BPI Challenges (and Solutions)
For many companies, approaching BPI is a bit like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Essentially, the parable states that the way you perceive a situation is based upon your viewpoint.
This is particularly apropos when observing the internal workings (business processes) of any organization. Your viewpoint depends upon the department in which you work and the tasks which you perform. Management’s viewpoint is different from employees’.
For instance, the CFO may see a problem with slow payment on invoices as a matter of lost discounts caused by an inefficient A/P department. The A/P clerks may see the problem as one of slow approvals hampering their ability to do their jobs. The managers responsible for the approvals may point to slow internal mail and misdirected delivery as the reason for their tardiness. The mail room staff may be overwhelmed with enormous amounts of incoming mail and outdated methods of sorting. And so on…
None of the parties is correct in total, yet all right about the part of the process they touch. This dichotomy of vision is one of the biggest challenges organizations face when trying to improve business processes. Just where should they start?
Seeing the Whole Picture
Individuals who manage a piece of an important business process are often (usually) unaware of what the entire processes looks like. This limited viewpoint means that it’s difficult for any one department or any one person to figure out how to improve a business process. What usually happens is that a small portion of a process within a single department is observed, changed and management is left wondering why this sub-optimization isn’t effective.
The Power of Holistic Process Improvement
A holistic approach to Business Process Improvement simply means giving everyone who is part of a process the opportunity to see the entire process…not just their part. The mailroom staff needs to see what happens to the invoices they deliver; the approving managers need to see why and how their approvals are delayed; the accounts payable clerks need to know how long the invoice has been in-house before it even gets to them; and the CFO needs to have the ability to see an executive overview of the entire process.
This is where an effective Business Process Improvement approach can help.
Starting Steps to BPI
- Define the scope of the process by defining where it really starts and ends. (Invoice payment strategies start when invoices enter the building, generally the mailroom, fax machine, or email).
- Identify the key individuals who are responsible. (Timely invoice payment doesn’t start in the A/P department.) You must break through the departmental silos to get all of the responsible parties looking at the process.
- It’s a cross-functional group. Empower everyone who touches the invoices -- from entry-point to outgoing payment – to analyze the existing process and make suggestions for improving the whole process. (It’s holistic, remember?)
- Get outside help. Once your group has identified the problems, it may be helpful to get an outside business process improvement expert in to help with a new process-mapping exercise. This is where you identify bottlenecks, duplications of effort, wait times; and brain-storm solutions. Out of this effort, you should begin to develop a BPI plan.
- Making your BPI plan work. Seeing the problem in its entirety and creating a plan takes time. And, after spending all the time and effort, you want to mount a successful effort to implement it. Digitization, automation, reduced costs, increase efficiency, improved customer experience, scalability, reliability and improved productivity are dependent upon the solutions you choose. Choose wisely.
When it comes to wise choices for business process improvement, check out the solutions and services offered by Paper Alternative Solutions, Inc.