Business Process Optimization Fundamentals
By Mike Raia Posted September 6, 2019
Business process optimization is critical to ensuring process improvement projects meet the expected results.
What is Business Process Optimization?
Business Process Optimization (BPO) is the targeted redesign of core processes to promote efficiency and strengthen the alignment of individual processes with overall strategy and goals. While the optimization of a single process or of the processes in a particular department can yield real business improvement, organizations that broaden their efforts across the entire organization can see a significant competitive advantage, better customer service (internal and external), and much more efficient operation.
Whether or not you have fully-documented current state processes or if the current processes are undocumented but well-internalized. At the outset of a process optimization initiative, align your team's understanding of your strategies, and make sure everyone understands the following:
- The primary business goals of the process
- The non-negotiable constraints placed on the process
- The strengths and weaknesses of the process as currently performed
- Acceptable optimization strategies for preserving/enhancing strengths and mitigating/eliminating weaknesses
Let's look at a process optimization project example.
Example Process Optimization: Manage Client Contracts
- Ensure that contract Data is Current, Correct, and Complete.
- Ensure that up-to-date contract information is accessible to sales reps in the field.
- Contract Data Must Be Maintained in the System of Record.
- Contract Data Must Be Secure from Information Breaches.
Strengths of the Current Process:
- We can perform discount analysis with current reports/Maintain the current report structure.
- Clients don't see any errors when reviewing contracts for final signature/Maintain tight data validation.
Weaknesses of the Current Process:
- Our auditors have issued findings on our revenue recognition in the last two audits/Implement and enforce a standard process for project managers to track percent work complete against stated contract deliverables.
- We have limited ability to understand total customer value when multiple contracts have been written in separate sales territories/Explore master data management approaches and automate the current spreadsheet-based consolidations.
You should be able to apply this framework to any process you're planning to optimize.
Start with The Low Hanging Fruit
Smaller optimization projects may be led centrally or by self-organizing teams within a department or across departments that participate in a bigger process chain. These projects can make substantial improvements by addressing the low-hanging fruit.
Example: Eliminate Off-system Work
Many businesses spend considerable capital and effort when implementing modern enterprise systems that automate business processes that were formerly performed in isolation and sometimes on paper. However, off-system work sometimes persists. Consider the following simple off-system example:
When a new customer is onboarded, a series of tasks need to take place. Currently those tasks are handled manually. The salesperson enters the information about the customer, including the contract, into the CRM system. They then send an email to the customer service team, the finance team, and the marketing team. The customer service team needs to assign an account rep, the finance team needs to collect payment, and the marketing team needs to send out a welcome kit. The process relies entirely on the salesperson to remember to contact all the relevant groups and those relevant groups to remember their tasks.
Initial optimization of this manual process might be to automatically trigger a workflow at customer signup that sends notifications to each group along with the basic information needed to perform their tasks. Then, as each group completes their task, they click "Complete" in the workflow.
You build this process, launch it, test it, then evaluate it after a set period of time. You find that the process has become more optimized, predictable, and accountable than the previous method. You could stop there and have a positive impact.
But what if you dig deeper? What if the contract is automatically attached to the notification to finance? What if the process assigns an account rep automatically based on the type of customer? What if a welcome email is automatically sent to the customer?
Through rounds of this kind of build/test/evaluate cycle, you are gradually optimizing the process and delivering more value.
A note on the term "process control," which refers primarily to industrial settings like manufacturing where achieving consistency above what can be achieved under human supervision. These systems are outside the scope of our discussion of business processes but the topic is worthy of research as it drives home the value of automation in all facets of the business.
Want to read more about business process optimization? Check out our free BPM Guide.
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