A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Business Process Improvement Review

It’s not a choice. Continuous improvement is critical in today’s business landscape of intense competition—especially if you want to boost profits. If you’re not getting better, a competitor is waiting to steal your market share. For these reasons, you’re keen on conducting a business process improvement review. 

You’ve heard it can identify inefficiencies that cost your business money. And regardless, who wouldn’t want their business to run smoother? You’ll only see net gains from a more efficiently operated organization. The question is, how do you get started?

While conducting a business process review isn’t rocket science, there is a step-by-step process you can follow to get the best result. Below are six steps we guide our clients through when conducting a business process review, as well as common challenges encountered. But before I get to those, let’s start with some basics. 

What Is a Business Process Improvement Review?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a business process improvement review is basically what it sounds like: a project dedicated to assessing and improving your business process effectiveness. By undergoing one, your organization reaps gains in efficiency and productivity, ultimately increasing profits. Which processes can be improved? 

Some examples include using automation tools to eliminate tedious tasks, introducing artificial intelligence into your workflow, and transitioning to a cloud-based system. Regardless of the processes you improve, you’ll experience an array of benefits. 


The gains you’ll receive from a business process improvement review will depend on which processes you improve. These may include:  

  • Fewer errors by employees and bottlenecks in your workflow
  • Lower costs and higher productivity among staff
  • Improved customer service and greater employee job satisfaction
  • Higher quality products and services, and faster delivery
  • Increased competitiveness in a rapidly changing business environment

These benefits enable your business to operate more smoothly and effectively, which can directly or indirectly increase your profits. 

When to Conduct a Business Process Improvement Review

While a business process review can be conducted at any time, there are two occasions where it’s most beneficial: 

One month before your annual planning process: Performing a business process improvement review here allows you to incorporate changes you’d like to make in the upcoming year. It also helps you spot opportunities and threats to your business you likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Immediately after your annual plans have been formulated: In this scenario, you can take active measures to ensure your impacted departments have the resources to achieve your goals and monitor your progress towards them. In other words, a business process review keeps you accountable to your annual plan. 

How to Conduct a Business Process Improvement Review

While the term “business process improvement review” may sound complex and overwhelming, the actual process is pretty straightforward. Here’s how it works: 

Step 1: Choose a Facilitator

Your facilitator is the person who leads your business process review. This can be someone in or outside your organization. If you go with someone internal, I recommend choosing a subject matter expert who has a deep understanding of how your organization operates. An outside facilitator can be a good idea if you want an expert who has experience conducting business process reviews, who can guide you through the process step by step. 

In either scenario, your facilitator should be an outstanding project manager and communicator, able to motivate your team and uncover problems/opportunities with incisive, probing questions. If you lack a team member like this, an external facilitator like Leverage IT can help. 

Step 2: Determine Your Goals

Once you’ve chosen a facilitator, he or she will then gather all stakeholders together and lay out the goals and vision for your business in the coming year. If you’re unsure of what needs to be improved, your facilitator’s job is to unearth that information from your leadership team and then flesh out your goals. 

The aim of this step is to get alignment on your annual goals and get buy-in from all stakeholders so that the process goes as smoothly as possible. If you have a projected timeline at this stage, share it now. 

Step 3: Identify Which Departments Are Impacted by Your Goals

With your goals decided, now it’s time to identify the functional areas of your business (aka departments) that are impacted by them. How do you do that? Look at the result you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you want to increase sales, your sales department is likely where you’ll concentrate. If you want to improve employee retention, then HR is a likely focus area.  

With your departments selected, analyze whether you have the resources to achieve your goals. Do you have the right people, processes, and tools in place? Evaluate these components to understand whether they pose risks or opportunities on the path to meeting your goals. In Step 3, you’ll also want to outline the actions needed to reach individual department targets. Let’s return to our sales department’s goal of increasing sales. How can you achieve that? One option could be sales training. So your facilitator assigns someone from sales to determine the kind of training required, the costs, and if it aligns with their department’s overall goals. 

Step 4: Create an Action Plan

With your goals solidified, you’ll now need to categorize and summarize what you’ve learned and present it to the leadership team. You must be selective here because you can’t accomplish everything. From the risks and opportunities you uncovered in Step 3, prioritize your most important objectives. In this meeting, you’re not only sharing goals. You’ll also want to explain the uncovered problems, how they’ll impact your business, and recommended solutions. 

A major part of your business process improvement plan’s success are your project leaders. Who will be responsible for attaining your goals? Sometimes this role will be filled by a department leader, other times it will be an outside vendor or consultant. For example, Leverage IT could spearhead the implementation of a new ERP solution, but we wouldn’t write HR policy—that role may be better filled by an internal employee. . 

Step 5: Implement the Plan

It’s time to put your plan into action and relay it to your project leaders/managers. It will be their job to scope out your efforts, return on investment, and implementation approach. 

It’s okay to start slowly. In fact, doing so could be a great idea because you’ll reduce risk. Making too many changes too fast could overwhelm employees as they adopt new technology and processes, leading to costly miscommunications and errors. Along the same lines, be sure to dedicate time to operational business process improvement activities. Set aside several hours each week to focus on specific tasks and visualize the process on a Kanban board. 

Step 6: Monitor Your Plan and Adjust

Your business process improvement plan is your roadmap to achieving your goals. But no matter how perfect it seems, it will almost certainly need adjustment at some point. So, once it’s implemented, be sure to monitor your progress. It’s all about process. Prioritize your improvements and determine a regular cadence to review your efforts. This can be quarterly or even monthly. If you really want to stay on point, you can even track progress with daily standup meetings and retrospectives. 

Throughout this process, it’s important to remember what results you’re trying to achieve. Do you want improved customer satisfaction, lower costs, faster product delivery, etc.? Keeping your desired outcome top of mind helps you make smart adjustments and informs how you approach your next business process review.

Common Challenges of a Business Process Improvement Review

Now that you know how to conduct a business process improvement review, what happens when things don’t go as planned? In our decades of experience in project management and conducting business process reviews, we know one thing is certain. Setbacks happen. Which is why it’s best to expect and plan for them. 

While the six business process improvement steps above should help you avoid most challenges, I’d like to reiterate some that commonly occur: 

No planning process: Without a plan, you might as well be navigating without a map. You’ll struggle with resource allocation and decision making because you’re unclear on your goals. This is why a planning process is critical. It ensures everyone’s on the same page, resources are used wisely, and efforts are geared towards your objectives.

Lack of communication: Communication breakdowns pose a major challenge during a business process review. When parties fail to connect, collaboration and overall efficiency declines. The result? Miscommunications and errors pile up, tempers flare between teams, and plans go haywire. Everyone loses. This is why it’s critical for your facilitator to spearhead communication, ensuring all parties are talking and moving towards common goals. 

Unclear understanding of business environment and goals: Ambiguous goals and an unclear understanding of your business environment can be disastrous for your business process improvement plan. It’s like driving to your destination without a map. You won’t know where you’re going or foresee roadblocks. In actuality, you’ll overlook problems, risks, and bottlenecks, and ultimately decrease your chances of achieving your desired outcome. 

Poor project management: The success of your project is only as good as your managers leading it. This is why engaging an expert facilitator or subject matter expert is crucial to your business process review. Your individual project managers are important, too. They ensure your various initiatives are completed on time and budget, and to a satisfactory quality. Contact Leverage IT if you need help finding an experienced facilitator and managers. 

Inadequate resources: Trying to complete your business process improvement plan without enough resources is like trying to build a house without enough materials and workers. Remember, it’s not just about having enough—you also need the right resources. That means the right people, processes, and tools. Be sure to address your resources early on. 

Should You Hire an Outside Facilitator to Lead Your Business Process Review?

As you’ve learned, your choice of facilitator has a major impact on your business process improvement review’s success. It’s a big decision. Should you go with someone internal or select an outside facilitator? 

While there are many criteria to consider, such as costs and organizational knowledge, the most critical factor is experience. Have any of your internal team members conducted a business process review or similar project? Do you have experienced project leaders who are capable of identifying risks and opportunities, rallying staff together, and leading a major project to success? 

If not, I encourage you to consider an outside facilitator. At Leverage, here are some ways you can benefit from our experience conducting countless business process improvement reviews over the years: 

  • Proven and consistent methodology that guides you through each step of the process, answering your questions and providing recommendations.
  • Tools and experience that provide an industry-specific solution, catering to your unique business needs and sector. We’ve helped clients in many industries, including insurance, legal, manufacturing, finance, and more. 
  • Standardized frameworks and templates that document your processes, identify improvement opportunities, and map out future workflows. We also keep your management team informed with periodic reporting on the process and can present your business process improvement plan to leadership. 

Start Your Business Process Improvement Review

Competing in today’s market can be challenging. There are so many competitors, and new technologies are quickly changing how business is conducted. A business process improvement review is just the solution to keep your company up to date, snuff out inefficiencies, and take your profits to a whole new level. The first step? 

Choose your facilitator. This person will guide you through every step of the business process improvement framework and ensure success. If you need help, Leverage IT is here for you. Our IT Strategy and Consulting service was designed for just this purpose. Contact us today to learn more. 

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