The Beginner’s Guide to Business Process Optimization

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“Workflow” is one of those words techies throw around to make things seem more complicated and mysterious than they really are. But all businesses have workflows – some manual and some automated. A workflow is basically a process — any series of steps that need to be completed to get work done, like approving purchase requests or employee onboarding.

Unfortunately, workflows and processes can get more and more complicated as a business grows. While many organizations still use manual workflow methods, automated workflows help streamline processes by following structured, time-saving activities. This type of automation is often referred to as business process optimization, or BPO. 

What is Business Process Optimization? 

Business Process Optimization (BPO) helps improve productivity and efficiency within an organization by outlining key steps in processes, identifying and eliminating inefficiencies, and then optimizing workflows so that they align with a company’s goals.

Business process-mapping software is often leveraged to help streamline processes and ensure consistency. BPO can also deliver the following benefits:

  • Eliminate data silos
  • Automate document capture processes
  • Increase collaboration and manage data storage
  • Assist with cloud adoption
  • Experience better cost management
  • Improve morale and results

Steps for Mapping Business Processes and Workflows

So, how do you get started? To make workflows effective, a business needs to take the time to create a process map. Mapping and documenting each step provides insights into how your processes work and where they might be broken. Only then can they be fixed with automation or improved with a technology solution like Electronic Content Management (ECM) software.

To begin mapping business processes and workflows, gather the right stakeholders, including leadership, legal, records management, IT, and HR or Finance. Don’t forget the front-line people who perform or oversee the tasks you’re revamping.

Once you have your team members in place:

  1. At a high level, identify the process or task you want to perform — what’s the start, and what’s the intended finish (or next) state
  2. Let the people who currently perform this task map the actual steps required to complete it into a flow process chart
  3. Map a more efficient and practical set of processes to complete the task
  4. Look for bottlenecks and ways to break them into parallel actions and add this to your workflow documentation
  5. Update the documentation; train and remind your workers of any new steps
  6. Revisit after this has been in practice for awhile
  7. Rinse, repeat and refine the process as needed

The Role of ECM in Mapping Workflows

Mapping out workflows is just the beginning of optimizing processes. Business process mapping tools take it a step further. Deployment of ECM solutions can automate workflows, improve processes and help eliminate manual tasks, such as photocopying and delivering paper documents. It also helps:

  • Provide a central repository for data
  • Enhance document security and ensure compliance
  • Digitally capture documents
  • Streamline document retrieval through advanced search functions
  • Deliver real-time data to make better business decisions

In addition to mapping workflows, an ECM business process improvement provider can help you take inventory of existing hardware and software to determine their capabilities and how they may or may not align with your business goals. This is an exhaustive assessment that takes everything from computers, tablets and smartphones to networks, firewalls, servers, software, cloud services, printers and more into consideration. After determining your existing infrastructure, you’ll be able to establish what needs to stay, what needs to go, and whether any new systems need to be acquired.

Real-Life Example of Business Process Optimization

What might business process optimization look like in a real-life application? As an independent wealth management and investment firm, Hamilton Capital needed to abide by the strictest compliance requirements. Their team developed review policies and procedures for internal documents that were repetitive and time-consuming. Because their processes were manual, it also introduced the risk of human error, making the audit process laborious.

With a Laserfiche ECM system, Hamilton Capital was able to automate their workflows, allowing the company to quickly access necessary resources in a knowledge base and also automate reports to expedite the audit process. Security was enhanced and compliance concerns were minimized.

READ THE CASE STUDY: Hamilton Capital Automates Document Management

Steps to Optimize Your Business Processes

The most critical aspect of implementing an ECM solution is the planning and design process to determine exactly what functions you want it to perform and which problems need fixing.

RELATED: How to Create an Enterprise Content Management Strategy

Once the right solutions are determined and teams with the right skill sets are formed, organizations can focus on tweaking and fine-tuning their processes to streamline and future-proof operations — for tomorrow and several years to come.

This could include automating certain stages of a workflow, ensuring your architecture is set up for easy integrations, or reducing the amount of review cycles to make the content development and publication process more efficient. This phase requires ongoing, continuous management and monitoring to ensure that the organization is adapting in real-time to avoid any massive overhauls down the road.

It’s helpful to start with the simpler optimization efforts in a single department rather than tackling major process-driven workflows across an organization. Once proven, this helps to build confidence and demonstrate to others how beneficial process improvements can be. When others see the benefits of business process mapping first-hand, they’ll be more likely to embrace and adopt changes to their own processes.

In this way, businesses can move forward in their digital transformation efforts at a pace that’s comfortable. One of the most important steps in implementing an ECM system is ensuring you work with a partner who can guide you from start to finish.

Need help assessing business solutions? Contact the experts at Gordon Flesch Company today. 

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