Organizational Change WalkMe TeamUpdated October 19, 2021

6 Challenges to Business Process Optimization

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6 Challenges to Business Process Optimization

Business process optimization can drive a number of positive outcomes for the organization, from improved efficiency to increased employee satisfaction. Yet the success of the optimization program depends on overcoming certain challenges. 

Proactively addressing these challenges can make a significant difference in the outcomes of the optimization program.

Let’s look at a few of those challenges below and see how to address them.

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6 Challenges to Implementing a Business Process Optimization Function

Here are a few mistakes that to avoid when developing a business process optimization function:

1. Not obtaining buy-in from executives

Executive buy-in is critical to the success of any business project. Failing to earn that support at the project’s outset can be very detrimental if you run into obstacles.

An optimization program, after all, will do no good if executives are not willing to support proposed business changes that result from that program.

On the one hand, this means that executives need to be willing to provide support, and it also means that those managing the optimization program need to be granted the proper authority.

To gain support, and even participation, from leaders, show the value of your program and how it will benefit them personally. That is, sell executives on how the program will benefit them and their department, which will improve that chances that they will support the program in the long term. 

2. Not focusing on the workforce

It is important to remember that processes are executed by people, so the human side of the equation must be taken into account when designing a business process optimization function. 

A new process, for instance, can only be executed if employees have the right skills, tools, and motivation.

When redesigning and improving business processes, therefore, it is necessary to understand and account for that human element. 

For that reason, optimization specialists should interface with other critical roles such as HR, digital adoption professionals, department managers, training managers, and so forth.

3. Ignoring technology’s role in business process optimization

Technology is driving change in the field of business process optimization. In no small part, this is due to the global wave of digital transformation that is affecting the workplace.

For instance, since employees use digital tools on a day-to-day basis, business processes can be analyzed through event logs. That information, in turn, can be integrated with other business process optimization tools such as business process maps.

Optimization specialists should therefore take advantage of the latest technology that is available to them, such as automated business analysis and employee monitoring tools.

4. Overreliance on a process improvement methodology

Process improvement methodologies are an excellent way to continually optimize processes.

Six Sigma is one example of a process improvement methodology that can generate significant results when applied appropriately.

The aim of this methodology, however, focuses almost exclusively on reducing process variation and defects in products and services. In manufacturing this is reasonable, but this narrow focus also overlooks other ways business processes can be improved, such as innovation. 

Innovation, for instance, can fuel radical changes to the business and to processes – but this type of change often lies outside the scope of process improvement methodologies.

This is perhaps why Agile has become so popular, or why Six Sigma has expanded to adopt lean principles in Lean Six Sigma

5. Not taking a structured approach to business process optimization

Business process optimization is a part of the discipline of business process management.

Optimization efforts should therefore be implemented alongside adjacent disciplines and activities, including:

  • Business process management
  • Business process design
  • Business process reengineering
  • Business process mapping

Like Six Sigma or lean, these are structured approaches to process management and improvement. As mentioned, though, it is important not to rely too heavily on an improvement methodology that is limited in scope. 

6. Focusing too much on the processes and not enough on outcomes

An outcome-driven approach ensures that you can deliver what matters most to the organization – performance and tying that performance to strategic business metrics, such as financial metrics, perhaps the most important metrics of all. 

Financials are not the only metrics that determine the organization’s effectiveness, however.

Others include employee productivity, the ROI of specific business initiatives, efficiency of business processes, and other metrics that matter to the organization’s leaders.

The trap to avoid is using metrics that are divorced from the organization’s key performance indicators, such as “vanity metrics.” Regular reviews can help ensure that the optimization function stays aligned with the organization’s strategy.

Key takeaways

Several issues can interfere with a business optimization plan. 

For instance, it can be tempting to focus on numbers, metrics, and statistics. But focusing too narrowly on processes and not on the rest of the organization can lead to tunnel vision.

Although an optimization specialist’s role is not to involve themselves in other aspects of the organization, they can still collaborate closely with other business leaders, such as change managers, executives, and other leaders who will be implementing their efforts.By both working outside the box to enable agile change and adhering to time-tested process and performance improvement methods, business process managers can both drive continual improvement and stay agile enough to enable rapid change.

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