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Issue of August 2005 

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Improving business processes

An organisation’s success is measured by its profitability. With globalisation, competition has increased, and so profits have become increasingly difficult to achieve. In this situation, one of the most important tasks for CIOs is to roll out Business Process Improvement (BPI) in their companies. Plans for quality improvement may help ensure increased profits and long-term success of the organisation.

While implementing BPI, a CIO is bound to ask questions such as:

  • Why do we need continuous quality improvement?
  • Is the improvement process worth the investment?
  • How do we manage the improvement process correctly?

This book answers such questions and gives comprehensive guidelines for chalking up a business improvement strategy.

According to the book, the business plans that most companies use have not kept pace with the market’s dynamic business environment. Many organisations are wasting millions of dollars every year implementing strategies that do not produce satisfactory results. The management therefore needs to invest in resources to amend critical business processes. Interestingly, efficient business planning brought about by revamping can be effective enough to sometimes cut overhead costs by half.

The first step in setting up a successful BPI model is ascertaining whether management support for the concept exists. A typical BPI model has several steps—organising, improvement, understanding the process, streamlining, measurement & control, and continuous improvement of the BPI model.

BPI should be performed as a team to minimise implementation time and provide long-lasting results. A process improvement team typically does the BPI implementation. The functions of this team include establishment of process boundaries and measurements, and setting-up improvement goals for the business process.

BPI can be understood better by flowcharting, which is an effective tool for analysing the impact of the proposed changes. Flowcharts serve the main purpose of documenting a process to identify areas in need of improvement. This helps to focus attention on opportunities for change, and enables managers to view business activities systematically and creatively.

Business improvement is aimed at ensuring that the output is good, and that all parts of the process are improving. To ensure this, many measurement systems have been incorporated in the business improvement process. These systems help CIOs gain increased knowledge through which they can improve production.

The success of business improvement lies in continuous improvement of the plan, even when it is nearly perfect. This is to ensure that the plan is in keeping with the changing dynamics of people, systems and customer needs.

Title: Business Process          Improvement
Author: H J Harrington
Publisher: Tata McGraw-Hilll
Price: Rs 250

The book outlines benchmarking, and systematically defines the best systems, processes, procedures and practices which help a company to know its strengths and weaknesses, understand competition, and then integrate the finest standards into the business.

Continuous improvements in business are done to keep the customer satisfied. All the business improvement strategies outlined in this book are therefore customer-centric. The author tries to communicate to CIOs that the emerging breed of customers is ‘smarter, tougher and less forgiving than before.’ Hence it is now important to restructure outmoded business processes.

The book discusses the topic right from scratch—tracing the difficulties in the present business situation, defining terms related to business improvement, and then giving a step-by-step formula for planning an effective business improvement process. Aimed at CIOs, visionary managers and people interested in mapping future business trends, it is a valuable read for getting the basics right and developing pointers to a successful business improvement plan.

In effect, while becoming the best is a lofty and difficult objective, for ambitious CIOs the first step begins here.

- Newly Paul

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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