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Why Even Small Businesses Need Business Process Improvement

Posted by Mike Paperalt on May 15, 2019 8:12:00 AM

Why Even Small Businesses Need Business Process Improvement | 2 Minute Read

Is your small business missing out on opportunities to improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs and improve overall efficiency?  Since there are  more sole proprietors and pass-through companies than there are corporations in the United States, this is an important question. 

Small business owners wear a lot of hats -- they're constantly busy and nearly always mindful of expenses.  These may be  important reasons why they often postpone implementing new technologies that could help them serve more customers better at lower costs.  At the end of the day, it takes a lot of time and energy to implement solutions when old methods still work.

In a recent survey, a little more than 37 percent said they're not adopting any new technology because they don't need anything else, and more than 22 percent said it's simply easier to do things the way they're currently done than to invest in new technology. Additionally, nearly 19 percent said that, when it comes to adding more tech into daily business, "the hassle of buying and implementing it isn't worth it."

It's generally thought that price and lack of tech support are the two primary barriers to tech adoption among the small business set. Yet, according to IDC, 62% of businesses believe slow, manual processes are limiting their revenue.  So, while small businesses are particularly prone to retaining old systems in the mistaken belief that it's too costly to upgrade and improve, this very prudence may be preventing their companies from growing. 

We've found that Business Process Management (BPM), which was once considered a luxury that only large organizations could afford, is now considered a critical part of business operations -- regardless of business size.  In fact, BPM may be even more important for small to medium size organizations if they want to stay competitive. 

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So, what is BPI, and why is it so important?

Business Process Improvement(BPI) is a field in operations management that focuses on improving performance by managing and optimizing an organization's business processes.  Business processes are inherent to daily work flow.  Business processes are sometimes thought-out and established for efficiency, consistency and order; but, just as often, an organization's processes have evolved over time without a lot of thought regarding their effectiveness.  Thoughtful process optimization, with specific goals in mind can go a long way toward making any organization's operations more efficient, and less costly.

Process Optimization Requires Observation

It's not just a matter of purchasing a software solution or outsourcing a department.  The first step is always to observe and record the way operations are conducted currently.   

Hint: Even companies that are fortunate enough to have written job descriptions with detailed directions about the way tasks are to be handled often fall short of the goal in actual practice.  Don't assume that just automating the process that's written in the employee handbook is going to improve efficiency.  Talk to the employees who do the work.  Strive to reduce unessential and duplicate steps.  Take the time to get it right. You'll be glad you did! 

If you already have an Enterprise Content Management system, you're one step ahead of the game.  Integrating BPM, or workflow, with your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system can dramatically improve the flow of information, saving valuable time and money.  BPM workflow can:

  • Automate document routing through business processes like HR and AP to improve efficiency.
  • Improve information control with digital records, that never get lost or misplaced.
  • Save money by moving information more quickly to decrease labor costs.

"The abilities to process business critical activities faster, reduce error and exception rates, and gain greater visibility into operational effciencies are seen as the greatest values gained from process improvement and automation." -AIIM, Process Improvement and Automation 2016

Increase Efficiency with Automation

The productivity of the entire organization benefits from process automation. In fact, 60% of businesses agree the only way to keep up with the increasing volumes of electronic content is with automation.  Here are steps you can take:

  • Route electronic information through business processes.
  • Replace paper-based systems with electronic ones to improve efficiency.
  • Define and update processes to eliminate unnecessary work steps.
  • Automatically route documents through business processes electronically.
  • Keep track of the status of contracts, invoices, and other important documents to improve business focus.

Start with Small Steps

Adoption rates of emerging technologies in large enterprises are up to 10 times higher than in small businesses, effectively shutting out small businesses from competing in the global marketplace. But, no matter how badly you want to grow your small business and compete on a larger scale, that doesn't mean you should just adopt every tech tool out there right away. Take small steps no matter how big your vision is!  By consistently engaging in small, practical steps, you'll get where you want to be, without spending months or years formulating strategy. e one small thing to focus on. Then make that small change and execute it fully before moving onto the next thing.

Our practical advise to all small businesses who are ready to advance into technology is to take one business function that you want to be able to do better, faster, cheaper, and implement the best process improvement solution you can afford in that area. Make sure the solution you choose is scalable and applicable to other processes within your company, so that you can simply build on it, rather than looking for new technology for each and every situation.

Get Business Process Improvement Checklist

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in [September, 2017] and has been expanded and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness

Topics: Business Process Management, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Services

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