ESM Inbound’s 8 top tips to achieving business process transformation
It’s pretty clear what you want to achieve. The ultimate goal is to get to a place where you have ultra lean business processes that are documented, templatised, adopted by all and supported by senior management. It may well be that you have to introduce a new toolstack that saves time for the billable staff members (as well as your department) by using automation and cutting out the chaff that’s been there because, “we’ve always done it like that”.
It’s easy to write down but less easy to execute, right? That’s why we’ve curated the ultimate list of tips that will not only make your change project a successful one but also, dare we say it, an enjoyable one, too. But before we jump into all of that, let’s begin by defining what we mean by business processes.
What is a business process?
Look at any dictionary or business manual and you’ll find that a business process is defined as “a series of steps performed by a group of stakeholders to achieve a goal”. And this is true to a large extent but to get to the heart of the definition for the purposes of improving your business processes, you can break it down into 3 questions:
- What tasks are involved in delivering your product or service?
- What action is taken at each step?
- What changes as a result of your actions?
Once you are able to answer these questions, you will be looking at your business processes. Now, we have a clear understanding of business processes, let’s jump into the tips.
1. Be clear about what you want to achieve
There are a whole host of reasons why business processes should be reviewed and improved but you need to explore the specific context with which your business came to this solution. This will have an influence on what goals you need to focus on at the outset of the project.
Common goals you may well have come across include:
- Increase team productivity
- Improve the quality of your product or service
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Improve employee morale
The important tip here is for you, as the project lead, to be clear about what the key goals are and to put measurable benchmarks in place before making changes. For example, if employee morale is a KPI, run an employee survey. This will not only give you the qualitative data to measure the success of the project, it will also give you vital direction to the processes that require urgent attention.
2. Assess and map your current processes
It may be tempting to jump straight in and fix what you suspect is broken, and believe us, we’ve tried it. But to get the best results, it is far more productive to begin by mapping what you already have.
ESM Inbound’s Head of Client Services, Simon Orwin, recommends that as well as mapping your processes, try to combine a SWOT analysis (identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) with the Eisenhower matrix (see image below). This will give you that added insight and enable you to prioritise process improvement.
3. Get senior buy-in AND support
This may well seem like an obvious tip but neglect it at the project’s peril. Without the buy-in of the senior leadership team, all of your hard work can and will go to waste. As well as setting goals with the leadership team and keeping them informed of the project status, you will likely need their involvement. Needless to say, this is best communicated from the get-go.
Whether it is to interview them about the reasons behind an existing process, why certain tech is being used or to use their influence, getting support from those that garner the most respect in the business is vital to your project succeeding.
4. Communicate the 'why' to all stakeholders
Arguably the most underestimated and underused tactic is clearly explaining the reasons behind business process change. Yes, you may well have set clear objectives that you would like to increase team productivity but this may not resonate with the sales team who already feel overworked and now they’re being asked (or told) to make changes to how they work.
Change is not easy and a lot of employees will be resistant to change, even if it's good for them. What every good project manager must do is put it into terms that each stakeholder understands.
For example: we are introducing a new project management system because:
- It increases our visibility on sales activity and financial performance
- It integrates with our billing software
- It automates email follow ups which will save you approximately 2 hours a day - Don’t worry you’ll get full training
Each of these example statements explains the 'why' to specific stakeholders that demonstrates the benefits to them. The 'why', more than anything else, has the power to encourage acceptance and adoption of your new business processes.
5. Plan in various touchpoints to sustain focus
Simple but effective: by planning in various touch points with your stakeholders, you will be able to report on progress and keep yourself (as well as others) accountable for completing tasks on time. There’s nothing worse than leading a company-wide meeting to announce that you’ll be improving business processes only for it to sit at the bottom of your priority list as the months roll on.
The pressure of meeting on a monthly basis will ensure you drive forward with plans and get the job done.
6. Don’t do it all yourself - delegate!
As the project lead, you are accountable for the success of the project but this doesn’t mean that you’re, nor should you be, responsible for completing every task. If you’re not the expert on how a specific process works, delegate this to a team member who is and clearly brief them on what they need to do. By delegating, you will increase the quality of the output as well as inviting necessary feedback from relevant departments.
7. Provide training and more training
According to Mckinsey, “just 16% of executives say their company’s digital transformation efforts are succeeding.” A key aspect of building process change within any business is digital transformation and the adoption of new technology. A fundamental reason why projects fail is due to a lack of training particularly with new technology.
This can be down to a number of factors but often is down to an underestimation of cost and resources required to train staff to learn new processes or new technology. Providing that training will not only improve your productivity and enable you to reach your goals faster, it will also improve employee satisfaction and morale.
8. Book in a review for continuous improvement
However tempting it is to believe, business process change does not really have an end. The change you implement will benefit from initial feedback and tweaking as well as a more in depth review. It’s always best to book in a review to measure the effectiveness of the changes implemented at quarterly or bi-annual intervals. This will encourage a mentality of continuous improvement and ensure you allow stakeholders a platform to raise new process or innovation ideas.
Implementing business process change may seem daunting but with these tips, you can and will make a real impact. For more advice, tips and guides, sign up to our dedicated content library today.