Your business processes are the bones of your entire production model. In fact, it’s no stretch to say that your business processes determine whether your company will ultimately be successful. They’re the rules upon which all your activities are based!
So it stands to reason that improving your business processes can improve your business as a whole. But how do you improve your business processes? Take a look at this guide to find out.
WHAT’S A PROCESS?
A process in the business sense is basically a formalized procedure that your business and employees carry out multiple times every day or production cycle. Another way to think of a process is a “way” in which you do some aspect of your business. For instance, the manufacturing steps and specificities at a manufacturing plant counts as a process. Similarly, the way you might onboard a new patient at a therapy clinic is a process.
There are technically three different types of business processes:
- Operational processes are always a part of your core business. They create a value or profit stream. Examples include taking orders from customers, bringing out customers at a register, making the products that you’ll sell, and so on
- Management processes are those dealing with supervisory or employee management efforts. Budget creation and payouts, employee oversight, corporate governance and hiring all fall under this umbrella
- Supporting processes are any processes that support the others. These include accounting, technical support, and so on
The efficacy of your processes impacts your business’ bottom line and your company’s overall productivity. Improving them should always be a top priority and is almost always possible.
STREAMLINE, STREAMLINE, STREAMLINE
The first way to improve your business processes is to focus on streamlining them whenever you can. Although streamlining has something of a negative buzzword connotation, it really just means that you get rid of any dead weight or unnecessary steps from an existing process.
Here’s an example:
- You have a process for ringing up a customer
- In this process, the cashier has to scan every item individually, even if there are multiple items of the exact same type
- This creates a small lag in the cash-out process, resulting in more cashiers needed during busy periods of your business day
A way to improve or streamline this process would involve:
- Creating software so that the cashier could enter a quantity for a given item instead of having to scan every item individually
- This would then speed up the checkout process and make everything run smoother and more efficiently for both your employees and your customers
It’s important not to go overboard when it comes to streamlining, of course. You never want to streamline so much that you compromise the core part of your process that makes it work in the first place. For instance, it’s often a bad idea to remove a cashier entirely, depending on the business. Many grocery stores struggle with efficiency when they try to over-streamline. Current automated scanning machines can be fickle or inaccurate, resulting in slower checkout lines overall.
However, streamlining often provides great results. As a bonus, streamlining sometimes results in fewer man-hours or resources being needed to complete the same task or process. In the aforementioned cashier example, modifying the software of your checkout system might allow one cashier to check out more people in the same amount of time. So you may not need to hire another cashier, even if your business grows.
Another thing you can do to improve your business’ processes is to lower risk. Any process that produces consistent results without much risk is better for your business as a whole. That’s because consistent processes can provide repeatable results and are excellent in terms of value for money.
As an example, a manufacturing plant’s quality control process should be as low risk as possible. The same products should be made by the factory every time and all the time. Thus, it’s a good idea to look at your manufacturing process and eliminate the risk for defects, jams in the machinery, or other possible risky factors now and again.
Maximizing the efficiency of your productivity in this factory example will allow you to produce more products with fewer defects and make more of a profit in the long run.
LEVERAGE AUTOMATION WHERE YOU CAN
The era of automation is truly upon us. Even though the cashier example above might not be the best place for automation, there are doubtlessly places where you can make use of automation in your day-to-day business.
Many busywork elements in a given process can be automated with software or low-level AI. For instance, a software change that automatically updates the operating systems and other software in your office’s computers means your employees don’t have to do this manually and waste some of their time.
DO REVIEWS PERIODICALLY
All of your processes should be systematically reviewed from time to time. This means performing a 360° or top-to-bottom review of the process by looking at its goals, the way in which the process is supposed to meet those goals, and the actual results.
In our cashier example, you would do a review by focusing on the following:
- Examine the goals of your checkout system
- Observe the checkout system in action over the course of a day or week
- Examine the results of the checkout system in relation to your expectations
- Identify any “pain points” for areas where the system could be made more efficient
- Come up with a plan to streamline or improve the process
You should still do an occasional review for systems that appear to work just fine. This will help you catch errors or places where you could streamline things that you might otherwise miss. Remember, almost everything can be improved in some way.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Lastly, you can ask for feedback directly from your customers and employees regarding your processes. People are usually very good at identifying the above-mentioned pain points that make their day-to-day activities slower or more frustrating.
For instance, your cashier might have mentioned the difficulty in scanning multiple items of the same type over and over. If you asked for this feedback, you might have noticed the problem earlier and corrected it earlier as well.