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Out with the old: How to know when to ditch inefficient business processes

Processes can make or break an organisation in a very real way. With the variety of software tools available today, business owners can create more opportunity for efficiency than ever before. But business process management isn't just about the latest software tools, the hottest IT infrastructure or an organisation full of techies. It's about bringing every part of your business together in a symbiotic relationship, with the objective of enabling your business - and the people within it - to work smarter and more efficiently.

So how should you go about weeding out the bad processes and nurturing the good ones? And how do you even tell which is which?

Why process important and how to tell if it's the process at fault

Before we talk about getting rid of incumbent business processes, it's worth taking a brief look at what makes processes important and what differentiates the good from the bad (and the ugly). For some, just mentioning the word 'process' is enough to bring on a mild panic attack; but to others, they're the safety nets that need to be in place to ensure work gets done as efficiently as possible.

This isn't just a matter of personal preference; if the processes in your organisation are implemented as a set of rules and mandates, rather than a malleable framework or set of guidelines, they tend to constrict creativity and make your workforce feel powerless. If processes are treated as a dynamic, living framework, they empower staff to use their own judgement, be creative, and ideally, be more productive and efficient. As Mike Myatt puts it, "Sound process encourages the use of good judgment; it shouldn't insinuate people don't have any judgment. Believe it or not, good process should allow people to take risks, not preclude them from doing so. The debate shouldn't be one of systems vs. talent, but systems and talent."

If you don't know what's broke, you ain't gonna be able to fix it

Now that we've talked about the importance of good business process management, let's look at how to tell whether it's your processes or a more deep-seated problem causing the inefficiency.

Always keep your staff in the loop and listen to their feedback

As the people who will be dealing with your processes on a daily basis, your staff can provide you with invaluable insights and feedback. Bear in mind, though, a process that works for your organisation at large won't necessarily suit every one of your employees - is there one employee constantly complaining about a process that nobody else has trouble with? Perhaps it's the employee - not the process - causing the problem. By the same token, when the majority of your organisation is resisting or ignoring a process, maybe it's time to re-evaluate it.

Have a well-implemented process and clearly explain it

No matter how good a process may be, if it hasn't been properly documented and communicated to your staff, it's likely doing more harm than good. Are there unnecessary steps in the process? Is it understood equally by everyone? Is the documentation and training material accessible and easy for all employees to find? Proper business process management depends on having clear answers to these questions.

Your tools may be tripping you up at the finish line

A good process that works well with your staff is worth nothing if you don't have the infrastructure or tools to support it. There's nothing more frustrating than having the will and the plan to achieve something, but being held up at the last minute by legacy systems. Similarly, many organisations spend huge amounts of staff time and money on repetitive, menial tasks that could easily be automated for less cost, less risk and less demand on your staff; making them available for more complex tasks.

Your IT systems can go a long way towards making your staff and your organisation at large more efficient. Make sure your IT systems are up to date and the tools you are using a best of breed or consider partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to outsource your IT system worries.

At Powernet, we've made it our business to get to the bottom of why good processes make a business thrive. We achieved this by starting with ourselves and our own systems. We're a fully ISO 9001 certified company, so you can rest assured that our service will consistently meet your exacting standards. If you'd like to find out more about business process management and what you stand to gain by reviewing your IT systems and cloud for business, please contact us.

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