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Business Process Improvement

In most companies, business processes evolve over a long period and usually in an unplanned and fragmented manner. The frequent result is that they become cumbersome, inefficient or irrelevant to the business. Furthermore, inefficient processes can severely constrain the potential benefits which might be achieved by implementing new information systems.
There are therefore significant benefits available if companies periodically review and re-evaluate their processes. This is particularly important if new information systems are being considered [click here for a case study that exemplifies this]. If the opportunity is taken to re-design processes from scratch, changing the way that the company works, so as to take advantage of new technologies, significant benefits can be achieved.
process design

Is Process Design relevant to my organisation?

Processes tend to evolve in a number of ways. Extra activities are added that address short term problems and staff deficiencies, individuals change the way things are done to suit their personal preferences, departments get moved or re-organised, fragmenting existing processes and new technology is often overlaid onto old processes.

This can result in the following symptoms:

  • Apparently simple processes that take a long time to complete because they pass through many stages and departments
  • Unnecessary activities that no longer add value but which are maintained because “we’ve always done it that way”
  • Information systems that fail to deliver the anticipated benefits because they are constrained by inefficient underlying processes
  • Errors and duplicated data entry caused by fragmented processes
  • Unnecessary modifications to packaged software systems in order to support poorly designed processes.
  • If you recognise any of the above symptoms, or you are considering acquiring a new system in the near future, you should consider undertaking a Process Design Review.

What does a Process Design Review involve?

The first step is to review your existing processes. The hallmarks of a well-designed process are:

  • Focused on delivering value-adding outputs without unnecessary activity
    unnecessary stages, hand-offs and delays are eliminated
    staff clearly understand the purpose of a process and their role within it
    The opposite is true of poorly designed processes. The review should identify how your processes measure up against these criteria and quantify the likely benefits in terms of cost, quality and time.
  • If your processes need to be re-designed, a simple and practical approach is the often most effective. A thoroughly prepared and properly facilitated series of workshops with the company’s staff minimises the cost of the exercise, maximises staff buy-in and understanding, and achieves results very quickly, often in a few weeks.
  • It is also a major advantage to include consultants with up-to-date experience of the software market in the re-design workshops. This allows you to design practical processes that will work with and take advantage of current software packages. This avoids the trap of designing theoretically perfect processes that either won’t work in the real world or will constrain the benefits you might achieve from modern software systems.

What are the benefits of a Process Design Review?

The benefits of a thorough process review and re-design can be wide ranging and potentially very significant. Typically they may include:

  • Reduced operating costs achieved through the elimination of non-value adding activities
    improved responsiveness and reduced process times achieved through the elimination of unnecessary process stages and hand-offs
    reduced errors achieved through simpler processes, improved communications and better staff understanding
  • Reduced information systems costs achieved through simpler processes and the elimination of unnecessary software modifications
    These benefits can be achieved in virtually any area of the business and should be identified during the process review and workshop planning stages.
Improving the efficiency of business processes is a proven way to provide real added value and ‘quick-wins’, especially when combined with the implementation of modern information systems.