Any business can benefit from process improvement; more efficient operations can improve customer service and satisfaction, drive additional business and goodwill and reduce costs, all leading to higher profits. Implementing a process improvement can be a disaster, however, if not done properly. A successful process improvement effort follows these steps:
- Identify and map the current process.
- Define the goal of the process improvement.
- Select a methodology.
- Recognize and address the risks that can derail the project.
- Plan and execute.
- Implement, evaluate and tweak.
Look closely at each step in more detail.
1. Identify and map the current process
Do not try to solve everything at once—select one process at a time. For your first attempt, choose a less problematic project that has a high chance for success. That way, you can go through the exercise, get your feet wet and be ready for tougher challenges.
When you have selected a target for your process improvement, look closely at existing methods and document the way they are done today. Without knowing where you are, you cannot move forward. Do not rely on existing process documentation, because your organization may have strayed from the written procedures. Be honest about where the gaps are.
2. Define the goal of the process improvement
To achieve your goal, you need a target that is specific and measurable. Instead of using “improve customer service” as a goal, try “reduce customer wait times to less than 1 minute on average” as an objective. Without a measurable goal, there is no way to determine if your redesign succeeds.
3. Select methodology
Numerous published methodologies have been developed for process improvements, including such well-known systems as Lean, Kanban and Six Sigma for manufacturing; Continuous Process Improvement for human resources processes; and Business Process Management for billing and collections. Do your homework and select the right methodology for your target process.
Invest in some outside help. Most process improvement methodologies have certified practitioners who can look at your organization and its processes objectively and guide you through the project. This requires time and money, but the investment should be weighed against the anticipated cost savings and increased revenue.
4. Recognize and address risks
Take a good, honest look at your organization and its culture, and identify the risks that can derail the project. Many organizations suffer from resistance to change, a “not invented here” mentality and other pitfalls. Each risk must be addressed and mitigated before getting too far into the project. Again, do research to find the best ways to deal with your organizational risks.
5. Plan and execute
Using your selected methodology, plan and execute your process improvement. The result should be a documented process that eliminates redundancy, bottlenecks, unnecessary materials and activities and other factors that plagued the old process.
6. Implement, evaluate and tweak
The final step is to put the new process into practice and evaluate it. Give it some time—few process improvements are overnight successes, because people must learn and grow accustomed to them. Evaluate the process against the goals you set at the beginning. If the goals are being met, congratulations! If not, you may need to revisit the design of the new process and do some tweaking to get it right.
When you have mastered one process improvement cycle, look for additional processes that can be improved. The experience you gain with each one will help you conquer the next.
Written by Ashok Kumar, Manager, Information Security
Mr. Ashok Kumar brings over 14 years of Information Technology and Information Security experience to iBridge. He has worked in Healthcare, BPO, Telemedicine, Remote IT Infrastructure Monitoring and Management, Software development and Information Security Management. He has an understanding and knowledge network routers, L2 & L3 switches, virtual Cloud infrastructure, Firewalls, UTMs, Server architectures and Server OS platforms including Novell NetWare, UNIX, Windows, Linux, and Solaris.
Ashok has played key roles in system designing and capacity planning for enterprise class data intensive applications for distance learning and diagnostics in healthcare. Recently, he was the lead architect for design and deployment of a failover solution in healthcare for Patient Health Information (PHI) and demographics. He brings a well-balanced approach between budgets, requirements, and maintanance.
He leads the company in ISO 27001 process implementations, threat and risk assessment. He is responsible for all aspects of security at iBridge and maintaining a best-in-class environment for internal users and clients.