No process is perfect immediately. Perfection is a ceaseless effort that requires honest analysis followed by tweaks and improvements.
Process optimization methods can help guide those tweaks and improvements. With process optimization, the ultimate goal is to help you be more efficient by adjusting certain aspects of your project or business—whether it be operating procedures, equipment and resources management, or a control loop—to name a few.
In a consumer-facing fabric shop, for example, you have workers that are sorting, folding, packing and measuring different yards of fabric. But if these workers have some glaring inefficiencies in their process, then the rest of your facility can be entirely thrown off course. By optimizing their process of sorting, folding and packing, you can improve the business as a whole.
What is a Process Optimization?
A process is simply a group of tasks that are managed by people or equipment. But instead of the focus being on the series of activities delivering a final product, it’s more event-driven. Like our example above, a business process could be that the fabric cutter cuts the fabric, folds it, and gives it to the packaging worker. That small bit of action is a business process. You can visualize this best via flowchart, or in a Gantt chart format, which will show you the sequence of tasks, how they connect and their dependencies.
Process optimization, therefore, is the concept of optimizing a process as we outlined above. The goal with process optimization is to reduce risks, streamline operations, improve worker output, increase efficiency, utilize resources more effectively and improve quality assurance.
It’s also important to understand how each process interacts with one another in an effort to break down the barriers between silos and increase process collaboration across owners. Once these details are considered, only then can you make fully-informed decisions around projects.
Process Optimization Methods
The best way to roll your new process out, track its success and tweak it is to follow the steps below. You can reveal which processes are bottlenecks in the project’s output, and which ones are working seamlessly.
1. Research and Identify
Research and identify which of your processes are lacking. This can be done by interviewing staff members, workers, leadership, as well as reading through a record of the latest customer inquiries. This due diligence will help you identify the biggest problem areas in your business. Furthermore, collect and analyze data related to your processes. This can be as simple as tracking how long it takes for a worker to completing a task.
2. Map Out Your Processes
As we previously mentioned, this can be done by a flow chart or by a Gantt chart. Document which processes are owned by which workers, and which dependencies and resources are involved in making that process run. Which resources might help to fill any gap needed? Which workers might help streamline the process a little better? By mapping this out, you can see where the holes lie within each process.
3. Reassemble Your Process
For ‘before-and-after’ presentation purposes, make a copy of your current chart and reorganize it based on which points would help improve the process if they were located at different points of each process. This should include any additional resources added, as well as any new dependencies. Creating a visual at this stage will help you get stakeholder buy-in on your newly-optimized processes and ensure that there are no remaining gaps in your documentation.
4. Execute & Report
Kick-off your newly-minted process. Record every piece of the process that is improved or worsened after the intervention. This stage of the process is kind of like a first draft of an essay. It’s not your final process, but it is to see how your new process plays out in real time. Does it match your predictions or go against it? You’ll find that out here. Record and report every detail here to key stakeholders so you can make additional adjustments based on their feedback.
5. Automate & Document
No process works best when it’s constantly being tweaked and revised. So now that you have your new process in place, and it’s functioning at optimal levels, let it run its course and see how much worker output has improved. Document all of your findings and store in a repository that you can easily share with key stakeholders and refer back to at future dates.
Who’s Involved with Process Optimization?
It takes a village to properly optimize entire business practices. Typically, the project manager is the one who takes charge of investigating, researching, and coming up with new business processes to unveil to key stakeholders.
However, the stakeholders are your decision-makers on this. They usually consist of the Chief Operations Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, the Facilities Manager, the Floor Manager, and more. From there, you’ll interview all key workers that are involved in processes that are getting revamped. Without them, you won’t have the ground floor knowledge you’ll need to ensure that the project satisfies everyone across the board.
A Warning About Process Optimization
The key to effective process optimization is to make all of your decisions based on research and data. Be wary of changing things just to change them. Upsetting a process can have far-ranging consequences on your project or business, so be sure to map out any possible negative effects that can stem from your changes.
Additionally, as you’re interviewing team members and stakeholders, you may get a lot of suggestions—too many, most likely. Be sure to set parameters on who gets to make decisions on what, and recognize subject matter experts versus those with an opinion. Every stakeholder’s opinion has some value, but you need to learn to prioritize that feedback and synthesize it into an effective action plan. Remember, you can’t please everyone all of the time.
Interfacing with Stakeholders
The key to getting anything approved by stakeholders—particularly when it comes to business process optimization, is to document everything, collaborate effectively, and report on it all. By using a repository that’s hosted online, your stakeholders don’t even have to be in the office to see your reports—they can view the latest findings from your process optimization project in real-time. By giving them the data they need for effective decision making, you’re not only optimizing the business processes, but you’re saving them time as well.
ProjectManager.com Can Help with Process Optimization
Optimizing a process is no easy feat—no matter if it’s a team of 10 peopleor 10,000.
Gantt charts are an essential tool for any well-oiled machine, and without one, you could be missing visibility into key processes. With ProjectManager.com, you get access to our online Gantt chart so you can plan your optimized processes ahead of time, collaborate with employees, stakeholders, and investors and make adjustments as needed.
ProjectManager.com also features a kanban tool to help you visualize your workflow so you can maximize efficiency. The customizable columns on the kanban board display exactly where a task is in your process. Noticing that one column has too many tasks? You might want to start their with your business optimization.
No business process is optimized without a little help, whether it’s input from stakeholders or online tools to get your charts organized. Assure your stakeholders that your new processes will give them the competitive edge they need. ProjectManager.com is an award-winning pm software dedicated to helping businesses optimize their processes and report on all of it. Sign up for a free 30-day trial today.