|Business Process Improvement may be more an an exploration than a planned sequence of activities. During this exploration, the original requirements and potential solutions may change as more becomes known about the environment in which the business process operates and the controls and constraints which limit it’s output.
Exploration of business processes requires some guidance of where to go and signposts to areas of interest. It can be difficult to know where to start!
With rare exceptions, the process steps within any organisation can be grouped under the six headings shown on the left.
These activities may take place within different organisational functions, in multiple locations. For example online orders may be received from anywhere in the world. Ideally the order will cause sequence of activities to progressively complete the order as they move through the different functions involved.
Material, information and data will flow through the process chain from start to end. Some or all of these will be transferred between process steps
If these transfers are not complete, correct and at the right time, the process chain will fail to operate effectively. Waiting for information or material may cause a bottleneck where the whole process is delayed.
Manual processes can be a bottleneck and a constraint on process capacity and capability. Where budget for automation or additional staff is not available, the most effective approach is to ensure that these manual processes are simple, consistent and lean.
Producing a top level map of how orders flow through to released product may be the first time that these processes have been documented. This activity alone can lead to quick process improvements as the act of mapping a process makes it visible and understandable to all functions in the process.