Business Process Optimization Consulting Experts Share 3 Steps to Repeated Success

Automating business processes is one of those goals that is frequently discussed but less frequently achieved.

So, we convened a group of Johnny Grow Business Process Optimization consulting experts to learn how companies can get past their aspiration and achieve meaningful results.

They affirmed automation increases staff productivity, decreases labor consumption, improves consistency and accelerates results. It even improves data quality which then improves information reporting.

It allows companies to scale performance without scaling resources.

However, these experienced business process optimization consulting experts also revealed something else.

You cannot refine a process before it is consistent. You cannot improve it until it's measurable. And you cannot automate it before it is streamlined. Otherwise, you automate inefficient processes which just accelerate and magnify the inefficiencies.

They advise the path to process optimization is to simplify, streamline and automate; in that order.

So, before you consider your next process automation effort, consider the below advice from a group of seasoned experts.

01. Simplify First

A common mistake when trying to improve productivity is deploying technology before processes are simplified and streamlined. Poor processes are not helped with new technology.

That's why experienced professionals begin by helping clients simplify their processes.

They also bring the right tools for the job.

For example, Universal Process Notation (UPN) is highly effective in simplifying processes. A UPN diagram example is shown below.

Universal Process Notation

A UPN process map is a hierarchy of diagrams. You can drill down to show more detail. This allows each diagram to be kept to 8–10 boxes and still clearly show a broad scope or complex process. There is no limit to the number of levels in the diagram.

An effective UPN process map will enable you to illustrate the steps and details so that you can reduce errors, increase efficiencies, eliminate waste, and achieve targeted results.

In fact, many companies implement this step by itself because it's fast and effective.

02. Then Streamline

Agile Value Stream mapping is a technique to streamline processes.

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

It can also assign customer value to each step using the four customer value elements of being reliable, relevant, convenient and responsive. That can further eliminate steps customers don't care about or are not willing to pay for.

This technique is really helpful in identifying bottlenecks and non-value-added steps. Oftentimes, this method 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

The business process consulting experts advise this method consistently discovers two things – activities that can be done in less time and activities that can be eliminated. The latter delivers the most significant time savings and productivity improvements.

It's also a good idea to map your processes pursuant to an industry standard such as the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC). This is a widely adopted and universal process design specification. It facilitates things like workflow automation, industry benchmarking and system integration.

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

03. Apply Technology Automation

Workflow tools are the go-to process automation technology. They are usually either external Business Process Management (BPM) apps or workflow apps within your existing business applications. These tools sequence and automate steps to make processes fast, consistent, and repeatable.

When choosing the right tool for the job, an organized tech stack can help reduce data siloes, fragmented software apps and systems that are not integrated.

A strategically designed tech stack replaces ad hoc and piecemeal systems with a holistic application portfolio. An example designed for business growth is shown below.

RevTech Stack

A smartly designed Tech Stack creates a competitive advantage as it defines an overarching architecture that blueprints the applications needed to succeed in data management, process automation and information reporting. It also future proofs your technology purchase decisions.

A few other best practices are shared below.

  • Any manual process that gets repeated by more than one person is a candidate to get automated.
  • Other candidates for automation include tasks that are performed in spreadsheets, collaboration that is done in email, activities that are tracked and stored on local drives, and time-sensitive customer facing activities.
  • Review your customer and product data. Look for data errors and then look for the processes that contributed to those errors.
  • If the user can only do one thing, do it for them. For example, if your salespeople always create a work order after a deal closes, can you create it automatically? Or if your users collect data that needs to go into three different records, can you save time by having them enter the data once and then automatically create the three records for them?
  • Consider automation where you see potential time savings for data entry, routing data, processing approvals, and highlighting variances.
Business Process Design

The Point is This

The goal is to make key processes streamlined and automated and make outcomes efficient, effective and predictable.

The key to scale is to use proven frameworks that simplify, streamline and automate end to end processes across the enterprise.

These processes root out excess cost, improve execution, enable scalability, and facilitate continuous incremental improvements.

Formal processes not only deliver repeatable outcomes and quality results, but they also create confidence and trust.

Highly efficient and repeatable processes become your intellectual property.

"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for 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." —W. Edwards Deming