Every business and office has processes for how they get work done.
Many times, these processes are handed down from employee to employee over time, unquestioned.
That often means they aren't the BEST way to get work done.
Companies often look to software and automation to fix processes and improve efficiency. Automated workflows and removing paper from business processes will create efficiency, boost productivity, improve customer service, lift employee morale, and deliver a solid ROI.
Before getting to the steps to fix broken processes, here is one crucial tip to remember: technology isn't the answer to a broken business process.
Throwing technology at a problem NEVER solves the problem When it comes to business processes, automating a bad or inefficient process just makes the bad process faster – it doesn't improve it.
The first step to improving a broken business process is to walk through the process, step-by-step, to identify where it's broken and how to fix it.
How do you do this?
Here are nine steps to fix a broken business process.
What Process (or Processes) Is Broken?
You can't fix what you don't identify. How can you tell if a process is broken? Unhappy customers; tasks that take too long and/or aren't completed successfully; frustrated employees; departments blaming each other for balls being dropped; and multiple checks and reviews are all indicators of a process that is broken.
What Are Your Goals?
As the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland notes, if you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter which way you go. Identify and set clear goals to achieve your business objectives. You might discover that some of your processes can be eliminated because they don't contribute anything and exist because they've always existed.
Goals now set and destination in mind – move forward with the next steps.
What Does Perfect Outcome Look Like?
What are the results you want to see? Involve those affected by the process in this step to have a mutually agreed upon goal to work towards.
Identify the Key Players in the Process.
Who are the key players in the process – everyone that is involved in a task needs to identified as well as their current roles and responsibilities.
Understand Process Redesign Principles
The ideas I'm writing here aren't unique to me or to Coordinated. There's an entire segment of IT (software and process design experts) dedicated to business processes. While there is a wealth of material available to learn from, the core principles aren't complicated:
- Focus on outcomes, not tasks
- Minimize time waiting, moving work through a process, and rework
- Streamline checks and reviews to the essentials
- Use as few people as possible in each process
- Eliminate bottlenecks
- Standardize processes as much as possible
- Have a process to handle exceptions
Map Your Processes
Grab a stack of sticky notes, find a wall, and lay out your current process. Where and how does the process start? Where's the end? What are all of the steps in between? Who is responsible for each task. When you have it mapped before you, look for inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and where your problems are.
Using Process Redesign Principles, Start Redesigning
What could you do differently? Could you automate these processes with software (we use Square 9 to help our clients)? Document your new design – you can continue to use sticky notes, a whiteboard, or use a process mapping tool. Lucidchart is a free tool to start with for simple processes. There are more complex mapping tools available for complex processes as well.
Get Help (If You Need It)
As I mentioned, there are IT professionals who devote their careers to optimizing business processes. If you get stuck, get the help you need to make efficient business processes a reality for your office. Many companies need help at least setting up and tweaking digital workflows so they work with your IT infrastructure.
Be sure to communicate clearly and frequently with employees affected by the new processes. Get their buy-in, test, and roll-out the new process. You may need to tweak and revise as reality crashes into your idealized processes. That's OK.
Take one process at a time as you do this. Of course, these steps are a process for creating a business process so lather, rinse, and repeat the steps above to a streamlined business with fewer frustrated customers and employees!
The video below does a good job of explaining process mapping, give it a look!