Take your process improvement efforts to the next level.
After almost four weeks back at school, families in the northern hemisphere will be congratulating themselves for surviving a time of year that is typically as nerve-wracking for parents as it is for their children.
Worries about new teachers and classes, juggling before- and after-school timetables once again, as well as the sheer amount of preparation required to successfully get the kids in the gate on that first day can be immense. Uniforms, stationery, technology, backpacks and lunchboxes all need to be organized for the return to school.
Embarking on the next stage of your business process management education can be the same. Whether you’re just graduating from kindergarten and setting aside Visio for the first time or moving on to high school and looking for ways to develop your process improvement across the business, a little organization goes a long way.
Here are some tips on what you’ll need as you go ‘back to school’ with your processes.
Starting elementary school.
Elementary school is the first serious step in education for a lot of children. They’re ready to leave kindergarten behind, trading playtime for structured learning.
When you consider putting aside Word documents, static procedure manuals and complicated Visio diagrams, you’ll need to be prepared for what it will take for your business process management efforts to succeed.
From the top
Executive buy-in is vital for successful business process management. Organizational culture filters down from the top, and if there isn’t a commitment to continuous improvement at the C-level, it’s likely going to be hard to get middle management to prioritize it. Find a sponsor, a champion at the highest level who understands the benefits to your business of great business process management. If they lead the charge, people will follow.
Process ownership is a significant issue for many businesses. Where processes are kept in folders on shelves, it’s likely people don’t know who is responsible for certain activities, or even who needs to have oversight of the end-to-end process. Before you start elementary business process management, ensure that the lines of accountability are clear. Process ownership ensures that processes aren’t ignored or forgotten, and that the vital activities in the business are assigned to the right people to manage them.
Share with the class
In kindergarten you might have been able to expect an isolated business analyst to have insight into every process. To graduate to elementary BPM you need to draw in more of your team. The best people to write and revise business processes are the ones that use them daily. There’s no substitute for their expertise and experience. They can contribute insights into efficiency and effectiveness that someone outside the team would miss. They’re also the ones expected to work with the resulting processes. Inviting them to contribute to shaping the processes builds buy-in and engagement and improves the likelihood that they’ll be invested in using the processes they helped to write.
Keep it simple
In order for teams to be a part of creating great processes, they need accessible tools. Using complicated interfaces and trying to do things like align tiny connectors are barriers to engagement. The best business process management tools are clear and easy to use, aimed at capturing the important elements rather than drafting complicated diagrams. By investing in a simple and powerful BPM platform built with teams in mind, you can set your entire organization up to grow with their processes.
Close the loop
Processes aren’t static and the tool that captures them shouldn’t be either. Continuous improvement requires a business to be agile, reviewing and refining processes as they are employed. Once again, the best people to contribute to this are those on the front line, where inefficiencies and waste can easily be identified. An effective BPM tool creates avenues for feedback, starting conversations between users and process owners that lead to improvement. Creating a culture that welcomes open feedback and innovation prepares you for success.
Moving on to middle school.
New schools mean new challenges, and it’s important to be equipped for them. The broader curriculum and classes of middle school have higher demands on technology and resources. It’s no different when you’re embarking on your next BPM steps.
Doing the math
Effective business process management is the basic building block for business growth, but it can also be a foundation for greater innovation. Once processes have been captured and clarified, opportunities for improvement can be identified.
The best BPM platforms will allow you to track process timing and costs, pinpointing where waste occurs. By investing in continuous improvement and comparing the various iterations of a process, cost savings and efficiencies will be easy to identify.
Expanding the curriculum
BPM is the reading, writing and arithmetic of business management, but there is so much more that organizations can explore. The right business process management tool can help your organization incorporate risk management and incident reporting into the process library, connecting them to the relevant processes. Integrated training and onboarding systems can use existing processes to inform and direct new staff or manage vital compliance and competency standards.
Standard processes also have room to grow. Where processes are governed by regulations or relate to sensitive business areas, a system of approvals and oversight can ensure changes are handled carefully. Recording those edits in change logs also makes auditing easier, which can save time and money. An effective BPM platform will also cope with process variations, recognizing the importance of balancing centralized control with regional or divisional autonomy.
Meeting BPM High School expectations.
High school has its own unique challenges, from the social pressures to the looming shadow of college. Being ready for high school is being ready to take on the world in a microcosm, and mature business processes need to be up to the task of challenging the competition you’ll face.
Bigger, better, faster
Well-written processes, integrated with team training, risk management and evolving in a collaborative improvement culture are an excellent foundation for business growth.
That’s not the end of the journey though. More and more, organizations are recognizing that new opportunities are emerging for agile businesses. Chief amongst them is process automation.
Automation is a fast-growing field with numerous facets, but it focuses on taking human-driven, manual processes and evolving them into digital workflows with automated functions and intelligent virtual agents.
While RPA is all the buzz, it’s just one of the potential paths to the next level of process maturity. Modern forms that seamlessly cooperate with advanced workflows and document generation tools can lift your process GPA through the roof. Partnering your BPM tools with a platform that can offer that kind of functionality is the best way to step up your process management game.
Not every solution is suitable in every case, though. Automation is a complex toolkit, but knowing which approaches will work for your business requires an investment in a solid BPM foundation first. Using a flexible BPM platform that integrates with intelligent forms and documents, automated agents and advanced workflows ensures that you can identify where automation will add value and drive efficiency and then quickly take advantage of those opportunities.
System-tagging and flexible reporting ensure that once you’ve deployed it, automation is easy to manage, and the benefits can easily be quantified.
Ready to go.
The first days of school may seem like a mountain to climb, but a little preparation makes the transition much smoother. The same is true on your business process management journey.
Investing in the right BPM tool will help you to establish a solid foundation, ensuring you start strong and are set up for success in your pursuit of graduating to a process improvement culture.