When it comes to business process improvement examples and parallels, consider fine-tuning a computer. By hiring the right professionals and upgrading to faster components, you can create a machine that can take on anything. Your business is similar, but your business process improvement project plan will likely be lengthier and more involved.
One factor contributing to the increased complexity is that business operations do not happen in a vacuum. They are carried out by people with varying skills. To add to this, no business has unlimited time and capital, so it is crucial to invest wisely.
What Is a Business Process?
Business processes refer to the series of tasks that make up operations at an organization. It bears some similarity to business workflow but focuses less on the connections between tasks and more on the tasks themselves.
Even so, business professionals may use similar flowcharts to show the interconnections between tasks. This makes it easier to improve tasks by tackling bottlenecks and addressing other obstacles to top-tier performance.
Using a construction company as an example, here are some common business processes:
- Completing pre-building assessments of the construction site
- Drafting site and construction plans
- Securing permits on behalf of the client
- Building the foundation
- Installing plumbing and electricity
- Completing daily inspections of the work site
What Are the Types of Business Processes?
Business processes can involve micro-tasks and more general tasks. For example, securing building permits is a more general task. Micro-tasks that make this up include filing permit paperwork and submitting plans. While these differences are important, there are three other categories of business processes to consider.
From supervising employees to managing the company budget and determining company policies, all of these tasks fall under management. With the construction example above, a foreman inspecting the work of the plumber and electrician would fall under this heading.
The core tasks that keep the business running at the base level make up operational tasks. Construction examples include a mason laying the brickwork for a retaining wall and the project management communicating construction progress with the client.
Supporting tasks are synonymous with administrative tasks. In construction, this includes budgeting and accounting, technical support for workflow automation tools and the recruitment of skilled workers.
What Are Popular Business Process Improvement Methods?
Your business process improvement approach depends on the specific discipline you choose to follow. Research each of these six methods to determine which best complements your business goals and management strategies.
1. Total Quality Management
This is one of the oldest business process improvement methodologies. It gained popularity with its use by the U.S. federal government. This methodology puts greater emphasis on teamwork and the use of customer satisfaction ratings to determine product or service quality.
2. Lean Manufacturing
Cost-efficiency is important, but there’s a reason the cheapest products do not often rank among the best. Lean manufacturing helps managers find the right compromise between cutting costs and maintaining productivity.
3. Six Sigma
This is probably the most commonly cited project management and process improvement methodology. It advocates for the use of data to inform the reconfiguration process. Manufacturing companies most commonly use six sigma.
4. Lean Six Sigma
This method brings the best of both six sigma and lean manufacturing to the table. While six sigma data helps the organization save time and improve product quality, lean manufacturing cuts waste and maintains productivity.
5. Toyota Production System
Otherwise known as just-in-time, this system was developed by Toyota during World War II. It helped the company cut inventory cost and improve production times while producing vehicles for war.
6. Theory of Constraints
This approach focuses on improving business processes by starting with the problems. Managers need to identify problems preventing optimal performance, then attempt to find solutions.
How Can Managers Improve Business Processes?
Regardless of the specific approach you choose, there are crucial steps you need to take as you work to improve your business process. Skipping any of these could create loopholes in your business process improvement cycle that routinely send you back to the drawing board.
1. Assess the Business
Every business can improve in some way. However, business process improvements take time and money. Is this the best way to invest either of these company resources right now? Assessing your business will tell you the current performance levels. You can then compare this to your business goals to see if you are on target. Then, prioritize improvements accordingly.
2. Identify Trouble Points
Even if you don’t plan to use the theory of constraints, you can’t fix your business without first determining what’s wrong. It’s a good idea to start with the obvious problem and then look for the cause. In construction, for example, one problem could be delayed funding from the clients’ banks. The cause may stem from the accounting team taking too long to tally costs and submit invoices.
3. Assess Resources
How much time and money do you currently have to invest in business process improvement? Is it possible to increase capital with loans, and is it worth it? Will using technology, like Fluix’s workflow management system, save you time and money? Consider your options carefully. Knowing what you can afford makes it easier to narrow down solutions.
4. Get Stakeholder Buy-In
Even the best plans ultimately fail if everyone isn’t on board. This extends beyond the subordinate workers at your business. You also need buy-in from managers, shareholders and even your customers. For example, a client who pays in cash or submits paper checks may need time to adjust if you move to a purely digital or electronic system. Asking for input from everyone is a great way to increase your chances of buy-in at all levels.
5. Design the System
In some cases, you might design the system before seeking buy-in, especially if shareholder buy-in is necessary to fund operations. However, for most companies, the design process begins after successfully convincing stakeholders that change is necessary and on the way. The best way to create a solid new system is to work intimately with the people whose work processes are most closely affected by the assessment and solution processes.
6. Test the Changes
Testing and tweaking can take time. To ensure you can track what changes actually lead to improvements, you need to implement one or only a handful of unrelated changes at a time. As each new change proves successful, widen the test field and add more to the mix. During this time, you may find that certain proposed changes do not work as planned. Instead of throwing them out altogether, consider tweaking them first.
7. Implement Changes
Once you determine what works and what doesn’t, it’s time to initiate full implementation. However, the best mindset for full implementation is to treat it like a test. Sometimes, large-scale changes are not as successful as small-scale ones were during testing. Invite workers and customers to continue to provide feedback.
Give the implementations some time to gain momentum. Three to six months is generally enough time for workers to adjust and for customers to form opinions about whether they like the new business processes. It is not uncommon for business owners to make further tweaks at this stage. This commitment to continued excellence serves the business well, but try not to obsess too much over minor details.
Why Do Managers Need a Business Process Improvement Plan?
Reviewing business process improvement examples might cause you to wonder whether this is a task you truly want to undertake. It can feel difficult to put your business under a microscope and deliberately look for flaws. You need a thick skin to handle the feedback customers and workers may have about current processes and the things they want to change. Even so, more engaged workers and happier customers are worth almost any improvement task. Plus, there are additional reasons to take this project on.
Beat Out Competitors
No matter how big or successful a company is, when it becomes complacent, other companies will take its place in the market. Companies that commit to continued improvement have a much better chance of innovating ahead of the competition, growing a thriving business and keeping their customers for years to come.
One of our clients reported saving $300,000 in labor costs in just one year by using our workflow management systems. This may not be the case for everyone, but cutting waste and improving efficiency are sure to put money back into the pockets of your business. What would you do with an extra $300,000 for your business each year?
Whether you have shareholders to keep happy or plan to someday sell your business, its viability is important. Proving viability is also key to securing additional funding, should you need it. While these may not be your main priorities right now, it is worth planning ahead. That way, you can move quickly as market changes occur or new opportunities arise.
Protect the Business
Workflow automation can provide the information you need to defend your business when threatened with a lawsuit. Whether an employee questions being fired for alleged poor work performance or a client believes you didn’t complete regular site inspection checks, you won’t need to dig through mountains of paperwork to prove you followed protocol and complied with laws.
In 2020, companies were compelled to rethink their work processes. This was especially important for companies where in-person work was crucial. Workflow management software can make it easier for companies to allow professionals completing supporting tasks to work remotely. In the years ahead, this can help companies attract workers who prioritize mobility and fewer days of commuting to the office.
How Can Fluix Help Your Business Process Improvement Approach?
Fluix is a cost-effective software to help you improve business processes at your organization. With prices as low as $20 per month, our software solutions can fit almost any budget. While suitable for businesses of all sizes, they may be the most affordable for small businesses.
Despite the affordable cost, the features of our software expand beyond just business processes improvement. We also provide tools for full workflow management. Clients use our software for field inspections, electronic electronic contract signing, audit and compliance, digital training and data analytics.
Our clients have also reported impressive results from using our workflow management systems. This includes 3.5 times faster preventative maintenance, a 20% increase in sales team productivity and a 69% reduction in time spent on quality inspections.
If you’re not sure Fluix is the right fit for you, we welcome you to take advantage of our risk-free 14-day trial. There is no credit card required for the free trial and you can cancel the plan at any time.
That’s how confident we are that you will love our product. Contact us for more information or to schedule a demo.