Want to hear a scary story?
A customer calls and they want to place a big order, right away. They’ve spoken to your sales rep Jane about the package they want and she’s promised them a deal.
The problem? Jane’s on holiday in Bali. You can’t reach her, and you don’t know where she stored the information you need.
You’re calling colleagues, searching spreadsheets, and meanwhile, the customer is getting impatient.
Despite your best efforts… you lose the sale.
Broken processes like this don’t just lose sales.
A 2017 study showed that they’re one of the top reasons that people leave their jobs – see ya, Jane!
Even scarier, 62% of respondents said they saw broken processes in their business, but only 24% reported them – why didn’t you tell us, Jane?!
Agile business process development can avert this kind of disaster.
Business process improvement (BPI) is all about deep-diving into your processes to supercharge your business.
Here’s how it works and how it can make a difference to you.
What is Agile Business Process Improvement?
There are lots of ways to conduct business process improvement, but they all generally work by:
- Analysing your business. What its needs are, how it works, what success looks like.
- Identifying issues. Which tasks are being repeated? Which information is hard to access and where are your employees having to use workarounds?
- Implementing solutions using the best software out there.
- Testing those solutions and adjusting where necessary.
Business process improvement is closely linked to business process automation.
Don’t panic, we don’t mean replacing your people with machines – we just mean making computers do the heavy lifting so that your team can focus on the high-value tasks they were hired for.
Sales force automation is a great example.
According to McKinsey, about a third of all sales tasks can be automated – take a look at the top 3 most automatable tasks:
|Sales area||Example tasks||% of total activities that can be automated|
|Order management||Credit checksInvoicingOrder-related service handling||50%|
|Configuration, pricing and quotation||Quota settingNegotiationContracting||43%|
|Post-sales activities||Follow-ups Handling of incoming requests||40%|
Business process improvement would look for areas like this to implement automation – giving your people the space to be more efficient and focus on high-value tasks.
If we take the figures above as a guide, even if you just focused on streamlining sales, in a 40-hour workweek, that would free up more than 13 hours for higher-value activities per sales rep!
Those are the headlines. But how does business process improvement actually work?
Agile BPI vs Lean BPI
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. And there’s more than one way to nail business process improvement.
- Agile management
- Lean management
- Six Sigma
- Total Quality Management
We’re just going to talk you through the first two.
Agile business process improvement
At Human Pixel, we’re all about bringing the human touch to IT processes. It’s almost as if it’s the whole message behind our name…
That’s why we use the agile business process improvement methodology.
What is agile process improvement?
Well, let’s start at the beginning. The agile methodology was invented by software engineers to make sure that by the time they finished developing their software, it wasn’t already outdated.
It involves an iterative approach.
This means that when a version of the product is delivered, you:
- Test it,
- Evaluate it alongside whatever new information may have come up since the last version
- Give feedback
- Keep on re-testing the improved product until you get it just right.
Agile business process development isn’t about mechanically sticking to the solution you planned at the beginning – because life hardly ever goes according to plan, does it?
It’s about doing what humans do best: responding creatively to new information, constantly re-evaluating the solution to create the best outcome.
We’ll get more into the specifics of how this works later, but the important thing to remember is that agile process improvement aims to produce a set of processes that are flexible, adaptable, and clear to all.
Lean process improvement
The most high-profile alternative to the agile method is the lean methodology.
The lean method originated in Japanese car manufacturers after the 2008 financial crash, when they needed to cut costs and increase efficiency.
It’s not so different from agile, really. They both:
- Eliminate waste processes
- Focus on continuous business process improvement
- Aim for efficiency in terms of how long the BPI project takes
But there are some key differences:
|Difference||Agile business process improvement||Lean business process improvement|
|Approach to tasks||Uses iterative approach, with planned development phases – or “sprints” – between each testing phase which repeat until the desired goal is reached||Introduces small, ongoing changes to processes over time|
|Goals||To empower teams to collaborate creatively with maximum efficiency||To eliminate inefficiencies in existing processes|
|Assessment||Based on feedback and discussion||Based on value stream mapping, an objective look at the process flow|
|Benefits||Aims for complete business process transformation||Optimises the system as a whole and provides ongoing flexibility|
Now we’ve covered what agile business process development is, let’s look at its benefits.
The Benefits of Applying Agile Business Process Improvement
1. Increasing customer and employee satisfaction
BPI and BPA can eliminate repetitive (a.k.a. boring) tasks from your team’s workload.
We’ve already spoken about how business process automation can help your sales team, but automation opportunities are ripe across all areas of your business.
Take marketing: 63% of companies that implemented marketing automation outperformed competitors.
One of the biggest areas for marketing automation is chatbots. Chatbots can take over responding to repetitive queries, or even be used to direct queries to the correct human representative.
For example, Zoho CRM’s AI-powered chatbot solution allows you to configure several different conversation options to direct customer queries.
Chatbots can deliver immediate responses 24/7, something even the most enthusiastic customer service rep would struggle to do, and 87% of customers are satisfied after bot-only chats.
A good customer relationship management (CRM) system will also provide automated solutions for repetitive tasks across other areas, including HR, customer service, and accounting.
With agile business process improvement, you can identify the most impactful areas to automate – and, crucially, work out how to build those automations into a smoother process for both your team and your customers.
The result is not only a happier customer base but a more motivated team – 73% of people working in highly automated businesses said that business process automation increased their job satisfaction.
Know what that’s called?
2. Saving institutional knowledge
At the moment, when an employee walks out the door, they take their knowledge with them.
This is a big problem in today’s business world: 43% of Millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years, while only 28% see themselves staying beyond five years.
That’s an awful lot of knowledge walking out the door with Jane…
Documenting your processes means this doesn’t happen.
CRMs capture all of your business data – leads, client contact details, purchasing histories, deals-in-progress, you name it.
This means that all your institutional knowledge is saved on your system, which brings heaps of benefits:
- Onboarding new employees is faster because they only have to learn one system.
- This helps them return value to the business sooner.
- Less extensive handover notes are needed when employees leave or go on holiday.
- Your analytics and forecasting are more precise because you have more information.
- All this helps you understand your business better and informs your decision making.
3. Making your processes scale with you
Let’s take a moment to think about how you ended up reading this article.
Something about your processes isn’t working, and it’s stunting your business growth, right? They worked a few years ago, maybe when your team was smaller, or there was less demand for your product, but now they’re wasting more time than they’re saving.
Hey, don’t be embarrassed. This is a common problem! The Harvard Business Review found that one of the biggest barriers to growth in companies was the complexity and bureaucracy that builds up as businesses scale.
If you’re not smart about the way you change these processes, the same thing will happen all over again.
Getting the right guidance about how to overhaul your processes and implement BPA will make sure that your processes are flexible enough to scale with you.
Now it’s time to take a closer look at how it works.
How agile business process improvement works in practice
Let’s take a walk through how we at Human Pixel use agile business process improvement to help your business, step by step.
1. We identify your pain points
This will start in the business discovery workshop.
This sounds exciting – and that’s because it is! It’s a chance for our experts in business process improvement and software development to speak to your teams and key business stakeholders.
We’ll home in on a single process, which could be
- Customer journey
- Accounts Payable
… or any number of other processes.
We’ll then conduct a half-day business process improvement assessment with your employees.
Look, we’ve been in the biz a long time. We know a broken process when we see one. Here are some of our clues:
- It just seems to take too long to complete
- You’ve thrown money at it in the past but nothing has changed
- There’s frustration around it because “This is the way we’ve always done it”
Once we’ve done this, it’s time for phase two.
2. We prioritise your pain points
Unless you’ve got endless resources to spend on business process improvement – and hey, that would be great for all of us, right? – it’s likely that you’ll need to prioritise.
What is causing the most damage to your business?
For example, let’s say that we’re examining your sales team. The most visible issue might be that they’re just not getting enough leads. That’s a problem you can attack with automation efforts, stepping up your lead generation activities – all that jazz.
But wait a minute! On closer inspection, the leads they are getting are going cold in a spreadsheet in some dusty corner of your server because you have no standard method of lead distribution or lead scoring. That’s not going to change if your team get more leads. In fact, it might get worse.
So, which is the more pressing issue for BPI to address?
Now for the technical part.
3. We build a technology matrix
Yeah, yeah, we know how this sounds.
Is it as cool as that? We’ll let you be the judge.
The technology matrix we build is based on two main factors:
- The benefit to the business by having a process automated.
- The time it takes to execute the necessary automation.
It looks something like this:
Okay, it doesn’t look that exciting right now, but we’ll build a bespoke one for you based on the outcome of our process mapping sessions, and it’ll help us with the next, all-important phase of your business transformation…
4. We tell you what tech upgrades you need
Using the matrix as a guide, we will work through each of the highest-priority features, creating a plan for how these will be delivered over time.
Don’t worry, you won’t be asking for a swingset and get pitched Disneyland. Our recommendation will be determined by realistic factors, including
- Your budget
- The complexity of the business environment
- The complexity of the process
- The size of your team
- How long it’s likely to take the average staff member to train in the new system
- How quickly it will be fully adopted
For small projects or businesses, the plan might span three to six months. For larger ones, it might be rolled out over years.
5. We create the solution for you
The great thing about step 5 is that it’s not just one step.
Remember the agile model we were talking about earlier? Here’s where that really comes into play.
We plan in scheduled testing phases so that you can try the solution we’ve offered and give your feedback, then we go away and give you a new iteration to try out – we don’t just disappear and then return weeks later with something that only kinda works.
Step 6 is over to you: using your new processes to achieve major growth.
Remember that story we told at the beginning? Let’s imagine a happy ending to it.
After a business discovery workshop and a business process development overhaul, employees no longer have to navigate loads of clunky systems and spreadsheets to track deals, and they don’t need complex handover notes when they go on leave.
Jane was able to input details of that deal into a single CRM system, where you could see and put the deal through in seconds. You made a lot of money, and you were a hero for a day.
Now, that’s the kind of story we like.
Contact us today to set up your own business discovery workshop and get started.