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November 1, 2019 Business Services

9 Steps for a Successful Business Process Redesign

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By Theresa Conway

If you’ve ever driven in downtown Boston, you can see how the streets were originally cow paths from the colonial era – and as the layout of downtown Boston proves, paved cow paths make for very inefficient and poorly-constructed transportation routes. Supplementary infrastructure needed to be built around these paved cow paths to make up for flaws (read: Big Dig), thus making any changes to streets and routes prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

The paving of cow paths happens within businesses too. Except “cow paths” are not literal cow paths, they are outdated or inefficient processes and protocols. Likewise, adopting a new software solution will produce less than desired results if you plan to automate or support cow path processes. Before selecting or implementing new technologies, you may need to conduct a business process redesign (also referred to as business process re-engineering) in order to see a return on your investment and ensure employee adoption.

A business process redesign project can be a heavy lift, so we’ve put together these nine essential steps for success:

1. Assemble the stakeholders.

The single most significant contributing factor to the success of a redesign project is the inclusion of representatives from each stakeholder team (i.e. sales, management, finance) in the project. Stakeholders are typically subject matter experts and advisors. These individuals must have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their teams, and be willing to invest time outside of their normal day-to-day responsibilities in order to ensure the redesign project’s success.

2. Understand your current business process.

Improvement comes from a solid understanding of the as-is by way of capturing issues inherent in your current process. Facilitate a walkthrough of the current process with stakeholders, subject matter experts, and/or consultants. Use a process mapping tool to visually represent the steps in your current process. Be sure to include an inventory of software solutions or tools that support it. For a deeper understanding, build a cross-functional flowchart to depict the relationship between your process and software solutions or tools. This will help you to identify holes or redundancies in your current process, such as:

  • Too many or few handoffs between teams
  • Too much or too little time between steps
  • Manual steps that should be automated
  • Suboptimal customer experiences
  • Unnecessary or extraneous steps

3. Start and end all redesign efforts with the customer in mind.

A well-designed business process should support and improve customer experience. The best way to keep the customer front and center during the redesign project is to ensure that every phase of your new process starts and ends with a step taken by a customer, not an employee. This links your internal process to your customer’s buying process. It also helps employees see how your internal process is critical to delivering value to a customer.

4. Gather and analyze data.

Once you start looking, you will find useful data everywhere! To thoroughly understand your current process, examine it from other perspectives using different sets of data as a lens. Data sets might be related to customer expectations, competitors, internal operations, or contractors and suppliers. Analyze data to identify parts of your process that need the most improvement.

5. Establish meaningful measures.

Measures are clearly defined data needs. Each stakeholder team, functional group, executives, and project sponsors need to establish meaningful measures. Try to establish leading indicators (e.g. new orders, number of sales leads) as measures, in addition to more traditional operational or lagging financial indicators as measures (e.g. bookings, cash receipts). By far the most important measures are ones that gauge customer impact. These are the measure that may guide your business through periods of rapid growth or change.

There will be opportunities to bring data from disparate systems together before you leveraging your data. Emerging data technologies with artificial intelligence, machine learning or robotic process automation features can be used to assess data derived from meaningful measures. We recommend assigning an internal member of your team to manage this, if you have the resources. If you don’t have the resources, consider hiring a data specialist or consultant.

6. Map out your new process.

With help from a neutral facilitator (we recommend contracted consultants), host a series of workshops to map out how you would like your current process to change. All stakeholders should have a voice. The result of these workshops should be an optimized and end-to-end model of your new business process. Develop a visual representation of your new process to help stakeholders plan for whatever changes they will need to make within their respective teams.

7. Make recommendations.

Keep a running list of ideas and recommendations throughout all phases of the redesign project and score the items on this list against an agreed-upon system.

8. Implement recommendations using an agile approach.

If you’ve done your homework this step is easy! Keep up the momentum of the redesign project and curb fatigue by taking an agile approach to implementation. Share early prototypes of your new process during agile sprints to encourage brainstorming and enthusiasm. Stakeholders should approve the requirements before each sprint and should also sign off on each sprint before your new process or software solution go live. Include adequate training and change management services before and throughout implementation.

9. Improve your business process, even after implementation.

Always be on the lookout for small enhancements you can make to your new process or software solution. If you’ve taken an agile approach to implementation thus far, you will be able to identify these enhancements quickly and easily. As these changes to your business process and technology stack stabilize, opportunities for improvement may surface in response to changing customer behavior or expectations – or even in the form of new add-ons and plugins.

As time is a precious commodity, you may find it difficult to regularly sit down and review your business process. This is why it’s imperative to bake a plan for process improvement into your initial business process redesign project. Many businesses use gamification/collaborative games or reward-based feedback systems, as well as agile method best practices to upkeep process improvement efforts over time.

The Bottom Line

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t fret! Not all paths are cow paths, and some business processes need more of a redesign than others. Even if your current process does not need to change that much, a redesign project will help you develop a long-term view of current challenges and future needs when adopting a new software solution. This will ensure a return on your investment and make the process of change easier for everyone involved.


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Author Bio

Theresa Conway

Theresa Conway joined BrainSell in 2017 and serves as the Chief Operation Officer, leading the company’s day-to-day operations. She has helped BrainSell implement an Entrepreneurial Operating System to manage goals, priorities, issues, and more, all while focusing on the success of its clients!

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