Business process improvement depends on understanding, communication and continual updates and innovation. A business process is a practice in which various inputs work together to produce an output. A process can, therefore, be anything from delivering a service, to processing payroll. Building business process maps, encouraging inter-departmental communication, and using technology to provide updates of process status are ways to potentially improve business process.
As a macro example of business process improvement, imagine a firm wanting to decrease high employee turnover rates. The process that needs improvement, therefore, is the first year of employee experience. The manager wants to lower this number and increase company loyalty. To do this, he needs to understand the problem, encourage communication, and stay updated on process status.
In a business process, it is important to understand the problem and not just fix the symptoms. The best decisions generally are well-informed ones, and this is the same for business process improvement. The manager working to decrease employee turnover by fixing the symptoms might offer higher compensation packages as incentives to employees. After six months, this manager may realize that numbers haven’t significantly improved and that he wasted time and money trying to implement this strategy without understanding the true nature of the problem.
In business process improvement, communication is key and should be open and encouraged, especially in interdepartmental processes. Using open communication, the manager may ask new employees and new hire managers what they think causes such high turnover, for example. The manager might receive information indicating that new hires do not feel as if they are considered valuable or that their managers have focused enough on training.
Keeping the lines of communication open can be helpful in finding innovative solutions to the problem. Brainstorming sessions might suggest that more training sessions and personal evaluations should be scheduled with new hires. Implementing such changes may increase employee loyalty and result in less turnover, thus improving the business process.
Understanding the problem can make improvement strategies more effective, but process improvement is a continual process. Effective process managers review and innovate even after the problem is solved. Continuing the solutions in the example — implementation of a new hire survey and asking questions to determine concerns or places for improvement — can help to keep the manager abreast of potential problems, allowing him to find solutions early.
Business process mapping also can provide a way to better understand processes while increasing communication. Process maps provide visual step-by-step depictions of business processes to help streamline process management. Visual representations make it easier to conceptualize processes and find room for improvement. Teams building the process maps generally come from various stages in the process and can provide essential information from various perspectives to aid in improvement.
Technology, when appropriately selected and maintained, can also improve business process management. Automation of menial or administrative tasks, for example, can efficiently store information, decrease human error and improve efficiency. Automated management systems also can help increase control over processes and increase visibility of operations.