A Guide to Business Process Improvement (With How-to Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 7, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses typically initiate measures that can help maintain their process efficiencies. These measures facilitate a smooth workflow and increase stakeholders' and customers' satisfaction. Learning how to improve a business process can be helpful for optimizing a process's performance and encouraging business development. In this article, we discuss business process improvement, outline steps to implement this management practice, explain its benefits, and highlight its methodologies.

What is business process improvement?

Business process improvement (BPI) is a management practice where enterprise leaders use various methodologies to identify areas where improving a process's effectiveness and increasing business operations accuracy is necessary. These areas usually include employees' competence, business operations, and business tools. You can also call this improvement process a functional process improvement. Process improvement encourages overall business growth, as it's a continuous practice.

How to implement a functional process improvement

Here are some steps you can follow to implement an effective process improvement:

1. Identify and map the process

You can identify the areas that require change using a business mapping process, which comprises the use of visual tools to get a proper depiction of a business' activities, processes, and operations. The visual representation displays what a business entity does, the employees responsible for different activities, and steps within a business process. You can use a flowchart to represent these business aspects. Doing this can help you identify areas where improvement is necessary. Exploring each phase thoroughly is often advisable, as some may contain steps that require improvement.

Related: What Is Business Process Mapping and Why Is It Important?

2. Analyze the business process

After the business mapping process, you can investigate the issues within the process. This analysis also involves identifying redundancies and inefficiencies within the process's workflow. You can use business improvement methods, such as root cause analysis or the five why analysis, to determine the origin of the problem. Doing this helps you solve the problem by eliminating the root cause.

You can communicate with the employees related to the problem to get their opinions and suggestions on the issue. Researching and reviewing the activities of other teams within the organization to identify the tactics they used in solving similar problems may be helpful.

Related: The Value of Business Analysis Tools (With Popular Examples)

3. Redesign and evaluate the process

You can redesign the business process to eliminate the identified problem at this stage. It's often advisable to work with all the people involved, as they may provide valuable suggestions and ideas. They may also be more willing to accept the changes if they participated in the redesign process. Start this process by reiterating the problem to ensure everyone understands it. Then consider having a brainstorming session to note suggestions. You can review the suggestions to identify suitable ideas you can translate to real-life contexts.

Risk analysis and failure mode and effects analysis can help you identify potential risks within the designed process. These analyses involve scrutinizing a process at the design stage to identify and eliminate possible problems. Understanding the consequences of each action can help you create an ideal solution. You can document the new process when the team agrees on one.

Related: A Summary of Quantitative Risk Analysis Methods and Benefits

4. Gather resources

This stage involves acquiring the resources necessary to implement the redesigned process. You can discuss with senior managers or the company's executive members to get their guidance. You can consult with other departments, such as human resources, to ensure they understand the redesigned process. It's often advisable to confirm if they understand ways in which the new process may be useful to the organization, as it makes it easier for them to accept the change.

You can draft a business case to explain this. A business case is a document you can prepare for stakeholders to explain ideas for improving a business aspect. Stakeholders typically decide to accept an idea or not after reviewing this business case.

Related: What Is Process Improvement and How Can You Utilize It?

5. Implement change

Sometimes changing a process involves replacing existing systems with new ones. For instance, you can make changes, such as installing new software, recruiting qualified candidates, or holding a training session for team members. Implementing a process change involves managing and planning your process steps effectively. You can apply change management techniques to facilitate easy adoption of the redesigned process or activity. Change management is a systematic approach that helps businesses manage transitions in their processes, technologies, or goals.

Related: 5 Business Improvement Techniques Including How-to Steps

6. Review the process

It's advisable to monitor the changes to confirm their functionality and ensure they meet the expectations. Doing this allows you to fix problems that may arise immediately. You can review the changes by asking people involved in the process about their experiences and how the new system works. Depending on their answer, you can adopt continuous improvement methods to ensure the process remains efficient and relevant.

Related: What Is Business Process Reengineering? (With Benefits)

Benefits of functional process improvement

Here are a few popular benefits of implementing a functional process improvement:

Increases productivity

Reviewing a business process and implementing changes to make it more efficient typically increase productivity. The company may increase their output while maintaining the usual quantity of input or even using less. For instance, automating a process allows employees to complete tasks faster. They may deliver more standard products in a shorter time than with a manual process. Doing this might allow the company to complete other tasks or projects.

Reduces risks

The practice of improving business processes involves conducting risk analysis to discover potential risks of a redesigned process. This helps the company reduce or eliminate the risk associated with an activity or process. For instance, replacing the manual imputation of data with an automated process helps reduce the risk of human computation errors.

Related: What Does Being Risk-Averse Mean? (And Ways to Measure It)

Ensures employee and customer satisfaction

A well-designed business process may be easier to manage, as it involves eliminating repetitive and non-value-adding tasks. Employees can focus on completing relevant tasks in a more conducive and efficient work environment. This typically increases their job satisfaction and influences them to deliver more quality service. Happy employees typically lead to happy customers. As employees use updated technologies and processes, customers get more value for their money. This helps build brand loyalty because these customers trust the brand to deliver quality products or services.

Related: A Complete Guide to the Employee Satisfaction Survey

Facilitates compliance with standards and regulations

As process improvement involves a regular review of the redesigned system, it's typically easier to maintain compliance. It creates a flexible system that helps in managing end-to-end compliance regulations. This is helpful for avoiding unforeseen penalties and repercussions. Building compliance into a business process promotes transparency and may make it easier to implement regulatory requirements.

Saves cost

Process improvement involves techniques that help identify redundant activities and wastes. Eliminating these activities and wastes can help save resources. This process is also helpful for discovering effective solutions that may generate better process outputs. Saving resources can allow the company to focus on other activities and promote overall business growth.

Process improvement terminologies

Here are popular terminologies you may encounter during a function process improvement:

Total quality management (TQM)

This process involves continuously revising and improving business-centric processes, such as sales and marketing. It aims to facilitate continuous improvement in the business processes over time. Using TQM techniques involves collecting data relevant for analyzing processes' performances and discovering areas of improvement. The principal aim of implementing this technique is to reduce inefficiencies in business processes.

Related: Deming's 14 Points of Total Quality Management Principles

Lean management

This is a method that focuses on improving a business process by eliminating waste. Lean management techniques typically facilitate optimum business efficiencies by reducing ineffective practices, technologies, and operations. This technique fosters a culture of constant improvement processes and promotes overall business growth.

Related: What Is a Lean Business Model? (With How-to Steps)

Agile management

Agile management involves continuous improvement through a short production cycle. Another name for these short production cycles is sprints. Cross-functional teams work together following agile management technologies and principles to improve or add new technology features to products. This can enhance continuous improvement in a business process.

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