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Improve Processes for Business Continuity

Processes should drive organisations and not people who manage the functions. This reduces the key person risk. Even if the person decides to move on, the wheels of the function do not grind to a halt. Also, when new people take over, they know where to start from. Agile organisations continuously evaluate processes, to ensure there is continuous improvement. This is especially critical for customer facing processes, where Customer Excellence could provide the competitive edge. It is like oiling the engine at regular intervals, to ensure efficient operations! In addition to efficiency, it enables the organisation’s business continuity, due to process standardisation.

There are hundreds of processes in an organisation. Most are operational. Identify the top 20% strategically important processes, which are critical and these need continuous monitoring. This can be done by developing the full process catalogue for all departments, along with its various touch points and process handovers. The processes with more handovers, are the first suspects for improvement. Another factor is customer facing processes; could be external or internal customers. Processes which help to improve customer service, leading to customer delight, are definitely critical for any function.

For the identified processes, map them to determine the flow and activities happening at each stage. Process visualisation identifies inefficiencies or breaks in process. Process experts may also identify automation opportunities to limit manual interventions, and hence improve process efficiency. In many organisations, customer data is being captured manually through reports filled by the sales team. There are chances of losing these, if the salesperson has not filed them. Also, retrieving information from hard copies is difficult. This is an automation opportunity using an electronic database or a CRM solution. Now the information is owned by the organisation, not dependant on the salesperson and can be retrieved easily, when required.

An important outcome of process improvements is cost reduction and cost management. It also helps to identify the work loading on current staff. If processes are efficient, enabled by automation, businesses can grow multiple fold, without proportional growth of fixed costs and resources.

For organisations looking to embark on an automation or ERP initiative, should consider improving their processes. Automating inefficient processes will not deliver the desired return on investment. Various methodologies and systems are implemented by organisations to improve processes, like Six Sigma, ISO, etc. driven by their Quality or Strategic Planning departments. Some organisations also have Business or Process Excellence departments. These departments are the process custodians only. Responsibility to improve, implement and monitor processes should be with the process owners in the respective functions, where the process is being executed.

Ongoing process improvement is a team game and difficult to be driven by an individual. It requires a shift in attitude and work culture to drive change, by people across the organisation. An investment to involve experts to guide, train and monitor the internal teams can go far for the organisation’s sustainable future.

Improve Processes for Business ContinuityThis article is contributed by Manish Kotwala, Partner – Strategy & Business Transformation, MCA Management Consultants. He can be reached on manish.k@mcagulf.com