Business Process Improvement Consultant Insights

Highlights

  • There are three ways to improve employee productivity. You can automate manual activities, redesign processes to be more streamlined and effective, and develop analytics to work smarter.
  • Business process improvement is essentially a three-step process to simplify, streamline and automate; in that order.
  • The three most effective tools to optimize business processes are agile value stream mapping, the Component Business Model and supporting analytics. Each is explained below.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

We know from three decades of business process improvement consultant experience that many clients lead these programs with technology.

Systems such as Customer Relationship Management software can reduce costs with workflow tools that increase staff productivity and decrease task and activity cycle times. System automation also reduces errors, improves service levels and facilitates scale.

In fact, research published in the CRM Benchmark Report shows that CRM automation improves productivity by 15 to 34 percent. Those cost savings flow directly to the bottom-line.

But here's the thing. You can't improve something before it is measurable. You can't optimize it until it's repeatable. And you can't automate it before it's streamlined. Otherwise, you automate inefficient routines which just incurs the inefficiencies faster.

Business Process Automation

Business Process Design, often called business process reengineering (BPR), business process improvement (BPI) or business process optimization, is a prerequisite to automation. It's a 3 step procedure that simplifies, streamlines and then automates, in that order.

There are some great design tools to help. Below are three tools we regularly use when helping clients automate and optimize their business processes.

1

Agile Value Stream Mapping

When working with clients our business process improvement consultant staff always discover two things – activities that can be done in less time and activities that can be eliminated. The later finding delivers the most significant time and cost savings.

There are several tools to simplify and streamline repeatable activities. But our experience has been that Agile Value Stream mapping is often the best tool to surface bottlenecks, identify non-value-added activities, measure operational efficiency and best optimize business processes.

Many people ask how you calculate the value of work streams. For customer facing operations we normally measure the tasks within the overall process according to the four Customer Experience Trust elements of being reliable, relevant, convenient, and responsive. An example is shown below.

Agile Value Stream Mapping

This tool supports the shift from doing things right (efficiency) to doing the right things (effectiveness). It's often the most effective design and improvement tool because it doesn't just improve your existing routines, it measures the value of what you do. This measurement can then eliminate non-valued-added steps, and redefine tasks to be directly mapped to business outcomes.

That's important because if your processes don't create value that customers care about or are willing to pay for, it may not matter how efficient, fast or cheap they are.

Agile Value Stream Mapping is an effective business process improvement tool because it identifies both incremental improvement and work elimination opportunities.

2

Component Business Model

This is the most used business process improvement consultant technique with midsize or larger companies. It's particularly helpful for decentralized or global companies that need more consistency among multiple lines of business or geographies.

It's also an essential tool for companies pursuing customer experience programs. Highly efficient, consistent and automated customer facing delivery from every part of the company is a precursor to delivering personalized, relevant and contextual customer experiences. Customers expect consistency regardless of the company location or department they engage. Without enterprise-wide consistency, customer experience programs are likely to struggle.

This tool brings a structure to enterprise workflow management by using a logical model such as the matrix illustration below.

Component Business Model

The model positions your business competencies horizontally across the top. It places accountability levels vertically along the side. Business components are modular building blocks which lie at the intersections.

Each of the business components then subscribe to a common framework construct, as illustrated below.

Component Business Model Common Process Framework

Companies that are growing geographically or by acquisition may be wise to orchestrate this model before they incur the challenges or chaos that comes with these business growth strategies.

3

Performance Analytics

Business intelligence or performance analytics is the third automation tool.

This is required for the business process improvement consultant to clearly show which business procedures are working and which need improvement. More so, these tools bring closed loop reporting to measure both efficiency and effectiveness.

Good analytics use key performance indicators (KPI) to measure work stream efficiency and effectiveness. They surface variances and escalate problems so they can be quickly remedied.

Better analytics measure activity impact to business outcomes. For example, a key objective with CRM software is to improve customer relationships. That's a headline objective that must be examined at multiple levels to measure effectiveness.

CRM Business Process Improvement

The best analytics use industry and performance benchmarks to compare KPIs to peers and competitors. They can quickly identify the underperforming areas that when improved will deliver the biggest upside impact. Industry benchmarks also help companies avoid insulating themselves from the real world. When acted upon, they turn competitive knowledge into competitive advantage.

Sales Win Rate Benchmark

See the 3 tools to simplify, streamline and automate business processes — and improve employee productivity by 15 to 34 percent.

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An Important Caveat

Something we've learned from many years of business process optimization consulting work is that that many people doing this for the first time apply a biased focus toward operational efficiency. Staff productivity and efficiency are complimentary but distinct. Becoming highly efficient in low value or non-essential tasks does not improve business performance.

Making productivity measures focused on efficiency without a focus on outcomes a losing proposition.

However, when the two are pursued in concert, staff time can be reallocated from low to high value actions or otherwise optimized.

Also, it's essential to measure value. Optimizing customer facing or CRM business processes that customers don't care about generally doesn't help anybody.

Or worse, eliminating costs or investments that end up negatively impacting customer benefits or experiences makes the company less relevant to customers. That in turn will most certainly result in lower customer share and more customer churn. It also typically results in lost revenues that far exceed the planned cost savings.

The Takeaway

Most companies implement processes and controls in response to new business strategies or incurring unexpected events. Our experience shows that many times the strategies and events change, but the controls, procedures and approvals remain, even if they are no longer relevant.

Strategies change on average, every 14 months. However, business processes change or are formally updated every 4 years, on average. This gap creates inefficiencies that frustrate employees and increase labor cost.

Business process design methods and tools root out these inefficiencies, streamline labor intensive routines, eliminate non-value-added tasks or activities, and enable scalability.