Organizations today operate in a very dynamic environment where they need to constantly revisit their processes and identify opportunities for cost reduction, increasing profits and improving revenues. One way this can be done is by finding innovative ways to improve business processes.
Business Process Improvement, previously called Re-engineering is a practical and innovative solution, enabling organizations to attain excellence in their operations by optimum workflow with available resources, machinery, and time. It also helps to correct faults in the initial stage and thereby increase productivity.
There are certain widely acceptable standards that organizations follow to improve their business processes. These include ISO 9001:2000, Six Sigma, 5S principle and so on. All these principles provide necessary guidelines for process improvement. Kaizen the Japanese term for continuous improvement is not only limited to processes but encompasses various business activities. It aims to eliminate waste and also helps in standardizing processes. Irrespective of the type of industry, business process improvements can be implemented to arrive at best practices in an organization. Process improvement thus becomes a strategic approach to gain a competitive edge.
The essentials for business process improvement can be summarized as follows:
1. For process improvement to be effective, the first thing to do is to define the problem. It includes isolating the problem from its symptoms and effect.
2. After defining the problem, map the whole process from its beginning till the end. It helps in the scrutiny at each subsequent level thus identifying bottlenecks for the output of the process.
3. Install metrics so as to measure the improvement in the process after the bottlenecks are removed one by one. Thus a good process improvement is one that has a perfect balance of “result metrics” and “process metrics”. The result metrics gauges the output quality, while the process metrics predicts the process output.
4. There are various models/ methodologies (ISO 9001:200, Six Sigma) implemented for process improvement. All these methodologies have a profound effect on the business activities. Thus it is important to consider suitable options for process improvement. By proper selection of the options, it becomes easier to integrate and align the process.
5. For process improvement to be effective, the appropriate mix of quality principles, operational methods and improvement techniques need to be selected.
6. Adequate communication is necessary to spread the message – “Why it is to be done and what is is to be done?” Thus for every process improvement, there should be a specific purpose. So it is imperative that people working on this process improvement must be aware as to why it is been done. It helps them to get the bigger picture.
7. It is important for every business process improvement to result in steady growth, thereby improving sustainability.
8. Effective teams of workers are the drivers of successful process improvement. The team players ought to possess adequate knowledge of the various methodologies and should have a clear defined purpose.
In order to be successful, business process improvement or business process reengineering should be initiated from the top management integrating it with the corporate vision. It can transform organizations in ways that improves its performance.