Process excellence isn’t a destination for successful businesses, it’s a vehicle. It will carry you to a place where you can deliver greater value to your customers and experience the resulting benefits in the bottom line.
There are plenty of definitions for process excellence, and all of them orbit around efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately improving the customer experience. Process excellence reduces the barriers to more efficient processes, maximizing results across the organization to achieve the greatest output possible at the lowest cost. Getting to that requires a commitment and focus on several key elements:
One best practice
When process information is scattered it becomes splintered. For every process that’s been mapped or captured, there will be numerous variations that evolved after the procedure manual was distributed. The best practice may be ignored, circumvented, or even improved upon but that change will remain hidden in one team.
Gathering and recording process information in an accessible central source of truth ensures that not only is vital process knowledge captured and organized, but it’s available to all.
With standardized processes, everyone knows the right way to complete a task, and when improvements are suggested, they can quickly be rolled out to all the affected business groups.
Investment firm ClearView discovered this when they committed to managing their processes in a single source of truth. ClearView manages more than $6.9 billion in funds and has been a trusted Australian name in investment and insurance for over 40 years. A mix of long-term staff and new arrivals meant processes and procedures were by no means standardized.
Matthew Ream, a Business Process Analyst at ClearView, recognized the problem. “Some of our processes had changed, however, those changes were not reflected in the context of the larger organization. We knew we had some inconsistencies in place and needed to find a way to overcome this and provide a standard approach to our process management.”
Using an effective process platform, ClearView centralized their process library in a way that gave business teams visibility and access, ensuring there was a single source of truth everyone could reference.
The sheer variety of processes was reduced, and the procedures refined as everyone worked from the same set of protocols.
See the savings
Poor processes can cause costly errors as well as wasted time and resources. Where processes integrate regulations or legislative compliance, the failure to follow protocol could also result in costly legal liability. All of these costs are invisible when processes haven’t been effectively captured.
Similarly, the potential for increased productivity could be hidden in plain sight. By mapping what happens at each stage of the business cycle, inefficiencies are exposed as opportunities for growth. Methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma, coupled with a powerful process platform, produce tangible results that can be built into better business practices.
Toyota Financial Services reported nearly $1.5M in cost savings after implementing a process management platform.
Clearly capturing and communicating your processes also exposes where needlessly manual steps are hindering efficiency. Process automation reduces both the potential for errors and the time spent on ‘swivel chair’ tasks, but can’t be effectively employed until the processes are clearly understood.
Engage the whole team
The processes themselves are only half the story. The best collection of procedures and process maps won’t help if the people that execute them never bother to look at them. These are the people that know the processes best, and they need to participate in capturing, managing and optimizing them.
This is a facet of good process governance, introducing accountability not just for their execution, but regular reviews and conversations around improvement. Process owners need to know when suggestions are made, and have avenues to discuss those ideas, then implement effective changes as they emerge. The business teams that execute the processes on a day-to-day basis need ways to provide feedback that are both transparent and effective.
By inviting line-of-business staff into the conversation, the wider process knowledge of the whole organization can be leveraged.
When construction firm JE Dunn implemented a continuous improvement program they saw a 453% increase in process improvement suggestions – ideas and efficiencies that would have remained on the worksite or desktop without an effective BPM tool.
Improve, improve, improve
The combination of these focuses is a culture of continuous improvement.
It’s not enough to capture your processes – they need to evolve with the changing business landscape, to grow as you scale and shift to encompass the opportunities you encounter.
Identifying cost savings and new efficiencies can only help if you capitalize on them, developing an agile environment where change is both possible and embraced. Similarly, getting ownership and input from the line-of-business teams benefits the business most when you are committed to valuing those contributions, building the best ideas into the fabric of your processes.
Continuous improvement is just that – continuous. The moment process management is relegated to static documents or printed manuals, it loses the power to adapt and engage the wider organization. It becomes a moment-in-time image rather than a dynamic tool for maximizing customer value and business effectiveness.
Global appliance manufacturer Rinnai recognized the importance of maintaining momentum with process excellence. They adopted a dedicated process platform to emphasize continuous improvement throughout the organization.
From executive management to the factory floor, their people keep process in the forefront. “We’re all using the same information,” says Kevin Sherlock, Quality Assurance Manager at Rinnai. “It’s had a real impact on the business. The board has got better info, so they’re asking better questions.”
Most of all, they recognize the importance of not becoming mired in the status quo. “The Japanese culture says we’ve got to keep improving because our competitors are. If we sit back, we won’t be the company we are in ten years.”
The process excellence momentum
A culture of process excellence shifts an organization from what it is to what it could be. It doesn’t take just one step though – it builds momentum towards a consistently improving customer experience.
Process excellence is an evolution that continues to develop better service, greater satisfaction, and increased sales, and brings the entire organization along on the journey.