Process optimization is the practice of increasing organizational efficiency and effectiveness by continually improving processes and measuring progress through data analytics, reporting, and testing. Using workflow data to optimize your processes sparks a virtuous cycle of continual improvement that can save your organization time, money, and headaches.
In this recent blog post, we explored how to master your data. In this post, we will cover how to use that data to optimize your processes. We’ll cover how to identify inefficiencies, and how to ensure improvements are lasting and effective.
Step One: Identifying which Metrics to Monitor and Improve
Deciding what key performance indicators (KPIs) to track is a foundational step to improving your processes. Tracking workflow metrics allows you constantly monitor the efficiency of each of your processes and better understand where time and resources are being spent in each process. In our experience, these are the most common and useful workflow metrics to track:
For an overview of the work being done:
- The number of times a process has been executed in a month
To grasp overall process efficiency:
- How long the entire process takes on average
- The maximum and minimum time the entire process takes
To find bottlenecks:
- The average amount of time each task takes to complete
- The tasks that take the longest to complete.
- The number of times any given task required clarification
To understand how resources are leaving your organization:
- Totals of any single variable in your BPM: total cash transactions approved in purchase requests, the total cost of materials in an inventory form
In addition to your selected KPIs, here are a few factors you should consider when optimizing your processes:
Strategic goals: Choose a process to optimize which aligns with the long-term strategic goals of your organization. This helps ensure your work will have the greatest possible impact on your organization and will enable you to best communicate the improvements you make.
Cost: Which inefficient process is resulting in the greatest cost to your company? Keep in mind that these costs can come in the form of human labor, materials, or assets. Further, costs can come in the form of a lack of quality control or excess spending.
Risk: Effective process automation can also help you minimize internal risk in your business. If the potential for error could result in significant future costs for your organization, minimizing risk could be worth prioritizing. This is particularly important in processes involving accounting, finance, and quality control.
Long term importance: Focus on long term process improvement and a process that you can continuously measure and improve. This will usually result in the greatest overall results for the organization.
Analyzing these metrics allows you to constantly monitor how your business deploys its resources, and identify the bottlenecks. Through reports, dashboards, and process analysis, workflow software allows you to now only can you see which processes are inefficient but you can also identify bottlenecks within each process.
Step Two: Understanding your Data
Once you use these metrics to determine where problems lie, the next step is to understand their causes. This often means speaking with your team members to understand how they are interacting with the workflow and gain their knowledge of the process and each of its tasks. Typically, the root causes of issues exist in one of three categories:
Frequently the cause of a bottleneck is human error. This can often occur in areas of your process where manual input is still necessary. In these instances, look to expand process automation where possible. You may also find that the problem is your team’s lack of buy-in and understanding of the correct process. In these cases, additional training is needed to align your organization behind your workflow.
Ensure that resources, equipment, and systems are being deployed effectively. If you are managing your own equipment, like servers, CPUs and databases, make sure that they can scale with the amount of information and users in your company. It is important to also maintain enough equipment to minimize downtime in the case of failure, but also only keep as much as you need for the size of your company to prevent even more resources being wasted. In the end, each employee should have access to the resources they need to get their job done efficiently without running around the office.
Knowledge and information flow
Consider the following questions:
- Is the right information reaching the right people in the right order?
- Does everyone on your team have the information they need to make good decisions and execute their tasks well?
- Is your team ever needing to “workaround” your system?
Once you’ve found the bottlenecks in your processes caused by a lack of information flow, adapt your workflow accordingly. Using BPM software, you can easily change your process map to make improvements to your workflow to make sure information flows freely throughout your entire company. Then, monitor the metrics you are tracking over a couple of weeks or months to see if the changes have resulted in better business outcomes. With this constant feedback loop, you can keep improving your processes and information flow over time.
Step 3: Ensuring your Changes Last
The secret to great workflow optimization is to incrementally improve processes over time. Workflow analysis provides constant feedback that you can use to continually improve your organization’s workflow. Here are a few considerations for ensuring your improvements last:
Support from leadership
Communicate the value of your workflow initiatives to your organization’s leadership team. Their buy-in will provide organizational momentum needed to make the necessary changes to improve processes. Using BPM software to monitor processes provides you with the hard data to convince management of the feasibility and projected results of any initiative. Further, by aligning processes improvements with strategic goals, you can better communicate the value of your work to the organization.
Repeatable and testable
Optimizing your processes is a continuous cycle of testing and repeating. Your BPM suite provides you with real-time data and notifications on the efficiency of your workflow. Save a report at regular intervals to show your continual improvement at each test phase.
Take your testing to the next level through experimentation. You can test two process models side by side to see which performs better according to your chosen metrics. This method can help you find the optimal model for any of your processes.
By allowing you to tie business goals into processes, your workflow suite is a strategic tool to optimize your business. You can reduce waste, improve your organization’s efficiency, and optimize your business processes according to its specific goals. Use your workflow tool to constantly monitor and improve your processes to generate enormous savings and improvement in the long term.
Learn more about creating and optimizing workflow at www.processmaker.com.