- Do you know why business processes are important? Yes / No
- Have you documented your business processes? Yes / No
- Have you integrated your processes into job profiles and business systems? Yes / No
- Is the performance of your processes regularly checked against a standard? Yes / No
- Have you reviewed and improved any processes in the last month or quarter? Yes / No
If you answered ‘No’ to any of the questions, then there is work to do.
The truth of the matter is that it is virtually impossible to answer ‘Yes’ to all of those questions all the time. That is the nature of the ‘lifecycle’ of business processes.
Unfortunately business process improvement is often understood to be a once-off, standalone project which is periodically implemented every few years across the entire organisation. This perspective is flawed. The level of process ‘maturity’ in different parts of a business will differ. The speed at which processes need to be reviewed and improved in various parts of a business will also differ. The impact on each business function with shifts in the market, legislative/regulatory changes or technological advances will differ, which means the process lifecycles will be ‘out of sync’ across the organisation.
So how should process lifecycles be managed?
- Establish the underlying foundation by knowing who the process serves or why it is necessary.
- Know how the process will deliver with the available resources, such as people and systems.
- Ensure there is alignment between the business areas that participate in the process.
And how is the process improvement tackled?
As the expression goes, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” Focus only on one functional or operational process at a time, knowing which stage of the lifecycle the process is in. Making these ‘isolated’ improvements seems counter-intuitive, but it is more important to successfully complete smaller process improvements more frequently in each area of the business than to simultaneously attempt broad improvements across the entire business.
Lastly, who should be involved in the process improvement?
It goes without saying that the management and employees who work with the processes must be involved in any improvements at any stage of the lifecycle. Insufficient leadership and sponsorship during the project will result in poor results or failure. Involving the right people, i.e. those with the experience and skills, is critical for success. With regards to using external or out-sourced resources, there is no right or wrong answer. This will depend on the objectivity and capacity of the internal resources to identify the processes most in need of improvement and which stages of the process’s lifecycle needs to be improved.