Updated: Mar 7, 2022
Processes are a part of every company's operations. How well an organization implements and executes these processes affects the company's effectiveness. Operational performance impacts all parts of the business. from controlling costs to delivery of a product or service to clients.
When a company encounters operational challenges, complaints from customers, or simply wants to optimize existing workflows, it's time to implement process improvements. So what does the term Process Improvement mean exactly?
Process improvement is about identifying an area of the organization where existing business processes are lacking in some capacity. This could be defined in terms of product or service quality, meeting key business metrics like a quota, or customer satisfaction.
Once the problem area is identified, then it's about implementing changes that optimize the existing processes to meet or exceed the required standards.
Process Improvement Methodologies
Process improvement is so important to business success that a number of methodologies have developed over time to address this key concept. Here are some of the most common process improvement models.
Six Sigma One of the most famous process improvement framework is Six Sigma. It's a set of techniques designed to improve quality by eliminating defect or errors from a given workflow. Six Sigma strategies are applied continuously to a process until variations are eradicated and the process produces consistent and predictable results. This methodology is know for its use of karate belt colors to denote a practitioner's level of understanding of the framework with white belts representing novices and black belts indicating Six Sigma experts.
Kaizen A process improvement methodology born in Japan, kaizen espouses the idea that business improvement is continuous and never ending. It aims to eliminate all waste from process flows to achieve a high level of efficiency and productivity. Kaizen is know for its team approach where everyone in the organization shares ideas and works together to keep improving every area of a business. If mistakes occur, the goal is to learn from them as part of the cycle of continuous improvement.
PDCA Plan-do-check-act (PDCA) outlines a four step scientific approach spelled out its name. You begin by identifying the areas requiring improvement. Next, you implement changes then collect data to analyze if the changes had the desired impact. Finally, you take action based on your data analysis.
BPR Business process re-engineering (BPR) is a framework that tackles process improvement at scale. Rather than address a small component of an overall workflow, BPR attempts to address issues and eliminate unnecessary steps by holistically redesigning an entire process from end to end. The changes can be so substantial that a change management plan typically accompanies the use of BPR.
Gap Analysis One flexible framework to employ when a process is failing, or to elevate your business to the next level, is a gap analysis. This approach involves an examination of where your business is at today, where you want it to be, and how you can close this gap. It's not limited to operational improvements either. You can implement this methodology to confront gaps in product features against the competition, to improve profitability, and even to address manpower shortages.
Process Mapping A useful approach that applies careful analysis and a visualization tool to address process issues - or to create a new workflow from scratch - is process mapping. In this method, you create a document that details the steps in a procedure, usually captured in a flowchart. The document allows you to see the entire process and identify areas to change. It then serves as a reference tool for subsequent process changes.
Process Improvement Best Practices for Your Business
As part of improving processes in your organization, look to incorporate the following best practices into your plan.
Set Quantifiable Goals Even before process improvement steps can be taken, you first must define a quantifiable goal or set of deliverables you are aiming for. So once you've identified an area of the business requiring change, determine a set of metrics that can be used to measure if changes are working, and to know when you've reached your objective. For instance, if the accounting department is slow to handle invoices, it can delay a company's ability to obtain payment. In this case, setting a goal of completing the invoicing process within 48 hours is an example of a measurable objective to achieve as part of a process improvement plan.
Prioritize the Customer Incorporate and prioritize the needs of your customers as part of any process improvement project. From deciding which procedure to improve first to the solution itself, consider the impact to your customers. Any process creating pain for your customers must be addressed first. When outlining a solution, think about how the changes will improve the customer experience. To identify these factors, perform customer interviews, and dig into your company's customer data such as analyzing how often clients perform subsequent purchases and customer churn rate. When examining customer data, it's ideal to extract this information from your CRM software. A CRM captures every detail of a customer's interactions with your company, making it easy to analyze the process improvements that will make the biggest impact to your clients.
Incorporate Technology Many manual procedures can be streamlined by introducing technology. In addition, technology can reduce costs while improving quality. Today, businesses enjoy a wide array of technical solutions capable of addressing virtually any process improvement need. From project management software to streamline oversight of a project to employing CRM for business development, many tools exist that can transform cumbersome steps by introducing automated workflows, eliminating human errors, and reducing the amount of time required to complete work. Keep in mind that replacing a manual process with technology is not necessarily an improvement. Perhaps those manual pieces can be eliminated completely as part of a process improvement project. So although injecting technology into your operations will provide benefits, it should deliver substantial gains to make the investment in time and money worthwhile.
How We Help
At Chmltech, we are experts in process improvement. Our proven methodology ensures that your leadership team is well equipped to improve processes, and we work with your teams to develop a robust toolkit of management and process tools to ensure successful adoption of new processes. Additionally, our team will work alongside your team to coach and train new behaviors to support continuous improvement initiatives.
Curious to learn more about how Chmltech can help your organization? Contact us NOW.