Business Process Improvement – 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

May 26, 2017

When it comes to business process improvement, organisations keep no stone unturned to stay competitive and win the race. However, more than 70% of Business Process Improvement projects fail to deliver on expected results. Even a minor mistake can cause an organisation to lose all their business process management benefits.

Let’s have a quick look at what one MUST NOT do when practicing business process improvement.

  1. Picking The ‘Wrong’ Processes for improvement

The strategic selection of processes determines the success of a business process improvement drive.  Hence it is critical to identify the processes that actually need improvement rather than simply selecting all processes or unknowingly the ones that are functioning well.

To address this, build a business process library.  That is, a hierarchy of process names that represents the organisation. The library acts as roadmap for the initiative and gives visibility to identify the processes that need immediate attention. Use the following parameters to identify the processes, which need urgent business improvement:

  • Understand the business challenges
  • What are the strategic goals of the organisation?
  • Which processes relate to customer impact?
  • Volume of transaction
  • Frequency of execution
  • Risks involved

Once the ‘needy’ processes are identified, the direction for detailed evaluation, analysis and improvement of these processes is set.

  1. Going Too Fast / Too Slow

Strike a balance and achieve the ‘right pace’ for business process improvement.

Doing business process improvement with haste may result in an incorrect view of the current-state of the business. The current state is used to build the desired state of the business. This haste may cause result in flawed process maps and hence the subsequent analysis is also flawed. The result of this is that the business improvement decisions may be wrong and the wrong improvement ideas are implemented.

In addition, implementing process changes with haste is also a problem.  Implementation haste may result in stakeholder fatigue or a blatant resistance to change. Hence the buy-inn originally established is lost, resulting in the lacklustre uptake of processes improvements.

Conversely, if an organisation goes too slow, the current state of the business may have changed by the time you improve the process. Hence, causing your improvements to be not fit or is totally obsolete.  The lifetime of a process is usually no more than 3 months.  That is, some component of the process will change in this time period.  Hence taking longer than 3 months to change a process – you may be working with out of date process information.

The ideal pace is to improve a business process at a progressive pace. Not in mad rush and not at a snails pace. Be proactive but do not rush.

  1. Ignoring Process Documentation

A recent BP Trends report revealed that only 49% of organisations document their business processes. That leaves 51% of organisations that ignore the value of process documentation.

Good documentation is imperative for building the foundation of continuous business process improvement.  It facilitates the sharing of process information to gain collective input and so that the processes are better understood before and after the change.  Process documentation leads to better decision-making, increased buy inn to business changes, faster implementation, and accurate process execution.

Process documentation includes:

  • The organisations business process library
  • Process prioritisation information
  • Current state business process models/maps
  • Process issue details
  • Process improvement opportunities
  • Future state business process models/maps

Having this information on hand enables the organisation to:

  • Know exactly which procesess to analyse
  • Set a direction for thorough process analysis
  • Fit the improved way better into the business

As a result, the organisation can expect long term benefits such as improved customer satisfaction and revenue growth.

  1. Overlooking Team Competency

Skilled and well-trained people form the backbone of a business process improvement drive. Paying zero attention to the competency of the improvement team implies putting effort with no effectiveness. For this reason, it is important to have the right team on the improvement bus.

Seek out a team of people with the following attributes:

  • Multiple skillsets (process mapping, process analysis, information gathering, statistical and data analysis, business analysis, project management, change management, and so forth)
  • Vast experience in working across domains and functional areas
  • Expertise in some of the best tools, methodologies and standards (Business Process Management, Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management etc.)
  • Globally recognized certifications (IIBA, OMG, Black Belt, etc.)

It is impossible for an individual to come equipped with all these skills. Hence, keeping a proficient team in place is imperative to effectively work together and deliver the desired outcomes.

  1. Following A Sporadic Approach

Most organisations fail to improve their business continually, hence struggle to compete in the market. They consider Business Process Improvement as a one-off project.  This has 3 major drawbacks:

  • It does not provide the opportunity to bring new technology, methods and viewpoints into the organisation. These are necessary inputs to operate better and compete effectively
  • Processes change over time therefore existing process documentation becomes obsolete, leaving the whole initiative out-of-sync with the business
  • Each time you restart the initiative; there is a lot of rework. Hence to restart the initiative is a burden

In short, the sporadic approach to business process improvement prevents the organisation from becoming agile.

Survival as well as the long-term success of the business is largely depended on its agility.  That is the ability to respond to external impacts and changes quickly. Agility is only achieved when processes, people, systems and governance work in sync.

To achieve agility seek out:

  • The use of a structured continuous improvement methodology
  • A skilled continuous improvement team
  • An analytical process mapping tool
  • A ‘continuous’ improvement culture

As a result, the organisation can expect:

  • Agility to respond effectively respond to change
  • Optimised business processes
  • Maximised operational efficiencies
  • Improved customer service
  • A competitive advantage
  • Financial benefits
  • Etc.

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