Efficiency is Everything: What is Business Process Improvement?


If you’re like most business owners, you’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency and streamline your processes. McKinsey even notes that successful, future-ready businesses are ones that make themselves fitter, faster, and better at unlocking organizational value.

That’s where Business Process Improvement comes in. 

BPI is a methodology for optimizing and improving business operations. It can help you identify and fix bottlenecks in your workflow and make your business more agile and responsive to changes in the market.

If you’re interested in learning more about BPI and how to implement these methodologies, then keep reading. This comprehensive guide will explain what BPI is and how you can use it to improve your business operations.

What Is Business Process Improvement?

Business Process Improvement (also abbreviated as BPI) is a systematic approach to help organizations optimize their processes. This can include analyzing and improving tasks, practices, and systems. The overall goal? To increase efficiency and productivity

Ultimately, the goal of BPI is to improve the overall performance of an organization. You can use many different methodologies and tools in BPI. This includes Six Sigma and Lean management (and we’ll get into those more in-depth in just a second).

However, what we want you to know is that by regularly reviewing and improving processes, your business can continue to adapt. This is crucial if you want to stay competitive in a changing market.

Types of BPI

As mentioned above, there are different methodologies within BPI that you can employ. Two of the most common and popular are Six Sigma and Lean. 

To help you further understand business processes and how to improve them, let’s explore these two methodologies. Then, we’ll help you learn how to combine them for optimum efficiency.

Lean

Lean is a methodology that focuses on maximizing value and eliminating waste. Overall, the Lean methodology involves the following:

  • Identifying and defining value
  • Mapping out the value stream
  • Creating flow
  • Establishing pull
  • Continuing to improve continuously

The overall approach focuses on reducing waste and enhancing workplace organization in a way that is less technical than Six Figma. This methodology also relies heavily on Kaizen.

Kaizen means “continuous improvement.” The idea behind this philosophy is that by making small, incremental changes, you can improve efficiency and productivity. The term comes from Japan and was first implemented by industrial giant Toyota. 

The Kaizen process can include:

  • Involving all employees in problem-solving
  • Identifying areas for improvement
  • Setting specific goals
  • Implementing improvements
  • Monitoring progress
  • Standardizing successful changes

Kaizen, and by default, Lean BPI, emphasizes teamwork and input from all levels of the organization. This is different than relying solely on management or top-down decision-making. In most cases, it’s more effective.

In this sense, you can apply Lean BPI to any industry or business function. However, before you start looking for how to implement Lean into your business processes, let’s explore Six Sigma.

Six Sigma

The Six Sigma framework is a business strategy that can help improve efficiency and eliminate defects. The core belief is that by reducing or eliminating errors, business processes can be more profitable and successful. 

The name Six Sigma refers to the statistical measure of how close the process comes to perfection. It refers to the chance of 3.4 defects per million opportunities. That’s pretty low if you ask us. However, there’s more to this methodology than just a cool name.

Six Sigma uses data and statistical analysis to identify, analyze, and solve problems in various areas, such as production, customer service, and financial management. This means that when compared to Lean, it’s slightly more technical.

Each step of the Six Sigma process involves:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Gathering data and analyzing it
  • Finding potential solutions
  • Implementing those solutions
  • Monitoring their effectiveness over time

Companies such as Motorola, GE, and Honeywell have all seen significant improvements in their operations after implementing Six Sigma strategies. You don’t have to have a big business to benefit from Six Sigma, though.

Whether it’s boosting productivity or improving bottom-line profits, the Six Sigma framework offers numerous benefits for businesses looking to optimize their performance.

Lean Six Sigma

Now that you know all about the two basic types of BPI, it’s important to note that you can (and should) combine them! This is called Lean Six Sigma. Let’s recap fast, though.

Lean and Six Sigma are both business management approaches that focus on improving efficiency and reducing waste. Lean emphasizes streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps, while Six Sigma focuses on finding and solving errors within processes. 

Lean Six Sigma then combines the principles of both Lean and Six Sigma to create a comprehensive approach to process improvement. 

Lean Six Sigma offers a more cohesive framework for implementing continuous improvement. Ultimately, Lean Six Sigma aims to improve quality and efficiency. It does so by pulling from both streamlined processes and the idea of error reduction.

Examples of Business Process Improvement

While each framework or methodology might look slightly different, you can count on any Business Process Improvement flow to look a little something like the one below. We follow these steps as we help you optimize your business processes.

Define

The define phase is all about understanding the problem and setting clear goals. During this phase, we work with your business to determine specific targets for improvement. 

By setting clear objectives during this phase, we’re able to focus on finding effective solutions that address the root cause of the problem.

Measure

The measure phase focuses on collecting data to help determine the current performance level of a process. This allows for easier identification of key metrics and the setting of targets for improvement. 

The measure phase also involves determining which variables may have an impact on the process and establishing a method for collecting data about these variables. We can then use this information in subsequent phases to create and implement solutions for improvement.

Analyze

Now it’s time to analyze the data we’ve collected! The goal of the analysis phase is to, well, analyze data. We want to identify patterns or trends. This makes it easier to create potential solutions and their evaluation before selecting the most effective one to implement.

Improve

The improvement phase is all about making changes to improve processes and eliminate any errors or defects. Using data collected in the previous phases, a team will create and implement solutions to improve performance and efficiency. 

These solutions can range from minor adjustments to major redesigns as long as they are based on data and evidence. Once they’ve put these changes into action, the team evaluates their effectiveness. 

Then, they’ll decide whether they need to make further changes or adjustments. This cycle of implementation and evaluation continues until the desired level of improvement is achieved.

Control

Finally, the control phase involves monitoring processes closely to ensure they are running smoothly and meeting their targets. 

This phase also involves identifying any new opportunities for improvement and implementing control systems to ensure that these improvements are sustained over time. 

What Are the Benefits of Business Process Improvement?

If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ll notice that we’ve already dropped some benefits of utilizing these frameworks as part of improving your business processes. However, there are several benefits of BPI for businesses of all types and sizes. Here are a few.

Increase Productivity

BPI involves analyzing current processes and finding ways to streamline them, such as automating certain tasks or restructuring the workflow. It can also involve training employees on efficient methods, updating equipment and technology, and implementing new policies. 

All of these efforts help businesses improve their overall productivity and performance. 

Reduce Costs

By identifying and eliminating inefficiencies, BPI can help to reduce business costs. This could mean finding ways to cut back on unnecessary expenses. However, it could also mean streamlining processes to save time and labor or finding better suppliers to lower material costs. 

BPI can also help to improve the quality of your products and services. This leads to increased customer satisfaction (which we’ll talk about in a second). When customers are more satisfied, it could potentially lead to more revenue.

Improve Customer Satisfaction

When you identify inefficiencies and potential areas for improvement in your business, you’re ultimately going to increase customer satisfaction. How?

For example, BPI can help streamline communication processes within the company. This leads to better response times and more accurate responses to customer inquiries. It can also help:

  • Optimize production processes
  • Reduce delays
  • Increase product quality

Overall, incorporating BPI into daily operations can have a significant positive impact on customer satisfaction.

How to Know if Your Business Needs a BPI Service

This all might sound nice. However, you’re probably thinking, “My business runs great as is. We don’t need any improvements to our business operations!” While that might be right, most businesses can usually benefit from a BPI service. Here’s how to know if yours can, too.

You Notice Inconsistent Output

If your business constantly produces inconsistent output, it may be time to revise your processes. Seeing inconsistent results can be a red flag that something is not working the way it should be. 

Maybe your employees are not receiving enough training. Or perhaps there are too many gaps in communication between departments. Revising your processes can help improve efficiency and effectiveness. This leads to more consistent output in the long run.

You Feel Like You Have No Control Over Your Output

If you find that your workflows are inconsistent or out of control, it’s important to revise your business processes to improve overall productivity. After all, consistency and control are important to any successful business.

By identifying where there are gaps and inconsistencies, you can make changes to streamline the process. Your goal should be to eliminate any unnecessary steps. These revisions can also help with quality control. Consistent workflows ensure that each task is completed in the same manner.

Your Employees Lack Clarity

In today’s fast-paced business world, employees must know exactly what their tasks and responsibilities are. However, if your employees lack clarity on their roles, it may be time to revise your business processes. 

Without a clear understanding of their duties, employees may struggle to work efficiently and effectively. This can lead to errors, missed deadlines, and unhappy customers. 

Revising your business processes can ensure that employees have the necessary information and training to do their jobs well. This can improve employees’ morale and job satisfaction. It can also improve overall productivity and profitability for your business.

Your Employees Aren’t Satisfied

Low rates of employee satisfaction could be a sign that you need BPI services as well. If your employees are consistently reporting low morale and unhappiness in the workplace, it is likely a sign that you need to make some type of change. 

This is where revising your business processes comes into play. By analyzing and potentially changing how you assign and evaluate their work, you can improve overall employee satisfaction. Ensure that the processes make sense for them, not just for management.

After all, happy employees are more willing to go above and beyond for the company. This always leads to better results for your business. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly review and revise your business processes based on feedback from your employees.

You Can’t Step Away From the Business

Have you found yourself constantly working, even outside of business hours, and feeling like the company can’t run without you? It may be time to revise your business processes. 

No one can work nonstop forever, and relying on just one person can lead to burnout and potentially harm the success of the business. By revisiting and streamlining your processes, you can create a more efficient workflow and delegate tasks to other members of the team. 

In addition, revising your processes can open up opportunities for growth and expansion. Strong and adaptable business processes allow room for changes in the market and future challenges. This, and great automation, ensure the long-term success of the company.

Get Help With Your Business Process Improvement

Are you ready to implement Business Process Improvement to help your business succeed? We’re here to help! Get in touch to schedule a consultation call and to chat about how we can help you achieve your business goals.

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