Process or Business Improvement
Many organizations are split into functional specialties (like operations, accounting, finance, sales, marketing, etc.) However, processes tend to flow across these functional divisions and can be designed to be or operate inefficiently because no one area of an organization has full control. By taking a process focused viewpoint we can consequently start to see things quite differently from a quality or business improvement perspective.
Business improvement or what is often called business process reengineering (or BPR as we will call it for short) is an approach which seeks to achieve improvements by means of raising the visibility of the relative efficiency and effectiveness of the business processes that exist within and across a given organization. The key to BPR is for organizations to look at their business processes on an “as is” basis and determine how they can best change or re-construct these processes to improve performance.
Writers and experts involved in process reengineering argue that far too much time is wasted in sequentially performing and handing-off tasks from one department to another. They claim that it is far more efficient to appoint a team who are responsible for all or most of the tasks in the process (even if the team is “matrixed” or work in very different and far apart physical locations).They extend the argument to include suppliers, distributors, and other business partners.
Business process reengineering began as an analytical technique to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to dramatically improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors. Re-engineering starts with a high-level assessment of the organization’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and customer needs. Basic questions are asked, such as “Does our mission or vision need to be redefined? Are our strategic goals aligned with our mission? Who are our customers? And “What are we really trying to achieve?” An organization may find that it is operating on questionable assumptions, particularly in terms of the wants and needs of its customers.
Within the framework of this basic assessment of vision, mission, and goals, reengineering consequently focuses on the organization’s operational processes or the task steps and procedures that exist to steer how resources are used to create products and services that meet the needs of particular customers or markets.
As a structured ordering of tasks across time and place, a process can be decomposed into specific activities, measured, modeled, and improved. It can also be completely redesigned or potentially eliminated altogether. Business improvement therefore ultimately seeks to identify, analyze, and redesign an organization’s core business processes with the aim of achieving dramatic improvements in critical performance measures, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.
Of course, almost all organizational processes are usually fragmented into many sub-processes and tasks that are carried out by several specialized functional areas within an organization. Often, no one is responsible for the overall performance of the entire process, so it is very important to ensure that representatives from each key area are included in any business improvement review team.
Re-engineering thinking suggests that optimizing the performance of sub-processes can result in some benefits, but cannot yield dramatic improvements if the process itself is fundamentally inefficient and outmoded. For that reason, business improvement should ideally focus on redesigning a given process as a whole, in order to achieve the greatest possible benefits to the organization and its customers.