Business Library

Business Process Improvement Uncovers Gems

Ann Moynihan - President | Document Strategies, Inc.

A formal business process improvement (BPI) effort can help to integrate software tools, business processes and human capabilities, but many businesses jump directly to tool selection without looking first at their processes and people. Questions you need to ask include:

:: Are processes documented and repeatable, or do we rely on cultural knowledge?
:: If processes are documented, do our people actually follow them?
:: Have our processes been reviewed for efficiency and effectiveness, or did they just appear on their own?
:: Are the right people doing the right tasks, and in the right order?

Bringing in outside analysts to answer these questions may seem like a luxury, but there are good reasons to get help. Professional business improvement analysts bring fresh eyes and years of experience helping similar businesses with similar needs. Having “seen it all” is important — the professional knows what works and what doesn’t, and won’t waste your time or money.

As you wrestle with uncovering and implementing process improvements, you will inevitably want to look for tools to help
things along. A good BPI analyst will help you define your needs, identify suitable tools, and work with your team to  implement the right tool the right way. While there are many types of BPI software tools, very few offer orders-of-magnitude improvement. Those that do include: collaboration; content, document and workflow management; and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

In service-based businesses, collaboration may offer the most ROI. For Microsoft users, SharePoint provides shared workspaces, data visibility to internal and external stakeholders, and a comfortable, browser-based interface. Imagine being able to show your customers their orders, order status, invoices and other correspondence any time they need to see them, without tying up your own staff. With SharePoint, this becomes not only feasible, but simple and manageable, as well.

Improving document and workflow management is another improvement often identified by a BPI analysis. Documents  and transactions need specialized routing through your organization. As paper goes away, document and workflow management — creating, reviewing, approving and routing — become critical. Many tools exist to help track and control transaction processes.

The pinnacle of BPI tools is the ERP system. If your business is ready to move to ERP, an experienced BPI analyst can review your needs and specify a solution that will grow with your business, not bury it. Although their advertising may not admit it, different ERP systems work best with different types of businesses. Retail, distribution, manufacturing and services have different needs; your BPI analyst can help you choose the right software tool for the job.