• Vamshi Barla

A Disciplined Approach to Business Process Improvement

Not long ago I was conducting a pre-sales call with a prospective customer looking for help driving operational improvements to their Customer Engagement and Digital Platform functions. The operational problems were numerous and the need for repairs immediate. What struck me was how the sponsor, a senior executive within the company, seemed to have a defined list of initiatives and was seeking input from us on whether we would use Six Sigma, Lean, Agile, or Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), along with specific tools such as Value Stream Mapping, SIPOC diagrams, etc.

During the conversation, it became evident that the selected initiatives were either “quick-wins” (those deemed easy to implement), or the “thorns in the side” (the most frequent and visible disruptors). Six Sigma was their methodology of choice, as it had been utilized within their Information Technology function before. No consideration had been given to the possibility that each initiative could be better served by a different methodology based on desired process outcomes. This is typical of many “tactically focused” and “ad-hoc” process improvement projects.

Successful organizations are always looking for ways to serve their customers better, leverage innovative technologies, remain compliant with regulations, and stay ahead of the competition. To do so, they must continuously manage and improve their core operating processes and ensure any advantages are sustainable. Business Process improvement projects (BPIs) are proven to positively impact the bottom line through better process efficiency, cost savings, and waste elimination.

While the potential benefits of process improvement projects are undisputed, without a disciplined approach and a solid foundation in leading research, BPI projects are likely to become part of the staggering 54% of improvement projects that fail (InfoTech® Research Group).

MSS Business Transformation Advisory (MSSBTA) utilizes a customized five-phase approach to process improvement as outlined below:

Download 5-Phase Approach to Process Improvement PDF

This approach incorporates best practices from:

Common improvement methodologies:

Six Sigma methodology is used to consistently measure and monitor the process, discover process variation, and identify techniques to reduce variation. Lean techniques are used to analyze processes to identify waste and identify opportunities to streamline a process.

During the Discover phase, MSS consultants typically use stakeholder analysis, process maps, and value stream maps to capture the current state.

During the Analyze phase, our consultants uncover root causes of variations/errors by performing qualitative and quantitative analyses using techniques such as cause and effect, fishbone, RACI charts, observation, pareto charts, statistical control, scatter diagrams, etc.

During the Design phase, it is customary to perform benchmarking to compare company performance against peers and industry. We also focus on monitoring, performance management, and continuous improvement for sustained process gains.

Project Management:

Utilizes MSSBTA’s proven Project Management methodology during the Implement phase, to manage the scope, scheduling, cost, and positive business outcomes of the improvement initiative.

Organizational Change Management: Incorporates elements from Prosci® Organizational Change Management methodology during the Implement phase, to ensure the new process design is adopted and users are ready to fully utilize the new process from day one.

The benefits of business process improvements are undeniable when implemented using our 5-phase disciplined approach above. Before very long you will see marked improvements to your organization’s resilience, a reduction in wasted cycles, more efficient processes, and everyone’s favorite, cost savings and bottom-line growth.

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