Working through Business Process Improvement Project

Introduction

Organizations are very similar to living Organisms. They too go through a definite life cycle and different stages of development. As in life, change is the only constant factor especially in the operations of each and every organization.

Organizations are constantly engaged in the process of changing and fine tuning their internal processes in line with the external environment, customer expectation as well as competition and other developments in the field. Changes required to be carried out might involve change of processes, adaptation and implementation of new technology and so on. Besides implementing new process changes or technology, there arises requirement for regular review of process efficiency in order to ensure that the operations are running at optimum efficiency and contributing positively to the output.

Why BPI

Business Process Improvement projects help Organizations to initiate changes, to overhaul the existing processes as well as to implement new technology and way of working. Thus whenever a need arises to work on the internal operations, BPI projects are initiated by the management.

Planning for BPI Success

For BPI projects to be effective, they have got to be initiated, owned and sponsored by the senior management at the level of Business Head. Apart from sponsoring and providing the required support in the form of resources and budgets, it is important that the correct message about the project, the achievable and the expectations are communicated through all the departments and especially to the particular department which is going to go through the BPI exercise. Understanding the BPI Project and aligning with the BPI goal is essential on the part of the employees who are involved in the operations.

BPI Project Set Rolling

The next factor that is important for the BPI project is the formation of the PIT Team. The Process Improvement Team should consist of members who are well versed with the business operations on hand as well as be equipped with the required skills to manage the process. Training the PIT team in BPI Tools and techniques involving techniques of problem solving, statistical analysis etc are very important.

First Step - Process Mapping

The first step of the BPI program consists of studying and understating the process in detail and drawing up a detailed flow chart of the chosen process. Block diagrams made at the first instance help freeze the boundaries of the process in question as well as identify the input and output avenues that are related to the process. Most often the processes are often inter-related and over lapping, therefore identifying and freezing the boundaries of the processes meant for improvement is critical.

Process Walk Through

At the next instance, the process would have to be dealt with in detail. The PIT team would need to walk and talk with every operator, identify and examine every task in detail and make detailed flow chart as required. Depending upon the process criticality and complexity as well as the geographical location and spread etc, appropriate functional flow chart type can be chosen for depiction of the process.

Process Review

Once the process has been mapped using the flow chart, the next logical step is to understand and review the entire process that has been mapped. Reviewing and studying the process gives us clue to identifying the shortfalls and identify the areas that need further attention for improvement. At this stage, the process should be critically examined keeping in mind the critical characteristics of the process.

The business process characteristics that must be kept as reference for the critical review of the process in detail include - The Process flow, Process Effectiveness, Process Efficiency and Cycle Time.

When the process is reviewed with reference to the above characteristics, the problem areas automatically get highlighted and provide the team the required inputs to be able to streamline and correct the process as required. Secondly the process characteristics provide us with the base line to be able to measure the process ‘As It Is’ and measure the improvement when the project implementation has been completed.

Along with review of the process with reference to the process characteristics, it is also important to review the process documentation in detail. Most often the process documentation may not be clear or contain errors. The process being followed in actual may be different from the process described by the documentation. In most of the cases, the processes on the ground change over a period of time and the documentation may not go through a timely review and therefore may not be updated.

Using the flow chart, studying the process in detail with reference to the process characteristics and review of the process documentation for accuracy and matching with the physical process being followed help the BPI team to arrive at the phase where they start getting the actual picture of the entire process and its related problems. Identification of the problems when done well solves half the problem.


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