What is a business process?
According to the BDC, a business process is a collection of related activities, tasks or steps whose objective is to produce a product or service for a customer – with the ultimate goal to provide real customer value. Many companies today use technology to help them streamline their business processes, while others rely solely on their teams.
There are three main types of processes:
- Operational processes: Comprised of activities, such as ordering goods or providing a service.
- Management processes: Supervising staff, budgeting, and so on.
- Support processes: Activities that support operational processes, such as accounting and technical assistance.
Business processes are at the core of company performance and impact service quality and efficiency. However, to optimally achieve their objectives, managers must have a solid understanding of the needs of their internal and external clients to adequately identify the required changes at the operational level and support their core business by offering value-added services.
Consequently, updating the service offer — combined with business process optimization that supports the service offer — can prove to be a wise decision.
Here are the five conditions needed to optimize business processes and effect change:
1. Is the assessment of your service offer truly necessary?
Perpetual changes in business, such as technological advances, evolving consumer preferences, the emergence of new competitors and ever-changing markets, have definite repercussions on the service offer. Just think of all the companies that had to adapt or redefine their service offerings during the pandemic. While some have thrived under a new operational model, others have not been able to find their footing.
Based on these observations, companies must regularly review their service offer so that the various resources involved can adapt operations to client needs, and identify issues and expectations expressed by key partners and stakeholders.
2. What should you look for exactly?
Do you have the right people, procedures, technology, and goods or services to provide your clients with the greatest added value?
- Has your service offer evolved with your client’s business needs?
- Are your team members’ roles and responsibilities clearly defined, known and understood by all?
- Are your customers satisfied? Better yet, are you providing them with an exceptional customer experience?
- Are your deliverables rendered on time and produced cost-effectively?
All of the above questions should help you decide whether it’s time for your organization to take a step back and review your service offer. Your objective should be to improve or maintain your competitive edge and enhance your efficiency, as well as client and employee satisfaction. It could signal that it’s time to take stock of your company while understanding the impact of this change on your current operations.
Many companies conduct a review and generate recommendations without adequately analyzing their operational requirements and the impact of the various changes they would like to implement. The challenge for most managers is to identify opportunities, prioritize initiatives and make the right decisions. When properly executed, this approach will enable you to innovate and stand out from your competition.
3. What does optimizing business processes involve?
Achieving your business objectives can unquestionably be accomplished by optimizing your business processes. The first questions you must ask yourself are the following: Are our processes documented and are they optimal?
Analyzing the efficiency of your processes is a key factor in improving your organization and will help you develop a performance optimization plan.
The ensuing diagnostic should include the mapping of processes and be based on identifying key factors, such as:
- Process dysfunctions
- Lack of quality
- Client dissatisfaction
- Evolution of indicators (costs, delays, etc.)
- Process duration (in whole or in part)
- Emergence of new expectations
- Defining control points
Note that defining control points throughout a process is overlooked too often during implementation, yet this step is crucial to ensure smooth operations. This involves setting up warning signals that are critical to producing improvements.
4. What exactly are you intending to change?
There’s no easy way to effect change. Change is hard and can be complicated. It can unleash strong emotions because people are attached to the way things were done. It is therefore paramount to clearly identify the change you are enacting, whether small or large.
This option usually involves a large number of small or local initiatives that produce quick results and require little investment. In fact, it could become the natural way of doing things. This approach best suits organizations that have clear operational objectives and that encourage decentralization to introduce changes into their operational model.
The objective is to target sectors that will generate the highest return on investment. The trigger is often a threat from your market or a new opportunity for growth, compounded by a sense of urgency. This involves making substantial changes to the operational model, but only one segment at a time. Targeted interventions reduce the risk of failure associated with change since you are not focusing on an ambitious program that monopolizes everyone’s attention.
This involves bringing about far-reaching change that requires a comprehensive review of the existing operational model and includes making major changes to the organizational structure that aligns with the corporate business strategy. For each company, transformation means something different, but this approach is the quickest way to implement such a change based on the desired objective.
5. CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS TO EFFECT CHANGE
Regardless of the scope of the change, you must choose an approach that takes into account the human factor that will ensure the continuity of the approach and facilitate the change by focusing on fundamentals, such as:
- Top management commitment to ensure continuity in pursuing change, even during phases when little progress seems to be being made.
- Building and maintaining a climate of trust among the stakeholders
- Open communication between employees and management, as well as collaboration between colleagues across business units to achieve goals
- Enabling transparent and open communication
- Involving all stakeholders
- Validating the proposed changes with the stakeholders
- Taking into account the employees’ pace and management’s directions
- Producing concrete results and tangible benefits
- Acquiring competencies and transferring knowledge to ensure continuity in pursuing the approach
- Following up on the work accomplished
Effectively managing change
Every day, you notice the ever-increasing drivers of change in the marketplace and businesses that remain at the forefront take the necessary measures to maintain operations at the optimal level whether circumstances are favorable or not. To stay ahead of the game, the solution is to ensure that your operations support your service offerings, which in turn meets your clients’ current needs. Thus, a business that can maintain a constant service offer despite these challenges can ensure its survival.
Your company must constantly innovate to keep its operational model up to date. However, you are likely to find it difficult to implement changes while keeping your employees satisfied with their jobs. The infusion of technology can help facilitate the implementation of tangible results and meet expectations while allowing your employees’ skills and competencies to be improved. As for your clients, they expect you to offer customized services that meet their needs and are delivered in the most efficient manner.
Companies need to be prepared for changes during process improvement projects so they aren’t caught off guard; having a plan that defines how change will be managed is key. It’s critical to fully comprehend how each element will be impacted by change before it happens, otherwise businesses may overlook something critical or important.
Defining the WHY and knowing what SUCCESS looks like
If you don’t know why you’re doing something, then you won’t understand the importance of making it effective and efficient. Before undertaking a project of this magnitude, companies should assess how resources will be used to meet goals and whether there’s a valid business case for the project.
Once you know why you’re undertaking this objective, it’s important to define how success will be measured and what factors could prevent you from meeting some or all of the goals so you can identify risks before they happen. Only with the right goals and the right definition of success will companies be able to maximize their efforts.
Ready or not, change is already happening. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll go about it. Having clear objectives, mapping the key factors that influence operations, prioritizing initiatives and implementing them with the support of your teams will enable you to effect change and achieve your business objectives.
Above all, remember that change is a continuous process and will need to be adjusted as you go along.