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Taking a Holistic Approach to Process Improvement

By: SEI Team

Process improvement is invaluable for businesses looking to eliminate pain points and drive growth, but only when a holistic approach is taken.

In a competitive market with consumers demanding faster results and better products, businesses need to evaluate their processes to ensure they’re getting the most out of every operation phase. However, when those companies turn to process improvement to reduce pain points and encourage growth, their efforts often fail to make any meaningful change. In fact, nearly 70 percent of change initiatives fail — why? Whether it’s neglecting to obtain company-wide buy-in, a lack of departmental support from executive leaders, or using a one-size-fits-all method, most process improvement pitfalls result from utilizing too narrow a strategy.

By going beyond the surface and prioritizing a holistic approach that encompasses various tools, techniques, and strategies, companies can boost corporate clarity and position themselves to achieve greater success.

What Is Process Improvement?

Process improvement analyzes how existing business processes can be refined to improve customer experience, boost overall performance, and align with current best practices. There are various ways to engage in process improvement and can include, among others: continual improvement process (CIP), process re-engineering, business process management (BPM), business process improvement (BPI), and Lean Six Sigma (LSS).

A holistic process improvement plan analyzes, identifies, and measures the gaps within a company’s processes; several approaches and techniques are then implemented to create one bespoke plan that helps organizations meet market demands in an increasingly competitive environment. 

If Growth Is the Priority, Process Improvement Is a Key Component

Process improvement is crucial for minimizing the stagnation many organizations face. However, with most initiatives failing to deliver quantitative results, many stakeholders are left wondering if the methodology itself is flawed.

The issue is not that process improvement is broken — rather, companies tend to corner themselves by using top-down methodologies that don’t harness the full spectrum of capabilities that process improvement offers. It’s imperative that process improvement initiatives align with strategic objectives to achieve desired business value. Often overlooked is the need to measure success by defining specific, measurable goals. 

When Is Process Improvement Necessary?

Businesses should always be looking for ways to improve, but there are certain instances when it’s vital for organizations to implement process improvement, including when:

  • A company has been using the same processes for years and is seeing an uptick in customer complaints.
  • There is an increase in the amount of unused product inventory.
  • A company has experienced significant growth over a short period.
  • A company has suffered substantial losses, such as successive employee resignations or shrinking profit margins.
  • Time-consuming approval processes are reducing employee satisfaction and causing a time-to-market bottleneck.
  • A company has made or is looking to shift to a hybrid or fully remote work model.

Inefficient processes cost your team time and the company money. Process improvement aims to find waste areas, such as high touch points and redundant systems, and then establishes ways to rectify these issues. For example, addressing a time-to-market bottleneck through uniform employee training and by automating manual processes can improve product quality, create more satisfied customers, boost employee morale, and increase revenue. 

Process Improvement Shouldn’t Look the Same for Everyone

Once processes have been reviewed, pain points identified, and enterprise goals defined, it’s time to develop an improved process structure. This is where many businesses make key mistakes, often by deploying a general-purpose approach that is not tailored to their company. 

When a process improvement plan successfully merges measured data with creative and tailored solutions to overcome organizational challenges, it can increase the longevity of the program and the company’s overall success. 

There are five key areas to consider when attempting to deploy a holistic approach to process improvement. The areas that will benefit your company most will depend on the specific challenges you are facing and your existing processes. 

Automation 

Process automation allows organizations to streamline manual processes, reducing operational time and freeing up the functional talents of employees to be better used elsewhere, resulting in increased business value.

Re-engineering

Sometimes referred to as business process re-engineering (BPR), re-engineering is the first (and sometimes only) thing that comes to mind when people think of process improvement. 

Automation will often get looped into a re-engineering phase since process re-engineering’s purpose is to dramatically improve essential aspects of your operations, such as production output, speed, and quality. This typically involves using software or technology to automate processes for the highest efficiency.

System & Technology

As companies mature, their software and technology should change and evolve, but this often isn’t the case. When a company’s software and technology remain the same, despite growth and other changes, this can result in the use of obsolete methods and tools that ultimately hinder business growth. 

Integrating new digital tools and phasing out antiquated systems can minimize the effort required to uncover new, faster, and more efficient ways of expediting product development and service delivery. It can even improve collaboration and internal communications, creating value-adds for everyone from executive leaders to members in front-line roles.

Data & Analytics

Data and analytics often walk hand-in-hand with systems and technology but primarily involve gathering significant amounts of data and leveraging various analytics tools to provide insight and support the visualization of that data. Ultimately, this results in a greater understanding of the process and further opportunities for improvement.

Resourcing

Resourcing plays a fundamental role in a successful process improvement plan, but often gets overlooked. Resourcing involves designating the right people to execute specific tasks — sometimes, this requires hiring new, experienced team members to handle the job. 

When someone with the appropriate skillset assumes the best position, resources are preserved for use in other areas. For example, rather than unloading dozens of hours into training, team leads can spend time improving service quality instead.

Power Your Process Improvement with SEI

As work landscapes continue to change and more companies adopt hybrid models or even go fully remote, many existing processes will need to be re-evaluated. If your company is in a similar position, or it’s been awhile since you’ve considered your current processes, we’re here to help.

At SEI, we understand that every company is unique, therefore, their process improvement strategies should be, too. Rather than using standardized approaches, we work closely with key decision-makers to identify a company’s critical objectives and deploy creative ways to improve processes. From concept to completion, SEI will help you continue to scale processes as your business grows.
Reach out to us to see how SEI can help your organization take a more holistic and successful approach to process improvement.