Process Improvement – Where to start?

by May 24, 2019Process Improvement

So you’ve decided to start mapping and building your processes. Good on you! But where should you start?

It’s important to take some time to decide on which processes to target first. Creating a process for loading the staff-room dishwasher might be nice and easy, but it’s not exactly going to have a major impact on the success of your business.

You may find that several processes spring to mind instantly. Potentially these are the frustrating processes that drove you to searching for this article in the first place. That’s great! Consider these overly-frustrating processes to be your low-hanging fruit in your process overhaul. If these processes regularly frustrate you, odds are that they annoy most of the employees at your organisation!

Beyond winning-over your fellow employees by cleaning up their most dreaded processes, there are a number of other factors that you should consider when targeting what processes to start working on:


Volume/amount of times the process is run:

This one goes without saying! It is more important to improve upon and automate processes that you run every day/week than those that are run once every second year. Creating a better annual leave process will have a much higher impact on staff happiness and productivity than implementing an office relocation process. In saying this, it pays to tackle a few medium-volume processes before overhauling processes that will have an impact on the entire organisation (as covered in the next point).


Level of change management required:

The last thing you want to do is overhaul your entire payroll process without considering the potential impacts to various stakeholders. In order to gain support from the wider business you should look at improving processes that don’t require a complete change in how people work. This will be business-dependent but some processes that may not require much change-management could be equipment requests, security access requests or new employee onboardings.


Number of decision paths involved:

A well-mapped process can quickly become inefficient when humans are added. As soon as processes require approvals or re-routes they become highly dependent on the actions of individuals, and this leads to mishandling and mistakes. By automating these workflows you can intelligently route each decision to the right place. For example, you may want to improve upon your process for security access. By automating the process you can ensure that every new employee is given the correct level of security clearance required for their position.


Number of participants:

The more touchpoints in a process, the more likely it is to be inefficient. A 2-person process is much more likely to run smoothly than a 5-person process. This is because as more people are added communication breakdowns become more likely and time-sensitive deadlines become more important. By streamlining a process which touches multiple people and/or teams the benefit of process management will quickly become apparent to all involved.


Time-sensitive activities:

Time-sensitive processes stand to benefit the most from process automation. Manual processes do not promote accountability for time-sensitive steps, instead they rely on each participant to take responsibility. By automating time-sensitive processes, you can gain visibility on where bottlenecks are occurring and at what stage the process is falling over. In turn this level of visibility breeds a culture of responsibility, as no single person or team wants to be the person that caused your new product to hit shelves late, or hold up the payroll run.


Transparency & compliance required:

Process mapping and automation will have a significant positive impact on processes that require a high-level of transparency and/or compliance. We’ve all been involved in situations where we spent time trawling through old email threads to try and find a particular piece of information, only to find that it was instead sent through Slack or written on a sticky note. By utilising an automated workflow, all communications, attachments and feedback can be captured in one single place, thereby creating a simple audit trail.


By the time you’ve read through the above list a number of your problem-processes will already be swimming around your head. Now it is a matter of tackling these in a logical order.

Many organisations find it best to tackle process improvement by department. This makes sense as it means that a single department can champion the project and learnings can subsequently be applied when rolled out to other departments.

The IT and HR departments have rich sets of processes that tick many of the boxes mentioned earlier. Both departments feature processes that require high levels of compliance, time-sensitive actions and large volumes.

Operations and sales processes tend to be more complex, rely on external factors and require higher levels of change management. Once process improvement and workflow automation has been achieved across the IT and HR departments the areas of operations and sales are ripe for process improvement.


How Flowingly can help:

Flowingly is workflow software that enables you to map, automate and report on your processes.

With all the key features that are required for process automation, Flowingly can help your business increase efficiency, compliance and staff happiness.

With user-experience at the forefront, Flowingly is designed to be used by your entire workforce, from the IT department through to the warehouse team.

As a cloud-based platform, there are no major setup costs and all clients receive 24/7 global support. So jump into a demo today and try Flowingly for yourself!