By Melissa Centurio Lopes on Jul 19, 2016
by Mike Metcalf, Director, Services Strategy, Oracle
Efficiency drives have elevated process improvement to the top of corporate agendas. But, many companies fail to recognize that process improvement is itself a process—and it’s probably the one you should focus on perfecting first.
Process improvement (PI) is a broad concept, and different companies approach it in very different ways. Some look for the most obvious improvements and make them first. Others dig deep into their processes and spend significant time assessing where the biggest issues may lie.
There’s no single place to begin, but your process improvement choices should always be directed and guided by your organization’s strategic goals. For example, if risk management is a strategic goal, then focus on initiatives that align to that, such as regulatory management, reputation management, and operational-risk management. And just like any other process in your business, there are best practices for how process improvement should be conducted.
Best practice #1: Gather and evaluate everybody’s ideas
Because executives have a broad overview of the organization, it’s easy to think they might be the best people to identify processes in need of improvement. While that’s true to some extent, it’s also extremely important that you gauge the opinions of the people closest to the processes—the employees contributing to them, their line managers, and any external stakeholders that engage with them. If you want to improve customer loyalty, you’ll want to involve employees from sales, service, and contact center teams who have direct contact with customers and in their day-to-day jobs and may have good insight into what’s working and what’s not.
Gathering, evaluating, and managing ideas from that many sources can be a challenge in itself, so it’s a good idea to leverage a project management platform that can provide an overview of every potential process improvement project in your pipeline.
Best practice #2: Keep all your efforts visible to everyone
Process improvement is an ongoing initiative at most organizations. At any given moment, your business can be progressing with many distinct process improvement projects—each being handled by different teams with different objectives.
With so much going on, it’s easy to lose track of a specific project, or to let one drift away from its original objectives. Visibility is the key to maintaining control over it all and ensuring everyone stays aligned to your organization’s strategic goals. It helps to keeps process improvement projects moving efficiently; supports synergy between projects and identification of best practices; illuminates potential conflicts; and improves overall collaboration. With complete visibility of your process improvement project portfolio, you can also retain executive buy-in by clearly demonstrating what’s happening, where it’s happening, and why.
Best practice #3: Understand what makes change projects unique
Perhaps the most significant difference between traditional projects and a PI projects is that PI projects typically cross every boundary within the organization. They extend vertically down through the organizational management structure, from the CEO to the part-time employee, horizontally across all departments from purchasing and product development, to sales and marketing, and beyond the internal organizational boundaries to stakeholders, such as customers and vendors.
The second most significant difference is that PI projects are generally in the “spotlight” and are highly visible to management and senior executives. If the project is unsuccessful (fails to deliver the anticipated results), the damage to the business can be significant, and the responsibility for the damage can fall on the project manager.
In addition, while most traditional projects have a well-defined beginning and end, PI initiatives include ongoing monitoring, measurement, and assessment that extend long after a new process has been introduced—requiring the ongoing involvement of the continuous improvement team.
With PPM solutions, metrics from individual projects can feed up into strategic themes and give an up-to-date picture of where they are headed. Users can drill down to see which projects are not performing as expected based on predetermined success factors.
Achieving process excellence is a journey
Process improvement is a journey. Trial and error might get you where you want to be eventually, but at a significant price in terms of financial and time investment. If you want to improve business processes in the most intelligent, efficient, and strategic way possible, it’s important to find tools that can grow with you.
From visibility and idea evaluation, to collaboration and post-improvement analysis, the right enterprise project portfolio management (EPPM) platform can give you a single source of truth for all your process improvement efforts, and help you track your progress towards process excellence.
If you’re planning your journey to process excellence and want to find more about the tech that can help, read our best practice guide at https://go.oracle.com/LP=29197 today and get more expert advice to help you make sure every step you take is the right one.