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Business Process Improvement

Some improvement ideas under the heading Working smarter - process information flow

Processes operate efficiently on the basis of receiving inputs to the process on time, in accordance with quality requirements and within budget. Input in terms of product has been dealt with above but vital to the process, either in the manufacturing or service sectors, is data that flows into and out of the process and this warrants a few paragraphs in its own right.

Review all aspects of the process data flow both into the process and out of the process, typically using the following logic:

1. Question communication, team working and flow of information along the process

Once a process is working satisfactorily there is a tendency for personnel to get their heads down and get on with the job, at the expense of proper communication with those providing input to or receiving output from their stage of the process.

Make sure that team members effectively communicate horizontally as well as vertically and make sure that process teams communicate with other process teams. This is particularly important when we cannot deliver on promise as others need to alter their plans and the sooner they know this the better. It is also important when change occurs at one stage and there is an imperative need to inform other stages.

2. Question flow of information into process

Make sure that you have defined your requirements in terms of: Who provides the required data, who receives the data, what is the data that is required, when is it required and how, in what format, it is required, hard copy or electronic and what software format is to be used. This latter point may also refer to what version of the software should be used as some applications are not effectively backwards compatible.

With regard to 'what is required' be very specific - too much data creates waste and may mean vital data is overlooked, too little data may also create waste in requests for more data.

There is value in providing reassurance to your suppliers that they are getting it right or perhaps questioning, ‘Can you provide your input data in this way as it would save us time and money?’

3. Question flow of information out of process

In the same way make sure that you have defined your customers' requirements (internal and external) in terms of: Who in your team creates/provides the required data, who in your customers' team receives the data, what is the data that is required, when is it required and how, in what format, is it required, hard copy or electronic and what software format.

4. Question reporting requirements

This could be classified as data flowing out of the process but this can usefully be classed as reporting rather than the flow of data out of the process.

Typically the questions that need to be asked are: Who needs to know what, in what format and when? Do they still need it? This last point is particularly important as reporting requirements seem to grow over time and may cease to be applicable so questioning recipients if they still need all data contained in a report may create savings.