Ideas that work: Improve your world, one process at a time

[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Kristen Fulks
Kristen Fulks

Kristen Fulks

Let’s face it – many of us cringe at the thought of change.

But, what if a simple change could improve our ability to do something smarter or faster?

Business Process Improvement is defined as improving a process by reducing efforts or creating efficiencies toward a defined business requirement.

Quite simply, there are ways that we can reduce redundancy and limit the time we waste each day on certain tasks.

Many organizations embark on business-process improvements because they are changing technology or the staffing involved.

While these are definitely good times to take a closer look at how things are being done, you can embark on a business-process improvement plan at any time.

The first step is to evaluate the business processes currently in place.
The key questions to ask include:

  • What do we do?
  • Why do we do it?
  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • How can we define this process as successful?

Rarely do we stop and think about what we do in this way.

In any case, if the answer to these questions resembles anything like “because I was told to do it this way,” or “I don’t know,” then there is room for improvement.

Every process should lead to the fulfillment of a business requirement.

For example, “we enter gifts into our system so we can generate acknowledgements.”

This sounds simple enough, however this simple task could involve many staff members, creating copies, and forwarding information around the office to many staff members, until finally an acknowledgement is printed and put in the mail.

If this sounds familiar, the next step is to identify who is involved in the process and what roles they play.

This is a step that most organizations do not take the time to break down.
The end result of this activity defines the current business process, or the “as-is” state.

Once the “as-is” process is outlined, areas for improvement will become immediately clear.

After the areas of improvement are identified, it is time to build the plan for the future process.

This may involve realigning the order of tasks, reassigning responsibilities to different staff members, or simply eliminating steps with no purpose.

All staff involved either directly, or by the influence of the new process, must agree with implementing the new procedures.

As with any implementation, it is important to document the new process, outlining the policies included.

A plan and timeline for initiating the business-process improvements also are necessary.

All of these combined are essential elements to guide staff through the steps to prepare, train and begin new procedures of the “to-be” or future state.

There are many methodologies out there to guide you through a business-process improvement effort.

Ultimately, the end result is the same – a business-process improvement put into operation helps your organization become as efficient and effective as it can be.

Kristen Fulks is principal consultant at Blackbaud.

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