Technology has brought about incredible changes to the world in a relatively short amount of time. We're living in a world where all it takes is a quick Google search of "software for [insert issue here]" to be instantly presented with pages of solutions promising to solve your most pressing business problems. More often than not, these are user-friendly, cloud-based SaaS solutions that deploy almost immediately.
While there are advantages to this best-in-class type of ecosystem, it can easily (and quickly) lead to a tangled web of siloed cloud systems, convoluted strategies, and manual, duplicative processes.
Though it can add time and effort, a business process review is crucial in avoiding technological turmoil when bringing new software into the mix. Here's what you need to know about business process reviews, including what they are, how to decide if one is required, how to conduct a business process review, and other helpful tips.
What is a Business Process Review?
Simply put, a business process review is an exercise designed to help businesses identify areas of improvement to become more agile, efficient, and streamlined.
Does my organization need a Business Process Review?
While every company could benefit from conducting a business process review, it's only worth the time and effort if you have a specific problem you're trying to solve or a goal you are trying to achieve. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, organizations must be ready and willing to make changes.
Business process reviews are particularly effective before organizations begin implementing new software systems. As a NetSuite partner, one of the most common inquires we receive is about the price of various software packages. While many decisions are driven by budget, the answer depends on many factors, including edition, number of users, add-ons, support, etc. Too often, companies are quoted a price, sold a software package, get up and running in a few months, only to come to the sad realization in six months that their business processes have not improved at all.
That's why a business process review is critical; it helps to align processes, define goals, and thoughtfully plan and build solutions that help businesses achieve actual growth.
If that sounds a little jargony, think of it like this: If you built a house without footings, a solid foundation, and a well-thought-out floor plan, you probably wouldn't be living in that house very long. If it hasn't completely crumbled, you might find yourself walking through a pantry to get to the bathroom, which connects to the garage. That doesn't sound very efficient.
The same idea holds with software. Without a holistic understanding of how organizations should use the software in your specific business—and why—you will never fully leverage its capabilities and, therefore, never realize the true ROI.
How to conduct a business process review
Suppose you've determined that your business could benefit from a business process review. In that case, the next step is to assemble a team of internal and external stakeholders that effectively strike a balance regarding your business's intangibles. Intangible elements may include industry knowledge, implicit biases, and subject matter expertise.
End-users are often so ingrained in the day-to-day details of their job; it's difficult to see how their role and responsibilities play into the overall business strategy. An unbiased partner can see the bigger picture and comprehend how each department is interlaced. Having a handle on your internal processes is important, but combining that with an external resolution is where the magic happens.
Here are some high-level steps to get started in conducting a business process review for your organization.
#1: Determine the goal
What is the driving force behind this business process review? Have you happened upon a bottleneck? What process are you trying to fix? Companies who start with "why" will be better equipped to think through their needs and execute a tangible solution instead of relying on a temporary band-aid.
#2: Assemble a team
As discussed earlier, the team assembled to conduct the business process review team will be one of the most critical aspects of the exercise. The team should be cross-functional and consist of managers and individual contributors to get the most holistic view of the issue(s) at hand and avoid tunnel vision.
If you can, try to include at least one external resource that can bring new ideas or perspectives to the table for consideration.
#3: Identify and document
Here's where the business process review takes flight. First, walk through your existing process(es), typically called "as-is," and document how these processes are executed. Include who's involved, steps taken, bottlenecks or hand-offs, and talk with end-users if further clarification is needed. Keep in mind the Five Ws (who, what, where, when, why).
#4: Determine the "to be"
Now that you've documented your "as-is" processes, the next step is determining your ideal process flow—or the "to be." At this juncture, a deep dive into business processes should result in a non-committal, technology-agnostic blueprint that will help you make the right decision for the future of your business. Think of it as a diagnosis and prognosis; identify the problems and a plan for improving them.
#5: Business process reengineering
Reengineering is where the "to be" plan comes to life. At this step, it's wise to consider some of this plan's realistic aspects, including a budget, resources, time, and measurable goals. If you are going to go through the effort of redesigning how your business is run, you need to document specific KPIs that will help you determine if it is helping or hurting.
360 Tip: Determining "to-be" and process reengineering is where the help of unbiased, third-party expertise truly comes into motion.
#6: Consider technology last
You might notice that not once did we discuss the actual technology or software that will enable you to achieve your goals in all of those steps.
One common misstep in business process reviews or reengineering exercises is letting technology drive your processes. Rather than molding your processes to fit a specific solution, your unique needs and requirements should be at the forefront while selecting and implementing any software.
Pulling it all together
Software implementations or any significant investment a company intends to make can lead to disastrous results if organizations do not take the proper time to think through their current business processes. (Just ask Hershey, Nike, or HP). A business process review, when executed correctly, is a remarkable tool to help businesses streamline operations, avoid bottlenecks, and, ultimately, better leverage technological investments.
Not quite ready to embark on a full-scale business process review?
360 Solutions has you covered. Download a copy of our free business process self-assessment worksheet to help you understand your current business processes and where gaps may be occurring in your operations: