Let’s face it,
methods of trying to figure out how to improve processes have been around since the industrial revolution. Roughly 250 years since then, there have been countless numbers of thought leaders in the space and methodologies around how to approach process improvement and it continues to evolve as we are in an era of technology growing at an exponential pace.
This means to truly understand how to improve a process, you need to understand how individuals are working with an abundant amount of applications that are part of a massive interwoven network, as well as the need to understand how the applications and technologies are also working with data.
In today’s day and age, there are a number of different terminologies in which anyone who is exposed to that describes some form of process improvement. Terms like process mapping, process optimization, process mining, process automation, and the list goes on.
These are all valid and represent one common theme, “How does an organization drive to achieve better outcomes?”
This was the same goal when they were trying to improve processes in the industrial revolution. Each organization needs to first define what better outcomes mean to them. This could mean paying invoices quicker, becoming compliant, delivering a product in less time, driving towards a happier workplace, or being able to scale at a faster pace. Whichever the case, to truly achieve process improvement you must first understand this goal as an organization.
Once you have identified your goals and the process you want to improve, you should then understand how that process works in your current environment. This is referred to as process mapping and can be a bit tricky. It’s all about understanding how individuals participate and perform their specific tasks within the overall processes that you want to improve.
You may have the existing process documented which may or may not be reliable and may or may not be followed by the individuals performing the tasks. It’s usually beneficial to start fresh and identify the individuals who understand the overall processes (why the process is there in the first place) and the key individuals that are performing the tasks (what they are doing) to obtain a holistic view of what is happening.
Once you have identified the right individuals it’s time to do the dirty work.
Process mapping “maps” each step in the process. For example, who is accountable for each step, why are they performing each step, the expected result of each step, and how the individuals are interacting with the different applications and technologies that are supporting the process.
It may be to your advantage to have an outside organization perform the process mapping for you to bring an unbiased set of eyes and process improvement experience that you may not have internally. Now that you know who is doing what and why they are doing it, then you can start looking at various ways to improve the process. Remember that process mapping is all about understanding the existing process before figuring out how to improve the process.