It seems that we’re having one economic crisis after another. Recession, pandemic, bad investments - it’s like business owners just can’t catch a break.
Companies all over the world are having a hard time maneuvering a highly volatile plane that is the world economy - and no one has an idea of what is and isn’t a safe bet.
And even though some are coping better than others, all companies are in agreement - optimizing business processes is a must. To be able to function uninterruptedly, company operations must be organized in a wholesome way, not to mention, constantly improved.
But how to get there? Is there some kind of formula for rising from the bottom and making a profit again?
The answer is - no formula, only clever business choices and common sense.
When they find themselves in a dire situation, companies have only three choices:
- Eliminate the loss-making departments or declare bankruptcy of the company
- Pivot in a profitable direction
- Optimize business processes (plug in the leaks, simplify company organization, eliminate wasteful processes).
You can track bad processes and improve workers’ efficiency by installing computer monitoring software. It will allow you to fine-tune the existing processes in the company, thus preventing future losses or further constraints.
The three main processes in every company are:
- Core processes - identify primary value for customers (manufacturing, sales, purchases)
- Support processes - cover secondary processes (research, development, accounting, IT, human resources)
- Management processes - govern and control the other two types (for example by tracking employee hours spent on a particular project).
Since all of them are irrevocably intertwined, it’s not an easy task to look at each one in isolation in order to minimize the resources that are required to get things done - which is the main goal.
The results companies can expect to have from process optimization are as follows:
- Risk reduction
- Resource optimization
- Company stability
- Market compliance
- Quality assurance
- End-to-end visibility.
But to get there, here are four steps you can choose to follow.
STEP #1: Identification
Find the most problematic process (or several) in your company. Optimizing those should be your priority, especially if they make the core of your business.
Before you start making changes (like installing software for tracking computer activity on employees’ PCs without thinking it through), you need to identify key components - the aspects of the process that cannot be modified because that would mean changing the basics of the process.
To do that, you need to be able to answer these questions:
- What is the goal or the desired outcome of the process?
- How do you define the beginning and the end?
- Which activities move the process forward?
- What teams are involved in the process?
- What information is transferred between the process steps?
Make sure you don’t get caught up in the HOW of the process, but think about WHAT is supposed to be done - that is the main purpose. For example, consider what you actually want to achieve by implementing a new work tracking system in your organization.
STEP #2: Analysis
Once you identify what you want to achieve, it’s time to think about whether the goal is being met via this process. In this sense, analyze the methodology of how things are done to see if there are areas of improvement you should focus on and cut down the wastage of resources.
For example, if you are analyzing your ordering process, these are the questions to answer to see how effective it actually is:
- How much paper is used?
- Are we making copies of the same document over and over again and if so, in what number?
- How many man-hours are needed to complete the process?
- Out of those hours, how many are spent on redundant tasks?
- What stalls the process?
- Where do errors occur?
Now you should compare the two lists of questions. If some tasks that seem essential don’t actually align with your goals, they are wasting your resources and should be eliminated for the sake of optimization of business processes.
The more information you can gather, the better. But it’s not just about the quantity. The data must be compiled in such a way that it allows you to understand it.
STEP #3: Implementation
If the analysis of your processes has revealed that a number of unnecessary tasks are constantly being repeated, you must remove them in order to optimize said processes.
Once you eliminate the necessary parts of the process from those that aren’t - and get a picture of what elements you can get rid of - you can automate the revised process in the new form.
For the example above, introducing business process automation (BPA) tools is meant to digitize orders and automatically route them to the right teams at the right time. This not only cuts down the number of man-hours necessary for the process completion, but also speeds up the process itself.
This is also what you can keep an eye on with an employee task tracking system should you choose to implement on in your company.
The whole idea of process optimization is to reduce or eliminate waste of time and resources, thus cutting down costs. With a lesser error margin and fewer bottlenecks in the process, you are more efficient at accomplishing set goals.
STEP #4: Monitoring
Every change you make to your business processes must be monitored afterward to see if it has the desired effect.
- Does it affect only one business process and how?
- Does one change influence the entire workflow?
- Is the change reversible and can the process suffer more modifications?
These are the questions that will be able to help you with fine-tuning your business processes until you’re satisfied with how they are run.
If at some point you’re again unhappy with the state of your process, optimize it again by following the steps.
Most companies today are well aware that their business processes are key to their competitive success. They also know they are central in acquiring new customers, keeping existing customers happy in the long run, and most important - reducing expenses.
Therefore, it is necessary for every business or team to review the way they operate when they start losing the race. Even if they are doing well, it is only a matter of time before they must do a periodical check-up of their business processes, the way we do for our health check-ups or the tune-up of our cars.
This article was originally written on August 9th, 2016 by Gina Ora. It was updated on June 12th, 2020 by Aleksandra Djordjevic.