5 Painless Steps To Successfully Conducting a Business Process Improvement

by Blackwood Impact Group

What Is a Business Process Improvement (BPI) and Does Your Company Need One?

A Business Process Improvement (BPI) is a set of actions a company undertakes in order to experience increased profits and more satisfied customers consistently. It requires examining all the systems and steps involved in delivering your products or services.  By improving processes, a business can see a reduction in waste (materials and time), fewer errors in delivering to customers, happier employees, and clients, and – of course – increased revenue.

Even with all the positive benefits, business process improvement is rarely at the top of company leaders’ minds. Overhauling a company’s operating processes and systems is not a quick and easy job. Just as we typically don’t go to a doctor until we are experiencing prolonged, persistent pain, businesses tend only to undergo a diagnostic procedure when they have been experiencing severe pains.

From Blackwood Impact Group’s experience, these are the types of business pains that lead our clients down the road to a systems overhaul. Perhaps you may be experiencing one or more of these:

  • Difficulty attracting the right clients.
  • A lengthy process to prepare and deliver quotes, proposals, and presentations to prospects.
  • A Lengthy process for the client’s to say “yes” to your quotes/proposals.
  • Challenges delivering services and products to clients quickly or on time.
  • Afraid of receiving large orders or contracts because the fulfillment process will be fraught with issues.
  • Team members are unhappy because there are too many steps involved for them to perform their tasks or they are using outdated tools.
  • Staff members are disgruntled because they have additional, time-consuming administrative tasks to perform on top of their core responsibilities.

With pains like these, a BPI is usually recommended.  These symptoms indicate that by becoming more efficient, the company should be able to satisfy clients promptly, serve more customers, and achieve (if not exceed) its revenue goals.

Reasons Why Companies Don’t Like To Undergo a Business Process Improvement (BPI)

Slow and ineffective business systems can strain the relationship your company has with your clients and with your team, ultimately causing you to lose money. Indeed, having outdated or cumbersome processes for delivering on products and services is akin to traveling to Bend, Oregon to visit the last remaining Blockbuster store in the world to rent a video, instead of streaming the same movie from a service like Netflix, Vudu, or Amazon Video. But even though company leaders would prefer the comfortable “streaming” experience in their business, they are sometimes apprehensive to consider implementing a business process improvement.

One primary reason is BPIs can be a time consuming and a detailed oriented project, requiring a high degree of meticulousness. Another reason is it takes time for the results to manifest. (But to be fair to the BPI process, it took time for the problems to develop and come to light.) Additionally, changing your methodologies for serving your clients can sometimes be costly.

For your company, rebuilding its processes and updating systems might include hiring new team members or deploying new software, hardware, or other technology.  It can be as straightforward as going paperless or reorganizing your staff’s roles and responsibilities. Whatever is implemented, team members will need to be trained on the new way of doing things.

Most people like the results of change, but don’t like what you have to do to achieve it. Some team members might be resistant because they prefer the way things used to be. However, if you want to be able to effectively scale your delivery, serve more clients, and increase revenue, you must move beyond those sentiments and take an intensive look at how your business is currently operating and where you can improve efficiency.

Steps To Consider Once You’ve Determined You Need a BPI

A business that can successfully manage its processes is able to maintain a competitive edge while increasing productivity and efficiency and decreasing costs. If you’ve determined that you could benefit from a business process improvement, follow these steps to achieve better outcomes seamlessly.

Painless Step #1 – Use a Self-Audit To Determine Where You Are Now

A self-audit will help you and your team take stock of where you are today. Self-audits can be challenging because we are naturally wired to desire to see ourselves in a positive light. But it will require honest input from every employee and every team within your company.

Your self-audit should ask questions that get to the heart of your procedures which make up the backbone of how you do what you do.  Every customer-facing team such as Sales and Customer Service should be examined, as well as internally facing teams such as finance, HR, and marketing.  Create process maps for every section of your business so you can see all the steps which are occurring and objectively evaluate them.

Painless Step #2 – Identify the Bottlenecks and Attach Your Improvement Recommendations To Your Business Goals

Examine the process maps you created. At each stage, identify where the slowdowns and bottlenecks are occurring.  Challenge your current operations by asking if there is a quicker or more efficient way to complete each task.  Evaluate and determine what persons or procedures can be reduced, eliminated, or where the delivery quality can be improved.

It is imperative that your recommended solutions are designed to help you accomplish your overall business goals. For example, you might be trying to increase customer retention, reduce vendor costs by 20%, or sell more of product/service “Y.” When you are clear about what you’re looking to accomplish, you can then effectively evaluate the right alternatives which are designed to help you meet or exceed those objectives.

Let’s say you’re looking to increase sales. You might want to see how you can address bottlenecks in the proposal phase. Seek out solutions that will help you produce and deliver error-free proposals in minutes instead of hours.

Perhaps you currently have a 6-hour response time for customer service tickets, but your goal is to reduce it to one hour. Seek solutions that will help you assign tickets to a help agent within five minutes and instantly deliver an automated or live response.

Painless Step #3 – Understand Your Customer’s Pains

It is imperative that you examine your processes with your customer’s in mind. You don’t want to make changes that will alienate your customer base. Being a customer-centric company is mandatory in today’s business environment. (link to article #34 – Why Being a Customer-Centric Company Is Essential To Your Brand’s Longevity)

Examine the customer feedback you’ve already received and don’t be afraid to solicit new ones. What do your customers say is unpleasurable about working with you? Where do they think they should be experiencing faster turn around times or a smoother process?

You should also survey your team members as if they were customers too. What do they feel is too tricky? What roadblocks do they identify as hindrances to them accomplishing their tasks? Be sure your audit gets to the root of these questions so that you can create strategies that adequately address the concerns.

Being attentive to your clients’ and team members’ needs will give you a more financially and culturally stable company. Happy employees are usually long term team members. Satisfied clients are generally repeated customers and eager referral sources.

Painless Step #4 – Set Goals That Focus on Long-term Progress

Once you are aware you need to overhaul your systems, it can be tempting to try to fix problems as quickly as possible. But this is short-sighted. Look beyond today and ask yourself what solutions you can put in place that not only put out today’s fires but keep them from recurring in the future?

Other questions to potentially ask include:

  • What is the best way we can run our business?
  • How can we “future-proof” our business so that we are anticipating customer needs and industry shifts?
  • How can we make it easier for our team members to do their jobs?
  • Would new software, new team members, or both improve our situation long-term?

Painless Step #5 – Implement Metrics and KPIs to Track Your Success 

It is critical that you build in a matrix or assessment tools so that you can track the progress of your changes. You’ll need to know what’s working and what needs to be further tweaked. You should have a clear understanding of your key performance indicators (KPIs) You must be sure that the goals you are setting not only align with your business goals but are also realistic. You don’t want to set a high sales quota, but if the sales team actually hits it, the fulfillment team is unable to deliver with a high degree of speed and quality.

Another item Blackwood Impact Group strongly recommends is documenting your new processes. If it had never been done before in your business, now that you are making changes is the perfect opportunity. You want your methods to be duplicatable by existing team members as well as new ones.  Whenever future changes are made, your documentation should be updated as well.

Business process improvement is no light undertaking, but hopefully, these tips have helped to steer you in the right direction.  And because there is always room for improvement, you may want to under a BPI review every several years or anytime there is a significant shift in your market.

Are you are looking to take your revenue to the next level? Has your company been experiencing one or more of the above pain points?  We are here to help. Reach out to us today for a no-obligation consultation. We are at 770-502-6295 or info@blackwoodimpactgroup.com. Our team of operational experts can help guide you seamlessly through your transition.