No matter what type of business, or how big or small, the ultimate goal is success.
If you want to achieve success, you need optimised business processes. These are the basic elements behind your business operations. They are step by step guides for staff to complete tasks, and every process is essential for the efficient and effective running of your business.
Optimising business processes is critical to long-term success and ongoing competitiveness. While you may not place much importance on them, without efficient processes, your team will spend too much time completing tasks when there could be a better way.
When your processes are only suggestions or disorganised, your team will not know what is important or how to prioritise.
Different Types of Business Processes
There are three main types of business processes:
Operational or primary processes
Operational processes are the tasks and procedures that use the inputs (labour and money) to produce the outputs (services, products, customer service) to generate income. They all fall under one of the following:
- Product and service development and creation
- Marketing products or services
- Customer support during and after a sale.
Supporting or secondary processes
Supporting processes work behind the scenes to support the operational processes. They support your staff and are vital for keeping your operations running. For example, payroll, office cleaners, IT and human resources. While they do not generate income, you will find it challenging to achieve success without them.
Management processes set standards and ensure the workplace is safe and compliant. Managers use them to plan, monitor and manage the operational and supporting processes. These do not necessarily generate income directly, but their purpose is to increase financial opportunities and guide the business through change.
These business processes link together and become your organisation’s standard operating procedures. So it is important to streamline your processes for optimal performance across the organisation.
Benefits of Business Process Optimisation
The obvious benefit of business process optimisation is that it streamlines how your business operates. Are there improvements you can make to the way you do things? Maybe there is software that can help.
It takes time to optimise business processes, but the benefits make your business more efficient; for example:
- Better clarity. A lack of clarity is the cause of much inefficiency. Optimised processes define who is responsible for what and when to complete each task. Defining processes clearly and communicating them across the company prevents confusion and problems. But if there is a problem, you can track back to see where it went wrong.
- Mitigates risks. Optimised business processes mitigates risks by reducing repetition and mistakes.
- Reduces costs. Good business processes allow you to identify issues. This makes it easy to see where there are bottlenecks that slow down productivity, poor use of resources and find mistakes. They make it simple to resolve any issues which reduces business costs.
- Better customer service. Streamlining business processes helps deliver better customer service. Staff can take action faster, know exactly what they can and cannot do which gives them more flexibility in meeting customers’ needs.
- Increases productivity. Process optimisation means everyone will work more efficiently. It reduces mistakes and eliminates unnecessary steps to prevent duplicating the work. Automate daily tasks such as data entry and increase productivity.
Here are real-life examples of how business process optimisation can increase efficiency in your organisation.
Onboarding new employees
When onboarding new employees, the process is the same for everyone.
HR emails the employment agreement or contract, and the new employee signs it and sends it back. The next step is building access and work assets. Usually, HR has to manually email security for building access and IT to provide computer assets and access to the company network and tools.
To make the process more efficient, set up an email prompt to email security and IT automatically once HR receives a signed agreement.
Appointment reminders and confirmations
It takes a lot of time to confirm or remind people of appointments if you manually ring or text every single one. Use an automated system that plugs into the daily schedule to reduce a staff members’ time spent on the task. It also decreases no shows.
So how do you identify the business processes suitable for optimisation?
Process Optimisation Steps
There are many ways to optimise your business processes. There is no one size fits all. The approach you take will depend on your business and each process. But the following five steps are the ones you will use in most cases.
1. Map out and identify your business processes
The best way to identify business processes to improve is to map them. You can do this either using a pen and paper, software or flowcharts in a Word file.
Mapping is simple, and you should already have a good idea of how the business operates and the processes already used.
Get your team on board. They are the ones using them and will have valuable insight into what they use, how they work and where there are any challenges. This will avoid overlooking anything important.
Once you have mapped out your processes, start optimising the ones that have the most impact on the business. For example, financial, customer satisfaction and human resources are all good places to start.
2. Analyse each process
Before starting this step, it is a good idea to develop an action plan. It should define your objectives, set boundaries and establish a team to implement the changes. Also, consider how you will measure the outcomes by defining key performance indicators (KPIs).
For example, if you want to optimise staff onboarding, a KPI could be the efficiency in which new staff members have access to all they need to be productive compared to the old way of doing things.
Make sure you consult the people who use the processes during the analysis.
Now you understand all your business processes, analyse every step in each one. As you do, consider the following questions:
- At what point do staff or customers feel frustrated?
- Which of the steps cause an obstacle?
- Is there any part of the process where costs rise and/or quality decreases?
- Which steps in the process cause delays or take the most time?
The purpose of analysing each business process is to identify the parts that are:
- Unnecessary and do not add value. Every step in a business process should add value to the end goal. And, the entire process should add value to your organisation’s objectives. There may be processes or steps that are pointless and do no add value of any sort.
- Inefficient or need improving. All the steps in business processes should be efficient. For example, do any of your processes have more steps than needed? Or could breaking the steps down further be more efficient? Or you may discover a set of sub steps in a process that staff use you were not aware of.
Once you identify the processes that fall into these categories, optimise them, so they add value and become efficient.
3. Revise your business processes
Now it is time to revise your business processes to be more efficient.
Work with the people who use them. Ask for their input as they will have some good ideas on making them work better. Getting them involved will also give them ownership of the optimisation process, and they may have some surprising new approaches.
Before starting, make sure everyone understands what the business process should achieve. Explore all possible solutions to the problems. Hold a brainstorming session and write down everyone’s ideas.
Next, narrow down the list by considering how each idea translates into everyday workplace use. Complete an impact analysis to understand the actual impact your team’s ideas will have on the business.
Also, do a risk analysis to know the potential risks upfront. This will give you insight into the possible consequences of each shortlisted idea and help you make the best decisions for the business.
Consider what you can automate
What processes or parts of processes can you automate? What pressure can you take off an employee’s time that could be better spent elsewhere? Consider implementing software or other tools to remove the menial labour from processes to boost productivity and team morale.
Automation will vary from task to task, for example:
- Customer support. Where you offer customer support online, there are areas you can automate so customers get an instant response 24/7. You can use automation to:
- Send customer satisfaction surveys
- Direct clients to help centre articles
- Let customers know you received their enquiry
- Use saved responses to common questions
- Organise support priorities.
- Manage social media. Social media can take up a lot of time. Logging in several times a day to find something interesting to post that will interest your followers is time consuming. Instead, consider planning out your posts in advance and automate the posting process.
You can automate workflows to free up staff to work on more important tasks. Use business automation software to maintain and track records, match and store data, and send notifications. Automation can also be useful for data entry tasks to decrease errors.
When you decide on a process, document it step-by-step.
4. Implement each optimised process
Once you complete the first three steps in business process optimisation, you are ready to implement the new processes.
You may need to create a project to roll out the changes, so plan implementation carefully. Hiring a new team member, organising training, or upgrading software may be necessary to make the changes work.
Always start small to gauge how well the new process works. Once that is successful, roll it out across the business.
Some people can resist change, especially if they have always done something the same way forever. So making changes can be difficult. This is why it is so important to involve staff in the optimisation process. Their input will help to make rolling out changes easier.
Communicate with staff about any changes. Let them know why and how the changes will affect them, their work, and the business.
5. Evaluate the results
Track and monitor any changes over the coming weeks and months. It is rare that anything works properly the first time. While you want to know what works, you also need to know the downfalls.
Consider how well the process is working and whether you need to make changes to further optimise the process. Ask the people using the process if it works for them, if there are any frustrations and if anything needs improving. This allows you to make changes as soon as problems occur.
Also, adopt a mindset that you can always make improvements. Make regular, small improvements where needed, so your processes remain efficient and relevant.
At this stage, it is also a good idea to document any lessons learned during business process optimisation.
Now you understand the theory, you can start the process. While process optimisation can be time-consuming, it is worth it to reap the rewards.
Remember, there are five main steps to process optimisation:
- Map out and identify your business processes
- Analyse each process
- Revise your business processes
- Implement each optimised process
- Evaluate the results.
There is always room to improve how your business operates. Ongoing process improvement benefits your staff, clients and, ultimately, your bottom line.