Efficient and effective processes are the need of the hour in 2021 after what 2020 had in store for us. Here are seven actionable tips you can use to improve your business processes in 2021.
2020 was a year of transformation for businesses. Business operations were pushed over the edge as the pandemic tested the ability of every business to adapt to digital transformation and remote work. Every business process was affected in one way or the other - but none of them remained the same.
The changes were completely unprecedented—remote teams, the shift to cloud, online recruitment and onboarding, zoom brainstorming sessions, and the use of the most-asked question in 2020, 'am I audible?'. But as the year advanced, we adapted our core business processes to the new normal, and it all worked out, if not perfectly, but adequately, for all of us.
And now that we are well-acquainted with the new processes, the time has come for us to ask ourselves - are the newly fashioned processes efficient and effective enough to achieve our business goals in 2021?
Business processes are the foundation of your business operations. The continuous and repeated execution of your processes is pivotal to the growth and sustainability of your overall business. And now is the time to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your newly modeled business processes that are fit for the post-pandemic age.
Changing your processes to improve their performance may seem daunting to you as a business leader in the beginning. This is why we have curated a list of seven actionable tips to improve your business processes that you can start implementing right away.
So let's begin.
This one is a no-brainer. You have got to visualize your process before you can start making changes to it. Process maps help you visually represent process workflows to understand, interpret, and improve them.
The visual angle of your processes gives you a clear understanding of your process workflow and its elements such as tasks, accountable employees, systems, tools used, swim lanes, and dependencies. It gets everything out of your head and puts it on paper for you to understand every single detail about your process workflow.
This makes it easy for you to pinpoint problem areas that are affecting the performance of your business process. You know exactly where the problem is, and you can now start taking action to kickstart your process improvement.
There are various tools you can use to simplify the task of mapping your processes. Lucidchart is one of the popular process mapping tools that help you start with existing process map templates that are customizable and easy-to-use. Microsoft Visio is another tool that has advanced functionalities for mapping bigger and more complex processes.
If you are not ready to invest in a tool for mapping your process, you can simply start with a pen and paper. The important part is for you to start. You can use our detailed guide to process mapping for a better understanding of business process mapping.
Sure as a business owner or leader, you have a pretty fair picture of how your processes function. But the people that will know most about your business processes are the ones who are a part of your processes - your employees.
Asking effective process evaluation questions.
Your next step in improving your processes is to ask your employees questions about the process. Verify the process maps you created with your employees and make sure you have the details right. Ask them whether you have missed out on any details of the process that should be a part of your process map.
The perspective of your employees is critical to your process improvement strategy - it gives you a peek into the unknown.
For example, you are set to improve your client onboarding process by cutting down the onboarding time. As a leader, you know what the actual process is, but you are unaware of the gaps that are causing a delay in onboarding your clients. When you talk to your project team, you realize that the actual problem is that your sales team is not making correct use of your systems to keep the project team updated about new clients. Instead, the sales team is manually communicating client details to the project team.
Now you see where the ball is dropping. These small yet important details are critical for your process improvement strategy and overall company performance. And you will only know these details when you ask your team the right questions.
So get on with it and start by listing down the questions to help you understand your processes better.
Here are a few process evaluation questions you can start with:
Select questions that uncover hidden details. Note that some employees may be hesitant to answer these questions out of fear. Make your employees comfortable by ensuring that you will not hold any negative bias towards them for their feedback.
Now that you have the process maps and answers from your teams, it is time to do some detailed analysis of your process workflow. This is the most critical and time-consuming part of your process improvement strategy.
The idea is to go over your process maps and note the gaps and opportunities for improvement in the workflow. Then you build a plan to redesign your existing process in its most efficient form.
For that, you need to find answers to questions like:
The answers to these questions will act as guidelines for you to devise your process improvement strategy.
For example, through your analysis, you realize there is a problem in your recruitment process. Although your recruitment team is informing the newly recruited candidate about selection, the team is not sharing further updates on joining dates and documentation. This is causing a loss of interest for the candidate, and you are losing out on competent talent.
Such awareness gives you an onset on your process improvement plan. It helps you outline the changes as well as prioritize them based on the impact they will have on business performance.
You have your process mapped, you have the insights drawn from employee interviews, and data from your process workflow analysis. Now it is time to put these insights to use by devising an action plan - a redesigned process.
Based on what you observed from your analysis, start listing down the changes that will ultimately improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your process. These changes are to fix the gaps in your process and improve the performance of your operations.
Work closely with your process teams and experienced leadership teams to identify the best possible solutions to your process challenge. Brainstorm on creative and effective ideas without ruling out suggestions that may seem minor or uncomfortable, but can prove to be impactful.
Once you have a list of ideas, suggestions, and changes to your process, understand their direct and indirect impact on your process outcomes. Spend time prioritizing them based on the business impact.
For example, a big change in your sales process might improve the quality of sales meeting, but a small change in the CRM will help you close sales deals even faster than expected. It goes without saying that you need to prioritize the CRM process change as it is bringing direct value to your business.
Hence, while redesigning your process workflow, it is important for you to not only build a change strategy, but also a prioritization model of your process improvement plan.
We cannot stress more on the importance of communicating your process improvement plan to your employees. You have spent a lot of time and effort into mapping, analyzing, and planning your process changes. You don't want to drop the ball here just because you did not put it out there.
Just like you planned and prioritized your process changes, build a plan to communicate the suggested process changes to respective employees in your organization. Leave no room for doubts and assumptions, give it to them in writing whenever and wherever possible.
Document your process improvement changes and conduct training programs to ensure reliable handoffs. Give your employees time to understand the changes to existing processes. Explain the impact of the process changes on the process outcome to get their buy-in on the process improvement plan. After all, it is they who will work on the improved and efficient process.
Redundancy is a silent killer of productivity. You know how it feels to eat the same meal every day. The lack of creativity and experiments has a slow yet serious impact on your employees.
Using your process analysis insights, evaluate process tasks that are repetitive in nature. Understand their execution cycle and look for opportunities to automate the task as much as possible.
Automation simplifies the process workflow and accelerates the execution speed of your process. It also helps your employees become more productive, as they can spend their intellect and effort doing something more high-value and creative for your business. And of course, productivity draws happiness, and happy teams mean happy customers!
Wait, it isn't over. The final and most important part of improving your processes in 2021 is to review the implemented changes.
Use measurable KPIs to track and understand the performance of your improved processes. What better outcomes are they producing? Has the process execution speed increased? Are there fewer errors than there used to be? Are my employees more productive?
Answers to these questions in measurable metrics will give a clear picture of the impact of your process improvement strategy. And you will know that all that time and effort you spent on improving your process does indeed make sense to your business!
And of course, it points out more opportunities to improve the process further. After all, process improvement is an important and continuous exercise.
Sounds like a lot, right? But trust us, when you start putting these steps into action, your process performance will increase twofold this year. Use these tips to improve your process efficiency and effectiveness to create happier teams and happier customers in 2021, because we all deserve something good this year!
Need help putting these tips into action? Talk to our process experts today.
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