Efficient procedures build competitive advantage and make businesses better for their customers and employees. There are many business process improvement techniques and methodologies such as Prince2 or Lean Six Sigma.
The reoccurring theme across all of them is the continuous realignment of the existing processes with their optimal version. And that starts with the discovery of areas worthy of improvement. How can you identify the best process improvement opportunities?
There are many angles to approach this. To help you identify areas you can improve in your business, we asked founders and business operation professionals this question to gather their diverse insights:
Name and describe one method to identify areas worthy of process improvement in business.
From applying agile technology to performing root-cause analysis of customer complaints, there are several methods to start the search for the areas worthy of process improvement in your business.
Here are 11 methods to identify process improvement opportunities in business:
Benchmark Methods and Processes against Competition
Apply Agile Methodology To Drive Process Improvement
I find the most efficient way of achieving goals is through agile methodology. Every project has its constituent parts, and agile methodology can help keep everything organized. Collaborative sprints and retrospective meetings facilitate continuous improvement and also contribute to an enhanced sense of teamwork. It's an incredibly effective tool for process improvement, while also keeping your team agile and ready for new challenges and changes.
Debra Hildebrand, Hildebrand Solutions, LLC
Use Process Mapping To Maintain Detailed Workflow
Maintaining a detailed workflow is essential for everyone on your team. Each member should know what they have to do, and what their part of the flow is, as you work toward a common goal. Making use of process mapping can help keep your staff to be on the same page. If not already doing so, utilize process mapping to increase your cohesiveness and efficiency. The process mapping can also take a format of a living, breathing document that is consistently reviewed and updated with any new team and process changes or innovations.
Ryan Shallenberger, SEKISUI
Trace Back from Your Pain Points To Find Problems
Find a pain point and trace back the source of the problem. When you analyze the process in place that gets you the outcome you want to change, you will find what needs to change. Looking at the process step by step will help you find the exact point where the problem originates. Find your pain points, trace back to find the problem, and make process improvements.
Ann McFerran, Glamnetic
Survey Employees for Critical Insights Into Operations
When you have exhausted the theoretical ways to improve your operations, rely on employee interviews and feedback to enhance your business. Project management software can help identify inefficiencies in your processes, but real employee experiences speak better to any covert obstacles and issues. Survey your employees to gather data on what operations stand to improve in your business. Valuing staff’s feedback helps your business through their experiences and valuable insights into the everyday realities of operations at ground level.
As you work continuously to improve your business, you will find that collecting this data helps better everyone's experience.
James Shalhoub, Finn
Do Process Audits To Identify Issues and Risks
Conduct a process audit. To determine areas for improvement, you need to evaluate your entire process. This audit will identify current issues or potential risks for your business. Once you receive the report, you'll be able to prioritize which kinds of processes need to be attended to first. Keep in mind how each process affects your company, resources and stakeholders. This is important whether you're in the manufacturing industry, retail, technology field, or medicine.
Ben Hyman, revivalrugs.com
Benchmark Methods and Processes against Competition
When I saw that our sales process took much longer than a colleague’s I knew that we had to improve the process. No matter what business you are in, you can look to your competitors or similar businesses for comparison to your own processes, and methods for improvement. We have since created a much more efficient method of giving quotes and getting contracts back. I was very careful not to sacrifice any of our trust and relationship building for efficiency. These are vital to steady business for any remodelling of the company.
Ralph Severson, Flooring Masters
Use Gap Analysis To Analyze and Set Goals
Gap analysis gives business leaders a look at where they are now and where they want to be – including process improvements. For instance, right now, your business might require consumers to copy and paste your customer service email into their own email browser; however, in the future, you'd like this process to be more automated.
Especially for small businesses, this can be overwhelming to entertain all of the processes that need to be updated. However, gap analysis is essential to define the long-term vision of where your company is going.
Amrita Saigal, Kudos
Automate Everyday Tasks To Save Time and Improve Strategies
As they say, time is money and automation tools can save you a whole lot of time, for not a lot of money. Tools such as Zapier, Airtable Automations, Integromat, Hootsuite and Drip can automate everyday tasks such as email and SMS campaigns, website updates, customer success, sales funnels and social media posts. Whilst there will be some initial time to invest at the set-up stage, automating these types of tasks can provide a huge saving on employee hours, and also allow you to fine-tune your tactics based on your audience (e.g. emailing and posting on social media at the times that are best for your customer). Many of the tools listed above have free to use tiers or free trials to get you started. As you scale up, you can start automating larger tasks to help keep your business efficient and continue to improve processes.
Josh Smith, Roll To
Examine Your Data To See Where Performance Can Improve
Identify the department in your business with inconsistent KPIs for your business goals and revisit their workflows to trim the fat. Typically, the youngest or most inconsistent arms of a company have the most room to grow and optimize. Gather and evaluate the documentation for typical processes within that department before verifying that the employees therein have access to those tools and work processes. Next, meet with the managers for that department to discuss and assess potential issues within the department as well as solutions to drive efficiency. This approach makes gradual gains with small implementations until you find the best workflows. Businesses don’t optimize overnight but addressing what isn’t working well is the first step to improving processes so you can use your energy elsewhere.
Kevin Miller, kevinmiller.com
Perform Root-Cause Analysis of Customer Complaints
One method to identify areas worthy of process improvement in a business is to perform a root-cause analysis of customer complaints. By understanding the underlying cause of customer complaints, businesses can develop targeted solutions that address the root problem and improve the customer experience. Additionally, businesses can survey customers about their satisfaction with specific aspects of the customer experience to identify areas for improvement.
Gino Louise Reichert, LSAT Prep Hero
Identify "low hanging fruit" processes
The benefits of many improvement categories are difficult to measure but the cost or value of the underlying processes is usually easy to estimate. Calculating the cost of employee time and revenue/margins brought by processes allows for quantifying process value and cost. This can be done across all possible work dimensions. You can calculate the cost by business function and find out how much sustaining the marketing, customer service or sales division costs you every month. You may also audit activities performed by all employees. You will usually discover that office employees spend the most time using their email, then working with spreadsheets. You can train them on better use of email or get their Excel systems automated. The most impactful improvements are often found in the most mundane and obvious areas we tend to forget about or do on autopilot. Michael Sena, Senacea