What a Business Improvement Consultant Can Do for Your Company

A business improvement consultant can spend his or her career designing, implementing, and improving company performance and financial results.

But what exactly do they do? Or what should they do to drive the maximum impact in the least time?

To answer these questions, we gathered lessons and best practices from several Johnny Grow management consultants.

They provided clear evidence that the biggest results are created from a short list of actions.

They also shared a consensus that the most strategic improvements can be achieved and sustained using a framework built on 4 cornerstones.

So, before you consider hiring your next business improvement consultant, consider the below advice from a group of seasoned experts.

A Business Improvement Consulting Framework

Business improvements include things like increased staff productivity, faster process cycles and better decision making. Each of these things impact the company's financial results. Collectively, they can drive quantum leaps to company performance.

Below are the four cornerstones used by consultants to architect business improvements that drive significant and sustained results.

Business Improvement Framework

01. People & Performance

If you want to improve the business, start by improving the lives of the people that work there.

Staff productivity improvement programs are a recurring goal among managers. Unfortunately, they tend to be intermittent, without structure and deliver mixed results at best and temporary results more often.

To do better, start by defining and measuring staff baseline productivity. Without measuring your baseline, you cannot show real progress or payback. You want to know where employees spend their time and how those time investment areas impact their personal goals and performance results.

What you will find is that staff want things like the ability to access information quickly, collaborate with their peers easily, spend less time doing manual activities, and spend more time on the actions that produce the outcomes for which they are measured.

For example, below is diagram showing how we reallocated salesperson time at a client.

Sales Time Reallocation

Here's what you need to know.

There are three ways to improve staff productivity and performance. You can redesign processes to be more streamlined and effective, apply technology to automate manual activities, and develop analytics to work smarter.

02. Process Optimization

The Johnny Grow group advised that business process improvement consulting is frequently needed to improve company performance. They also shared two pieces of advice.

Frist, business processes optimization is a three-step progression. You have to simplify, streamline and automate; in that order. There's no sense in automating inefficient processes.

Second, there are two proven methods to achieve that three-step progression.

The first is the Universal Process Notation (UPN). It's a good starting point for processes that are not yet simplified. A UPN example is shown below.

Universal Process Notation

A UPN process map is a flowchart of steps. You can drill down to show more detail. This allows each diagram to be kept to 8 to 10 steps and still able to describe a broad scope or complex process. There is no limit to the number of levels you can go down.

"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for business failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better."
Engineer, statistician, professor, management consultant and all-around business guru W. Edwards Deming

The second method is Agile Value Stream mapping. This method is particularly well suited to saving time and improving business outcomes.

It calculates process efficiency by measuring Activity Time (value add) and Wait Time (non-value add) for the steps in a process. It then divides Value Time by Non-value Time to calculate an efficiency measurement.

This is really helpful for identifying bottlenecks and non-value-added steps. Many times, the result doesn't just reduce non-value-added steps or tasks, but completely eliminates steps or tasks that don't add value to the outcome.

Agile Value Stream Mapping

When using these methods, the experts consistently discover two things – activities that can be done in less time and activities that can be eliminated. The latter delivers the biggest time savings and productivity improvements.

Regardless of method, it's a good idea to map business processes pursuant to a standard such as the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) standard. This is a broadly adopted and universal process design specification. It facilitates things like process optimization and industry benchmarking.

Once you have simplified and streamlined processes, it's time to apply technology for automation.

03. Technology Automation

Technology is generally needed to make business improvements consistent, automated, and scalable.

But many companies struggle with fragmented and unintegrated technology point solutions.

A smarter approach is to assemble a strategically designed Tech stack. This can replace ad hoc and piecemeal systems with a holistic application portfolio.

An example built on a 3-tier architecture is shown below.

Tech Stack

A good Tech Stack is built on a solid foundation that begins with Platform Solutions.

And there's two upsides.

First, the platform systems possess workflow tools to automate end-to-end processes.

Second, most companies use a very small portion of their existing systems. Aligning business improvements with these apps often creates an opportunity to use existing technologies for new gains.

The use of fewer apps to do more things will also facilitate workflow automation, decrease system integration complexities, and consolidate data siloes for easier and more effective reporting. Which takes us to the final cornerstone.

04. Performance Analytics

Most business improvements will be built, measured, and advanced using data and analytics. But data must be organized so that analytics tools can be used to convert it into insights and then into actions and then into outcomes.

The experts note that not all data is equal in value or useful for company improvements. Focusing on the analytics that deliver the most impactful results will accelerate improvements and payback.

The analytics continuum, which we illustrate in a pyramid model below, shows how different types of data and information deliver progressively greater business impact.

Analytics Continuum

The experts also advise the biggest gains are achieved when data can be applied for predictive analytics and real-time decision support. These are powerful analytic capabilities that shift information reporting from hindsight to foresight, accelerate decision speed, and create a competitive advantage.

They share one more thing. Advancing the value of information and making your way up the analytics pyramid does not start by evaluating tools or technologies. It starts by defining what information will most drive the most important business improvements.

A Seasoned Advisor Can Help

When chartering new waters, it's invaluable to have a captain who has navigated those waters before. An experienced advisor can guide the voyage with skills and processes that lead to actions and outcomes. And they can provide a compass to reach your destination in the least time, cost and risk.