Working smarter when you can’t work any harder

You aren’t sleeping well. You have maxed out your line of credit, sales are down and the economy is going south. You’ve cut every cost you could — and some you probably shouldn’t have. You don’t know what else to do.

Business process analysis is a tool to help organizations work smarter when they can’t work any harder. Through real-time mapping of business processes, your organization – in partnership with an experienced, qualified consultant – can identify places where workflow design can be improved to save time and money. Our team uses business process analysis to get rid of unnecessary steps, eliminate frustrating bottlenecks and leverage IT to create a smoother and more efficient workflow.

My firm was recently contacted by an organization that wanted to respond proactively to the changing economic times by analyzing its business processes. The project presented some key challenges. First, because the agency expected to cut some positions, a safe environment was created so staff could share data with us without fear that it would be used against them. Second, few metrics of business processes existed, nor were the owners of the processes clear. Finally, several critical success factors relied on the efficiency of external processes that the agency did not control.

After analysis of the background material, meetings were held with the organization’s staff to collect information and build rapport. It was part of an effort to understand the staff’s frustrations while learning about the different business processes and how they integrated to form a larger system. When an all-staff survey was sent out, about the agency’s business processes, a surprising 75 percent of employees responded.

After this input, the focus was narrowed to 10 of the organization’s business processes and a “case for change” was created for each of the 10 processes and designed high-level process maps that highlighted their inefficiencies. Meetings with staff were then held to conduct high-level process mapping sessions.

Measurable results

After producing 10 high-level workflow maps, the agency’s leadership chose five business processes for detailed, daylong mapping sessions. In these sessions, each process was mapped, inefficiencies explored and possible redesigns discussed.

This data was compiled in five “business requirements documents,” each of which contained a current process map, a list of inefficiencies, a redesigned “desired state” map, a calculation of savings to result from the change and the return on the investment made to implement it, and an outline of next steps needed to lead the change.

As a result of this work:

• The client was able to identify a minimum of $450,000 in annual savings. Depending on the specific options they choose, savings could reach three or four times that amount.

• The interactive process generated many suggestions for redesign from the client’s staff, thus increasing their buy-in to the proposed changes.

• During process mapping sessions, the client identified and improved several inefficient processes on the spot.

• The client identified process owners and developed metrics to measure process efficiencies.

• External processes that contributed to the organization’s inefficiencies were identified and dialogues were opened between the cross-functional organizations.

When you can’t cut costs or work harder to create more revenues, think about analyzing your business processes to work smarter. It could save your business.

Greg Hessel, principal of ReGeneration Resources, can be reached at or by calling 603-283-1699. Bill Hancy, of Epiphancy LLC, can be reached at or 802-466-4116.