Written by Michael W. Carr, CPA & Lori L. Kolb, CPA
As seen in WICPA’s OnBalance magazine starting on page 16.
WHY CARE, WHY YOU?
Financial professionals arguably understand a key reality of successful business: a healthy bottom line. While businesses strive to maintain or increase profits in an ever-changing and competitive marketplace, their focus is constant and multifaceted. Engaging business process improvement tools and techniques rewards you with concentrated financial advancements to achieve a healthy bottom line and a competitive advantage.
As a CPA, you have the aptitude and experiences to be a catalyst for transforming your organization through process improvement. You possess instinctive capabilities to provide
analytical and financial guidance. You have access to a plethora of organizational data, a holistic view of the organization, and an understanding of future needs and goals. By joining with business units in process improvement, you influence decisions and transform business with favorable impacts on the bottom line.
Financial executives are also keenly aware of business risk and the importance of mitigating risks. Businesses need to deliver information to employees, business partners, and customers at the pace it is expected. Next, add layers of compliance reporting and controls linked to your financial responsibilities. You understand information and processes must be accurate, secure, and cost-effective. Financial executives are indeed stakeholders in business process improvement.
NAVIGATING PROCESS, TECHNOLOGY, INFORMATION CHAOS
Automation and technology tools are frequently at the forefront of business process improvement projects. As much as technology improves processes, it also adds new complexities. The sheer pace of technology change is reason enough to assess processes regularly. Technology also brings an overabundance of information and data. Determining how to capture, access and use information has become an art form.
Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) provides guidance and offers counsel on information matters. AIIM identifies its mission as “information professionals helping organizations survive and thrive in the era of information chaos by solving four key business problems.”
- Managing the risk of growing volumes of content.
- Automation of content-intensive business processes.
- Use of content to engage and collaborate.
- Gaining insight from information.
Most businesses battle with information on a regular basis. Our business, Naviant, Inc. is no different. The complexity of today’s information environment has evolved our own processes.
Naviant has clearly seen the world of technology, information, and process improvement change in the past 30 years. Our initial business model involved fax machines, micrographics equipment, and storage of physical documents. Today, we serve our customers through a full suite of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions centered on business processes. Through ECM solutions,
we deliver strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.
Business process consulting is the first step in customer engagements. Our process first approach considers people and process before technology. We develop detailed workflow diagrams clearly defining efficiencies and improvements to be gained. We evaluate current and future processes and engage business units in the assessment. When appropriate, new software and hardware are integrated with existing business systems. We become process agents and develop a process partnership to improve the bottom line or increase competitive advantage. You can do the same within your own organization.
BE AN EFFECTIVE AGENT OF PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
Perform an Internet search on process improvement, and you find a list of acronyms or specific techniques: BPI, TQM, TPS, BPM, JIT, KPI, 80/20, Lean, Six Sigma, etc. Becoming an agent for business process improvement doesn’t require formal certifications. It does require focus and collaboration with business units to assess where the most effective financial advancements exist.
Outside the assessment practice, consider a few core principles when moving forward with business process improvements.
- Understand your organization’s culture. People are part of process improvement. Your employees, competitors, partners, and customers all impact the business process. People impact process plans positively or negatively. Remember and understand your specific culture when implementing improvement projects.
- Educate, communicate, reward. Provide training to employees and include them in the process of process improvement. Provide a clear picture of the what, why, and how. Don’t forget to celebrate the improvements as a team and as a company.
- Pick appropriate projects. Don’t tackle the largest project first. Get some wins under your belt and continue breeding process improvement into your culture.
- Understand the available tools and choose the best fit. Remember the importance of using the right tool for a given situation. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to pound a nail. Likewise, different process tools serve different projects or organizations better than others.
- Select business partners who utilize process improvement. Don’t be afraid to get a process expert involved. An outside perspective may shed new light on your processes.
SPEAKING OF AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE
We are fortunate to work with process experts with experience in a wide variety of industries. We asked one, Jeanne Patti, for the most effective piece of advice we could offer our CPA counterparts.
“Process improvement is simply a system,” Patti said. “It is a system that utilizes tools to create effective, financially stable businesses. The key is to choose the correct tools for where you are in your business life cycle and be flexible in interchanging these tools as your business evolves to more mature levels.”
Using business process improvement to impact the bottom line is clearly a competitive advantage. Embrace process improvement and expect good things to happen. When companies grow, employees are afforded better opportunities, wages, and benefits. Communities grow with strong business partners in their midst. Lead the transformation and become a business process improvement catalyst in your company.