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How a process audit can drive business growth

  • Written by Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales – APAC at Nintex

If there’s one thing likely to send a shiver down the spine of any business process manager, it’s hearing the phrase “But we’ve always done it that way!”

Being reluctant to evaluate and alter existing workflows and processes can result in productivity losses and missed opportunities. Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s the best approach right now.

Process managers know that having good processes in place requires ongoing review and adjustment. Each element must be examined to determine whether it is delivering true benefit or has actually become something that’s limiting progress.

This idea of continuous improvement in processes is the very opposite of the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. The objective is to replace current processes with faster, more robust, and more productive alternatives.

Don’t forget the ‘hand-offs’

As well as continually reviewing a business’s core processes, it’s important for managers to check the phases that sit between those processes. These ‘hand-off’ activities are often overlooked, however they are key to the overall effectiveness of an organisation.

Unfortunately, the artifacts that come out of one process and feed into the next are seldom examined to the same extent as the steps that are used to produce them. This is despite the fact that they can consume significant energy and effort on the part of team members.

Regardless of whether business processes are linked by dependencies or are procedurally sequential, having effective hand-offs is vital. Process managers need to ensure they are reviewed on as regular a basis as the processes themselves.

Consult the stakeholders

Within any business, process stakeholders are the best people to consult at the start of a review process. They are the ones who work with processes every day, understand how they function, know their limitations, and are aware of the shortcuts and workarounds that teams may resort to.

Take the production of a monthly report as an example. The process stakeholder will know what data is required and whether that data is used for anything other than the creation of the report.

They will also know which data points add value to the process, and which have lost their relevance as the business has evolved. They will know whether the report still adds value to the business or whether it should be replaced or even discontinued.

Always be asking ‘why’?

To achieve ongoing improvements, process managers must always be curious about why things are being done in a certain way. Each process output should be considered and the value to the business confirmed.

When tracing back to the source data being used, each artifact needs to be examined on its merits. Creating business reports for a board meeting is clearly important, however if the data is not accurate it could lead to ill-informed decision making.

It’s also important to regularly question why a process output is being created at all. Perhaps it fulfilled a business need that no longer exists or has been superseded by something else. Creating output for no obvious benefits is wasteful of time and resources.

The role of a business process manager is an important one when you consider the impact to productivity and profitability that ineffectual and unnecessary processes can have on operations. Continually questioning everything will ensure that failings are identified and can be rectified as promptly as possible.

In this way, attitudes such as “We’ve always done it this way” can be countered with logic and evidence of the benefits that changes will deliver. Having well designed, effective processes can help drive growth and encourage teams to join you on the process improvement journey.


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