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What is Process Improvement? Benefits and How to Start

April 27, 2023

The State of Business Process Management 2020 Survey found that 92% of companies were undertaking business improvement projects. And if you care about your company’s business goals, you want to make sure you’re one of them so you can continue to grow, drive revenue, and maximize efficiency. 

Here’s a quick overview of what process improvement is, why it’s important, who needs it, and how to get started. 

What is process improvement?
Processes are steps and tasks that allow you to deliver products and services to customers. So, process improvement is the practice of identifying and addressing inefficiencies and weaknesses within these processes to meet business goals like: 

  • Boosting employee satisfaction 
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity 
  • Reducing delays 
  • Delivering more value for customers 

This involves analyzing current processes, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes. 

It’s important to differentiate process improvement from business process reengineering briefly. While process improvement focuses on making gradual changes, process reengineering involves a more radical overhaul, and won’t be the focus of this article. 

Benefits of process improvement
Given the goals of process improvement, hopefully you can already start to guess the benefits. 

But to help you get a clearer picture of them, let’s run through the main advantages in greater detail: 

  • Reduced costs: By streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps or activities, an organization can reduce the time and resources required to complete tasks, leading to cost savings.  
  • More efficiency: Improved processes can increase turnaround times and productivity. 
  • Simplification: Process improvement can simplify complex processes, making them easier to understand and execute. This can lead to improved communication and collaboration and fewer errors. 
  • Better visibility: Carrying out process improvement helps managers to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement.  
  • Quality management: By identifying and addressing the root causes of quality issues, process management can reduce defects and rework, leading to improved customer satisfaction. 
  • Reduced cycle time: The time it takes to complete tasks or processes, known as cycle time, can improve responsiveness to customer needs and boost efficiency. 
  • Regulatory compliance: Better processes make it easier to meet regulatory requirements and standards, such as those related to safety, quality, or the environment.  

Who needs process improvement?
If you’re a company that hasn’t yet experimented with process improvement or has neglected it for the last few years, chances are that you could benefit from adopting the practice. No business has the right processes by accident, after all. 

But there are some signs that point to process improvement being particularly important for your organization. 

The main one is negative feedback from customers or your team, which suggest something is going wrong and you can’t find the right cause. Ignoring the problem could result in you losing business. 

Another sign is being unable to meet demand. This might not mean you’ve been doing anything wrong so far, but it does mean you need to take things up a notch. 

Finally, if you have to repeat processes too many times, it could mean that there’s a way to create a newer process that could cut out the repetitions. 

How process improvement works
The first step in process improvement is understanding your existing processes and how well they serve the company. This involves analyzing data, such as cycle time and resource utilization. 

Next, it’s vital to identify what is going wrong with your existing processes and how they could be improved. This may involve analyzing data to identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies or soliciting feedback from employees and stakeholders to understand their pain points and challenges. Once you have identified the issues with your current processes, you can begin to develop a plan to address these issues and improve your processes. 

In addition to seeking feedback, process improvement may involve reorganizing resources, often using technology. 

Finally, process improvement may involve process mapping or templates to visually represent and analyze the steps and activities involved in a process. By creating a visual representation of a process, you can more easily identify opportunities for improvement and optimize the process to increase efficiency and reduce costs. 

Some examples of changes made include: 

  • Integrating processes with software  
  • Using automation for manual tasks  
  • Add in extra approval to improve quality 
  • Add more steps to process to accommodate new staff 
  • Switch from sequential to parallel steps

The proof is in the process
A company and the value it delivers can only be as good as the processes that keep the ship running. If you neglect to monitor and tweak those processes on a regular basis, things could soon spiral out of control. 

At Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting, we can help you carry out process improvement effectively in a range of sectors. If you’d like to find out more, contact us to schedule a consultation.