.
5. Utilise Data to form Best Practices
We live in a data-driven world, and your business process should be no exception. Recording and analysing data can be a strong way of further excelling your result measurement, with 53% of companies now adopting big data analytics. This gives greater insight that can be picked up anecdotally. We suggest using a specialist digital tool to effectively do this, potentially outsourcing to experts in this area.
6. Report on Findings
Capture both qualitative and quantitative information, ensuring knowledge spreads throughout the organisation. A formalised reporting procedure, at recurring time intervals is a good way to consolidate this information. This ensures your organisation loses no knowledge. Again, this provides an opportunity for the process to improve and develop over time, and will inform decision-making going forward.
Different processes, organisations and industries will have different needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and finding what works best will often involve some trial and error. With this in mind, we suggest exploring the points above further, working out what works best for you and your organisation.