Poor business process can slow down even the most successful managers and their teams. Unless a team is following a well implemented and thought-out process for maintaining efficient operations, managers will see harmful bottlenecks in sales, order processing and fulfillment. To avoid these issues, we’ve put together a few tips for process improvement.
- Separate and analyze – Don’t try to tackle the whole process at once. This is surely a fatal step. Of course most, if not all, of your business processes interact with one another on a daily or weekly basis. Sales reps interact with finance and the order processing department communicates with fulfillment operations all the time. However, these processes can and should be separated into individual teams/departments and tackled one at a time.
Once you’ve decided how your process can break down into more manageable sections, the process improvement can begin. Choose one of the individual departments; take order management, for instance. Interview the team to understand the process of order management from the time an order is received until fulfillment begins. Include as many voices as possible to get a comprehensive overview of the tasks involved and possible areas for improvement. Probe the process for pains and bottlenecks. Where do things get confusing or require the knowledge of one person alone? How can the process be standardized so anyone in the department could pick up the process at any stage and know how to continue? Take notes and follow this process for each of the individual units you’ve defined within your company.
- Improve or Overhaul? – Once you’ve gotten a decent overview of how each department does its part to make the business run, review your notes and decide if the process currently in place needs improvement or if it needs to be tossed out entirely and built anew. This is a crucial step in process improvement. The tendency is to stick with the legacy process. It’s familiar and comfortable and it’s human nature to stick with the familiar rather than trek into uncharted waters. But real innovation and efficiency increases often come with some pain. Make an analysis of the effort and risk involved and make a balanced decision based on your findings.
- Plan and communicate – Process improvement always means process change. This change could include the installation of new business software, hiring new team members or additional training for existing team members. Chances of success in this endeavor will increase with the buy-in from team managers and members. Communicate clearly the changes to be made and the desired goals of these changes.
As with our first tip, it’s a good idea not to bite off more than you can chew. Plan and execute a staged implementation process. Roll out your changes to a test team first. For example, if you’re implementing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, train the sales staff to start using this product first. Judge the progress of the sales team in using the new process by examining leads and opportunities as well as movement of those opportunities through the pipeline. Interview the sales staff and fine tune the process.
Once the process improvement steps take root in one team, begin to do a phased roll out to the rest of the company. Closely monitor the roll out and handle problems as they arise.
Even if the process works out pretty well with one of your departments, there’s still a chance for problems to arise elsewhere in the company. Prepare yourself to meet these challenges and know that they don’t necessarily indicate a failure of your plan as a whole. In most cases, a well-planned and carefully implemented process improvement solution will require some tweaking to fit the unique demands of your company.
Looking for more information about process improvement? Contact Business Solution Partners to speak to an expert today!