How to Tackle Process Improvement

As is the case with most business, continuing to find new ways to deliver better efficiencies, visibility and productivity is an important element to growth and innovation. Analysing how your company operates on a day-to-day basis and identifying if there are better ways to do things is key. But with so many varied processes, departments and requirements within a company, knowing where to start can become an overwhelming concept.

This is where the continued evolution of technology can play a huge role with process improvement, providing significant outcomes without necessarily causing the business disruption people expect it may.

A simple internet search returns a myriad of software including apps and widgets for just about everything. From sales, project management, HR to accounting. And all of these business area’s have world of applications to choose from that promise to help improve the way we work.

What we all know however is that these promises don’t always measure up. So how do you make the decision of how to choose? Below are a few tips every organisation should consider before committing to yet another application.

Upstream have had decades of helping companies streamline systems and implement process improvements. Here are some tips from our experience in assisting organisations journey through the world of process improvement.

1.  Understand what you are trying to do with the Process

Before implementing new technology, make sure you understand the process you are trying to improve.

  • Identify what you are trying to achieve with the process – what is its purpose? For example, is it to provide increased efficiency, better customer service or transparency of data to the business?
  • Involve the right stakeholders. Talk about it with your staff who do the job. Ultimately they know it best. All too often well-intentioned, drawn out projects fail after implementation because it the right people weren’t consulted.

2. Have a Clear and Measurable Outcome

It’s important that business leaders have a clear and measurable goal in mind before adopting technology to improve their organisation.

For example, if looking at automating an accounts payable function, the goal might be to re-purpose a staff member to another part of the business in turn saving a head count in that part of the business. For this you will need to understand how automation can reduce the processing time of an invoice and at what level of automation you need to implement to achieve a reduction of a full-time employee. From here, assessing ROI is easy.

3. Define and Review the Potential ROI

Potential return on investment is one of the most important metrics to assess when deciding to invest in a new technology.

Not only is it important to have key ROI markers to be able to analyse the viability of process improvement, but it’s equally important to continually review the ROI on annually as a lot can change in a year.

Depending on your objectives, the form of your ROI could vary and include one or more multiple outcomes. Define which form of measurement determines success early on, such as:

  • Potential time saved by your employees
  • Money saved
  • Increased visibility on the process
  • Reduced risk, especially relating to compliance

4. Have a process map of the area you are looking to improve

When adopting new technology, it’s important to clearly map out the process to which the technology is being applied. Frequently decisions are made by the lure of the ‘bells and whistles’ features.

Quite often it’s not all the bells and whistles that will ultimately provide the value. In fact, in many cases those same features may not be even applied by your company.

Business managers should create a process map of the area they want to improve on by following the below:

  1. Include all of the current steps involved in the roadmap
  2. Highlight the duplicate and potentially unnecessary steps
  3. Identify any missing steps, areas where mistakes happen and potential wish list options

Once you’ve performed this exercise, you have a much clear outline of the journey ahead and the areas to tackle.

5. Focus on Continuous Improvement

Whether it’s ad-hoc activity or tackling too many issues at once, both can result in unsuccessful process improvement. 

Rather than biting off more than you can chew, start focusing on continuous improvement. Thinking of process improvement as a journey and not a onetime action will lead to larger benefits in the long term. 

This is also true of any software applications you chose. A system like the M-Files platform offers integration and is scalable across your whole business. This means one software allows you to address multiple processes and departments, addressing things like accounts payable automation, compliance, HR onboarding and many more.

Considering the above tips in your planning and sourcing process will ensure you’re better equipped to identify how to use technology to improve the overall business and make the process easier.

Of course, as experts in business Process Improvements across numerous areas, Upstream can help you along your journey to a more streamlined and efficient company.  Get in touch if you’d like us to offer a process health check.