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How Do You Choose What to Do First?

Deciding what to focus on, where to begin and how to improve isn’t an exact science. At WWT, we have explored and discussed the components of decision making and have shared our insights below to help lend clarity.

Defining business process improvement (BPI)

BPI involves the business practice of identifying, analyzing and improving existing business processes to optimize performance, meet best practice or simply improve the quality and experience for customers and end users.

BPI is one method business leaders can use to analyze their processes – how they do “stuff” in their business – to identify areas where they can improve accuracy, effectiveness and/or efficiency, then redesign those processes to create improvements. This helps our customers improve the way they conduct business because, unlike traditional technology projects, BPI provides process improvement throughout a business – not just technology focused and within IT.

Three common questions

  1. How do I know which business and IT operations would benefit from acceleration, improvement and automation?
  2. When determining new tools or platforms, it's difficult getting team buy-in. How do I overcome this and understand which tools to use to automate processes?
  3. We want to improve the quality of our products without increasing their costs and accelerating time to value. How do we make the right decisions?

A real world example:

We recently completed an Automation & Orchestration (A&O) workshop that included BPI with a customer in which we determined their service request process could be improved. We modeled their best ideas and helped the customer make decisions related to which technologies were the best choice moving forward. 

Working with the customer, we immediately enabled a 2020 budget including platforms, tools and approach, narrowly averting a yearly budget miss! This empowered the customer to align their budget – before it was due – and ensure they could, indeed, add these platforms, tools and services.

Automation’s role in process improvement

Automation plays a significant role in process improvement as it's one of the easiest ways to eliminate manual toil and reduce human error. Process automation helps organizations understand where they need to improve and what is working as it should.

Some automated process improvements include automated email responses, online order processing, categorizing help desk tickets, transferring data between systems and payroll management. This not only helps create more efficiency around business process, but it also helps free up workers to focus on more complex tasks that automation can’t handle.

Making decisions by leveraging various frameworks

Different methodologies are designed to help you tackle process improvement. All of them aim to help identify process issues, fix them and analyze the success or failure of those changes.

Data sample highlighting service process activities and their request times.
Data sample highlighting service process activities and their request times

Some frameworks focus on lean process improvement techniques and others focus on getting your company culture in the right place for process improvement. 

Kaizen: This framework promotes continuous improvement with a strong emphasis on lean and agile practices. Through small shifts in daily work or corporate culture, it strives to foster an environment that doesn’t punish errors or mistakes, but instead works to prevent them from happening again.

PDSA: Also part of the Kaizen methodology, PDSA stands for Plan, Do, Study and Act. It helps organizations be more efficient when identifying processes that need improvement. 

SIPOC analysis: As a diagram format that falls under the Six Sigma methodology, SIPOC analysis helps organizations define and establish a process improvement project as well as identify requirements and necessary elements before starting.

Value stream mapping (VSM): VSM helps organizations visually represent customers' perceptions of a business process, which helps identify the value of a product, process or service to the organization. 

Process mapping: Another workflow visualization that helps companies map out a plan for process improvement is process mapping. It can also be called a process flowchart, process chart, functional flowchart or process model. 

To learn more about enterprise-wide automation frameworks, take a look at another article from one of my colleagues: Building Network Automation into your Organization.