Are Your Business Processes up to Speed?

Are Your Business Processes up to Speed?

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    Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. - John Maxwell

    The way we live and work has changed drastically over the past few years. Remote working is no longer something entirely strange. Technologies have leapfrogged many businesses and industries. Consumers have more choices than ever and demand businesses to keep up the pace. With massive amounts of data available, and pressure to keep up with changing regulations and do more, in less time and at a reduced cost, change is inevitable. If you fail to change, you may fail to survive. 

    Are Your Business Processes up to Speed?

    For many businesses, sticking to the tried and tested methods of years ago, is just no longer an option. Not a viable one for continued growth, at least. Here is where Business Process Management (BPM) comes into play. BPM is not just about keeping up to date with software. It is about understanding your business processes, designing them to operate at optimal levels, executing them with precision, measuring their performance and continuously improving. 

    Covered In This Article:

    The nature of processes
    The importance of the discovery phase
    The BPM Lifecycle
    Speed, security and integration 
    Benefits of Business Process Management
    Are you the type of business that should implement BPM?

    The nature of processes

    In our previous blog, “How processes can make or break your business”, we explained the difference between policies, processes and procedures. Described as a series of actions or operations that are intended to bring about a specific end or outcome, a process is sometimes called a workflow. A workflow can also be defined as “the sequence of steps involved in moving from the beginning to the end of a working process - essentially it is the set of activities to be performed in a specific order, to enable the completion of a particular task. 

    Your processes can be simple (like filling a customer order) or complex (like developing a totally new product). Your processes can cover short-term (hiring new staff for a specific position) or long-term activities (like financing your business) or may even be ongoing in nature (think regulatory compliance). Your processes may be specific to a department or transversal across the entire organisation. Processes can also be industry-specific (like agricultural production) or stretch across value chains (e.g. supply chain management). 

    Ultimately, BPM is focused on entire processes from cradle to grave and not just on specific activities or tasks within the processes – it coordinates resources in such a way that the business can achieve its desired outcomes. Through BPM, your business can achieve structure, consistency and reduced operational costs by improving understanding amongst all team members of the what, when and how of your processes. This also increases team efficiency and reduces waste and rework. 

    Are Your Business Processes up to Speed?

    The importance of the discovery phase

    To achieve a common understanding of the business processes at play, everyone involved must have a firm grasp on the following aspects of the process(es):

    • What the process is meant to achieve, i.e. primary process goal/objective
    • Process constraints, i.e. those factors that limit what can be achieved whether it relates to people, processes or the technologies involved
    • Strengths and weaknesses of the as-is process state, i.e. what is working well, and what are the risks faced in the process - what will prevent the process from achieving the desired objectives? 

    This common understanding is best achieved through thorough and in-depth discovery sessions with everyone involved in the process. Discovery sessions can help to highlight misperceptions, promote understanding by stakeholders and form the basis of the as-is process document from which future strengths will be developed, risks mitigated and opportunities maximised.

    Once the as-is state has been documented and understood in detail, the search for the most appropriate solutions can begin - whether it involves the people, the processes themselves or the technologies applied by the people to the processes. Automating routine activities can help save time and increase overall team productivity. But with that comes the need to create awareness and train users on the revisions being made to the processes.

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    Getting buy-in from staff on the ground can often help to drive the success of the project - if the users are not on board, you could end up spending a fortune on systems just to have a lack of adoption and integration into the day-to-day business operations. Involving users in the change management process from the start is key. Some of the best improvement ideas for processes and systems originate from the users themselves. And when you have happy employees, who are recognised for their contributions towards improving the business, you are likely to see increased productivity, happier customers, reduced costs and growth in revenues. 

    The BPM Lifecycle 

    BPM can be viewed as a continuous project of improvement across the business, which incorporates various projects that are developed over time. The end goal is the improvement of one or more processes through the application of the BPM lifecycle. 

    The BPM lifecycle can be broken down into five key phases

    1 - Discovery 

    Here a team of business analysts review the existing business rules, consult with various stakeholders and discuss the desired outcomes with management.  The overall purpose is to gain a thorough understanding of the as-is state of the business processes and to check whether the processes are aligned with organisational goals and meet business requirements. 

    2 - Define 

    During the define phase, the business analysis team considers the future requirements of the business and identifies the changes required to existing processes in order to meet those requirements. This involves drafting the to-be state of the business processes. This is then presented to the stakeholders for review and adoption. 

    3 - Execution 

    Once the to-be process has been documented and approved, the team will build the process according to the business requirements. This is also where automated workflows can be built to help automate routine tasks. Business processes that could potentially be automated are usually those that are started through a specific trigger or event. The developers will assist the users to test the business processes, first with a small group of key users, and then with a larger user group depending on the nature of the process and the size of the business.

    4 - Monitoring 

    During this phase, it is important to determine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other metrics that must be tracked and reported to the business through dashboards and reports. The benefit of enhanced visibility across the business and across specific business units will contribute to improved decision-making by stakeholders. 

    5 - Optimisation 

    Once the improved system has been implemented and effective reporting is taking place, the business can then focus on continuous improvement through Business Process Optimisation (BPO). Here the processes will be continuously reviewed and streamlined to improve efficiencies, increase alignment across the business and reduce overall costs. 

    Are Your Business Processes up to Speed?

    Speed, security and integration

    While dynamic processes with faster turnaround times and responses to customers are beneficial, and improved business agility is key to responding to changing market conditions, it is important that your BPM approach also allows for pause and reflection, to assess whether improvements or adjustments to the re-designed processes are required. Updating or customising workflows to deal with business-specific requirements enables increased responsiveness across the business while providing deeper insights into the impact of such process adjustments. 

    In an environment that often demands extensive integration across various systems, following a “secure by design” approach can often lead to long-term cost savings. By incorporating the assessment of business process risks and controls from the initial discovery phase, it becomes easier for the development team to build the required configuration, customisation and other internal controls when designing the to-be process. This one-time effort is less disruptive to the business and reduces the need for (and costs related to) constantly re-designing business processes and controls. When building and testing the to-be system, proactively considering the risks that may affect the process, together with possible controls that could mitigate such risks, makes for a smoother transition in the long run. Going live with all the critical process risks already addressed can help your business to save costs and realise benefits, without the need to revisit the entire project lifecycle; the latter would be much more disruptive, time-consuming and costly. 

    Benefits of Business Process Management 

    In your organisation’s quest to achieve bigger and better aspirations, embracing digital transformation and BPM can certainly benefit you: 

    • Business agility – Being responsive to rapidly changing market conditions, gives your business the chance to pause processes, assess what improvements are required, make the required adjustments and continue without significant disruptions to the overall day-to-day operations. 
    • Saving cost, boosting growth – BPM can help you reduce/eliminate process pain points, which can help you to reduce lead times for products and services, quickly respond to your customers’ service requests, and answer the actual need of the market which can lead to increased sales and revenue growth. By further tracking and analysing where in the process there is wastage or other inefficiencies, you can quickly identify where you are bleeding cash and act decisively to prevent further losses. 
    • Improved efficiencies – Integrating your business processes allows the business and process owners to closely monitor delays and ramp up production or revise the allocation of resources where needed. Automating basic tasks can add to efficiencies and speed of the processes. 
    • Enterprise-wide visibility – Through BPM you can achieve real-time monitoring of key metrics. Having a clear view of what is happening in the business, and within each process, can improve decision-making and allow for relevant process modifications while tracking outcomes. 
    • Compliance, safety and security – BPM can help you keep up to date with standards and regulations. Documenting the procedures required to ensure proper compliance can ensure that staff are not only aware of what is required but also understand why it is necessary. This encourages and promotes compliance, safety and security within the business. 

    Are you the type of business that should implement BPM? 

    So how do you know that it is time to review your processes? 

    Well, if you are faced with multiple (often repeated) customer complaints and requests for refunds, high levels of staff turnover and/or increased absenteeism due to stress-related illnesses, breakdowns in processes and systems when key staff are unavailable or exit the business, profitability and cash flows are a struggle, inventory levels are increasing and you cannot cope with customer demands, you could well be due for a process review. 

    If you are lacking critical information or experience delays in getting month-end results out within a reasonable period of time, if you are relying on loads of emails to track activities, authorisations, and follow-up on customer requests or if you are constantly having to resolve internal staff disputes, your process review is likely well overdue. 

    If you are still not sure, consider the following question - 

    Does your business involve:

    • Dynamic processes, demands regulatory compliance (sometimes with frequent changes to such regulations), and extensive reliance on managing customer information? 
    • Complex processes that require extensive coordination across multiple divisions, units, locations and teams? 
    • Processes that involve key performance indicators or other significant performance metrics, and are vital to the achievement of overall strategic objectives? 
    • Processes that draw on more than one application to ensure proper performance? 
    • Processes where deviations from the norm require speedy action or manual intervention? 

    If your business can answer yes to one or more of the above, you can benefit from a high return on investment when implementing BPM. The question that remains: is your business going to stay behind or choose to grow? 

    As a hybrid advisory, technology, and inbound marketing company, focused on optimising the entire customer lifecycle, and enhancing business performance, Velocity offers a diverse range of services through a highly talented team of digital marketing professionals, copywriters, designers, developers and business analysts.

    This allows us to help you analyse and optimise your business processes, remotely, and apply an inbound marketing methodology, allowing you to reduce risks, target the right audience and boost revenues. Automating optimised processes saves you time and money while providing you with detailed dashboards on your business performance, making for improved decision-making. 

    As a HubSpot Platinum Solutions Partner, we help companies to track and nurture leads and analyse business metrics. HubSpot provides all the tools you need for B2B demand generation in your business. Through building content and user experiences that translate into revenue growth, we are your South African outsourcing consulting implementation partner. 

    Contact us today to discuss how we can help you take your business – and processes – further. 

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