What is a business process?
A business process is a series of tasks that employees within an organization repeatedly perform to create a product or service. It starts with an objective and ends with the achievement of a goal, which provides value for stakeholders.
What is business process improvement?
Business process improvement is the collection of methodologies to identifying, analyzing and improving the existing processes within an organization to achieve organizational objectives more efficiently. Examples of business process improvement initiatives include automation of manual processes using workflow, reduction of waste in production processes, redesigning of employee responsibilities and streamlining approval processes. The typical methodologies that are used for business process improvement include Six Sigma, Lean, Scrum, Kaizen, and Total Quality Management.
Improving a business process typically involves the following steps:
- Identify the business process – After deciding which process needs to be improved; the process can be documented using a process flow diagram.
- Analyzing the business process – Use the process flow diagram to investigate problems within the process.
- Redesigning the business process – The process is now redesigned to eliminate the problems that have been identified.
- Acquiring project resources – Resources needed for implementing the improved process will need to be secured at this stage and can be part of the project team.
- Implementing the changes – After acquiring the necessary resources, the changes to the business process can be implemented and may involve changing existing systems and processes.
- Reviewing the business process – To ensure continuous improvement after implementing the changes; there is a need to monitor the progress to ensure that the process is performing according to expectations.
The Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA)
The PDCA is an iterative, four-step method used for continuous improvement of business processes in organizations and was popularized by W. Edwards Deming. It allows organizations to make improvements in business processes and methods while continually evaluating the results to ensure that the organization takes steps to improve efficiency. Business process improvement is the responsibility of all employees within an organization and should be approached in a systematic way. The PDCA is also known as the Deming Cycle or the PDSA cycle which is short for Plan, Do, Study, Act. In the Study step of the PDSA cycle, the process improvement team should set aside time to analyze the data and study the results.
The Plan, Do, Check, Act steps
Step 1: Plan – This involves identifying the problem, collecting relevant data, and understanding the root cause of the problem, developing hypotheses about what the issues may be, and deciding which one to test. This includes developing a process improvement plan, identifying the processes, mapping the processes, modeling the processes and documenting the processes.
Step 2: Do – This involves developing and implementing a solution, deciding on how the effectiveness will be measured, how testing will be conducted and how results will be measured. This includes the use of the process improvement plan for implementation of corrective action, executing the business process using all improvements, optimizing the business process and automating the business process.
Step 3: Check – This involves confirming the results before and after the implementation of the business process improvement, measuring effectiveness, and deciding whether the hypothesis is supported or not. This also includes checking the data after the correction to ensure that it has worked.
Step 4: Act – This involves documenting the results, informing others about process changes, and making recommendations for the future PDCA cycles. If the solution was successful, then it will be implemented but, if not then the problems will be resolved, and the PDCA cycle will be repeated again. This also includes standardizing the process or new way of working to support what you have learned.
Benefits of the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) Cycle
- It helps in the standardizing of the problem-solving process
- It facilitates better project management and business analysis
- It stimulates continuous improvement of people and processes.
- It provides a platform for implementation of continuous improvement.
- It helps the project team try new products during product development
- It helps the team test possible solutions in a controlled environment.
- It eliminates recurring mistakes in the project activities
- It can be used as a management system for the project team
Tapera Mangezi, PMP, PMI-PBA, SMC, is the founder and director of Proximate Academy, a project management training and consultancy company. He is also a certified senior SAP plant maintenance consultant and project management consultant with many years of experience in working on various projects within the utilities, energy, and public sectors, and the manufacturing, logistics, facilities, and mining industries. Tapera has a strong engineering background and also holds various other certifications. He is currently working towards his MSc in Business Management with a specialization in Project Management at the Edinburgh Napier University. Tapera writes about business analysis and business processes.