Many businesses focus their innovative activities on product innovation, which can produce valuable company assets. In addition to developing new products and new product features, businesses should look for ways to streamline business operations by innovating business processes.
Here is an approach to business process innovation:
1. Big Question: Is the process necessary? The first question to ask when evaluating a business process is whether the process is necessary. What is the purpose or end result of the process? Is it still needed – does it provide value to the business? You would be surprised how often I see clients with internal procedures that are followed because “that’s the way we’ve always done things” or “that’s what the ‘policies and procedures manual’ says”. Before you attempt to improve an existing process, make sure it needs to be performed. If not, don’t spend time “optimizing” the process, just eliminate it.
2. Identify the desired result of the process. Ask questions to determine the goal of the process. Why was the procedure originally developed and what are the desired results of the process?
3. Eliminate steps. Once you identify the desired result of the process, look at each of the steps currently performed and see if any of them are unnecessary. Look for ways to achieve the same desired result with fewer steps – or by simplifying steps to be faster or cheaper to perform.
4. Combine multiple steps. In addition to looking for steps that can be eliminated, find ways to combine multiple steps to improve the overall efficiency of the process. For example, can multiple steps be performed at the same time? Or, if several people are performing different steps, consider whether the process can be simplified by having one person perform all of those steps at the same time.
5. Automate the process. Look for ways to automate some of the steps in the process. If several people are involved in the process, consider collaboration tools that allow those individuals to work together more efficiently – especially if they do not work in the same location. Consider document management tools, project scheduling tools and other resources to automate steps in the process.
Start looking for ways to streamline your own business procedures to boost your bottom line. Apply this system to all of your business procedures to improve the operation of your business.