If you have started a small business and watched it grow over the last few years, you may be in a position where you have hit a ceiling on efficiency. There’s not much more water to squeeze from the stone, so to speak. That’s when it might be time to start thinking about business process management (BPM).
pBPM is a systematic approach to improving those processes within an organization that relate to the creation of a product or service. It takes a holistic view of the entire process, from start to finish, and seeks ways to make it more efficient and effective.
The goal of BPM is not simply to automate existing processes but rather to optimize them end-to-end. This means taking a hard look at every step in the process, no matter how small, and finding ways to streamline or eliminate it. In some cases, it might mean completely rethinking the way a process is done.
If you’ve never considered it before, business process management can seem like a daunting task.
Below, we will help you through that first hurdle by examining what BPM is, what a business process manager does, a few tips on managing business processes, and some potential pitfalls to look out for.
What is business process management?
At its core, business process management is a step-by-step approach to improving efficiency within an organization. With specific, actionable steps to follow, you can start to see real improvements in your efficiency and bottom line.
The beauty of BPM is that it can be applied to any process in your organization, no matter how big or small. Whether you’re looking at improving the onboarding process for new employees or streamlining the way customer orders are fulfilled, BPM can help.
The first step is to understand what the process is and how it works. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many organizations try to improve a process without really knowing all the steps involved.
You’ll need to document the current state of the process, including all steps, inputs, outputs, and decision points. It’s also important to understand who is responsible for each task and what role they play in the overall process. This will help you to identify any bottlenecks or areas where there is duplication of effort.
With a clear understanding of the current state of the process, you can start to model how you would like it to work. This is the stage where you start to think about optimization and what changes need to be made to improve efficiency.
You’ll want to create a visual representation of the process, often in the form of a flowchart. This will help you to see where there might be opportunities for improvement. For example, you might find that there are tasks that can be eliminated or that could be done in parallel.
The next step is to analyze the process to see where there might be opportunities for improvement. This is where you will start to quantify the potential benefits of making changes to the process.
You’ll want to consider things like cycle time, cost, quality, and customer satisfaction. By looking at these factors, you can start to prioritize which changes will have the biggest impact on your organization.
Once you’ve identified potential improvements, the next step is to measure the current state of the process. This will give you a baseline against which to measure the impact of making changes.
For example, you might measure the cycle time for a process and then compare it to the cycle time after making changes. By looking at the before and after, you can start to see how effective a potential change can be.
Now it’s time to start making changes to the process. This is where you will want to pilot new ideas and see how they impact the overall process.
Remember, the goal is not simply to automate existing processes but rather to optimize them end-to-end. This means taking a hard look at every step in the process, no matter how small, and finding ways to streamline or eliminate it. In some cases, it might mean completely rethinking the way a process is done.
You’ll want to experiment with different changes and measure the impact of each one. This will help you determine which changes are most effective and whether they are worth implementing on a larger scale.
Once you’ve identified a few improvements that you want to implement, the next step is to optimize the process. This is where you will start to roll out those changes on a larger scale.
You’ll also want to continue measuring the impact of the changes and making adjustments as necessary. The goal is to continually improve the process until it is running as efficiently and effectively as possible.
In some cases, it might be possible to automate parts of the process. This can free up resources that can be used elsewhere and make the process even more efficient.
However, you’ll want to be careful not to automate a process simply for the sake of automation. The goal of the business management process is still to optimize and automation should only be used when it will improve the overall efficiency of the process.
What does a business process manager do?
A business process manager is responsible for leading the charge in improving efficiency within an organization. This usually falls to a middle manager, as they are the ones who have their finger on the pulse of what is happening day-to-day and can best identify areas in need of improvement.
Don’t let that middle-manager-moniker fool you though, a business process manager needs to be a well-rounded individual, with skills in both the soft and hard sciences.
They need to have a deep understanding of how businesses work, be able to think creatively about solutions, and also have the analytical skills necessary to measure the effectiveness of those solutions.
In short, a business process manager is a problem solver. Given any scenario, they should be able to quickly identify inefficiencies and potential improvements.
Five tips on managing business processes
Not sure how you’re going to get started? We’ve laid out five helpful tips to get you on the way to business process management bliss.
1. Define your processes
The first step in any business process management initiative is to define the processes that you will be looking at. This can be done with a simple flowchart or diagram that outlines each step in the process.
For example, if you are looking at the process of onboarding new employees, you would want to map out everything from when they first express interest in working for your company to their first day on the job.
2. Look for bottlenecks
Once you have defined your processes, it’s time to start looking for bottlenecks. These are the points in the process where things tend to slow down or get stuck. Identifying these bottlenecks is crucial to improving efficiency.
3. Streamline your processes
Now that you have identified the bottlenecks in your process, it’s time to start streamlining them. This usually means finding ways to eliminate steps that are no longer necessary or finding ways to do things more quickly. Sometimes, it might mean automating certain steps in the process.
4. Measure your progress
It’s important to measure your progress as you implement changes to your business processes. This will help you to identify which changes are having the desired effect and which ones are not. Without measurement, it can be difficult to tell if your efforts are making a difference.
5. Be prepared to adjust
No matter how well you plan, there will always be some bumps in the road. Be prepared to adjust your plans as you go. This might mean changing the way you do things or even going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch. The important thing is to keep moving forward and not get discouraged.
The biggest potential pitfall for business process management is scope creep. It is all too easy to become bogged down in the details of a single process and lose sight of the bigger picture. Remember, the goal is to optimize processes end-to-end, not just in isolated silos.
Another potential issue is data overload. In today’s world, there is an unprecedented amount of data available at our fingertips. This can be both a blessing and a curse when trying to improve business processes.
On the one hand, more data can lead to better insights and decision-making. On the other hand, it can be easy to get lost in a sea of numbers and lose sight of what is important.
As with any organizational change, there is also the potential for resistance from employees. Change can be difficult, even when it is for the better.
Business process management will likely require employees to change the way they work, which can be met with resistance. It is important to manage expectations and communicate the benefits of the changes to employees.
Avoid these problems by taking the time to clearly define the scope of your project, be selective with the data you use, and manage employee expectations.
Remember, find the right person for the job. A business process manager is a problem solver, so look for someone who is not afraid of change and has the necessary skills to get the job done.