Definition

business process improvement (BPI)

Contributor(s): Mary K. Pratt and Bianca Rawson

Business process improvement (BPI) is a management exercise in which enterprise leaders use various methodologies to analyze their procedures to identify areas where they can improve accuracy, effectiveness and/or efficiency and then redesign those processes to realize the improvements. Business process improvement, or BPI, works by identifying the operations or employee skills that could be improved to encourage smoother procedures, more efficient workflow and overall business growth. This process can also be referred to as functional process improvement.

The purpose of BPI

Enterprises use BPI to find ways to reduce the time it takes to complete processes, to eliminate waste and friction in those processes, and/or improve the quality of the products or services that are produced through these processes.

Enterprise leaders sometimes undertake BPI to ensure better compliance with rules and regulations that govern those processes or to improve customer satisfaction and/or experience.

BPI techniques can also help an enterprise meet customer demands and business goals more effectively.

Rather than drawing out change management in incremental steps, BPI seeks to bring drastic transformation in an organization's performance.

In IT, business process improvement addresses the root causes of process or system deficiencies to harmonize IT and business goals. Process mapping, which assesses business operations to pinpoint problem areas and adjust workflow, is often the first step in a larger business process improvement effort.

With BPI as a discipline capable of producing such improvements, BPI creates value in its ability to help enterprises fine-tune how they operate to ensure they are best positioned to compete in today's competitive, technology-driven business environment.

How BPI works

When successful, BPI focuses on the business needs and requirements that the processes support, with the goal being to refine those processes until they produce optimal results.

Enterprise leaders undertaking business process improvements typically start by identifying the existing processes within their organizations. They then analyze those processes to identify areas of potential improvement and to understand what changes could add value.

The leaders then focus on redesigning and reorganizing processes and, possibly, reassigning the people whose job supports those processes. The business leaders also might invest in new technologies that they determine will improve the processes.

BPI methodologies

Executives undertaking business process improvement frequently approach the exercise using one of the various philosophies or methodologies that have been developed to help manage such tasks and that help structure the work that goes into process improvement.

Methodologies commonly used to support BPI activities within an enterprise include Six Sigma, Lean Management, Agile Management, Total Quality Management (TQM) and Kaizen.

Using such methodologies to support BPI activities can help enterprises overcome the challenges that are common obstacles to success in these areas, including work teams' resistance to change, avoiding planned improvements that aren't aligned to business goals, and failing to communicate plans across the organization to relevant parties.

This was last updated in August 2018

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