Business Process Optimization: How to Improve Workflows Like a Pro (Free Templates!)

Business Process Optimization

In the fast-paced, full-throttle world of modern business, there’s an incentive to keep going, keep doing, keep pressing forward.

(Business. More like busyness, amirite? 😏)

But what if I told you that striving forward without robust, solid processes is a massive mistake?

While Łukasz Tartanus found from his sample that 69% of businesses have documented processes, only 4% manage and measure them. This means countless businesses are zealously pressing forward with depreciated, outdated processes for their recurring tasks. If only their processes were optimized, these businesses would be able to grow and achieve internal targets far quicker.

This is why business process optimization is important. And it’s why you’re about to read my post on it.

I’ll define business process optimization, its benefits, explain how to go about it, and show you how Process Street makes process optimization super easy.

Just read through the following sections to get clued up:

It’s time to learn about optimization! πŸš€

What’s the business process optimization definition?

Business process optimization definition
(Source)

Business process optimization is the act of taking an existing business process and improving it. How any given process can be improved is situational, but the aims are normally to ensure a process is up-to-date, that it’s efficient as can be, and to eradicate any redundancies.

Depending on the methodology you use for optimization, the process will differ. However, there are usually at least three stages involved when optimizing a process:

  1. Identifying the process πŸ”
  2. First off, the process will need to be identified: What’s the process in question? What’s its purpose? What’s involved? Who’s involved?

  3. Analyzing the process πŸ‘€
  4. After identifying the process, it must be analyzed – this essentially means looking at how the process operates and discovering where improvements can be made. Where do bottlenecks occur? Are any steps wasteful? Could the process be simplified?

  5. Implementing process changes πŸ’‘
  6. Once the process optimizer has an idea of what changes should be made, they can move onto implementation. This is where amendments are made to the process. Usually, the implemented changes will cause positive results. If they don’t, then another round of process optimization may be in order.

What’s useful to know is that process optimization isn’t some lengthy, time-consuming act – it can all be done rather quickly. Seeing as this is the case, there’s no excuse not to optimize your processes. Especially as there’s a free process template for optimizing other processes below!

Click here to get The Process for Optimizing a Process!

That’s business process optimization in a nutshell.

Simple, right?

What is business process management (BPM)?

To understand business process optimization fully, I need to talk about BPM – business process management.

The short explanation: Business process management concerns your processes, and business process optimization is a part of BPM.

The longer explanation: BPM is a system that encompasses everything to do with your business’s processes. It involves creating the processes, using them, monitoring and bettering them, and utilizing specific BPM software to ensure everything’s in check. Process optimization, then, is the part of BPM that’s all about making processes the best they can be.

To learn more about the wonders of BPM, check out Oliver Peterson‘s post What is BPM? The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started and The Complete Guide to Business Process Management eBook!

Is business process optimization right for you?

Is business process optimization right for you

Unsure whether your business should optimize its processes? Uncertain if there’s any point in optimizing your processes if they’re, at the moment, working fine?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there processes that take too long to complete?
  • Do employees still trip up and make mistakes when following processes?
  • Are there bottlenecks or places where workflows stall?
  • Do any of the processes have wasteful steps (read: could parts be cut and the process still be as effective)?
  • Have you found you’re not getting the desired results from your business’s processes?
  • Could your business’s processes be bettered in any way, shape, or form?

If you thought “yes” to any one of the above questions, there’s a legitimate reason for your business to optimize its processes – not just as a one-off, but on a regular basis.

In a way, the question of “is business process optimization right for you?” is a hypothetical one: Unless all your business processes are already top-notch and optimized to the hilt, then there’s nothing to do apart from, well, follow them! But if there’s room for improvement, something must be done about it.

By optimizing and improving your business processes, you’re opening your team and business-at-large to these nifty benefits:

  1. Boosted efficiency πŸ’¨
  2. Guaranteed accurate information πŸ“‘
  3. Reduced human error 🚫
  4. Improved business agility ⚑️
  5. Increased high-quality results πŸ“ˆ

Now, that’s an impressive list of benefits if I ever saw one.

To illustrate my point further, let me show you an example of a process that’s been optimized to the point where it’s now superpowered.

Example of an optimized process

Optimized process
(Source)

At Process Street, we’re all about processes. Not only do we create and offer you stellar, optimized processes to follow and use, but we also place a huge emphasis on ensuring our internal processes are up to scratch.

One of these processes concerns our (written) content creation process, as Adam Henshall explains in the post Business Process Optimization: What, How, Why? (Free Templates) from 2019:

“If we look at our content creation workflow, the one I’m using right now as I write this article, we can see the evolution of a process over time. We can also see how the improvement of that process creates a system around it via the addition of extra elements of automation and other useful tools.

In the past, we had a relatively short process used for prepublish checks once a post was written. Our little content system involved using Trello to manage our writing tasks – once a task card was moved into a Prepublish Trello column, a Process Street checklist would run and an automation would post the URL of that process into the comments on the Trello card.”Adam Henshall, Business Process Optimization: What, How, Why? (Free Templates)

In the post, he discussed how our initial, internal content workflow process – which looked a lot like the template below – was optimized by introducing new steps, integrating features such as role assignments and dynamic due dates, and so on.

Click here to get the Blog Pre-Publish Checklist!

But the thing with processes is that, after a while, what was once optimized to the nth degree might not be so well optimized anymore.

This was the case for version 2 of our content creation process as our team grew, and as new Process Street features were introduced.

Now we’ve got a version of the process that suits our needs perfectly (although, we are always anticipating how the process can be improved again in the future).

To get it to its bettered (again!) state, we:

  • Moved steps around to enhance the process’s overall flow
  • Added approval tasks to the process – for example, after the step where the designer uploads their images, the head designer rejects the image until a publishable image has been created
  • Introduced tasks for our growth hacker, so they can, in turn, optimize our blog posts
  • Rewrote steps that were causing confusion due to them being unclear

Internally, we use different optimization methodologies depending on the process we want to improve. But, usually, we’ll follow the structure of either PDSA, Process Mining, or DMAIC, all of which you can learn more about by reading the following posts:

You’re about to learn a lot more about DMAIC in the next section though, so keep your attention fixed on this post for now!

How to optimize your business processes (with Process Street’s template)

With all of the above info on just how important business process optimization can be, it’s time for you to start thinking about how you’re going to go about process optimization.

But you don’t have to think for too long: Here’s our aforementioned Process for Optimizing a Process!

Click here to get The Process for Optimizing a Process!

Now, having a process to optimize a process is – you’re right – very meta. But considering that checklists reign supreme when it comes to completing recurring tasks to high standards, a checklist is the best kind of tool for a scenario like this.

Don’t worry about this process being some made-up mumbo-jumbo; it’s been built following the DMAIC structure.

Simply put, DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. It’s a data-driven improvement strategy for companies looking to go about changing their business processes and designs, but in a proper manner. After all, not optimizing a process properly can result in more damage being done.

So, let’s deep dive into the process and examine how it works.

Process Street’s Process for Optimizing a Process

First off, you’ll need to input your basic details and the approver’s basic details in the appropriate form fields. For this process, you’re the optimizer, as you’re the one who will be making the changes.

The approver, though, is situational. It could be your boss, the person who’s mostly in control of the process (perhaps they created it), or even you yourself. The approver essentially just gives the green-light to make the changes you propose via Process Street’s nifty approvals feature.

Optimization process

Once you’ve added these basic details, you’ll move onto the steps of defining the process. You’ll write down the name of the process you want to improve, the activities it consists of, and other details such as who’s usually involved with the process.

Then, you’ll move swiftly onto analyzing the process from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. This is particularly crucial as it’s here where you’ll understand if the process in question does, indeed, need optimization or not.

Process Street optimization process

Speaking of optimization, the task afterward will ask you the following questions:

  1. Does the process require optimization?
  2. Should you test-run new changes?

If you answer “Yes” to question #1, then you’ll carry on with the process as normal. If you answer “No” – meaning the process is already optimized and works well – then you’ll be redirected to the last step of the process, where you’ll schedule the checklist to run again in 3 months.

Similarly, if you answer “Yes” to question #2, you’ll test any changes before you officially implement them. However, if “No” is the answer, then the checklist will adapt accordingly and hide the section regarding testing. This is all made possible (and super simple) due to Process Street’s conditional logic workflow automation feature.

With the checklist adapted appropriately, the next section guides you through rethinking the process, prompting you to consider questions such as:

  • How long does it take to complete the process?
  • Where do bottlenecks occur?
  • Are there any wasteful steps?
  • Are any steps confusing?
  • Can the process be simplified in any way?

This is because you’re at the analysis phase, looking at the nuts and bolts of the process to see where and how it can be optimized.

Optimization process template

Once you’ve completed those steps, you’ll take everything you’ve learned and use it to come up with potential process improvements. The improvement suggestions are then reviewed by the approver.

If they think what you’ve suggested is good, you’ll either test the changes before making them or implement them straight away. But if they reject your suggestions, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board and consider different options.

Business process optimization steps

If you opted to test the changes before implementing them, there are 5 steps to make this a breeze. First, you’ll be making a copy of the process to add the changes and then trial them. (This is to ensure potentially unhelpful changes are made to the master process.) Then, you’ll figure out who’s testing the updated process, ask them to follow and use the updated process and, afterward, get their thoughts and feedback. You’ll then confirm which changes you want to progress with.

The final section concerns optimizing the process and, in terms of the DMAIC structure, it’s where the improvement steps continue and where the control measures are put in place.

No matter if you’ve tested the changes first or you’ve gone straight to implementing them, the beginning task of this final section asks you to make the changes to the process in question.

Optimizing a process steps

The control steps – “Communicate the process changes”, “Determine how the process will be monitored”, and “Schedule the next process review” – will make sure that teammates know about the changes that have been made, that the process is monitored properly going forward, and the process is reviewed (and potentially optimized again) in 3 months.

Phew.

That’s the Process for Optimizing a Process covered.

Although our process heavily relies on the DMAIC structure, how you want to optimize your business’s processes could differ. Either way, you’re going to want to use state-of-the-art business software for optimizing your processes, such as Process Street.

Use Process Street – and its automation features – for true optimization!

Process Street is superpowered checklists.

If you document workflows, business processes, and integral procedures as templates, you can then launch an infinite number of checklists from those templates. This makes completing recurring tasks – and people’s jobs in general – far easier.

When it comes to business process optimization in particular, you can utilize Process Street in a whole host of ways.

For instance, you can:

  • Create and document business processes, and host all in one centralized repository ⚑️
  • Use our templates, such as The Process for Optimizing a Process… πŸš€
  • …Or create your processes for process optimization scratch! πŸŽ‰
  • Plus, you can ensure all other aspects of BPM are taken care of πŸ’‘

Ready for more good news?

Powering up your checklists is simple with our in-built workflow automation features.

These include (but aren’t limited to):

To explore these features in further detail, watch the following webinar.

Ready to explore Process Street yourself?

I hear you.

All you’ve got to do to get started is to sign up for free!

Additional resources for bettering your business and its processes

To help you with your process improvement journey, here are a couple of other templates to add to your account.

For investigating issues in your processes and getting to the root cause of them, there’s these two templates.

Click here to get the 5 Whys Template!

Click here to get the Root Cause Analysis Template!

When it comes to deciding which processes you should tackle and in what order, use this Prioritization Matrix Checklist Template.

Click here to get the Prioritization Matrix Checklist Template!

If you’re getting testers to trial process changes, this Usability Testing Template is very handy.

Click here to get the Usability Testing Template!

For getting feedback from those who’ve tested the changed process, use the Customer Feedback Survey Process.

Click here to get the Customer Feedback Survey Process!

And don’t forget to read through these informative, interesting posts regarding business and business process optimization:

There you have it – everything you need to get started with process optimization and improving workflows yourself.

I can’t wait to see how much better your processes will be.

Have you undertaken business process optimization before? If so, are there any tips or tricks you’d like to share with the rest of the Process Street community? Write your comments below! πŸ‘‡

Get our posts & product updates earlier by simply subscribing

Thom James Carter

Thom is a junior content writer at Process Street. He has previously worked in copywriting and content creation for multiple start-ups and SMBs. He’s interested in technology, culture, homebrewing, and hiking up the hills and mountains near his home in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

Get a free Process Street account
and take control of your workflows today.

No Credit Card Required