Optimize Your Optimizing, Part I

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CandiceBy Candice Benson

This article originally appeared in NH Business Review on March 21, 2016.

Staying competitive is hard work. To win the game, you have to optimize several areas of your business simultaneously: organizational efficiency, competitive advantage, customer acquisition and retention, and innovation for the future.

Of these, let’s talk about organizational efficiency, which relies on process improvements to maximize the output of your resources and/or streamline overhead, increasing ROI and customer satisfaction. Staying competitive requires ensuring your operations are the most effective and efficient as possible.

How would you go about achieving this? The most effective method is to undertake a “process optimization” initiative in which you evaluate and reengineer your business processes to reduce time and waste. Following are the steps to take:

Process Documentation: Evaluate your current processes in detail: (a) what is done, (b) how it is done, (c) the people involved, and (d) all the handoffs and connections between people and systems. Identify redundancies and extraneous steps, as well as steps that can be performed simultaneously rather than serially. Isolate all areas in which there are increased risks for error.

Challenges and Pain Points: Examine the implementations and outcomes of your recent projects. Which were successful and why? What did you learn about best practices? Then, examine the mediocre or unsuccessful projects. Identify their weaknesses and challenges and determine all of the contributing factors.

Objectives and Desired Outcomes: Determine your business objectives and the desired state. What aspects of your business model and delivery can be improved?

Gap Analysis: Perform a gap analysis of the current state versus the desired state and identify where the opportunities lie. For example, should you concentrate on increasing the output of your current resources? Should you streamline your allocation of resources to reduce expenses? Should you eliminate steps, to get to market faster? Should you employ business process automation tools, or implement new technologies?

Key Performance Indicators: What KPIs will you use to measure your success compared to the desired state? How will you measure ROI on the process optimization initiative itself?

You can probably see that objectivity in this process is essential. Try to look beyond the current state and challenge yourself to think creatively. Be relentless in criticizing the status quo and seeking improvements. How can you minimize waste or add value at every step? Can you find additional opportunities to delight your customers?

If your efforts are not yielding enough impact, you may find it beneficial to engage a business process consultant to help you. In addition, these consultants can leverage a range of techniques and best practices used by other companies and in other industries, to improve your results.

Business process optimization, especially in technology companies, can be a significant undertaking. However, it’s necessary to do periodically because it’s not unusual for processes to take on a life of their own over time, becoming less and less efficient, especially if you haven’t been integrating ongoing technology innovations that can benefit your business. Keep your eye on making sure organizational efficiencies help you stay competitive in today’s economy.

Candice Benson is an internationally recognized management consultant and CEO of Benson Consulting Inc. She specializes in change management, process improvement, and program management, leading companies to operational excellence. Connect with her and her blog here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/candicecbenson.